Aeneas as a Roman Hero
In Virgil’s poem, The Aeneid, the ideal Roman hero is depicted in the form of Aeneas. Not only does Aeneas represent the Roman hero, but he also represents what every Roman citizen is called to be. Each Roman citizen must posses two major virtues, he must remain pious, and he must remain loyal to the Roman race. In the poem, Aeneas encompasses both of these virtues, and must deal with both the rewards and costs of them.
In the poem, Virgil says that all Romans ought to have two certain virtues: he must remain a pious Roman citizen, and he must remain loyal to the Roman race. In Virgil’s poem, he uses Aeneas as a portrayal of not only a roman hero, but also as the ideal Roman citizen. For a man to be pious, he must do what he is called to do and follow his destiny. Aeneas is above all pious. He follows the will of the gods, even when it makes him suffer. Aeneas’ destiny is to lead the Trojan people to the new land of Rome. Although this is tough for him to do and he runs into difficulties along the way, he keeps on striving towards his final goal. Aeneas also, throughout the entire poem, remains loyal to the Roman race. there are times that it would be easy for him to go against the Romans, but he remains loyal and keeps on fighting for the empire. Aeneas is used to represent the ideal roman citizen and the ideal Roman hero, but these characteristics do not surface until the poem is nearly over. As the poem is coming to a close, Aeneas begins to explain how it is his duty to fight Turnus. He does not have the desire to have the battle with Turnus, but he has the desire to follow his destiny and do what he has been called to do. He says, “Hold back your anger! Now the truce is set, it’s terms are fixed, I am the only one who ahs the right to battle; let me fight, and set your fears aside. With my right arm I shall maintain our treaty. (XII 426-430)” In this quote, Aeneas is saying that it is his right to fight Turnus and it would be wrong for him to give up that right, it would be impious.
Although to remain pious and to remain loyal are virtues that every roman should possess, there are some costs that sometimes outweigh the rewards. By following his destiny, Aeneas was put in an enormous amount of danger, that he would not have been put in if he had not fled Troy, in search for Rome. When he first leaves Troy, he knows that he may have to put himself in dangerous positions, but he is willing to do whatever it takes to please the Gods. Also, Aeneas lost nearly everything that he once had during the course of the poem. He lost his father, his lover, and ultimately, he loses his identity. Losing your own identity is the greatest loss that anyone could suffer and Aeneas does experience that loss. These losses that Aeneas endures, greatly outweigh the rewards that Aeneas acquires in the end of the poem. Aeneas defeats Turnus and gains the Roman empire, but that is how the story is left. There are no celebrations, there is no wedding for Aeneas and Lavinia. It is just over. The reward is that he has accomplished what he set out to do, but the reader is not shown how or if Aeneas is rewarded in a physical way.
In that way, it seems that Virgil agrees that the costs greatly outweigh the benefits. It would appear that if he were to disagree, he would have concentrated much more on the rewards rather than concentrating on all the hardships. The entire poem is based on the trouble that Aeneas must go through in order to remain pious and to remain loyal to the Romans. It is not until the very last page where we are shown the rewards that Aeneas gained from his quest. The last sentence states, “Relentless, he sinks his sword into the chest of Turnus. His limbs fell slack with chill; and with a moan his life, resentful, fled to Shades below. (XII 1268-1271)” This one defeat cannot offset all the trials and tribulations that Aeneas went through to get to that very battle between him and Turnus. It was a tough journey and the only real reward that he got was to know, in his heart, that he did the right thing and remained pious to the gods, his people, and his empire. There is not one way to look at Virgil’s view, it can also be looked at in the opposite way. It can be said that in remaining pious andgoing through all the hardships that he did, he single handedly prevented civil war. Everything that Aeneas went through was for the good of the commonwealth and was rewarding for the people. Because his view can be looked at in two ways and is rather unclear, Virgil's verdict is equivocal.
In Virgil’s poem, The Aeneid, a picture is painted of a very virtuous roman hero who remains pious and loyal to his people. This is the picture of Aeneas’ life. It is shown in the poem, that the costs that come with holding these virtues greatly outweigh the rewards. The rewards, although small, are on the inside of the hero and the costs are large and are on the outside. It is critical to follow your destiny no matter what it is, but that is a virtue that not only Roman heroes, but also all Romans must possess.
Word Count: 961