"The Aeneid" is an epic poem written by Virgil between 29 and 19 B.C. The poem focuses on Aeneas, a character originally created by Homer in "The Iliad." The first half of the story is about Aeneas's long journey from Troy to Rome and the second half is about victories the Trojans won over the Latins. This epic poem reawakened Roman pride by praising Roman values, idealizing Roman culture and exalting heroic Roman actions. Before Virgil's writings, Rome was often viewed as a war-torn land that struggled to gain long-lasting peace.
Power Through Moral Integrity
"The Aeneid" awakened Roman pride by exploring Rome's dominant place in the world. However, Rome wasn't viewed as a manipulative, controlling city that forced compliance. It was seen as a reasonable city with leadership that promoted fairness and loyalty. Virgil wanted readers to understand the goals of the Romans and used the primary character of Aeneas to carry out that role. Aeneas was heroic because he wanted truth and justice to prevail. Anchises instructed Aeneas to fight against the proud, but to show mercy to those who were captured. Through the eyes of the Romans, heroes such as Aeneas elevated the status of Rome to a high level that encouraged patriotism and respect from its citizens.
Respectable Heritage and Ancestry
Virgil encouraged Roman pride by stressing the importance of family and heritage. Specifically, he used the role of the father to help readers understand the importance of love, respect and responsibility. For example, Aeneas received wisdom from his father through a vision. He took an offering to the "Lar of Troy" and through this offering, showed his responsibility for his family, all former Trojan households and all future Roman generations. This all-encompassing duty gave Romans a reason to appreciate and hold fast to their roots.
Hope for Future Generations
Virgil used "The Aeneid" to show how characters such as Aeneas were completely committed to the future of Rome, according to College of the Holy Cross professor Aaron M. Seider in his book, "Memory in Virgil's Aeneid." Aeneas was focused, determined and excited about Rome's future, despite any conflicts the city faced. He didn't resent his long and burdensome journey from Troy to Rome, but used it as an opportunity to grow and view war in a different light. Virgil wrote "The Aeneid" shortly after civil war ended in Rome, mostly due to Octavian's strong leadership. He wanted his contemporaries to view Rome -- and Octavian -- with great respect and admiration. The goal was to inspire and motivate Romans to understand their past so they could move forward toward a successful, prosperous and hopeful future.
Peaceful Characteristics of Rome
In the "The Aeneid," Virgil described Rome as a city entirely different from any other location, both in physical appearance and long-term peaceful goals. Rome was represented as more beautiful, spiritual and appealing than any other location. Even the species of trees in other cities didn't compare to those in Rome. Virgil used "The Aeneid" to present an honest portrayal of war, not a glamorous one. He reawakened Roman pride by discussing a time in the near future when Roman control over the world would bring a final end to all war. This peace became known as the Pax Romana.
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