Last Updated 21 Apr 2020

The Women of the Aeneid

Category Aeneid, Women
Words 1744 (7 pages)
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The Roman epic of Virgil's Aeneid describes the hardship and misadventures of Aeneas and the Trojans quest from Troy to Italy. Like Homer’s famous epics, the Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s narrative style and structure portrays similar attributes in the finding of Rome. Aeneas encounters several women on his journey who play a significant role throughout this epic in assisting or destroying his journey to Rome. His representation of female characters provides the readers with a better understanding of gender politics and reasons why some female leaders failed.

Each of Virgil's female characters demonstrates a combination of traits throughout the epic; however, such behaviors of these women tend to develop unwanted conflict due to emotions. Like in every great story the female characters tend to have a enormous influence on the main character in both positive and negative ways. The first female that Virgil introduces is Dido, the queen of Carthage, in Book I of the Aeneid. Virgil provides evidence that Dido is a strong and powerful leader. "In her stride she seems the tallest, taller by a head than any At the door...

Of the goddess' shrine, under the temple dome, All hedged about with guards on her high throne, She took her seat. ". This statement illustrates just how supreme and crucial she is. Virgil portrays Dido with a goddess type of image. Not only did she rule Carthage with a strong hold, but she also provided fairness and equality. “Then she began to give them Judgments and rulings, to apportion work With fairness, or assign some tasks by lot”. This quote certainly demonstrates Dido’s type of rulership.

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Even though, she is commanding the people of Carthage to do their duties, which provides evidence that she is feared because the people do as she says without questioning her demands; she distributes the work evenly and fair throughout the citizens. Usually people would assume that the men go to the king for help or advice, but ironically, the men of Troy, leaded by Aeneas, were taken to Queen Dido for help. “When suddenly Aeneas saw approaching, Accompanied by a crowd, Antheus and Sergestus And brave Cloanthus,1 with a few companions...

He was astounded, and Achates too Felt thrilled by joy and fear:” I feel as though Aeneas and his men did not know what to expect when they came forward to Queen Dido. They were nervous of what was going to happen. Until Dido laid eyes on Aeneas. In every great epic, love plays a key role in bringing people together but also destroying plenty in its way. Even though Dido is characterized as this powerful leader, she slowly starts to fall as her passion for Aeneas starts to grow.

As Aeneas tells his story to all the people, Dido slowly starts falling more and more in love with Aeneas. Throughout this Book you slowly start to see the demise of Queen Dido. "Towers, half-built, rose no farther; men no longer trained in arms... Projects were broken off, laid over, and the menacing huge walls with cranes unmoving stood against the sky". Virgil provides images of how Carthage is being affected by the downfall of Queen Dido. Dido is so infatuated with love that she cannot see how she is running Carthage to the ground for the love of Aeneas.

The goddess Juno, the queen of gods, saw this as an opportunity to keep Aeneas from reaching Italy. Dido even broke her vow of chastity and surrenders to her desires for Aeneas. “Dido had no further qualms as to impressions given and set abroad; She thought no longer of a secret love but called it marriage”. This statement demonstrates how she is becoming weak-minded. She is starting to trick her mind into making something that she knows is not moral in her eyes, into something that seems right. Only to find out that she will regret it in the end.

When Mercury, the messenger god, reminds Aeneas that his destiny is not in Carthage and that he must leave for Italy immediately, Aeneas is not too excited to leave Dido, but he knows he has to obey. Dido at first was furious and cursed Aeneas, “Midway at sea you’ll drink your punishment and call and call on Dido’s name!... and when cold death has parted.. you will pay for this! ”. As soon as Dido realizes that he is gone forever, her emotions transform from furious to depressed and lost. She decided to make an impulsive decision and goes to the extreme of commits suicide.

The title for Book IV tells it all "The Passion of the Queen,". Queen Dido was supposedly known for being this powerful, supreme, strong minded leader, but her passion for Aeneas turned her soft. She put her responsibilities before love and did not see that Aeneas did the complete opposite. He loved her but he knew what he had to do. I feel as though her importance in the epic was just a distraction for Aeneas to reach his goal. Book XI, Virgil presents another female character that holds power like Queen Dido. Camilla, the warrior queen of the Volscians, who just joined the Latins to provided assistance in the war with the Trojans.

Camilla shows a lot of strong, composed, and leadership like qualities just like Dido in Book I. Vergil’s epic portrays Camilla’s true powers and strength, "Amid the carnage, like an Amazon, Camilla rode exultant, one breast bared for fighting ease, her quiver at her back, At times she flung slim javelins thick and fast, At times, tireless, caught up her two-edged axe". Unlike Dido, Camilla is does not seek love or passion, she is aware of what her duties are and acknowledges that she has to complete such duties. Camilla remains powerful because she has no distractions.

Before Aeneas came into Dido life, she had full control on Carthage and all her focus was placed on that; therefore, her land thrives under her leadership. However as soon as she encounters Aeneas, she becomes distracted and slowly starts to lose her commanding hand on Carthage. But no one is perfect. Camilla is given this pure and righteous image by Virgil until she also gets distracted. After slaughtering many opponents with her javelin and axes, Camilla’s eyes get caught onto this one Tuscan warrior named Arruns and was left dumbfounded. Camilla Began to track this man, her heart's desire Either to fit luxurious Trojan gear On a temple door, or else herself to flaunt That golden plunder Blindly, as a huntress, following him... she rode on through a whole scattered squadron, recklessly, in a girl's love of finery". As soon as Camilla laid eyes on this stunning man, her whole mindset changed. Arruns notices and takes advantage of the situation and slays her immediately. Both females were killed by love and lust. Another female that had a huge impact on Virgil’s Aeneid was Juno, the queen of gods.

Juno despises the Trojans because of Paris’s judgment against her in a beauty contest. She is also an advocate of Carthage, “And Juno, we are told, cared more for Carthage Than for any walled city of the earth,” and knows that Aeneas’s descendants are destined to destroy Carthage. “But she had heard long since That generations born of Trojan blood Would one day overthrow her Tyrian walls, And from that blood a race would come in time”. This causes hatred in Juno towards both Aeneas and the Trojans.

Throughout Aeneas’s journey, Juno releases her anger on him to make his quest more of a challenge. Juno was the cause of the storm in the beginning of Book I because she summoned Aeolus, the god of winds, to cause an enormous storm while Aeneas was at sea. Vergil provides example of Juno being a manipulative, grudge holding, evil Goddess. In order to stop Aeneas quest to Italy, Juno uses the love Aeneas has towards Dido to her advantage. Juno came up with a scheme to convince Venus to get Aeneas and Dido alone so they can marry and the Trojans and the Tyrians would inally be at peace, even though that was not her true intention. “Aeneas and Dido in her misery, plan hunting in the forest... My gift will be a black rain cloud and hail... As Dido and the Trojan captain come to one same cavern... There I shall marry them and call his her, a wedding, this will be”. That plan failed when Jupiter found out of such horrid behavior and sent Mercury, the messenger god, to remind Aeneas of his true mission. The goal was to keep the idea of him leaving Carthage a secret from Queen Dido, but she eventually finds out.

These get Juno even more furious towards Aeneas and his Trojan men, but she does not give up with her plans to halt Aeneas quest. In Book VII, Juno instructs Allecto, one of the Furies, to create a civil war between the Trojans and the Latins. “You can arm For combat brothers of one soul between them, Twist homes with hatred, bring your whips inside Or firebrands of death. A thousand names Belong to you, a thousand ways of wounding. ” This statement demonstrates how badly she wants to end the Trojan empire and see Aeneas fail.

The importance of Juno’s role in Virgil’s epic is that she is Aeneas mortal enemy and will do anything to stop him in his path. Not only does she dislike Aeneas but anyone that is from the Trojan descent. Virgil’s representation of female characters provides the readers with a better understanding of gender politics and reasons why some female leaders failed. Each of Virgil's female characters demonstrates a combination of traits throughout the epic; however, such behaviors of these women tend to develop unwanted conflict due to emotions.

Dido was so possessed on the idea of her and Aeneas falling in love, that she did not see how she was burning her city, Carthage to the ground. Camilla, drowned in lust as she laid her eyes on Arrun, causing her to put her guard down and effectively getting killed. Juno is so blinded by hatred towards Aeneas and the Trojans, that she makes it her mission to delay his journey. Virgil demonstrates how a female ruler brings too much emotions with her ruling, while a male ruler can run things smoothly without any distractions.

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