The Aeneid poem By Virgil
The god Mercury came to visit Aeneas to remind him of his duty, “If you will not strive for your own honor, think of Ascanius, think of the expectations of your heir” (Virgil 982). Torn between the decision to stay and enjoy great riches and power, he pushes onward. He will allow nothing to dissuade him from his fate, neither the suffering of his men, or the love of a woman able to place him in a position of great power. Historically, Carthage went on to become one of the greatest rivals of the Roman Empire. The Roman’s strength and determination brought them along to fight three wars, the Punic wars. In addition to being able to draw on the Italian population for reserves of manpower, they were prepared to lose as many troops, vote as much money, and fight as long as necessary to win”(137), much like Aeneas himself. It is in this way that The Aeneid can be seen as political. The beliefs of the Romans had been shaken with the fall of the Republic. The new ruler, Augustus Caesar, had moved in with great promises and a old world view, moving the people back to mos maiorum in hopes that revitalization of morals and ethics would restore the faith in the greatness of Rome.
The story of a hero who embodied those morals and values, who upheld the Roman way of life in a gripping and fantastic tale would certainly only be helpful in moving toward that end. When Aeneas is offered great power, prestige, and riches, he turns them down for the love of his country and his people. The Aeneid greatly backs the family of Augustus Caesar whom was coming into power and was in need of great respect and acceptance by the people of Rome. It is said that the poem legitimized the rule of Augustus Caesar with the characters.
For example, Aeneas’ son is renamed Lulus and made an ancestor of Julius Caesar, from a prophecy given to him in the underworld. Personally I feel that the poem may be propaganda, however not with the negative connotation. The poem appears to have been written with hopes of instilling a sense of nationalism throughout the people of Rome. The Roman Republic and fallen, and with it the hopes of the Roman citizens had as well. Art can move us to great heights and take us to unbelievable lows. Here we have a hero who experiences the high of love, the loss of life, and a trip through the underworld to boot.
To hold ones head up high when faced with unimaginable grief is a feat that many can not bring themselves to bare. Aeneas not only faced that grief, but he trudged on through it. He walked away from the love of Dido, the promise of power and riches, and he did so all for a love of country. Precisely what Augustus Caesar had hoped his people would feel toward Rome as well. Upon his death, Virgil ordered The Aeneid be destroyed, however it clearly was not. Why would it not be? Augustus Caesar ordered it so. The words of this poem were so moving that Augustus’ sister fainted at the mention of her son’s name during the reading of the poem.