The influence of contemporary events and circumstances on Virgil's characterization of Aeneas

Flint, Angela (2008-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Ancient Studies)--Stellenbosch University, 2008.

Thesis

Chapter 1 begins by giving the 21st century reader of the Aeneid insights into the innovative socio-cultural environment of the Augustan Age. Following this is an investigation into the societal and cultural importance placed on the Four Cardinal Values in Augustan Age society. Virgil’s attitude to war has been a perennial topic of debate amongst Virgilian scholars. The focus of chapter 1 becomes more specific as it examines Virgil’s personal history, the socio-cultural environment of his childhood and the influence this may have had on his adult opinion of war and the way it is expressed in the Aeneid. An aspect of Virgil’s personal history that is fundamental to understanding his social context, is his relationship with Emperor Augustus. To conclude chapter 1, this is investigated with specific reference to two episodes in the Aeneid. In chapter 2, attention is given to particular aspects of Virgil’s portrayal of Aeneas’ heroic nature. The chapter opens with an examination of Virgil’s representation of Aeneas’ imperfect heroism, then suggests possible reasons behind the inclusion of ambiguity in this characterization. In addition to this, the question of Homeric characteristics in Virgil’s Roman hero is investigated. Chapter 2 then examines the more positive aspects of Virgil’s depiction of Aeneas’ heroism, concluding with a discussion on the favourable interpretation by Augustan Age Romans of Virgil’s demonstration of Aeneas’ heroic nature. Chapter 3 is devoted to a discussion of the manner in which Virgil’s environment influenced his presentation of Aeneas’ personal interactions. Prior to addressing the actual relationships, the chapter explores the question of Virgil’s characterization of Aeneas as somewhat uncommunicative in the epic. This chapter then concentrates on two main facets of Virgil’s portrayal of Aeneas’ personal relationships, i.e. those with family members and those with relevant non-family members that illustrate the extent to which Virgil’s social context influenced his composition of this poem. In conclusion, this study summarises the importance of viewing the Aeneid in its correct context. A bibliography is appended.

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