The deer hunter : a portrait of Aeneas

De Villiers, A. (2013)

Please cite as follows: De Villiers, A. 2013. The deer hunter : a portrait of Aeneas. Akroterion, 58:47-59, doi:10.7445/58-0-146.

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The theme of hunting occurs throughout the Aeneid at strategic points to link specific events and foreshadow certain outcomes. Many scholars have noted the increasingly ominous nature of hunting in the epic: from Aeneas’s first hunt in book one to provide food for his people, through Ascanius’s trophy hunt that sparks the war in Italy, to Aeneas’s final vengeful hunting of Turnus. But as far as the protagonist Aeneas is concerned it is specifically through acts of deer hunting that an increasing lack of feeling in his character comes to light. In this paper I will argue that, through recurring instances of deer hunting, both literal and symbolic, a gradual desensitization of Aeneas is revealed. This prepares the reader for his final act in the epic: his killing of Turnus in book twelve, an unnecessary act that strips him of the qualities of pietas so abundantly attributed to him throughout the work.

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