How negatively does Aeneas abandonment of Dido reflect on his character?
The Aeneid was seen as reflecting this aim, by depicting the heroic Aeneas as a man devoted and loyal to his country and its prominence, rather than personal gains, and going off on a journey for the betterment of Rome. The Aeneid is full of prophecies about the future of Rome, the deeds of Augustus, his ancestors, and famous Romans, and the Carthaginian Wars; the shield of Aeneas even depicts Augustus' victory at Actium in 31 BCE. A further focus of study is the character of Aeneas. As the protagonist of the poem, Aeneas seems to constantly waver between his emotions and commitment to his prophetic duty to found Rome.
We know from other passages that Aeneas is not a character without compassion, yet if Aeneas feels genuine sympathy for the lover he is about to abandon, he fails to express it well. We can find fault in Aeneas because, while Virgil allows us a view of Aeneass emotions of sadness, regret, and reluctance as he leaves Carthage, Aeneas expresses little of these emotions to Dido. If we consider ones self to reside in ones will and emotions, Aeneas betrays himself by leaving Dido, and he admits as much, claiming that her words set them both afire (IV.498).
Both Aeneas and Dido face a conflict between civic responsibility and individual desire. Aeneas sides with his obligations, while Dido submits to her desires, and so their love is tragically impossible. In terms of his patriotic duty, Aeneas acts impeccably, though he may be faulted for staying with Dido in Carthage as long as he does. His abandonment of Dido is necessary his service to Troy, his allies, his son, his father, and fate. Dido became inconsolable and quiet mad over Aeneas abandoning her; the moment she saw the ship leaving the harbor, Dido went back to her bed where she shared with Aeneas, and on the bed were Aeneas sword and clothing with final words to the gods, Dido falls upon Aeneas sword.
Is The Aeneid a political poem? Propaganda?
The Aeneids main purpose is to create a myth of origins that consolidates Romes historical and cultural identity. This search for origins of a race or culture is a political endeavor, in that it seeks to justify the Roman Empires existence and to glorify the empire through the poems greatness. Yet the Aeneid is also an artistic endeavor, and therefore to dismiss the poem as mere propaganda is to ignore its obvious artistic merit.
In many of the passages referring explicitly to the emperor Augustusin Anchisess presentation of the future of Rome, for exampleVirgils language suggests an honest and heartfelt appreciation of Augustuss greatness. It is worth noting, however, that in addition to being the emperor, Augustus was also Virgils patron. It would thus have been impossible for Virgil to criticize him outright in his work. One can argue that Virgil may not have truly believed in Augustuss greatness and that the impossibility of explicit criticism forced him to resort to subtle irony in order to air any grievances regarding Augustuss policies or ideology.
The Aeneid, which expresses both praise and subtle criticism of Augustus, Virgil took great pains with his poem and it remained unfinished at his death. The Aeneid tells the story of the Trojan Aeneas, the most distant ancestor of the Romans. The poem therefore speaks to the complex mix of gain and loss that followed Augustuss transformation of politics and society, The Aeneid provided a moral code for the Romans at the time; yet throughout the Aeneid, there is a straightforward appreciation of the order, duty, and piety embodied by Aeneas. He follows the will of the gods and respects the deceased and the unborn at the expense of his own happiness. Again, we are told that Aeneas suffers inwardly, despite his outward appearance. These qualities, though admirable, still do not make Aeneas the most vivid or captivating of heroes. They are important because they are the vaunted qualities Aeneas shares with Rome under the peaceful rule of Augustus.
Augustus was a patron of Virgil should not necessarily cause us to dismiss these passages as pure propaganda, however. Virgil had good reason to think he was living at the high point of historyafter all, Rome ruled most of the known world and seemed invincible. In this context, Augustus emerges as the natural counterpart to Aeneas, bringing to perfect fruition the city whose history the Trojan hero initiated.
The Norton Anthology Western Literature
The Making of the West
Spark Notes Editors. Spark Note on the Aeneid. SparkNotes.com. Spark Notes LLC. 2002.