Explain the respective culture, religion, societal values and beliefs in The Aeneid.
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The biggest societal value and belief that is explored in this text is that of piety, or what it means to live a life in obedience to the gods and their will for you. This piety is displayed first and foremost in the character of Aeneas and the way that he accepts the unshakeable will of the gods and does not fight against it. He, unlike other characters in the text, does not try and fight to have his own goals and objectives met, but rather seems happy to go with the flow and accept that fate cannot be defied. Note how he compares with Dido on this front, who does everything she can to try and keep Aeneas with her in Carthage, even though it is clear that the gods ultimately will that he leaves her and want him to found the city of Rome.
Secondly, piety as a cultural value is displayed by Aeneas throughout the text, not just in the way that he responds to the will of the gods, but also in how he treats those around him, especially his father. Note what he says to Anchises in Book II when he insists on saving him from the siege of Troy:
Did you suppose, my father,
That I could tear myself away and leave you?
Unthinkable; how could a father say it?
Now if it pleases the powers about that nothing
Stand of this great city; if your heart
Is set on adding your own death and ours
To that of Troy, the door’s wide open for it.
Aeneas is pious on two fronts here: firstly, he has a strong sense of filial loyalty that prevents him from leaving his father to die; but secondly, he recognises that Anchises is a patriarch, a founding father, and thus it would be wrong of him to leave such an important individual to die in Troy. The cultural values and beliefs that are displayed in this text therefore are first and foremost piety, which involves accepting the will of the gods and acting in a respectful manner to those around you, recognising the value and worth of the people that the gods have put you amongst.
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