Part of Vergil's art is the ability to blur images and reality. A lot of details in his versions of the myth are created to play into each other. Can you think of ways that similes and metaphors linking people or emotions to animals, fire, or other things become somehow real in the Aeneid? Alternatively, can you think of ways in which things which are real in the poem (e.g., animals, emotions, etc.) get used later as poignant images?

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A simile is a comparison for effect using “like” or “as,” while a metaphor is a direct comparison. In theAeneid, Virgil often uses the epic simile, or extended comparison over several lines. While these epic similes are sometimes confined to one part of the work, others occur in...

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A simile is a comparison for effect using “like” or “as,” while a metaphor is a direct comparison. In the Aeneid, Virgil often uses the epic simile, or extended comparison over several lines. While these epic similes are sometimes confined to one part of the work, others occur in numerous spots throughout it. He uses metaphors in similar ways, and sometimes uses both figures of speech in discussing the same character or phenomenon.

One comparison that recurs in the Aeneid involves bees, with a combined emphasis on leadership, collective effort, and social purpose. In book 1, Dido is likened to the queen of a bee colony, and the workers and industrious activity in the renewed Carthage are compared to bees' activities in their hive. Virgil first establishes how the “toiling Tyrians… ply their labor” in building the city. In the epic simile, he then compares specific points of their “toil” and “labor” to those that bees carry out. Like the human workers, the bees constitute a “united force” in which all pull together.

Such is their toil, and such their busy pains,

As exercise the bees in flow'ry plains....

Bees appear again in reference to group activity in book 6, when Aeneas descends to the underworld. There, the disembodied souls are like bees, but here, they are not industrious, because they are leaderless and disconnected from their bodies.

About the boughs an airy nation flew,

Thick as the humming bees, that hunt the golden dew.

The idea of bringing people together under a ruler also uses bees in book 12, regarding Aeneas’s attempts to subdue the Latins. His plan to set fires and smoke them out is likened to bees’ behavior when a boy attacks their hive.

Thus, when the swain, within a hollow rock,

Invades the bees with suffocating smoke,

They run around, or labor on their wings....

Natural elements as well as animals are used in many comparisons. Virgil sometimes speaks of the incorporation of the elements into a person, and sometimes this process becomes complete transformation. The storm metaphor is introduced in book 1, when the gods use a storm to drive Aeaneas and his men into Carthage. In book 12, he is likened to a storm at sea.

Aeneas leads; and draws a sweeping train,

Clos'd in their ranks, and pouring on the plain.

As when a whirlwind, rushing to the shore

From the mid ocean, drives the waves before....

As the situation worsens for the Latin, Sages tells Turnus,

Like lightning, fierce Aeneas, rolling on,

With arms invests, with flames invades the town....

By the end of the poem, therefore, Aeneas has achieved the kind of power that gods and the elements had in the beginning; he changes completely from being helplessly buffeted by a storm to possessing agency to inflict damage and achieve victory.

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