Please explain the ways in which the deeds of the heroic Aeneas and the Aeneid parallel the Christian Gospels and the life of Jesus Christ. Please be specific and if you would, please base your...

Please explain the ways in which the deeds of the heroic Aeneas and the Aeneid parallel the Christian Gospels and the life of Jesus Christ. Please be specific and if you would, please base your suggestions upon what Virgil says. Thanks!

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most important aspects of Aeneas's heroism, is, perhaps surprisingly, his compassion. This is definitely a parallel between Aeneas and Christ. Consider, for example, his compassion for those who are suffering. A good example of this is his pity for Danaan solider he came upon when landing on the island of the Cyclops. From the solider's uniform, Aeneas could clearly see that the man was an enemy Trojan. But instead of harming the man, he treated him not as a combatant but as a fellow human.  

Aeneas shows leadership through his compassion. He sets the bar as the leader of his troops who are likely to follow whatever example he sets. 

Virgil remarks on Aeneas's compassion, saying,

The man you seek is here. I stand before you,
Trojan Aeneas, torn from Libyan waves.
O you who were alone in taking pity
on the unutterable trials of Troy,
who welcome us as allies to your city
and home- a remnant left by Greeks, harassed
by all disasters known on land and sea."
- Book 1, lines 836-842

It is not hard to see the connection between this story and Christ's parable of the Good Samaritan.  The story appears in the Gospel of Luke 10:25-37

Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c]and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Another aspect of character that is shared by Aeneas and Jesus is their piety. Like Jesus, Aeneas's lineage is divine.  Jesus, of course, is the Son of God; Aeneas is the son of the goddess Venus and the mortal Trojan Anchises.  

Like Jesus, who knows he must fulfill his destiny on the cross, so too does Aeneas know that his duty is to obey his destiny; so committed to his piety, he is repeatedly called "pious Aeneas."

Although tempted by Dido repeatedly, the warrior remains steadfast in his piety:  

And more than anyone, the Phoenician queen,
Luckless, already given over to ruin,
Marveled and could not have enough: she burned
With pleasure in the boy and in the gifts. […]
And she with all her eyes and heart embraced him,
Fondling him at times upon her breast,
Oblivious of how great a god sat there
To her undoing. (1.971-974, 978-981)

The temptations of Aeneas are akin in many ways to the temptations of Jesus by the Devil during Jesus's forty-day fast in the desert.  The Devil offers Jesus everything.  The story is recounted in Matthew 4:1-11:  

[T]he devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.