What about Aeneas's actions do you find heroic in the Aeneid? What seems to be unheroic? How does he stack up against the heroes we have seen before this?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In books 2 and 3 of the Aeneid , Aeneas is recounting his own exploits to Dido, so it is perhaps not surprising that he depicts himself in a favorable light. He is heroic in saving his family from Troy and in going back into the burning city to look...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In books 2 and 3 of the Aeneid, Aeneas is recounting his own exploits to Dido, so it is perhaps not surprising that he depicts himself in a favorable light. He is heroic in saving his family from Troy and in going back into the burning city to look for his wife, Creusa, whom he has unaccountably lost. Only an encounter with her ghost can prevent him from continuing to risk his life to save her.

Aeneas's conduct in book 4 is perhaps the poem's most controversial episode. The Romans famously tended to regard patriotism and civic virtue as more important than personal relationships. Therefore, Aeneas's desertion of Dido (albeit for a city and a country that do not even exist yet) would have seemed heroic by the standards of Virgil's time. Many modern readers, however, feel that it is cowardly of Aeneas to slink away as he does. This episode was the traditional explanation for the animosity between Rome and Carthage, so it was not without political repercussions, quite apart from the personal tragedy of Dido.

In the final battle and his duel with Turnus, Aeneas fights bravely, as a hero must. He is motivated to kill Turnus by a rather unheroic anger (though it would probably have been very foolish to let his rival live), but the anger is caused by his memory of Pallas. This directly connects Aeneas to the greatest of all epic heroes, Achilles, who kills Hector to avenge his friend Patroclus in Homer's Iliad.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team