What role does Jupiter play in the Aeneid?

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As king of all the other gods, Jupiter has much power in the Aeneid , both in his ability to sway their wills and to take action in human affairs whenever he sees fit. Jupiter's ability to affect fate is absolute. Such instances happen throughout the epic story and shape...

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As king of all the other gods, Jupiter has much power in the Aeneid, both in his ability to sway their wills and to take action in human affairs whenever he sees fit. Jupiter's ability to affect fate is absolute. Such instances happen throughout the epic story and shape much of its direction. Examples abound, including:

  • Iris and her female followers set fire to Aeneas's naval fleet to keep him from traveling to Rome where he is destined to set up a new empire. His men are unable to extinguish the flames, so Aeneas prays to Jupiter, who sends rain to do the job. Destiny is put back on course.
  • Jupiter sends Mercury, the messenger of the gods, to Aeneas in Carthage with the instruction to leave the city and carry on with his journey. Again, Jupiter works to maintain the destiny of chosen mortals like Aeneas, knowing that staying in Carthage would create issues.
  • Venus, goddess of love, continuously asks for Jupiter's ear, warning him of Neptune and asking him to commute the suffering of the Trojans. Jupiter, always supremely confident in his plan, assures Venus he has things under control, that Aeneas will make it to Rome, and that his heirs will birth the world's strongest Empire. Jupiter eventually intercedes on Venus's behalf, preventing Juno's puppet Aeolus from tormenting Aeneas.

Essentially, without Jupiter's intervention, Aeneas would likely have failed on his quest.

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Aeneas's epic quest to found the city of Rome is a divine mission, expressly designed to fulfill Jupiter's prophecy that two of Aeneas's ancestors, Romulus and Remus, will lay the foundations for the greatest empire the world has ever seen. Aeneas remains blissfully unaware of any of this, but his escape from the burning walls of Troy and his subsequent wanderings are all part of a divine plan, sanctioned by the greatest of the gods: Jupiter himself.

Once Jupiter has set Aeneas's quest in motion, he regularly intervenes in human affairs in the time-honored fashion of immortals in Greek and Roman mythology. However, his involvement in the action of the poem is chiefly concerned with maintaining an appropriate level of stability so that Aeneas remains on course to fulfill his crucial mission. This leaves our hero with a considerable degree of flexibility in how he chooses to achieve his immediate goals, just so long as they're conducive to the success of Jupiter's overall plan.

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Jupiter is both the "fixer" and the "mediator" in this epic poem.  He fixes things for the Trojans by promising them a legacy.  He steps in to fix the problems created by his wife and his daughter, who are at odds in Aeneas' legacy.  He, literally, puts out fires and steps in to restore the promised destiny.  After Aeneas and his crew finally arrive in Italy, Jupiter must order his wife (Juno) to stop interferring in the fate of these people.  In order to secure her promise, Jupiter must compromise, and promise that the Trojan descendents will create a culture that incorporates the Latin ways.  In other words, he mediates to make a peace not only with his wife, but with the two warring cultures.

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