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Aeneas's Heroic Qualities and Motivations in the Aeneid


Aeneas's heroic qualities in the Aeneid include his piety, leadership, and sense of duty. He is motivated by a divine mission to found a new Trojan state in Italy, driven by loyalty to his people, and guided by the will of the gods. His perseverance and sacrifices underscore his commitment to this destiny.

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What heroic and unheroic actions does Aeneas exhibit in the Aeneid?

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.

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In the Aeneid, how would you describe Aeneas as a hero and his motivations?

There can be little doubt that Aeneas fulfills all of the criteria for an ancient hero. Strong, intelligent, wise, and utterly devoted to duty, Aeneas is the epitome of what a hero looks like, or at least what a hero would’ve looked to ancient Romans. We already know at the beginning that Aeneas is a hero for having fought bravely—albeit on the wrong side—during the epic Trojan War. Aeneas may not have been on the winning side, but at least he acquitted himself bravely on the field of battle. His selflessness in helping his family to safety from the burning city of Troy further burnishes his reputation as a hero before he’s even set foot on his epic journey.

It is the gods’ will that Aeneas should found the city that will one day be Ancient Rome. The very fact that Aeneas has been chosen to fulfill such a destiny is a further indication of his heroic status. Clearly, the gods would not have chosen just anyone to take on such an onerous task.

Once he’s set off on his epic voyages, Aeneas displays his heroism on many occasions. The most significant of these would be his abandonment of Queen Dido of Carthage, the woman who loves him more than anything else in the world. On the face of it, this may not seem like especially heroic behavior. In fact, one could be forgiven for regarding Aeneas’s actions as somewhat cruel. However, Aeneas is still displaying heroic virtues in ditching Dido because it shows his overriding commitment to his divine mission. It shows, above all else, his complete loyalty and absolute devotion to his people and to the enormous task at hand.

Founding Rome will not just bring glory to Aeneas’s name—no mean consideration for a hero—but also to future generations of Romans. This, more than anything else, is what motivates Aeneas.

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In the Aeneid, how would you describe Aeneas as a hero and his motivations?

Aeneas is a classic epic hero in that he represents traits idealized by Ancient Roman culture.

Firstly, he is a man who prioritizes his duty to his people above his own personal interests. He foregoes comfort and pleasure for struggle in order to fulfill his destiny and best serve his people.

The most well-known example of this trait comes into play during his love affair with Dido, Queen of Carthage. Though his feelings for Dido are strong, Aeneas knows he cannot stay in Carthage as her consort. He must find a place for the Trojans and establish Rome, as this is his destiny. His steadfastness to his people is contrasted with Dido's selfishness: she kills herself when Aeneas breaks off their relationship, leaving her people without a ruler.

Secondly, Aeneas is devoted to his family. When fleeing Rome, he carries his elderly father on his shoulders and has his young son by the hand. He grieves his lost wife. Being the son of Venus, he is especially pious and shows true reverence for the gods on several occasions. He seeks divine guidance often. This filial devotion also extends to his people as a whole, for whom he gives up a great deal.

Ultimately, Aeneas is the ideal Roman hero: loyal to his people and his gods and determined to see his mission through to the bitter end, no matter what he must sacrifice in order to do so.

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In the Aeneid, how would you describe Aeneas as a hero and his motivations?

Aeneas was the son of Anchises—a cousin of King Priam of Troy—and the goddess Aphrodite. This combination of royal and divine parentage is typical of ancient heroes, making them larger-than-life figures bridging the gap between divine and human. It also means that their actions are watched over by the gods and likely to affect the course of entire peoples or kingdoms rather than just a small circle of friends.

Aeneas mourns the fall of Troy and the death of his wife Creusa. His main motivation is that the gods commanded him to escape the fall of Troy and search for a new home for the Trojans. He repeatedly consults oracles and follows their advice. As befits the son of a goddess, he is strongly motivated by piety and a desire to fulfill the will of the gods. Another major motivation is his loyalty to Troy and the Trojans he leads, something that causes him to pursue the quest to found a new Troy in Italy. This dedication to a pious goal and to his duty makes him a hero.

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In the Aeneid, how would you describe Aeneas as a hero and his motivations?

Aeneas is an epic hero in this text in the way that it is he who is chosen to found the empire of Rome and to lead the remnants of a once-great civilisation towards a new birth, from Troy to Rome. It is he who is chosen by the gods to perform this role and his prime motivation is to be pious and to obey the will of the gods. This is something that is shown again and again throughout this epic text, but one of the best examples comes when he is in Carthage with Dido, and living a happy life with her, but recognises that he has to leave her and to carry on in his quest towards Rome. Aeneas is a character whose heroism is defined by his piety and his respect towards the gods, and indeed, at many points in the text he is referred to as "pious Aeneas." Note how he presents himself to the huntress he meets in Libya, who is actually his mother, Venus, in disguise:

I am Aeneas, duty-bound, and known
Above high air of heaven by my fame,
Carrying with me in my ships our gods
Of hearth and home, saved from the enemy.
I look for Italy to be my fatherland,
And my descent is from all-highest Jove.

As this quote suggests, his mission and his sense of duty are key components of the identity of Aeneas, and his description of himself as "duty-bound" captures his motivation to fulfil that duty and responsibility. His motivation is therefore expressed in his duty to create a new civilisation in Italy, and his heroism is depicted in his single-minded focus on this goal to the exclusion of all else. Aeneas is a "man with a mission," and he will not let anything stand in his way.

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In the Aeneid, how would you describe Aeneas as a hero and his motivations?

Throughout this text, Aeneas is presented as primarily a character who is defined by his piety. This is the reason why he was selected to survive the siege of Troy and to found Rome, becoming the forefather of that illustrious empire. In many epics, characters are normally defined by one governing trait or characteristic. For example, in Homer's Iliad, Odysseus is described as "wily" and "canny" in his ability to come up with cunning tricks and disguises that advance his cause. In the same way, Aeneas is a character who is associated throughout this entire epic with piety. Note how he introduces himself in Book I:

The good Aeneas am I call'd--a name,
While Fortune favor'd, not unknown to fame.
My household gods, companions of my woes,
With pious care I rescued from our foes.

His piety is expressed both towards the gods, as shown in this quote, but also towards his elders and betters, as indicated in his refusal to leave his father to die in Troy as narrated in Book II. He demonstrates perfect filial piety in his determination to bear his father, Anchises, on his back as he flees the city whilst it is burning around them. Aeneas therefore is a character who is presented as honourable and pious, having correct and proper relationships with both other mortals and the gods. It is this that makes him such a perfect choice to be the future founder of Rome.

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How is Aeneas portrayed as a hero in the Aeneid?

Aeneas is the archetype of the Roman epic hero. Whereas Achilles and Odysseus were concerned primarily with personal glory, Aeneas is pious, meaning that his primary loyalty is to the gods and the mission they have for him. For this purpose, he is prepared to brave any danger and make any sacrifice.

Virgil takes pains to ensure that Aeneas consistently appears in a heroic light. When he flees from the burning city of Troy, he loses his wife, Creusa. The great hero cannot simply abandon her, so the poet creates a vision for Aeneas, in which Creusa tells him that he will find a new wife in a new land.

This wife is Lavinia in Italy, not Dido in Carthage. Many modern readers find Aeneas's behavior to Dido cruel and unheroic. However, the Romans considered it a great virtue to put public duty before love or friendship. A Roman reader or listener would also have had a negative perception of Dido as a Carthaginian, viewing her as both a scheming woman and enemy of Rome, despite the fact that Rome does not yet exist as she dies.

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Discuss Aeneas as a man with a mission in Vergil's Aeneid.

In contrast to epic heroes like Achilles and Odysseus, Aeneas' journey has a different sort of aim. In Homer's Iliad, Achilles' aim was to achieve immortal glory for himself by killing lots of noteworthy Trojans. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus' aim was to return to an already-established home on Ithaca and restore order.

Aeneas, like Achilles, is a hero who exhibits might in battle, but his glory does not have the personal aim that Achilles' does. Aeneas fights for something larger than personal glory, he fights so that he can fulfill the destiny that has been established for him by the gods, namely of founding an "empire without end."

Sometimes, Aeneas gets sidetracked as he attempts to fulfill this mission, as he does in his relationship with Dido (see Aeneid 4). Eventually, though, the gods bring Aeneas back into line and Aeneas travels to the underworld and back to discover what he needs to do to establish a new home for himself and his companions in Italy. Thus, in the underworld (see Aeneid 6), Aeneas learns from his father Anchises what the mission of the Romans will be:

remember, Roman, it is for you to rule the nations with your power,

(that will be your skill) to crown peace with law,

to spare the conquered, and subdue the proud.

(A.S. Kline translation)

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