Posted: May 25th, 2022
goddesses Venus and Juno conspire and interfere in the lives of Aeneas and Dido to carry out their own plans
The struggle between the Gods is main theme of the narrative. There are many times that a reader might even fail to notice the actions of the human characters of the story due to over-interference from the gods. The conflict is between two gods, Juno and Venus. Juno is Saturn’s daughter, Jupiter’s wife and the patron god of Carthage. In the narrative he doesn’t like Trojans because of a decision made by Paris (a Trojan) in a divine beauty competition. Juno is also aware of the prophesy that Carthage will be destroyed by the descendants of Aeneas (the Romans). On the other hand, Venus is the goddess of love, the patron god of Trojans and the mother of Aeneas. The conflict arises when Juno tries to destroy Aeneas (a mortal) and Venus does all in her power to protect her son. This brings a conflict between the gods. As the son of a god Aeneas cannot be easily destroyed. Enjoying the privileges of being part human and part god he survives the siege of troy and later builds the foundation of what would become the greatest empire the world has ever seen, the empire of Rome (Matthews 121; Gardner and Santos 26; THE AENEID Virgil 1).
One of the forces of nature used by the gods in the conflict is the weather. At the start of the story, Juno sends a storm to show his anger. On the opposing end, the god Venus, pleads with Neptune (the god of the sea) to calm the storm so that the Trojans may not suffer. In later parts of the competition between the two gods unite to disrupts the hunting trip of their son and daughter so that they are trapped in a cave. This action is meant to stop the conflict between the two gods, by making their children to fall in love.
At the start of the poem, Virgil prefaces his narrative with the declaration of the theme “warfare and a man at war,” and then asking the goddess of inspiration to help him see what causes Juno’s anger. The main mortal character is Aeneas. In the narrative he is escaping the Troy, his home town whose walls have been breached by the Greeks after years of war. A handful of other Trojans are also following Aeneas as he undertakes the perilous journey to Italy to start a new life. However, in the journey they must bear the wrath of the god Juno who wants to destroy Aeneas (Matthews 121-2; Gardner and Santos 21; THE AENEID Virgil 1).
As mentioned above, Juno doesn’t like Aeneas because of a prophecy that states that the descendants of Trojans will one day rise to destroy Carthage (a city whose residents regard him as their patrons). Juno is aware that the only surviving Trojans from the siege of Troy are being led by Aeneas and so he endeavours to destroy him. However, Aeneas is protected by his mother, the god Venus. The second source of conflict between the two gods is that during a competition in Troy, a man named Paris declared Venus to be the fairest in a divine beauty competition. This annoys Juno as she thinks that she is fairer than Venus.
While Aeneas is journeying to Italy, Juno then orders the god wind, Aeolus to cast a great storm on the Mediterranean Sea near Sicily where Aeneas is looking for a friendly port to dock. Aeolus obeys the order and unleashes a great storm of upon Aeneas. Aeneas is terrified as he sees the storm approaching. Huge waves and winds start tossing their bought on the sea and sends the Trojan boats off-course. As the storms inch closer to the Trojans’ ships, Neptune (the sea god), notes the presence of the great winds in his area of authority and tells Aeolus that he has gone beyond his authority. This is however, too late and only seven Trojan ships survive the storm as they head to the closest land which is now the North African coast. Upon docking their boughts, Aeneas calls the men together and reminds them of the past and more difficult hardships that they had overcome and of their great fate and the future which they wish to build for their descendants (Gardner and Santos 23; THE AENEID Virgil 1).
As all this is happening, on Mount Olympus, Venus notes the troubles facing the Trojans and pleads with Jupiter (the god King) to put a stop to their hardships. Jupiter (Venus’ husband) promises her that Aeneas will not perish and that he will eventually reach Italy and that two of his direct descendants (Romulus and Remus) will establish the foundations of the most powerful empire that the world will ever know. In the meantime, Jupiter sends a messenger to the people of Carthage so as to guarantee the Trojans’ safety.
Despite all this occurrences Aeneas doesn’t become aware of the divine guidance that is illuminating his path. One day while he is walking through a forest, his mother appears to him in disguise and tells him the story of how Dido became the queen of Carthage. The story is that Sychaeus, her powerful husband was killed by Pygmalion Dido’s husband for his gold. Sychaeus later appeared to Dido in a dream and told her to leave Phoenicia with others who disagreed with his husband who had then become the ruler of Tyre. Dido ran away and settled on the southern end of the Mediterranean Sea (in modern-day Libya). The emigrant Phoenicians founded the city of Carthage, which within a few years became a mighty city (Gardner and Santos 23-4; THE AENEID Virgil 1).
Aeneas is advised by Venus to go into the city and speak to the queen, who shall welcome him. Aeneas together with his friend Achates approach Carthage, covered in a cloud that Venus conjure up to prevent them from being noticed. At the outskirts of the city, they come across a shrine to Juno and are astonished to see a grand mural showing the occurrences of the Trojan War. Their amazement increases when they get to Dido’s court to discover many more of their partners that were lost and scattered in the storm requesting Dido for help in reconstructing their fleet. Dido happily grants their demand and mentions that she wishes she could get a chance to meet their leader. Achates says that he and Aeneas were clearly told the truth concerning their warm welcome, and Aeneas steps forward out of the cloud. Dido is enthralled and pleased to see the popular hero. She requests the Trojan leaders to eat with her in her palace (Gardner and Santos 24).
Venus is worried that Juno shall instigate the Phoenicians against her son. She sends down her son, Cupid, the god of love, that takes the form of Ascanius, the son of Aeneas. In this disguise, Cupid arouses the queen’s heart with fervor for Aeneas. With love in her eyes, Dido requests Aeneas to narrate the tale of his adventures during the battle and the seven years ever since he fled Troy. The flame of love for Aeneas that Cupid has ignited in the heart of Dido only increases while she listens to his sad story. She wavers, though, because following her husband’s death she vowed never to marry again. Then again, as her sister Anna advices her, by marriage to Aeneas, she would increase the power of Carthage, due to the fact that most of the Trojan warriors follow Aeneas. For the moment, filled with love, Dido permits the work of the city construction to fall by the edge (Gardner and Santos 30).
In Book IV, Juno and Venus plot to isolate Aeneas and Dido in a cave by sending a storm to interfere with their hunting trip, signifying the breakdown of ordinary social codes as well. Juno considers the affection that Dido has for Aeneas as a means of keeping Aeneas form going to Italy. Pretending to make a peace offering, Juno proposes to Venus that they look for a means of getting Aeneas and Dido together all by themselves. If they get married, Juno proposes, the Tyrians and Trojans would be at peace, and the dispute between her and Venus would come to an end. Venus realizes that Juno is just attempting to keep the Trojans from Italy but allows Juno to proceed anyway. The relationship between Aeneas and Dido catches the attention of Venus and Juno. For quite differing reasons (Venus wants to guarantee Aeneas’ safety and Juno wants to delay Aeneas’ getting to Italy) the two goddesses together plot to bring about a sexual union in the pair (Aeneas and Dido (Matthews 121-5; Gardner and Santos 21).
One day when Dido, her court, and Aeneas were out hunting, Juno brings down a storm upon them to send the group rushing for shelter and plans for Dido and Aeneas to end up in a cave by themselves. They make love in the cave and openly live as lovers when they get back to Carthage. According to Dido, the two are married although the union has yet to be sanctified in ceremony. Anxious rumours spread that Aeneas and Dido have completely yielded themselves to lust and have started overlooking their duties as rulers. Prior to the arrival of Aeneas, Dido is the proficient and confident ruler of Carthage, a city she establishes on the North African coast. We get to know that she is firm in her determination not to marry again and keep her dead husband’s memory, whose death at the hands of Pygmalion, her brother, made her to run away from her native Tyre. Virgil illustrates the abruptness of the change that inflames love in the queen with Dido’s image as the victim of Cupid’s arrow. Dido says to her sister that a flame has been re-lighted within her. Dido places everything at risk by falling in love with Aeneas, and when this love fails, she finds herself incapable of reassuming her noble position. By taking Aeneas as a lover, she compromises her initially untainted allegiance to the memory of her dead husband. She loses the support of the citizens of Carthage that have witnessed their queen indulge in romantic obsession at the expense of her civil duties. In addition, associating romantically with another foreigner, Dido distances the local African chieftains that had approached her as suitors and now pose a military threat. Her foolish obsession drives her to a hysterical suicide, out of the misfortune of her situation as well as the pain of her lost love, but also out of sense of reduced future possibilities. She is a figure of instability and passion, traits which contrast with Aeneas’ control and order, and qualities that Virgil related with Rome itself in his own day. Dido is also a representation of the sacrifice made by Aeneas to conduct his duty. If fate were to permit them to stay in Carthage, he would rule a city beside a queen he loves without bearing further difficulties of war (Gardner and Santos 14-5).
Even though her relationship with Aeneas spans just this single book, Dido has turned into a literary icon for the tragic lover. Although at times the happiness of Aeneas in his love for Dido appears to match hers, it is with significantly less concern and grief that he is capable of leaving her in Carthage and goes back to the business issue of getting the Troy survivors to Italy and founding Rome. While Dido not only loves Aeneas but also hopes he together with his warriors shall reinforce her city, the actions of Aeneas are the outcome of a temporary abandonment of his actual tasks and responsibilities. He momentarily engages himself in romance but when Jupiter, via Mercury, reminds Aeneas of his fate, he is ready to continue his mission. Aeneas’ proclamation that he is obliged to sail to Italy and Virgil’s comment that Aeneas struggle[s] with desire to comfort [Dido] in all her suffering portray Aeneas conflicted character. He morally conducts the tasks assigned to him by fate. According to Virgil, Aeneas is not heartless as Dido seems to think, however, just able to subordinate matters of the heart to the demands of duty. Aeneas reminder to Dido that they were actually not officially married somehow implies that had they gotten themselves into such an ordained vow, he would probably not leave. However, he claims that without actual marriage, he is just sacrificing his own desires by leaving Dido (Matthews 121-5; Gardner and Santos 33-4).
Aeneas, following the proposal of Tiberinus the river god, sails north, up the Tiber to request for military support amidst the neighbouring tribes. During this journey, Venus, his mother, descends to provide him a new set of weapons, created by Vulcan. While the Trojan head is not around, Turnus attacks. Aeneas gets back only to find his countrymen involved in war. Pallas, son of Aeneas’ new friend, Evander, gets killed by Turnus. Aeneas flies into an aggressive rage and many more are killed by the end of the day (Matthews 121-4; Gardner and Santos 45).
#2 Describe the scene of St. Augustine’s conversion in Confessions. What single event led him to read the Bible, and what was the message of the passage he read?
As Augustine grew and changed, he looked for answers to his questions regarding God, love, and life. As we continue reading, however, we notice that Augustine searched for good things, but frequently in the incorrect places. He also spent a lot of time attending the theatre. He, however, had an encounter that changed his life. In the period of his study, Augustine read Hortensius, a now lost work by Cicero. This book was allocated to him as a model of rhetorical style; however, when he read it, he responded to its content and not the style. In the search of these encounters, Augustine chose to learn more concerning God through reading of the Scriptures. Augustine was, however, disgusted by whatever he read in the Bible since he felt that it was badly written. His shallow intelligence prevented him from understanding the Scriptures. He discarded them for stylistic reasons instead of imbibing their meaning. Augustine eventually joined the Manicheans (a religious philosophical faction with various superficial resemblances to Christianity) due to his dislike of the Scriptures. Augustine spent almost nineteen years with this group, much to the shock of his mother. Monica, his mother, a dedicated Christian, attempted several times to convert Augustine. Nonetheless, she got reassured by a revelation she had, letting her know that Augustine would ultimately convert (Chang et al. 1-15; Matthews 179-80).
Augustine recognized that God was a divine existence with no spatial extension. Augustine is further touched by the tale of Victorinus, a highly esteemed translator and rhetorican of the Neoplatonic texts Augustine had read. Towards the conclusion of his life, Victorinus converted to Christianity and Augustine was quite amazed that such a bright and successful man had changed his faith to become Catholic. Augustine, however, chose to not convert. Even though no further hindrances stood in his path, he felt was fighting against a second will within himself. Augustine stayed attached by habit to the beauty of pleasures and material things, even though he felt that this habit was “no more I” (Matthews 179-81).
Though more and more people tried to convert him, his conversion was not immediate but gradual. Day by day Augustine slowly moved closer to conversion. Nebridius, an associate of his, was refusing work at the courts to create more time for his spiritual needs, and Alypius (a close friend of his) was in close communication with Augustine about the issue. At this point Augustine was already highly motivated to convert. A few days later his friend (Ponticianus), tells him of monasteries a short distance away from the city and of two men that he (Ponticianus) knew, who had given up their material pursuits in a flash to become monks. This, to Augustine, seemed like an indirect accusation, and he felt conflicted. He thought that his friend was accusing him of not seeing the “light” that others were seeing clearly (Matthews 179).
Augustine’s conflict reached crisis levels when he was talking to Alypius (who was now a convert), he became annoyed at himself. This led to him becoming distressed not only mentally but also physically. He decided to walk out of the room and went to the garden to cool down. Instead of cooling down, Augustine started beating himself up and tearing his clothes and hair because he felt that he did not have the will to convert. At that point, it wasn’t even an issue of him deciding to do something and then doing it but a matter of whether his power to act was the same as his will to act (Matthews 180).
what was so annoying about the situation was that Augustine did not as much require the will to act as the will to want to act. He thought that in beating himself up, his arms were following the will of his mind even if his mind couldn’t follow its own will. The answer he suggests is that he was double-willed. However, this thought is quickly dismissed. It would be Manichean to attribute what was his own doing to the existence of two conflicting wills, through his admission that he is torn from himself (Matthews 180).
Augustine’s thoughts and habits continue to prevent him from taking action even as he whispered to himself “let it be now.” After some time, his habitual thoughts begin to weaken and he says that he saw Lady Continence appear to him and hug him (this is figurative and not a vision, even though the scene at the garden makes it difficult to tell a literal account from a rhetorical one). As he let out all his misery he moved to a nearby bench and sat down weeping. As Augustine sat there, he wrote of hearing a voice like that of child repeating the words “pick up and read.” It is still a subject of debate among scholars whether this one was a literary device or a vision. Upon hearing the voice, he took it as a command and opened his bible and read a command against “indecencies” that called upon the reader to make serving the Lord Jesus their topmost priority and to make no room for the flesh and its lusts (Matthews 180).
This is the very text that changed Augustine and made him decide to convert. He then hurries to tell Alypius the good news. Alypius, who was in the same garden, rejoices at the news and so does Monica. Augustine finally converts after so many struggles and false starts. He finally realized that only God could bestow him the peace he had been seeking for long. In the last chapter, we are able to see how Augustine overcomes the evil, one of the two main hindrances that prevented him from converting to Christianity. However, Augustine is still conflicted by his desire for social status and sexuality. These urges continue to weigh him down for quite some time. However, when Augustine reads the scripture at the garden, he lets go of his flesh-driven desires and achieves the peace he had been looking for (Matthews 180).
The experience at the garden reveals to Augustine that God is his only true source of peace for his restless heart. This was unlike before when he did not acknowledge what he truly needed. Augustine says that many people have come to know what they truly need but it takes them some time before they acknowledge it. Augustine required God’s help to convert since he did not have the will to obey God’s command by himself. Augustine was in the garden when he heard a child say “pick up and read.” He figured that this was a message from God telling him to open his bible and read the first text he saw. The text that Augustine read spoke directly to the challenges that Augustine was facing in his day-to-day life, particularly his pursuit of social status and the desires of the flesh (Chang et al. 15).
The verse that he read was Romans 13:13 which calls upon the reader to put faith in Jesus Christ and to make no provision for physical desires (Matthews 180). After reading this, Augustine says that he neither had the desire nor the need to read further. As soon as he had finished reading the text, he says that he was flooded with certainty in his mind and heart and that all the doubts and fears he had harboured, vanished. After his conversion, Augustine became sufficiently free to organize his life around God. He acknowledged that his physical desires could not compete with God in any way and that his love for the world could not bring him the happiness or peace that he was looking for. Prior to his conversion, Augustine’s love for material things had made his heart restless, however after his conversion, he was able to see and acknowledge God as the only true source of peace and happiness. Thus, his conversion freed him to completely dedicate himself to God.
It is interesting to note how the bible verse speaks exactly to his challenges and to the evils of pursuing the needs of the flesh. Before his conversion Augustine was a man who pursued sexual desires and strongly pursued a higher social status at the expense of pursuing his spiritual needs. However, the scripture he read spoke exactly to his needs and all the shadows of uncertainty disappeared (Matthews 180). His shunning of worldly desires freed him to pursue his love for God. God’s grace in turn makes him free to do and be what he wants. Thus, the conversion frees Augustine from the desires of the flesh that once held him. Because of this new freedom he neither seeks for a wife nor has any ambitions to become successful in this world. He then immediately decides to send word to his mother about his conversion (Matthews 180).
Augustine tells about his conversion to Christianity through many different ways. However, one way which stands out is through books. Through his work, Confessions, we are able to see Augustine’s spiritual journey, in which he faces many obstacles owing to his sinful desires. However, towards the end we are able to see that he finds the peace he seeks, and that he is able to turn his life around and free himself of the bondages of sin. The spiritual journey has several highlights. The first is his meeting with Hortensius that lights up a desire in him to seek something more than his love for literature, social status and the sexual gratification. This leads him to start reading the bible. However, he says that he finds the bible to be a poorly written work, so he instead joins a sect (of scholars) that has many similarities with Catholicism. A friend of his (Bishop Ambrose) helps him to better appreciate the bible and understand it, which opens up the way to his conversion. Finally, he heeds to the call “pick up and read” which erases all the doubts he had and he converts to Christianity (Matthews 180).
The obstacles to his conversion finally disappear during the garden scene in which he says that all the shadows of doubt disappeared in his heat (of the moment) (Matthews 180). The garden scene serves as the final instalment in Augustine’s lengthy and troublesome spiritual journey to conversion. The conversion frees him from many of his worldly pursuits. He tells his mother about the event and then he goes on a retreat giving up his job and pursuit for a wife and for success. Bishop Ambrose, a friend who has helped him understand Christian faith finally baptizes him. His mother and son come to the event. It is at this moment in his life that Augustine feels that the restlessness of his previous life has disappeared and he overflows with joyful, yet serene emotions (Matthews 180).
Augustine’s spiritual journey can be described as follows: he first avoids Christianity, then it stirs him and then certain beneficial events culminate in his conversion. Through these Augustine learns that baptism is more than a mere formality and that it is the key to the peace and happiness he had been looking for (Matthews 178-180). After his baptism, he completely dedicates his life and energies to the cause of God (Chang et al. 15; Matthews 180-1).
Matthews, Roy. Experience Humanities. Place of publication not identified: Mcgraw-Hill, 2013. Print.
Chang Edward et al. The Journey of a Restless Heart: A College Student’s Guide to Augustine’s Confessions. 2014. Web.
Gardner Patrick and Santos Matilda. The Aeneid: Virgil. Web.
“THE AENEID Virgil. “SparkNotes.” SparkNotes. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.
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