The New Hero Of Aeneas Essay Research — страница 3

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not so real for Vergilius. Perhaps, it was due to the times he lived in; his world was weary of war and was ready to sacrifice its liberty, so that it might enjoy peace under Augustus. Finally, poetry like Vergilius’ sack of Troy almost inevitably raises great questions about the nature of heroism and the worth of the old heroic ideal. If war is really like this, Homer can hardly have been right in treating warriors as if they were supermen. Vergilius does not shirk any of the questions raised by his story and implicitly criticizes the heroic ideal by showing to what baseness it can degenerate. His Trojans are noble enough, but they lack the qualities necessary to victory and cannot be called heroes. His Greeks, whose names and actions come from the Homeric and post-Homeric

epics, are not redeemed by nobility, mercy, or chivalry. The agent, Sinon, who secures the introduction of the Wooden Horse into Troy, is a master of perjured falsehood who does not shrink from invoking the most holy powers to confirm his lies, or form winning his way by playing on the Trojans’ noble compassion and sense of justice for a man whom they think grievously misused. The guilefulness, which Homer portrayed so humanly and attractively in Odysseus, has become sinister, bestial, and alien to decency and truth. Sinon is the corruption of one heroic type, the clever soldier as a later, disillusioned age saw him. Equally unattractive is the type of relentless fighter, as Vergilius presents it in Neoptolemus. The son of Achilles inherits his father’s proud temper and

martial fury, but he is brutal and bloodthirsty. He is compared to a poisonous snake, and with remorseless cruelty, he kills the boy Polites in from of his old father, Priam, and then kills Priam himself. The hideous horror of such a death is conveyed in Vergilius’ words: “His tall body was left lying headless on the shore, and by it the head hacked from his shoulders: a corpse without a name” (II, 557-58). The hateful brutality of the Greeks increases the helpless appeal of the Trojans, of Cassandra dragged by the hair from the sanctuary of Pallas, of Hecuba and her daughters clustering like frightened doves about the sacred hearth, of Priam girding on his useless sword and throwing his pathetic, ineffectual spear at Neoptolemus. In such a fight, it is the best that

perish, like Rhipeus: “He, the most just of all the Trojans, who never wavered from the right; yet the gods regarded not his righteousness” (II, 426-28). Such a victory has no glamour and no glory. It is won by treachery and cruelty. To this Homer’s Achaeans have degenerated. The criticism of the heroic type, which Vergilius gives in his Sack of Troy, is not his only approach to it. It shows one side of the question as he saw it, but only one side. As clear to him, as to others, that an ideal had in its time exerted so great an influence on the world, could not be entirely like this, though at times it might degenerate to this. Indeed his task almost forced him to take another, more favorable view of it; for if the Augustan Romans sought to be compared with heroes; the

heroic ideal must have some dignity and appeal. Vergilius’ more friendly feelings about it may be seen in his characterization of Turnus. The Rutulian prince who defends Latium against Aeneas and his Trojans is one of Vergilius’ most convincing creations. He has the vitality and nobility of a Homeric hero, and we are forced to admire him and even to sympathize with him. Vergilius delineates him with care and love, and in him, much more than in the degenerate Neoptolemus, we learn the poet’s feelings about a hero, Turnus is a second Achilles, as the Cumaean Sibyl tells Aeneas: “A new Achilles, again a goddess’s son, already breathes in Latium” (VI, 89-90). Turnus’ actions prove him to be like Achilles, for he lives for honor and for renown, especially in war. When he

hears that the stranger has landed in Latium and is destined to take his affianced bride from him, his immediate impulse is to fight for his rights and his honor. Feeling that his pride has been insulted, he turns furiously to his weapons. Vergilius’ smiles show the strength and energy of Turnus. When he attacks the Trojan camp, he is like “a hungry wolf circling round a sheepfold;” when he is driven slowly and reluctantly from the battlefield; he is like “a lion that refuses to turn and fly;” he falls on Pallas as “a lion falls on a bull;” he is again like “a wounded lion” when he sees the failing spirit of his companions and reuses to admit defeat. These comparisons are based on the Iliad, and show Turnus in his heroic magnificence as a peer of Achilles and