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Aeneas Fights With Turnus Essay

1364 words - 5 pages

Aeneas Fights With Turnus

In the Aeneid, Virgil describes many human qualities, problems and characteristics. Some examples which I wish to illustrate can be found in the end of epic, in the scene of the final duel between Aeneas and Turnus. Virgil also introduces a novel idea in his work. Both sides, the Trojans and the Latins, are portrayed as noble people. Even though Aeneas is fated to win, and he is the hero of the work, the opposing force, Turnus, is not portrayed as evil, but rather like a noble person in a very hard situation. Virgil deals as much with physical and psychological problems Turnus faces, being an honest and noble man, as he does with Aeneas’s problems.

By the time the battle begins, Turnus knows that he will lose. His sister, who was given some divine powers by Jupiter earlier, helped him during the battle before the final duel, but then she is called off by Jupiter. Turnus knew even before the battle started that he will lose, because it was fated for Aeneas to receive the land and marry Lavinia. He was urged by King Latinus and Lavinia herself not to fight but as the poet says, “Words cannot check the violence of Turnus” (Book XII, 62). Who was Turnus’s “violence”, or anger against? I do not think that it was Aeneas. Turnus was angry at the fate that forced him to give up the woman he loved to some newcomer. He could not accept that. Virgil is showing that anger can drive a person to the most irrational decisions. Turnus went, knowingly, to die because he was angry at fate, which cannot be changed. Aeneas faces a similar problem when he has to leave Dido -- fate is against his desires, but Aeneas, chooses fate’s way, while Turnus chooses his desires.

This quality is not only portrayed in the human characters in the work, but gods seem to exhibit the same type of behavior as well. The perfect example is the goddess Juno. She tried to deter Aeneas from his course to Italy while she perfectly knew that the “decision” of the Fates was otherwise. Virgil makes it clear that humans and gods alike have the same irrational and purely emotional desire to achieve that which they know cannot be achieved. This desire is present in many episodes in the book. I think that Virgil is trying to tell his readers that this desire is a very fundamental part of people. The drive to achieve the impossible is what always drove science and human advancement. Virgil is making a comment on a very integral part of the human psyche. Both Turnus and Aeneas, Venus and Juno have this characteristic. Virgil assigns the same feeling and emotions to the heroes of both sides of the story.

During the duel of Aeneas and Turnus, Virgil takes another opportunity to describe the desire to oppose fate. Turnus calls out to Aeneas : “Your burning words, ferocious Trojan, do not frighten me; it is the gods alone who terrify me, and Jupiter, my enemy” (Book XII, 1189). The challenge Turnus saw coming to him was not from Aeneas, but from the gods...

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