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Art And Death In The Aneid

1613 words - 6 pages

In the beginning of Book VI of the Aeneid, Aeneas and his men draw towards the coast of Cumae, nearing an Euboian settlement. While his men disperse into groups to various parts of the island for fuel and supplies, and to take some leave from their journey, Aeneas journeys to the temple of Apollo. There, as he stands before the gateway of the dead, he sees various scenes carved by the inventor Daedalus of his many inventions. In addition, there is a place upon the gates wherein there would have been carved a relief sculpture of the death of Icarus "" but isn't. This suggests that the art of Daedalus is related to the theme of death given its appropriation as the gates of Tartarus, and the absence of Icarus' death suggests the possibility for rebirth, even at the gates of death itself. This idea of death and rebirth is enforced to emphasize what the entire Aeneid is about: the death and rebirth of the Aegean culture as the founding of Rome after the fall of Troy.At the juncture in the narrative wherein we are introduced to the gates, Virgil takes over as the narrator and addresses Icarus, remarking on how overcome he was with grief that he couldn't carve the fall of his son. This relationship of art to death, in the beginning of Book VI, is telling of the appropriation of art as a device of self-recognition, which allows larger narrative events to align themselves into an emblematic understanding. Hence, the gate, simply by its form and content, is the idea of death itself. This idea of death in the Aeneid is used by Virgil to signify the end of an older period, and used to signify the coming of a newer age. As well as the chronology of events in Book VI in relation to the books which come after it, there is a tie-in of an art historic context(since ideas of art in such a period would be different from our own) that further cements the singular idea: that the gates of Daedalus, in their absence of the death of his son and in their placement as the gateway to the underworld, are a reference to the death of Aegean culture and the coming, or rebirth of that culture into, what is, fundamentally, Rome.Daedalus' gateway is void of Icarus, his son, and is a testimony to the grievance of the passing of a loved one in what it does not represent. However, does this lack of representation suggest that it is possible, in the absence of grief, to move forward? Is the blank space that was meant for Icarus a testimony of grief, or, by its present physical nature, a testimony to the lack of grief? Could we then presuppose that this lack of grief is what enables the transition for Aeneas to leave behind, finally, at the end of his journey in Book VI, his Trojan past? Before fully being able to answer these questions posed to us, we must first develop some sense of understanding of how this crucial characteristic of the gate, the "˜blank space' we will call it, and the nature in which is presented to us in the narrative. Virgil addresses the dead soul of...

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