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The Price Of Nationalism Essay

1981 words - 8 pages

The thematic overtones of fulfilling one’s responsibilities permeate the entirety of Virgil’s The Aeneid. Civic duty serves as the pivotal attribute directing the discourse taken by many, regardless of allegiance. At the time, this grand epic, at the surface, seemed to celebrate unwavering servitude to Rome and its mighty Caesar. This apparent celebration, however, also critiques such strict obedience. By closely examining Aeneas’s persistent adherence to the founding of Rome, along with his unquestionable concern for his Trojan brethren, it becomes apparent that the actions of this hero foreshadow the Roman concept of responsibility inherent in Virgil’s time.
Aeneas had to make many hard decisions and sacrifices, typically at the expense of his own immediate desires, to arrive at Italy. Aeneas, the destined forefather of Rome, was molded by the hardships he endured throughout his journey. Indeed, Aeneas’s affair with the beautiful matriarch of Carthage inevitably resulted in the reluctant sacrifice of immediate personal happiness in favor of responsibility, as well as genuine remorse for the pain he had brought upon his lover (p. 175). For Aeneas, responsibility out weighs emotions. However, the ensuing war against the Latins causes Aeneas to abandon his moral code. Aeneas’ descent into impulsive nationalism is apparent in the climatic between Turnus and himself. Turnus, in an act of desperation, solicits Aeneas to bring the corpse back to Daunus for burial (p. 402, l. 1270-3). However, right as he is about to spare Turnus; Aeneas, upon seeing his fallen comrade’s sword belt on Turnus, strikes him down without so much as an answer to the request. It is apparent that the barbaric savagery on Aeneas's part can only be attributed to his growing nationalist pride. Indeed, Aeneas's sense of duty and dignity toward non-Trojans disintegrated the moment he allowed remorse for his fallen comrade lead his rational mind to murder.
Aeneas and Turnus were bitter adversaries, even echoing the character dynamic dictating Hektor and Achilles's interaction in The Iliad. However, throughout the entirety of his journey, it is self-evident that Aeneas is a warrior more than capable of showing mercy and compassion toward his adversaries. Consider, for a moment, the kindness, Aeneas extends to the Danaan sailor, cruelly abandoned on Polyphemus’s Island (p. 87). This sailor’s uniform flagged him an adversary of Troy, but the implication was of little concern to Aeneas: demonstrating pity and mercy toward the sailor regardless of past grievances. Aeneas offered him compassion, not to as a Trojan to a Greek, but rather as a fellow human being. At this point, the decade long Trojan War has ended with the Greeks victoriously. Surely, the hearts of the surviving Trojans must still burn red with envious animosity toward the Greeks. Aeneas's humanitarian spirit shines bright on more than one occasion. Rather than with another Greek, Aeneas demonstrates his respect for...

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