Aeneid Justification for Imperial Rule
Uploaded by knoxville on Dec 28, 2004
Question: Analyze the prophecy from Hades of Roman virtues-to-be near the end of Aeneas' trip to the Underworld; relate these prophesied virtues both to Virgil's project in writing the Aeneid as a support to imperial government and also to what you may know about the values emphasized in traditional elite Roman culture, and why these were important to the Augustan empire. If you want, and have space, top it off with informed speculation about how important these virtues are to American government in the 21st century.
At the time of the writing of the Aeneid Augustus had come to power after defeating Anthony and Cleopatra of Egypt and had declared himself emperor of Rome. After a long tradition of constitutional republicanism Rome was now being controlled by one man. Many Roman’s, especially in the upper ranks of society, didn’t approve of this form of government and Augustus must have been very aware of his fathers murder at the hands of some former friends and senators. The idea of fate was very important to the Romans. Many even considered it divine. In book six of the Aeneid Aeneas learns from his father in the underworld about the glorious future of Rome. The future that is described was the current political reality in Rome. This made the work have the effect of giving legitimacy to Augustus’s rule by making the argument that his ascendancy to power was preordained.
Through the character of Aeneas Aristotle attempts to support the traditional Roman values of duty, order, and control. Political positions in Rome where unpaid and it was looked upon as the duty of wealthy Roman’s to hold these positions. While it was true many misused their power to extort money through extra taxation the idealized Roman gentry was one who was a disinterested politician providing a service to his government. When Rome conquered an area they provided security and roads in return for taxes. In this way they provided safety and a sense of order to the residents of that territory. The Aeneid had the effect of reminding Romans of their history of pursuing these ideals.
The idea of sacrifice for one’s country is also central to the book. A common question in philosophy at this time was the question of the one and the many, essentially a debate on individual and community rights. Aeneas sacrifices his personal happiness by ending his relationship with Dido and sailing...