Virgil’s Aeneid follows the lineage of the Homeric epics in continuation of some particular values of antiquity. Virgil, however, makes Aeneas the central focus inverting the perspective of the Homeric epics from the Greeks onto a minor Trojan character of Homer’s Iliad. Aeneas, being a supposed ancestor of Romulus and Remus (the founders of Rome) produces an epic of covert nationalism and imperialistic Roman propaganda. Although The Aeneid shares much with the Homeric epics it should be considered no mere copy. Despite overtly presenting a symbolic version of Roman history it lacks the shallowness of a typically ideological work.
Arms, and the man I sing, who, forc’d by fate,
And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate,
Expell’d and exil’d, left the Trojan shore.
Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore,
And in the doubtful war, before he won
The Latian realm, and built the destin’d town;
His banish’d gods restor’d to rites divine,
And settled sure succession in his line,
From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
And the long glories of majestic Rome.1
The Aeneid presents the dreamlike values of a prehistorical Rome looking forward to an illustrious future. Aeneas, a mythological common ancestor, rises from harsh defeat in the Trojan war. Idealized values of perseverance through hardship tell the story of a lineage that would father the greatest Republic, and then Empire, the world had yet seen. Well, this is the constant reminder we are given at least. We hear from Venus a prospective endgame of the Roman project:
Of Romans, rising from the Trojan line,
In after times should hold the world in awe,
And to the land and ocean give the law.2
This audacious proclamation is a point of departure from the Homeric lineage. In the Homeric worldview mortal men are ultimately subject to the will of the unseen divine. These gods are often expressed through the seemingly arbitrary machinations of nature and the dominion it has on the fates of mortal men. This Roman notion of dominion over nature is opposed to the Homeric congruence with nature (at best) which often devolves into servitude (at worst). This is a rebellion against arbitrary divines authored by the mortal will of Imperial Rome. In this prophetic statement Virgil asserts the value of the domination and manipulation of nature by humanity to serve it’s own will.
The glory of chauvinistic Rome will not only leave other peoples in servile awe but also colonize nature itself. This change of value during the Roman epoch has clear effect beyond itself, through the audacity of Rome’s project man has become knowledgeable enough to start decoding the unseen in a manner which catalyses the human imagination. Exponentially accelerating the mortal domination over nature herself through bureaucratic and technological means. This pseudo-accelerationism through the value of Roman chauvinism bootstraps the hubris of man’s ‘progress’ re-evaluating the ephemeral man of Homer into one who can dream of controlling destiny.
The above forms part of the research for a book (Forthcoming Late 2021). A polemic on the topic of ‘free will’, utilizing the unorthodox sources of epic poetry. Subscribe for free essays and updates:
Virgil, The Aeneid. Translated by John Dryden. Airmont, 1968. Book 1, pg. 9.
Ibid. pg. 17.