The Aeneid

The Platonic Soul in the Aeneid College

While many scholars are of the belief that Vergil penned the Aeneid to provide the Roman people with a propagandized epic glamorizing their own history, there is great evidence for Vergil’s intending the Aeneid to be something vastly more valuable: a parable on the powers of the Platonic soul. In his Republic, Plato outlines the different elements of the soul: appetitive, spirited, and rational. As the lowest part of man’s soul, appetite desires temporal things, lowest according to the hierarchy of being. The spiritedness of the soul is that from which the soul derives its energy in struggling to overcome challenges. Intellect governs man and is served by appetite and spiritedness according to its place of primacy among the powers of the soul. Throughout the Aeneid, Vergil endows the epic’s significant characters with the task of portraying the powers of the Platonic soul and revealing how such powers are ordered toward the virtue of justice.

Before examining exactly how the Aeneid’s characters portray the different powers of the soul, it is necessary to discuss the nature of the soul according to Plato. In his Republic, Plato writes on the kallipolis, the ideal city comprised of three major classes: the producers, the...

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