The Aeneid

Aeneas, Turnus, and the Greater Labor

In The Aeneid, Virgil introduces the post-Homeric epic, an epic that immortalizes both a hero's glory and the foundation of a people. The scope of the Aeneid can be paralleled to the scope of the Oresteia of Aeschylus, which explores the origins of a social institution, the Areopagus of Athens, and presents this origin as coinciding with a shift from the archaic matriarchal society ruled by the ties of blood to a civilized patriarchal society ruled by a court of law. Likewise, in the Aeneid, the founding of a civilization carries its own destructive consequence: the symbolic death of Turnus, and with it, the passing of an entire way of being. Virgil offers Turnus as a foil to Aeneas, in character and in culture, and TurnusÃÂÂs death, though relayed with compassion, is necessary to effect this transition from an archaic past to the creation of the Roman civilization.

Virgil articulates the conflict between the existing structures of the home and city, a conflict that appears throughout the Aeneid, through his characterization of Aeneas and Turnus. In counterpoint to Aeneas and his essentially political orientation, Virgil gives Turnus a domestic nature. These associations arise in their actions during battle: Turnus chooses...

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