The Aeneid

Kill Turnus, Refound Rome: The Closing Scene of the Aeneid

Virgil borrows many stories and themes from the Homeric epics and revises them for the Roman tradition in the Aeneid. Aeneas’ journey in search of the Latium shores parallels Odysseus’ journey to Ithaca, except the latter knows what home he is going to. The war with the Latins is literally a second Trojan War, paralleling the Iliad, only the Trojans win. But both Homeric epics come to a relatively peaceful, definite ending (funeral for Hector, and restored order in Ithaca). In comparison, the Aeneid ends with a violent death, the equivalent of ending as Achilles drags Hector’s body around the wall of Troy or when Odysseus kills all the suitors. One reason for this difference and for the suitability of the ending in the Aeneid is that it has a larger cultural directive than either of the Homeric epics. Homer was never commissioned to speak his plays. More than just a story of heroes, war, and art in its various forms, the Aeneid is also about the founding of Rome. Aeneas killing Turnus at the very close of his story is directly a step toward the founding of Rome and also relates to the reestablishment of Rome under Augustus.

Much of the scene where Aeneas kills Turnus can be cast in a positive light. First, Aeneas kills Turnus...

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