The Aeneid

The Complex Interplay of Past, Present, and Future in The Aeneid College

In Book 2 of the Aeneid, the hero carries upon his shoulders the aged father and at his side walks the little son. They are fleeing Troy as she burns. Subject to the will of the gods and the promise of a future in safety, their image is not only one of piety and Roman familial virtue, but also of deeper importance for the poem as a whole. Together, they are the past (grandfather Anchises), present (father Aeneas) and future (son Ascanius). One of the most famous symbols of succession between generations and continuity of superior cultural values in the Roman world even before its noted depiction in the poem, it is matched by other depictions, episodes and themes that make use of the interrelation between these temporal schemes.[1] The three are constantly compared and alluded to, providing a rich tapestry effect. On a historical (which is also largely mythological), political and structural level, Virgil makes his Aeneas and epic universe part of the greater picture of Augustus and Rome in the present time, the heroic mythic past, and the limitless future of the Roman ‘imperium’. At the same time, as a story the Aeneid is a complex organism that has a vivid present, but also flashbacks back and foreshadows forwards continually....

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