The Aeneid

The Women of Virgil's Aeneid

Virgil's Aeneid details the trials and tribulations of Aeneas and the Trojan people en route to Italy from Troy. The journey parallels the epic adventures of the Homeric hero Odysseus. Virgil borrows Homer's narrative style and frames a story that pays homage to the founding of Rome. Like that of Odysseus, the story of Aeneas is wrought with hardship and misadventure. Aeneas is subject to the forces of fate and the will of the gods. Additionally, like his counterpart in the Odyssey, Aeneas encounters several women on his journey who are critical to the protagonist's progress in leading his people to Rome. His portrayal of female characters allows Virgil to explore "gender politics." The women of the Aeneid are neither exclusively virtuous nor entirely vicious. Instead, each of Virgil's females exhibits a combination of these traits in different proportions throughout the epic. However, the behavior of these women ultimately proves "problematic" and "undesirable." Their transgressions interfere with the protagonist's quest to fulfill his destiny. Furthermore, each woman's misdeeds lead to her inevitable downfall.

Virgil introduces the epic's primary heroine Dido in Book I...

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