65 pages 2 hours read



Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | Adult | BCE

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Symbols & Motifs

Rage, Madness, and Fiery Passions

For Romans, the most important virtue (besides, perhaps, pietas) is self-control. A good Roman should stoically take stock of the situation and, no matter how upset or emotional events may make him, resolve to perform his duty. Anchises codifies this mentality with his definition of what it means to be Roman in Book 6. He urges Aeneas to defeat the proud but spare the vanquished (852-53). This view stands in stark contrast to the older, Homeric code of virtue, in which a warrior excels when he leverages his passions—primarily, his anger—to find victory on the battlefield.

The tension between rational duty and irrational rage is a repeated motif in the Aeneid. Images of a character losing control are often accompanied by the element of fire, which characterizes some of the most chaotic moments in the poem (e.g., Pyrrhus’s blazing armor and the razing of Troy in Book 2, Dido’s funeral pyre in Book 4, the burning of the Trojan ships both by the Trojan women in Book 5 and by Turnus in Book 9).

Fire is an unpredictable and uncontrollable element. Like passion, it has an incredible power to destroy, but also to make way for new growth and new life.