65 pages 2 hours read



Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | Adult | BCE

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Pietas, Fate, and Free Will

While the Homeric heroes are arguably defined by their individualism—their determination to win personal glory and be remembered forever—Aeneas is defined by his overwhelming sense of duty. This reverence for authority and subservience of the self, pietas, is one of the most important Roman virtues.

Aeneas’s subordination to the most important of these authorities—the divine will of Jupiter—usually puts his actions in alignment with Fate. Fate, in fact, comes from the Latin word fatum, which translates to “that which was spoken,” meaning by Jupiter. It is Jupiter’s declaration of what will be that constitutes Fate (and early on, he firmly states the end game of a glorious Roman future [Book 1, lines 257-96]), though Virgil’s schema for how Jupiter’s will and Fate interact can be complex. Sometimes it seems that Jupiter himself is unaware what will happen, though he confidently declared something before. He weighs Aeneas and Turnus’s destinies in the scales of Fate in Book 12, apparently unsure of what the results will be (725-27).

Virgil’s vision of the cosmos is defined, above all, by the reliability of order guaranteed by Jupiter and Fate. Chaotic forces of disorder like the wrathful Juno and her allies—monsters, people driven mad, even forces from the Underworld—may be allowed to wreak havoc for a time, but they will always be subjugated, in the end, to the order imposed by Jupiter (such as when the Fury Allecto wants to do even more damage, but Juno sends her back the Underworld, as she knows Jupiter would not permit it [Book 7, 557-8]).