Being A Hero


Being A Hero Essay, Research Paper

Being a Hero

Thesis: Despite his accomplishments and the glory associated with his life,

Aeneas only achieves the status of hero through divine intervention, and this

god-given position causes him just as much grief as it does splendor.

What is a hero? We would like to think that a hero is someone who has

achieved some fantastic goal or status, or maybe someone who has accomplished a

great task. Heroes find themselves in situations of great pressure and act with

nobility and grace. Though the main character of Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas, is

such a person, it is not by his own doing. He encounters situations in which

death is near, in which love, hate, peace, and war come together to cause both

good and evil. In these positions he conducts himself with honor, by going

along with what the gods want. Only then goes on to pave the way for the Roman

Empire. His deeds, actions, and leadership would never have come to be if it

were not for the gods. The gods took special interest in Aeneas, causing him

misfortune in some cases, giving him assistance in others. On the whole, the

gods constantly provide perfect opportunities for Aeneas to display his heroism.

Without them, Aeneas would not be the hero he is. This gift does not come

without a price, though; he must endure the things heroes endure to become what

they are. Despite his accomplishments and the glory associated with his life,

Aeneas only achieves the status of hero through divine intervention, and this

god-given position causes him just as much grief as it does splendor.

Aeneas is the son of Venus. This fact alone brings about much of the

hero in him. Venus, a concerned mother, always looks out for her son. She does

everything she thinks will help to ensure his safety and success. At the

beginning of his journey from Troy, she prevents his death at sea. Juno has

persuaded King Aeolus to cause vicious storms, rocking Aeneas’ fleet and nearly

killing all of them. Venus then goes to Jupiter and begs him to help Aeneas:

Venus appealed to him, all pale and wan, With tears in her shining eyes:

“My lord who rule The lives of men and gods now and forever, And bring

them all to heel with your bright bolt, What in the world could my Aeneas do,

What could the Trojans do, to so offend you? Jupiter then assures Venus that

he will keep his promise to allow Aeneas to live on to set the stage for the

coming of the Romans. In this case, without Venus’ watchful eye and concern,

Aeneas would have no kind of protection or security as he made his way to


Another instance in which Venus uses her influence to assist Aeneas is

during the fifth book. When Aeneas and the Trojans leave Sicily, Venus fears

that Juno will attempt to kill Aeneas again, and so asks Neptune for safe

passage over the ocean: Beset with worries, Venus turned to Neptune, Unfolding

from her heart complaints and pleas: “Juno’s anger, and her implacable heart,

Drive me to prayers beneath my dignity. ? But as to what comes next, I beg you,

let them Safely entrust their sailing ships to you” Once again, Aeneas would

have to deal with the wrath of Juno on his own, if it were not for the divine

influence of his mother.

In book eight of the Aeneid, with war between the Trojans and the

Italians imminent, Venus once again fears for the safety of her son. To ensure

the well-being of Aeneas, she cajoles her husband, Vulcan into making a suit of

armor for Aeneas: “Most dear husband, I never wished to tax you, make you toil

In a lost cause, however much I owed To Priam’s sons, however long I wept Over

Aeneas’ ordeals. Now, however, ? I do come, begging your sacred power For arms,

a mother begging for her son.” Venus is willing to put on this facade of extreme

passion for her husband in order to help Aeneas. She goes to lengths that many

mothers would not. This is not quite enough, though; average mother’s concern

alone does not make Aeneas a hero. A divine mother’s concern makes him a hero.

Without her willingness for personal sacrifice, Aeneas would never survive

through the Aeneid. Occasionally, as is the case with most mothers, Venus’

judgment of what is best for Aeneas contradicts what fate and the other gods

have in store for him. During the Trojans’ time at Carthage, Juno and Venus

both agree that a union between Dido and Aeneas is in order. They use the

attraction that Aeneas and Dido already have for each other and use it to cause

them to fall in love. The intensity of this love is enough to cause Dido to

break her vow of fidelity to her dead husband and she neglects her

responsibilities to the development of the city. Jupiter disapproves of this

union, and sends Mercury to remind Aeneas of his responsibility to Rome:

Approach the Dardan captain where he tarries Rapt in Tyrian Carthage, losing

sight Of future towns the fates ordain. Correct him, Carry my speech to him on

the running winds: ? What has he in mind? What hope, to make him stay Amid a

hostile race, and lose from view Ausonian progeny, Lavinian lands? The man

should sail: that is the whole point. Aeneas is in love with Dido and would

gladly stay with her, building up Carthage, but the gods know that there is more

important business to which he must tend. Jupiter has to intervene to get

Aeneas to do what his destiny dictates him to do in the first place. He would

not have done his duty as a hero. Naturally, Aeneas’ own mother would don the

role of his protector, but not all the gods deemed his plight worth of support.

Juno, specifically, did nearly all she could to hinder him. From the start of

his journey, Juno makes things difficult for Aeneas; as is previously mentioned,

Juno has Aeolus nearly sink all of the Trojans’ ships. The survival of the

storm and the leading of his followers to safety are good examples of Aeneas’

heroism, but he would not even have had this opportunity to be a hero without

Juno. In addition, if it was not for Neptune’s help, he would not have survived

the incident. In book seven, Juno realizes that she cannot change the fate of

Aeneas and the Trojans, but is still so bitter that she decides to make things

as difficult as possible for them. She summons Allecto to incite hatred and

hostility within the residents of Italy, resulting in a desire for war against

the Trojans.

Here is a service all your own That you can do for me, Daughter of Night, Here

is a way to help me, to make sure My status and renown will not give way Or be

impaired, and that Aeneas’ people Cannot by marriage win Latinus over, ? Break

up this peace-pact, scatter acts of war, All in a flash let men desire, demand,

And take up arms.

Allecto arouses Queen Amata’s animosity toward Aeneas. She also spurs

Turnus to believe that Aeneas is the enemy, and to fuel the flame that is

Turnus’ jealousy toward Aeneas. Allecto’s work is successful; it helps give

rise to the war between the Italians and the Trojans. Juno also directly helps

the war happen when she personally descends from the heavens and bursts open the

doors of the temple of Janus: Heaven’s queen At this dropped from the sky. She

gave a push To stubborn-yielding doors, then burst the iron-bound Gates of war

apart on turning hinges. All Ausonian lands as yet unroused, Unawakened, now

took fire. The Italians look at this as a good sign and many people rally for

the war. Juno has almost turned all of Italy against Aeneas, and single-

handedly starts the war against the Trojans. This war, and the fact that the

Trojans prevail is a large part of what makes Aeneas a hero. Despite the fact

that she was not trying to help him become a hero, Juno does help him achieve

this status by starting the war and giving him this opportunity to use the help

of the other gods to come out and shine.

Aeneas accomplishes much and earns immense glory throughout the Aeneid.

Nevertheless, this achievement of hero status relies on the assistance of the

gods, and this assistance does not necessarily come in a positive form. Juno

causes storms, hate, and war, either to stop Aeneas or at least make things more

difficult for him. Venus, the divine mother, does everything she can to

counteract the obstacles that Juno makes. Other gods and supernatural beings all

play a part in affecting Aeneas’ life. Without all this divine intervention,

Aeneas would have been an uninteresting, average Joe.

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