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Themes

The Aeneid is deeply respectful of love – a respect shading into fear. That is because it recognizes that love is an extremely powerful, and unpredictable, force. From the very first moments when Dido becomes infatuated with Aeneas, the poet keeps reminding us that her love will be her destruction. Part of the problem seems to be that love is a private emotion between two people, and, as such, can stand in the way of broader, more political goals – just as Dido's love affair with Aeneas distracts him from his mission to found a new city. And yet, this same emotion can also motivate acts of selfless courage, as when the Trojan warrior Nisus sacrifices himself in an unsuccessful attempt to save his friend, Euryalus.

Questions About Love

  1. Which does the Aeneid portray as more dangerous: love or hatred?
  2. How important is the fact that Aeneas's mother is the goddess of love?
  3. Which does Virgil portray in a more positive light: the love between Dido and Aeneas or that between Nisus and Euryalus?
  4. Who is more motivated by love, Turnus or Aeneas?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Virgil portrays love as the enemy of wisdom.

In the Aeneid, lovers are portrayed more sympathetically than those who do not experience love.

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