Study Guide

The Aeneid Warfare

By Virgil

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In his transition from the first half of the Aeneid, which is mostly about travel and adventures, to the second half, which is mostly about war, Virgil announces that "A greater history opens before my eyes, / A greater task awaits me." And yet, this is not because he views war as romantic; instead, the Aeneid portrays war in an extremely negative light, as the product of those horrible spirits of vengeance, the Furies. It is because war is so awful that Virgil respects Aeneas for having to go through it. Overall, Virgil's attitude toward war seems a bit different than Homer, his precursor in the epic genre. Homer sees war as a permanent facet of human life, whereas Virgil seems to look forward to an era in which the Roman Empire, by extending its control over all nations, will bring an end to war. That said, how do you think this state of affairs is going to come about? You got it, through war, lots of war.

Questions About Warfare

  1. Does the Aeneid portray war as potentially justified?
  2. Does the Aeneid portray as war as inevitable?
  3. Which does the Aeneid portray as more important in war: strategy or courage? Or is it a mixture of the two?
  4. Does the Aeneid suggest that everything is fair in war, or are there certain boundaries that should never be crossed?

Chew on This

Overall, Virgil's Aeneid makes an anti-war statement.

Virgil's Aeneid portrays war as unjustified if there is no chance of victory.

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