Notes on The Aeneid Themes

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The Aeneid Topic Tracking: Women

Women 1: Dido does not typify the usual woman of classical antiquity. She survived past the death of her husband and led her people away from a tyrant to found a new city. This city is rising well: it is beautiful and wealthy and all the people respect her. Venus decides to undermine this by sending Cupid to her to make her fall in love with Aeneas. Once she falls in love, she will no longer be able to carry out the responsibilities of a leader.

Women 2: The plight of women in the sack of a city is dire. They are raped and then taken off as hostages or slaves to be raped more. Hecuba must watch her son and husband die. Creusa dies as Aeneas struggles to carry his father and son out of the city. In her speech, however, there is a hint of why she died. The journey is not meant for women. Aeneas must have a new wife in Italy and begin a new family. Creusa would just get in the way.

Women 3: Andromache has suffered the most of anyone. She had to endure her husband and son being killed and then was made a 'wife' to Pyrrhus. When he was done with her, he gave her to the brother of her former husband. Although she is finally at rest, she may never be at peace.

Women 4: Dido can no longer rule her city because she is overcome with love. When she has sex with Aeneas, she thinks that this is marriage, but he does not. Her love for him and her reaction to rejection changes her from a noble queen into a witch who dabbles in magic. She cannot be both so she must be one or the other. As soon as she gives into love, she loses all her power.

Women 5: Women are not allowed to compete or even watch the games. While the men participate, the women must mourn for Anchises. Juno inspires them to light the ships on fire so that the journey will stop. They do this because they bear so much of the suffering for this journey. The women are left behind, just like Creusa, because they aren't needed for the new settlement.

Women 6: Another war rages over a woman. Latinus knows that his daughter is fated to marry a foreigner but he cannot curb his wife or Turnus from trying to arrange otherwise. Lavinia never speaks. She only appears by the side of her mother.

Women 7: Camilla is a great warrior and a virgin. She was raised in the wilderness and refuses to become the wife of any man. Lavinia is still fought over, and when Drances suggests she be given to Aeneas, Turnus reacts with new fervor.

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