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F. Fajardo-Acosta: The Character of Anchises39 The Character of Anchises and Aeneas' Escape from Troy: Virgil's Criticism of Heroic Values Fidel Fajardo-Acosta The famous scene in the Aeneid, during the fall of Troy, when Aeneas and his family attempt to escape from the burning city has always been interpreted by critics and readers ofthe epic as a moving example of Aeneas' filial piety and devotion to his father Anchises and the values of the heroic culture to which they both belong. Aeneas carries on his shoulders the old warrior Anchises—who in turn carries in his arms the statues of the Penates or household gods—leads his small son Ascanius by the hand, and orders his wife Creusa to follow them a short distance behind. The arrangement chosen by Aeneas for the escape has been recognized as expressing a set of priorités, a hierarchy of patriarchal/martial/heroic values in which the gods, the elderly males, the mature males, the young males, and, lastly, the females are ranked in order of importance. The scene stands as an objective, visual definition ofthe very notion of virtue and piety from the standpoint of the Roman/Trojan ideology. As M.O. Lee points out, according to this ideology, "a man is pius in relation to his father and his son, the gods he bears and the civilization he serves."1 This particular way of interpreting the scene conforms well with the also popular notion that Virgil's Aeneid is a work of a patriotic, nationalistic nature meant primarily to act as a glorification andjustification ofthe Roman empire and its military achievements. More subtle readings of the epic, however, suggest that Virgil's message is not as straightforward as it may appear upon casual perusal of the text. G. Williams remarks that "the poet has used a traditional epic form to make a personal statement that goes much further than the surface meaning of the words."2 Virgil's text has been recognized by various scholars as presenting an odd sort of ambivalence and sense of sadness and doubt about the seemingly triumphant events of Aeneas' heroic career. R.O.A.M. Lyne notes that the "patriotic and inspiriting" epic voice of the poem is often countered by other voices which "comment upon, question, and occasionally subvert the implications of the epic voice."3 A. Parry believes that "we 1 Fathers andSons in Virgil's Aeneid (Albany 1979) 45. 2 Technique and¡deas in the Aeneid (New Haven 1983) 165. 3 Further Voices in Virgil's Aeneid (Oxford 1987) 2. 40Syllecta Classica 2 (1990) hear two distinct voices in the Aeneid, a public voice of triumph, and a private voice of regret."4 Parry also perceives that what the poem ultimately conveys is "not a sense of triumph, but a sense of loss." For Parry, the Aeneid is not "a great work of Augustan propaganda" but rather an elegiac lament full of nostalgia, sadness, and regret which reveals that "the sense of emptiness is the heart of the Virgilian mood."5 After all, Virgil is writing during a historical period—characterized by bloody, destructive, and tragically unglorious civil and international wars—when the values ofmartial heroism can no longer be taken at face value by an intelligent human being. As W.S. Anderson correctly points out, "the Age of Heroes had long ended when Homer attempted to capture their significance; by Vergil's day, Greece and Rome had experienced so much more history that the very concept of the hero was a near absurdity."6 The very existence of an anti-heroic voice within the Aeneid suggests that the scenes corresponding to Aeneas' escape from Troy need to be reexamined from that perspective and understood on levels which recognize their ultimate anti-heroic message. Although it is undeniable that Aeneas' arrangements for the escape reveal his heroic values, those values need to be clearly distinguished from the poetic values expressed and espoused by Virgil. In essence, the scene depicting Aeneas' escape from Troy is skillfully used by Virgil to express the values of the hero and simultaneously criticize those values as a regressive, barbaric, destructive, and ultimately worthless ideology. An...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5157
Print ISSN
1040-3612
Pages
pp. 39-44
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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