Being a Hero


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 Italy.
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