The Meaning of Suffering in Job and The Aeneid


Chris Phillips
Dr. Whalen

Throughout Virgil\'s Aeneid and Job from the Old Testament, great
obstacles block the paths of the protagonists. Mental and physical, anguish is
placed upon Job and Aeneas. Though both men suffer extreme pain, the extent and
content of the tribulations are different.
Job\'s suffering is placed upon him without provocation. Aeneas also
believes his ³pain [is] so great and unmerited!² (Virgil 2.89). Juno\'s hatred
towards the Trojans, however, is fueled by many things such as the descent of
the Trojans from Jupiter\'s illegitimate son and the fact that the Trojan people
are fated to destroy Carthage, her favorite city.
God takes away everone deat to Job. He is physically alone except for
Eliphaz, Bilad, Zophar and Elihu. These men, although they are the only people
to speak to Job, offer very little sympathy. They blame him for his misfortune
and tell Job that he has probably angered God to an extent that his punishment
is deserved. Aeneas, though, has the companionship of his men and other
friends which help him along his journey. Not only are his men friendly and
admiring of Aeneas, they are on his side. They help him on his journey. They
are all fighting for the same cause. This fact alone makes Job\'s misfortune
more taxing.
Their mental anguish is not limited to matters of this world. Each man
is faced with dillemas concerning their spiritual beliefs. Though he begs and
calls to God for an explanation, Job receives nothing. This causes alone causes
more mental anguish than anything else that happens in either work. Job\'s
family is exterminated, he is pile of fermenting flesh, and he has no sign from
God as to why this is happening. Job does not even get omens or other
supernatural signals to assure him of God existence. Aeneas, though, receives
security not only of the existence of higher powers, but that they are actually
aiding him. These incidents such as the omen of the flame on his son\'s head,
Jupiter sending Mercury to remind Aeneas to stay on task, and Venus predicting
the safety of his ships to him allow Aeneas to be comforted that there are gods
looking out for him. Satan\'s relentlessness combined with God\'s confidence in
Job take Job to a degree of suffering that Aeneas could only imagine.
Though both men suffer physically, the way in which they suffer is
extremely different. Job absorbs a greater amonut of pain without leaving his
home. Socially, Aeneas is an outcast. His teeth are rotting. He has boils,
lesions, and scabs covering his skin. His senses of sight and hearing are
severly impared. His putrid breath and horrendous appearance virtually exclude
him from functioning with other people. Aeneas, however, finds his pain on a
physical journey which takes him to many different lands. He has the physical
burdens of travel, which in his time is quite a bit more than jet lag, but his
physical and social battles are quite the opposite of Job. He is made even more
attractive by the gods. He even has a queen fall in love with him, and were it
not for Jupiter and Mercury\'s intervention, he would have conceivably fallen in
love and stayed with Dido.
Though lesions and scabs cover his body, his senses are impaired, and
his teeth are rotting, Job\'s biggest burden is not of the flesh. It is of the
spirit, mind, and soul. Aeneas believes the gods are evil, ³If the gods\' will
had not been sinister. . . ³ (Virgil 2.74). Job, however, questions God\'s
nature, but always has faith that God is loving. His biggest concern is not
what has happened to him, but why.
Except for Eliphaz, Bilad, Zophar and Elihu, he is physically alone. He
begins to wonder if he is spiritually alone as well. The three comforters try
to rationalize Job\'s suffering after they become mute at his horrid appearance.
Aeneas always knows the gods are with him. He knows what his destiny is and
what he must do to fulfill it. Even if Aeneas\'s destiny would have been for him
to die a terrible death in battle, it would have been easier on his mind than to
have no knowledge of his future as was the case for Job.
Each man during his suffering wishes for death. Job calls out, ³may it
turn to darkness² (3:4). Aeneas, while on the ship, wishes he would have died
in battle rather than face his future. Job and Aeneas feel that