THE END AND THE MEANING
1. Preamble on the gods1
Denis Feeney's 'The Gods in Epic' discusses this passage on pages 146-55 and from his discussion there emerges an Aeneid teeming with insoluble theological problems, a 'dismaying poem' as he calls it on page 155. The starting point of his discussion is the observation that Juno here accepts the future greatness of Rome and yet fiercely resists it seven centuries later in the Punic Wars. Feeney, following Putnam and Johnson, deduces that her submission at the end of the Aeneid is insincere. This deduction leads them, and other scholars, to search the text of 12,791-842 for sinister, negative, threatening, nuances and opens the door to deep and prolonged consideration of Vergil's metaphysical thinking, from which I offer examples taken from the last four pages of Feeney's discussion.2
This seems to me not only to be one-sided, but also to make the Aeneid into a problem poem dealing with the ethics of the gods and the nature of their power, and thereby to subvert the obvious positive and celebratory tone of this denouement of the epic, and there is no need for it. All that needs to be said about this apparent clash between Juno's submission in the Aeneid and her hostility to Rome in the Punic Wars was said in 1984 in a brilliant essay by E.L.Harrison. He points out that Juno does not meet her husband till the tenth book of the poem; that she has no knowledge of Fate apart from hearsay (audierat) at 1,20; and that her ignorance is essential for the plot. When she does eventually talk with her husband at the beginning of the tenth book, she is systematically deceived by him. At 10.12-13 he gives her to understand that Carthage will bring destruction upon Rome
in time to come when cruel Carthage will open the Alps
and send vast destruction upon the citadels of Rome.
cum fera Karthago Romanis arcibus olim
exitium magnum atque Alpis immitit apertas.
Harrison says, rightly, that this is 'the deception of Juno by a combination of hyperbole and omission'. Jupiter is predicting the Roman debacle at Cannae and drawing a veil over the defeat of Hannibal at Zama in 202 BC and the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC. And he is equally economical with the truth in our passage in 835-9 where Juno is told that the Trojans will disappear, merged in the Latins, a race that will honour her more than any other people. 'Thus, at the end of the Aeneid,' writes Harrison on page 115, 'Juno is confident that…the descendants of the Trojans will in fact themselves succumb to her own Carthaginians' and leaves the Aeneid well satisfied with what she has heard. There is no point in hunting the text for Juno's doubts and hypocrisies and for deep analyses of the ethics of Jupiter's power. Jupiter has hoodwinked his wife, and Carthage is not mentioned here because it is inconvenient. Vergil has kept Juno in the dark in order that she may continue to provide the opposition to the hero throughout the story, and so that the end of her wrath may see the blessing of the gods conferred on the Julian future of Rome, Italy and the world. In this passage Vergil has far more important things to deal with than theology. This discussion on the conversation of Jupiter and Juno will deal with some of these. It will be divided into three parts: first the politics; second, the comedy; third, the politics of the comedy.
2. The politics
It is not difficult to read this passage in its political context. Vergil had certain obvious problems to solve at the end of his epic. His strategy of praising Augustus by praising his Trojan ancestor as founder of the Roman race, has in the end to face some discrepancies. If the Romans were originally Trojans, why are they not called Trojans? Why is there no trace of Phrygian in their language or in their culture, their clothes, and their character? And why are their gods not Phrygian gods? The whole Augustan message and purpose of the Aeneid is imperilled because of the absence of surviving Oriental elements in contemporary Latin culture. Vergil foresaw that objection and disposed of it in this conversation between husband and wife, by positing the stipulations of Juno that the Trojans be submerged in the Latin race and lose all their native Oriental characteristics.
The first of these is in lines 823-4, where Juno demands that native Latins should not lose their ancient name, should not be called Trojans or Teucrians. Buchheit (143) argues that this is part of Vergil's political strategy. The story in Livy 1.1.5-6 (see Ogilvie's note) gives credit to Aeneas for allowing the Aborigines to be called Latins. Vergil has chosen or invented a variant which deepens the aetiology and claims divine approval for the Latins by making their name a gift of the gods, not a condescension by a victorious Aeneas. Juno further insists that the Latins should keep their language. That will be discussed under Jupiter's reply at 837.
Her next stipulation is that the Latins should keep their native dress. The Augustan relevance of this is best shown by the story in Suetonius Life of Augustus 40 'He was eager also to revive the ancient style of dress, and one day when he saw a crowd of people wearing brown tunics at a public meeting, he was furious and shouted at them using a line from the Aeneid (1.282). 'Look at them,' he said, 'Romans, lords of the earth, the race that wears the toga', en Romanos, rerum dominos gentemque togatam. He then charged the aediles to see that this did not happen again. Patriotic pride was part of the Augustan programme, and in Augustus' mind the toga was a visible sign of it.
In 826-7 comes Juno's great concession in an ascending tricolon with anaphora:
Let there be Latium, let the Alban kings live on through the centuries,
let the stock of Rome be made mighty by the manly courage of Italy.
sit Latium., sint Albani per saecula reges
sit Romana potens Itala virtute propago.
These two lines contain two important Augustanisms. First, the Alban kings. According to Jupiter's prophecy at 1.268 -71 the first of these was to be Ascanius Iulus, who was to change his cognomen to Iulus after the fall of Ilium. Iulus gave the Julian family its name and Augustus was the reigning Julian for whom the Aeneid was written. It has often surprised readers that the Aeneid does not refer to the laudandus until 1.286 or 289, but in fact the Julians receive their accolade in a clear allusion in the seventh line of the poem with the mention of the Albani patres. Dionysius of Halicarnassus (3.29.7) gives the names of the Albani patres who were enrolled in the Roman Senate in the seventh century BC and the first family on his list is the Julians (see Ogilvie on Livy 1.30.2, but see also Weinstock. 5 n. 4), Further, in Jupiter's prophecy at Aen, 1.274 we learn that the mother of Romulus and Remus was Ilia. Ilia was of the royal house of Alba, regina sacerdos, and was therefore a Julian. So therefore were her sons Romulus and Remus. Julius Caesar was not slow to make capital out of this connection. In 45 BC he was presented to the people as the new Romulus and in that same year he took to wearing high red boots. Since high red boots were part of the regalia of the Alban kings (Dio 48.48.2) Julius was therefore claiming descent from Iulus (Weinstock. 824), and this claim is alluded to at Aen. 1.288, 'Julius, a name descended from the great Iulus', Iulius a magno demissus nomen Iulo. This line shows that Caesar's claim to be descended from the Alban kings was not forgotten twenty years later by Augustus or by contemporary Romans. Vergil, therefore, has praised the Julians as Albani patres at the beginning of his epic and as Albani reges at the end. When Juno and Jupiter agree that the Alban kings should reign through the centuries (or from generation to generation), sint Albani per saecula reges, Vergil's contemporaries would interpret that prophecy and see it as divine blessing for Augustus. This interpretation was to be demonstrated by Augustus in 2 BC with the dedication of the Forum Augustum, in the north apse of which there stood the statue of Aeneas with the Alban kings on his left and the Julians on his right, looking across at Romulus in the south apse with Augustus in the centre of the line joining them.
A further clear political message in these lines is the powerful antiorientalism at 825 and 827, a vital part of Octavian's propaganda in the thirties, which figures prominently on the Shield of Aeneas at 8.698 and 705-6. This will be discussed further in the second part of this paper, but here we may note the positive aspect, namely the praise of Italy At 7.825 the Phrygians are effeminate, but the Italian stock is manly and they must not be asked 'to alter their voice, being men, or to change their manner of dress', vocem mutare viros aut vertere vestem (see Wiseman. 120). The sneer at the eunuch priests of the Phrygian goddess Cybele is confirmed in line 827:
Let the stock of Rome become strong by the manly courage of Italy.
sit Romana potens Itala virtute propago.
The peoples of Italy were an important part of Augustus' power base and he was careful to cultivate them by policies which promised them respect, peace, prosperity, and the rule of law, in place of the exploitation, civil wars and anarchy of the preceding century. The clearest proof is in Augustus' own words at Res Gestae 25.2. 'The whole of Italy swore allegiance to me of its own free will and demanded me as its leader in the war in which I was victorious at Actium', iuravit in mea verba tota Italia sponte sua, et me bello quo vici ad Actium ducem depoposcit. So too Res Gestae 10,2,
Vergil has another awkwardness to remove. The charge upon Aeneas was to establish the gods of Troy in a new city ( 1.6, 2.298-5 and 717, 12,192, and Penatibus et magnis dis at 3. 12). It might be embarrassing to argue that the gods of Rome came from the east, but if they were Italian it would imply that Aeneas had failed in his duty. Vergil has several strategies for evading embarrassment. First, he has shown how Trojan culture is in fact Latin culture by tracing the foundation of Troy to the Italian Dardanus (3.167 and 503, 6.650, 7.207 and 240, 8.134). Second, he now lays the responsibility for Latin religious practices, morem ritusque sacrorum, on Jupiter. There can be no cavilling, and no suggestion that Aeneas has failed, if the Latin manner of ritual and worship is laid down by Jupiter, the King of the Gods.
There is yet another Augustan element. When Juno asks, and asks in Latin, for the retention of the Latin language and Jupiter gives his assent, there can be little doubt that Augustus, who saw a role in his settlement for the work of Horace and Vergil, would have approved. See also the Suetonius Life 86-8 for his interest in language. But perhaps there is an extra nuance. Over the preceding century Latin had throughout Italy become the official language of law, politics, and commerce, Now, people like Basques and Celts and the Italians of the first century BC. who live with powerful neighbours and see their own languages becoming extinct, tend to resent the loss. The words with which Jupiter grants Juno's request will have had a powerful contemporary relevance across Italy :
I shall make them Latins, all speaking the same language.
faciamque omnes uno ore Latinos.
Now, it is true, all Latium - and all Italy - speak Latin. The unspoken message is that such is the will of Jupiter.
3. The comedy
This episode starts with the king of all-powerful Olympus addressing Juno as she watches the duel between Turnus and Aeneas 'from a golden cloud' fulva de nube, where I believe that the cloud is golden (see OLD under fulvus), partly because in 11. 14.344 after a similar scene Zeus calls up a golden, cruseon, cloud to conceal his lovemaking with Hera.
This cloud is our first problem. It is important. Jupiter comments upon it at 796, and at 842 it ends the episode which it began. Feeney (1991, 150) sees in the cloud the etymological connection between aer and Hera (Juno), the goddess of our crass atmosphere as opposed to Jupiter the sky-god and god of the aether. So at 842, when Juno leaves the cloud, nubemque reliquit, 'Juno vacates her turbulent sphere as she moves closer to Jupiter, towards provisional equilibrium'. This frigid allegory seems to me to be a wrong turning. The Aeneid is a many faceted-poem, but it is absurd to find here a forecast of settled weather representing equilibrium between two gods. Besides, this interpretation of the second half of the line is excluded by the first half:
Meanwhile she departed from the sky and left the cloud.
interea excedit caelo nubemque relinquit.
If Juno is the goddess of the cloud. Jupiter is the god of the sky. If Juno is moving closer to Jupiter the god of the sky, why are we expressly told that she left it?
Vergil's thrust here is not allegorical but comic. In 12.151, in a passage where Juno's treatment of Juturna demonstrates her cruelty and deviousness - she is the greatest liar in the Aeneid - she protests that she cannot bear to look at Aeneas fighting Turnus:
My eyes cannot look upon this battle. I cannot look upon this treaty.
non pugnam aspicere hanc oculis, non foedera possum,
She then urges Juturna to see what she can do to help her brother 'go: it is right', perge: decet. Lines 792 and 796 which show Juno sitting in her cloud show also that her statement to Juturna was false, part of the shameless rhetoric by which she attempted to suborn Juturna to defy the will of the Fates, while keeping her own hands clean. Jupiter knows all this, and lets his wife know that he knows it. 'What are you up to?' he says - quid struis is fighting talk - 'what are you hoping for stuck there on those chilly clouds?', aut qua spe gelidis in nubibus haeres? W e can almost see his great eyebrows rising. Juno picks up the point in a loud self-justifying bluster at 808 -12. She does not take kindly to being teased.
But Jupiter's address to his wife is not all teasing. He is too subtle to make that mistake. He begins, shrewdly, not by telling her what she must do, but by asking her what she means to do, and reminding her that she has little freedom of manoeuvre. The Fates have decreed that Aeneas will become a god. Only then does he tease her about her ridiculous posture in the cloud. He then quickly changes tone and points out to her that she is completely in the wrong. It was not right that Aeneas should have been wounded at 318-23, and it was not right that Juturna should give Turnus back his sword at 785. Jupiter is omniscient. He knows exactly how Juno goaded Juturna into action.
At 800 Jupiter modulates again. He now appeals to Juno:
Make an end at long last, and give way to our entreaties.
desine iam tandem precibusque inflectere nostris,
To his entreaties! That from the Omnipotent King of Gods and Men is an extraordinary gesture, almost a declaration of love, and such a declaration explicitly follows in the next line where he expresses his concern for her suffering - dolor being a husbandly euphemism for the fierce and unforgetting anger she has displayed since the fourth line of the poem, saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram. Even tacitam is part of the matrimonial dialectic, 'let not this great sorrow gnaw at you in silence', ne te tantus edit tacitam dolor. Although Juno has had a great deal to say throughout the poem, Jupiter pretends that she has suffered in silence. But rhetoricians and husbands do, on occasion, contradict themselves, and Jupiter lets her know in lines 301-2 that he is weary of her complaints, softening the rebuke with an amorous blandishment, mild and dignified, but still amorous:
and do not let me
hear the grievous cares streaming for ever from your sweet lips
et mihi curae
saepe tuo dulci tristes ex ore recursent.
Hear too his boredom in the long string of bisyllabic words, six accentual trochees in succession from mihi to tristes.
The gentle admonition leads smoothly to the next modulation. At 303 he at last lays it on the line. 'The end is reached'. ventum ad supremum est. and goes on to list what she has succeeded in doing, as a compliment to her powers, and at the same time as a reminder of the latitude she has already been allowed and a reminder of the licence she had taken upon herself (303-5):
You have been able to harry the Trojans by sea and by land,
to light the fires of an unholy war, to soil a house with sorrow,
and mix the sound of mourning with the marriage song.
terris agitare vel undis
Troianos potuisti, infandum accendere bellum
deformare domum et luctu miscere hymenaeos.
This is strong language, infandum in particular, and his final words repeat ventum ad supremum est. There is no varnish, no scope for protest or evasion even by Juno: 'I forbid you to go further', ulterius temptare veto. The King of the Gods has spoken, and has spoken like a loving husband,5 tactfully but firmly imposing his authority upon a fractious, quarrelsome, jealous, and devious wife. Such family disputes are the very stuff of the divine comedy of manners which so enriches the Iliad. In this respect, as in so many others, Vergil is imitating Homer.
Juno replies at 808 with her head humbly bowed, summisso vultu, Well aware that disobedience is impossible, she begins by saying that she has already obeyed. But she rides with the hounds and runs with the hare. She has obeyed, but it was against her will. , Against my will I have left Turnus and the earth', et Turnum et terras invita reliqui. Stung by Jupiter's teasing about the cloud, she continues the face-saving operation by boasting about how fierce she would be if she were fighting, and then slips in a wholly unjustified suggestion, refuted many times in the narrative of the last four books, that if you wanted to fight Trojans you had to drag them into battle , and I would be dragging the Trojans into bloody combat', traheremque inimica in proelia Teucros. From bluster and insult to sophistry. Like Sinon in 2.78, where he confesses that he is a Greek, she is well aware that it is sound strategy when accused of serious crimes to establish one's bona fides by loudly confessing trivial offences which are already known to the court. So here she confesses that she encouraged Juturna to help her brother, but insists that she did not tell her to use weapons against Aeneas. This is technically true but serves to throw into clear light the cunning and callousness of her manipulation of Juturna at 12.142-60, and enables us to savour the legalistic nicety of her oath, carefully worded to avoid the wrath of the Styx, literally correct, but wholly false to the spirit and purpose of her treatment of Juturna. Vergil and his contemporaries were well versed in the difference between the word and the spirit, scriptum and sententia (Rhetorica ad Herennium 2.9.13-14).
At 818, again she talks of yielding and of abandoning the fighting. By now readers will know to take these assertions with a pinch of salt, and be surprised to hear that she leaves battles, hating them, pugnas exosa relinquo, - a sudden conversion from the warrior goddess of 810 -11 . Now come the face-saving stipulations, cunningly proposed with three heads of reasoning: first, that the Fates leave room for them (this meets Jupiter's opening point at 795 - 'Aeneas is being raised to the stars by the Fates', Aenean…Fatis ad sidera tolli; second, that her proposals would be to the benefit of Latium (she stresses the positive, drawing a veil over the fact that they would be detrimental to Troy); third, 'in consideration of the greatness of your kinfolk (or your people)', pro maiestate tuorum, a difficult phrase. Perhaps she means that Jupiter owes it to her not to humiliate her by establishing the Trojans in Italy, and also perhaps to himself The humiliation of his queen, wife, and sister, would not be in his own interest.
Juno is a shrew. At 821-2 she pointedly claims her own jurisdiction as goddess of marriage, and perhaps invokes the etymology of her own name, 'Juno from joining', Iuno a iungendo.6 In 824 she speaks with a contemptuous jingle of two names for Trojans, 'do not order them to become Trojans and be called Teucrians', Troas fieri iubeas Teucrosque vocari. In 825 she reactivates the old slur on the effeminacy of the Phrygians, not only in insinuating that men should not speak like eunuchs (see above), aut vocem mutare viros, but also at vertere vestem, where she demands that they should not change into the effeminate garb of the Phrygians. They must wear the toga, not robes of Phrygian saffron and purple, no long-sleeved tunics, no ribbons, and no mitres. The anti-oriental satire of Iarbas at 4.215-7, of Numanus at 9.614-20, and of Turnus at 12.97-100 are the best commentary on these lines. In case the taunt of effeminacy is not perceived, she repeats it at 827, sit Romana potens Itala virtute propago, where virtute carries its etymological force (see above) in a dignified version of Numanus' words at 9.617, 'not Phrygian men. The truth is you are Phrygian women', O vere PhIygiae, neque enim Phryges.
Juno, then, is a shrew, but Jupiter, 'the discoverer of all men and all things', hominum rerumque repertor, as Vergil slyly entitles him at 829, sees her coming. He, who knows all things, even his own wife, smiles a little, subridens,7 as he recognises in her the family traits she shares with her own brother, that is himself, and with their father Saturn with whom he had had his difficulties in the past as described in 8.319-20. In deference to this complex intimacy, even as he orders her to lay aside her anger, he makes it plain with weighty monosyllables that he is yielding to her wishes, do quod vis et me victusque….remitto. But the word I have omitted is crucial, volensque, He is yielding willingly, and that keeps her firmly in her place, because she yielded against her will,8 Volensque is his riposte to her invita in line 809. He ends emolliently, appearing to concede more than she has asked, but this is economy with the truth. As we saw at the beginning of this discussion he has already given her to believe that Carthage will destroy Rome, and now he informs her that this new joint race in which Trojans will be submerged by Latins will honour her more than any other race upon the earth. No wonder she is pleased. But there is a strange phrase at 839, supra ire deos pietate videbis. How will mortals be able to surpass gods in pietas? Pietas is doing what ought to be done for gods, but also for one's city, one's friends, and one's family, and that includes proffering due respect and obedience. Jupiter may here be having a last glance at Juno's fractiousness. Throughout this whole Trojan episode her own pietas towards himself and the rule of Fate has left something to be desired - a point he made en passant with infandum at line 804. The dig, if it is there, is ignored or not understood. At 841 mentem laetata relorsit, 9 Juno rejoiced and changed her mind, but it was not easy for her. She did not simply change it. It had to be wrenched into its new disposition. Retorsit is an inspired translation of Homer's epigramyasa filon khr at Iliad 1.569 where Hera is cowed by Zeus.
Finita la commedia, conducted in accordance with the comedy of the divine family as portrayed by Homer, providing before the denouement of the poem a comic relief which admits of the full majesty and authority of an omnipotent god who is also as a husband a consummate manipulator of a difficult wife.
Sceptics may object that this analysis of the domestic comedy is an over-interpretation. .The case hr the defence rests on the Sinon episode in the second book. There Vergil explicitly and repeatedly states that Sinon's words are deceitful, at versare dolos 62, at Danaum insidias 65, at scelerum tantorum artisque Pelasgae 106, at ficto pectore I 07, all culminating in the coda at 195-8:
After such deceptions and such cunning from the lying Sinon,
the story was believed. Treachery and false tears had ensnared
men who had not been subdued by Diomede or Achilles of Larisa,
by ten long years or by a thousand ships.
Talibus insidiis periurique arte Sinonis
credita res, captique dolis lacrimisque coactis
quos neque Tydlides nec Larisaeus Achilles,
non anni domuere decem, non mille carinae.
Vergil is inviting us to look out for Sinon's lies and devices, and when we find them we notice that the 21 lines of Juno' s speech use many of the same tricks. Like him, she begins by angling for our pity by saying how much she has suffered, digna indignaque pati; like him, she claims bona fides by confessing venial faults: 'I persuaded Juturna. I admit it, to go to the help of her unhappy brother' Iuturnam, fateor, misero succurrere fratri suasi at 8 13 (compare, I escaped from death, I admit it, eripui, fateor, leto me at 2.134); oaths flow from both their lips (816-7; compare 2.141-4, 154-6). The Rhetorica ad Herennium 2.50 suggests that 'Pity, misericordia, is aroused....by explaining what will befall our parents, children, and other relatives as a result of our calamities.' It is not easy for Sinon to cite his children since he has already spun the tale at 87 that his father sent him to Troy in his earliest years, pater primis huc misit ab annis, (note too that he did not come to Troy, but was sent). Despite this handicap, by 138 he has acquired 'sweet children', dulcis natos, and Vergil must have hoped that we would catch him out in his lie. It is difficult for Juno also to appeal for misericordia for the sake of her relatives, but she makes a brave attempt to do so if pro maiestate tuorum at 820 means 'for the honour of your own kin'. Sinon's speeches, read with the interjected descriptions of the naive credulity of the Trojans, are remarkably like the 'Friends, Romans, countrymen' speeches of Antony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, with the interjected descriptions of the fatuous credulity of the Roman mob. Vergil, and Shakespeare, are both satirising false rhetoric.
The same techniques are used elsewhere in the Aeneid. In 4.90-116 Juno uses them in trying to deceive Venus, but Venus is not an easy goddess to deceive - 'she realised that what Juno had said was all a pretence', sensit simulata mente locutam (105). Then again, after Venus' lengthy appeal to Jupiter on behalf of Aeneas at the beginning of Book Ten, Juno responds with a furious barrage of exclamations, rhetorical questions, and downright lies, as analysed in Stephen Harrison's commentary. At these, and other places in the Aeneid, Vergil is satirising the techniques of false oratory, and to point out the rhetorical devices is not over-interpretation. We have the advice of Aeneas to guide us 'from this indictment learn the ways of all of them', crimine ab uno disce omnes (2.65-6). We also have Homer, as in the performance of Hephaestus in calming down the matrimonial strife at 11.1.531-600, and the infinite amusement it provided the other gods; or the scene at 11.14.292-353 where the 'brazen' Hera seduces her 'gauche' husband Zeus - the adjectives come from Janko's illuminating commentary. 10
4. The politics of the comedy
Another objection that might be made is that the analysis of the comedy of manners has nothing to do with the subject of this conference, the political context of the Aeneid, but the relevance of this satire to the political situation in the twenties BC is surely obvious. The deployment of forum oratory to further the fierce ambitions of ambitious men was a characteristic feature of the last years of the Republic. The Republic was now restored, but it was restored without such public confrontations, an Augustan Republic. Augustus himself sometimes rushed out of the Senate 'because of the excessive violence of the disputants', ob immodicas disceptantium obtrectationes (Vita 54). This is no doubt some part of the explanation of the greatest snub in the Aeneid, the failure to mention Cicero at 6.849, orabunt causas melius. Glimpses of this Augustan attitude occur also in Horace. At Odes 1.1.7-8, for instance, we read that the fickle throng of Roman citizens strives to raise candidates to the three magistracies, mobilium turba Quiritium certat tergeminis tollere honoribus, and the point is made even more forcibly at 3.2.17-20:
Virtue knows nothing of humiliation at the polls
but shines with honours unsullied.
She does not take up the axes or lay them down
at the breath of the wind of public opinion.
Virtus repulsae nescia sordidae
intaminatis fulget honoribus
nec sumit aut ponit securis
arbitrio popularis aurae.
As Denis Feeney and Robin Nisbet have shrewdly observed (1983, 219), Aeneas and Augustus were both strikingly laconic in their utterances. Vergil's scathing satire on rhetoric applies to the cut-throat rhetoric of the late Republic and as such chimes with the Augustan settlement.
5. Postamble on the gods
The title of this paper is also an example of false rhetoric. The conversation between Jupiter and Juno is not the end of the Aeneid - Vergil has still a loose end to tie up (see Stahl's essay on the death of Turnus). Nor has this paper expounded the meaning of the Aeneid, whatever that might mean. But I hope it may have pointed to some of the diverse functions of the gods in the poem, of which I now select five :
1. The first is the political. By their prophecies and their decisions they attribute divine authority to contemporary phenomena.
2. They provide as a superplot a sublime view of human events, as when Jupiter in the heights of the aether looks down upon the sufferings of men at 1.223-9 or when the gods themselves grieve, as, for example, Jupiter and Hercules mourn the death of Sarpedon and Pallas at 10.464-73.
3. They provide as a subplot an extra dimension of personal relationships to add variety to the narrative. This subplot often shows divine persons behaving more meanly, spitefully, and dishonestly than the human characters in the epic. As in Homer, such scenes are often humorous, even as in our passage at the end of the Aeneid, where the gods are discussing decisions which to us are momentous in that they will confer untold blessings on individual human beings or nations, or will destroy them without pity.
4. The gods are sometimes seen as natural forces or human psychological impulses. This particular function, sometimes called 'double motivation', shows clearly for example when the widow Dido falls in love with Aeneas as she dandles Cupid on her knee, believing he is Ascanius, inscia Dido insidat quantus miserae deus ( 1.718-9); or when Allecto visits Turnus in his sleep and he at first resists the temptation to war, but then succumbs to it (7.4l3-66). This can greatly enrich the texture of the epic, as when Aeneas comforts the beaten and bleeding Dares, and saves his dignity at 5.465-7,
Unlucky Dares, what madness has taken possession of you?
Do you not see that your strength is not as his
and the divine will has turned against you?
Yield to the god,
infelix, quae tanta animum dementia cepit?
non viris alias conversaque numina sentis?
Then again, it can be used to save the character of the hero of the epic. When in the twelfth Book Aeneas attacks a city inhabited only by old men, women and children. Vergil is careful not only to stress the provocation that Aeneas has endured, but he also exculpates his hero by attributing the responsibility to his goddess mother Venus (12.554-5):
Now the mother of Aeneas, loveliest of goddesses, put it in his mind
to go to the walls of the city.
hic mentem Aeneae genetrix pulcherrima misit
iret ut ad muros.
5. The divine element of necessity touches upon the insoluble problems of the relationship between irresistible Fate, omnipotent deity and human will. This aspect of the divine machinery is a rewarding narrative strategy, because it reminds us tangentially and disturbingly of the unknowable, of the frailty and brevity of man in a vast, callous, and incomprehensible universe. The Aeneid demonstrates the cruelty of Jupiter, the cruelty of life, but there is no point in scouring it to analyse motives that cannot be known or to search for explanations of what is beyond our understanding. The fatal mistake is to choose between these five (and no doubt other) functions of the gods. Many scholars have ignored the first, the political function. Many have averted their gaze from the third, the divine comedy. Many deny the fourth, double motivation, as though it ruled out the participation of the gods as characters in the drama. As for the fifth, to overstress the theological problems and explore in depth what has been called 'the disharmony in the government of the universe' is to look for something which is not there, Necessity and fate and divine will are incompatible with the freedom of human beings. Jupiter 'resists quasi-theological exegesis' to borrow Feeney's judgement (1991, 145) of 10.112-13. These problems are insoluble. Vergil did not know the answer to them and is not trying to propose one or bury one in his narrative or even to reformulate the problems. He is using the mystery for the purposes of his story. To agonise in attempts to ferret out his view of such matters is to follow a will-o' -the-wisp which leads to a one-sided and impoverishing view of what is many-faceted, and to damaging misinterpretations of the detail of this brilliantly crafted epic story (see some of the footnotes to this paper). It is a scholastic weakness to go in search of profundities and lose sight of what is there, and a grave loss to expound this passage and pay no attention to its politics and its humour.
1 My thanks are due to J. Griffin. E.L. Harrison, R.G.M. Nisbet, and H-P. Stahl who made valuable criticisms of earlier drafts of this paper.
2 (with my italics) a) .The Aeneid is preoccupied with power before any other subject, and Vergil was not the first poet to be exercised by the problem of how the power of divine violence could be used for harmony (Feeney (1991) 152-3).
b) The dilemmas involved in Rome's use of' violence for order are a principal subject of the poem and they take their lead from the problems involved in the judgement of the state's patron god (ibid. 152-3)
c) Jupiter, to speak in social terms, is often seen In the poem presiding like a political superior over an emerging consensus, preferring, if possible, not to force the issue. Vergil's tactfulness in this matter creates many unresolved areas of vagueness around Jupiter, Fate, and Providence (ibid. 153-4).
d) ...if it is difficult to glide over the implications of Jupiter's characterful participation, it is also difficult...to find in Jupiter a vantage-point from which to dispel the problems created by the experience of reading the poem (ibid, 154).
e) Every vantage-point the poem offers is inextricable, part of a competition of views... Jupiter's perspective is, naturally a commanding one... He regards events from a height that shrinks human values. Yet it is not a perspective from which problems disappear. In this dismaying poem, most readers want to find a vantage-point of comfort, and it is therefore tempting to construct a 'high' Stoic position in the portrayal of Jupiter, yet his participation in the narrative means that it is never easy, and it becomes finally impossible at the accommodation with Juno… .the narrator is ultimately unable to commit himself to Jupiter's perspective (ibid. 155).
3 This difficulty was seen by Feeney in 'The Reconciliations of Juno' ( 1984, 33), where he was tempted to emend excedit to cedit, 'she yielded to the sky'. But in The Gods in Epic (1991 , 150) he mentions neither the difficulty nor his emendation.
4 See West (1995. 106) on me nunc Thressa Chloe regit I dulcis docta modos.Horace Odes 3.9.9-10.
5 The first word of Jupiter's speech, coniunx, is untranslatable. In English 'Wife' is an inflmmatory vocative and in no way fits the tone of what follows. Day Lewis's 'My wife' is also quite dangerous. No doubt sensing this, Dryden has 'O Queen of Heaven' and Jackson Knight has 'My Queen'., formal compliments which do no justice to the Latin. Fitzgerald has 'My consort, what will the end be?' which is dignified, but dead. West hazards 'O my dear wife' believing the tone of that to be more in harmony with the subtle diplomacy which follows, if the above analysis is anywhere near the truth, and consistent with the tone of coniunx elsewhere in the Aeneid. Vergil uses the vocative coniunx ten times: twice formally addressing Persephone, wife of Dis (Culex 286 and Aen. 12.178), and affectionately in all the other occasions (Georg. 4.456 with rapta, Aen. 2.519 with miserrime, where Hecuba appeals to Priam), 2-777 with dulcis, 8.377 with carissime where Venus is wheedling Vulcan 10.607 with gratissima, and 611 where Juno returns the compliment with pulcherrime, and 1 1.158 with sanctissima). .The tenth occurrence is here at l2.793.
6 Vergil plays with the etymology of Juno's name at 4.126, coniugio iungam stabili, but Feeney (1991,150) surely hyperallegorises. His argument is that Juno, the goddess of joining (Iuno a iungendo), is normally a goddess of strife and division in the Aeneid but is true to her etymology , as the poem's principal force for structural cohesion', initiating the storm in the first book and a storm in the seventh, starting the poem and 'now at the last in the great mirror-scene to the first divine action contributing to a pattern of synthesis...'.
7 For Johnson (126), Jupiter's smile is one of the most sinister moments in this increasingly sinister poem, 'touched with a nameless evil' and Feeney (1991, 148) finds it 'a chillingly suave acknowledgement of the anger she still feels'. But the same word, subridens, is used of Jupiter's smile when he replies to Venus' anxious complaints in the great mirror scene (1.254), and there surely it is an affectionate and amused acknowledgement of the temperament of his passionate daughter. The smile at 12.829 makes better sense along the same lines. The knowing smile of Zeus after Hera's mighty and dishonest oath at 11.15.47 is equally perceptive
8 Jasper Griffin refers me to Iliad 4.43 where Zeus yields to Hera willingly but with an unwilling heart, ekwn aekonti ge qumw.
9 Johnson ( 127), suggests that in adnuit his Iuno et mentem laetata retorsit (841) his may be taken with both verbs so that the second half of the line mould be ambiguous and carry the suggestion that she is turning her mind violently hack from Jupiter's words and rejecting them, that .her mental action would negate the outward sign that she makes'. This seems to be a doomed attempt to find support for his portentous reading of this scene. Feeney himself is right to reject it (1983, 184.n, 30), but makes an equally desperate attempt to support this general reading by finding intimations of Juno's part in the Punic wars in the loaded "meanwhile" that signals her departure' (1991, 148, n.72).
10 In a letter Robin Nisbet writes 'this comedy reveals something about the ancient ideas of the difference between the sexes (cf Aen. 4) : the man is statesmanlike and Iooks fur compromises; the woman is uncompromising and manipulative (as indeed women tended to be when they could operate most effectively through a man)'
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