In The Aeneid, Virgil creates two vastly different archetypal heroes named Turnus and Aeneas. Aeneas is a Trojan prince who has hopes of finding a new Troy in the land of Latium, but he runs into an angered Turnus, a Rutulian prince that does not welcome Aeneas. Both men are equally strong, equally determined, and have equal and rightful claim to the land. However, Virgil creates this distinct difference and hatred between the men that leads to the profound greatness of Rome.
Turnus is a Rutulian prince who is planning on marrying Lavinia, the princess of Latium. He is courageous when he defends his people in the war against the Trojans (Book IX and X), brilliant in his plans to attack the Trojan camp (p.207), yet motivated to win for purely personal goals. Turnus sacrifices public welfare and the good of the state just to defeat Aeneas and win the battle and Lavinia. Aeneas is also a prince who is planning on marrying Lavinia. He is caring when he looks back for his late wife Creusa (p.57), respectful and loving when his father dies (p.80), and driven when he continues his journey to find a new Troy (p.103). However, unlike Turnus, Aeneas is truly unselfish in his reasons for wanting Latium. Aeneas wants to settle the land for his people and their families, to find a new Troy. Aeneas does not want the land to be selfish. Both Turnus and Aeneas have determination behind them, physical and mental strength behind them, yet most of all the gods behind them.
With the help of Juno, Turnus fights till the end avoiding several near deaths such as Pallas’ arrow and his jump into the Tiber River fully armored. Similar to Turnus, Aeneas’ mother helps Aeneas by giving him protection with the creation of the shield (p.198), and when she heals Aeneas’ wound with the special potion (p. 302). Turnus and Aeneas up until this point have no differences. They are identical in their strengths, weaknesses, and support. However, the one major difference between them is that Aeneas has destiny behind him. He is fated to take care of his Trojan people, find a new Troy, marry Lavinia, and bear descendants to establish the great city of Rome. Aeneas has no choice but to win the war and Lavinia’s hand in marriage. Turnus must lose and somehow suffer; He cannot escape his fate. Virgil makes use of the difference between the two heroes using antagonism, hatred and most of all the superiority of Aeneas to show the greatness of Rome.
At the time The Aeneid was written Augustus Caesar was in power and the Pax Romana was beginning. Rome was in a state of absolute reign and greatness. Virgil makes use of the character Aeneas to show the greatness of his friend Octavian or Augustus Caesar. He uses the difference between the two heroes to show that by destiny via Aeneas (an ancestor of Octavian Caesar) Rome will lead the world in philosophy, art, and intelligence, etc. Turnus is good, but Aeneas is better and so is the new emperor Caesar. With Octavian Caesar in control, Rome will become even greater than it is. Virgil accomplishes his goal of glorifying Rome and its leader Augustus Caesar.
Virgil creates a strong similarity between Turnus and Aeneas, however the major characteristic of these two heroes is that Aeneas is destined to win and Turnus to lose. This difference greatly surpasses the likeness between the two men and leads to the exaltation and glorification of Rome. If Augustus Caesar is anywhere similar to Aeneas, which he is as Virgil points out, he will lead Rome to the tops. And that is just what happens!
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