Love in Virgil’s Aeneid

Earlier this year, I wrote an essay for the St John’s College, Oxford Classics Essay Competition (CAHEC2019). The question was ‘Is love a narrative force to be reckoned with in epic?’, and I chose to focus on arguably the greatest work of Latin literature, Virgil’s Aeneid. The concept of love in this poem refuses to be contained by any one reductive definition, and in fact lies at the core of several significant episodes.

In my response, I argue that love can be located throughout the poem as στοργή (parental/filial love) and ἔρως (predominantly sexual/passionate love). Subsequently it is posited that as eros consistently either delays or has no influence over the poem’s central narrative arc (Aeneas’ journey to the fated lands of Italy), it cannot truly be considered a ‘narrative force to be reckoned with’. In contrast, philia is shown to have genuine bearance on this central plot, and is therefore a narrative force of more weight. That is not, however, to say that erotic love has no significance in the poem, indeed far from it. Love, in both its forms, is a good deal of the palette with which Virgil crafts characters of depth and a narrative with all the texture and moral complexity expected of epic poetry in antiquity.

My dubious attempt at an essay can be found below if it would interest you to have a read…

Click here to read the essay.

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