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What are the main characteristics of the gods in the Aeneid?
Many of the characters in Virgil's Aeneid carry the weight of many allusions; not least Dido who has elements of many Greek and Roman heroines, tragic and otherwise. The same is true of the gods; there is not one ideology Virgil puts forward with regard to them. Since he is a poeta docta and hopes for a similarly learned audience he expects these references to be picked up upon. It is also crucial for the gods of such a complicated and rich epic to carry such multiple motivations that these varied ideologies prompt. After all no story true to life would be so strict as to deny these, and Virgil is nothing if he is not that. The stoic view point, among others, is essential to the plot of the Aeneid. This sort of terminology would sum up the character of Aeneas in many places quite aptly, but also it can be extended to the gods. This ideology states that the gods exist, care, and that fate has already been decided. In a significant change from the Homeric model Jupiter is often a dignified aloof character when it comes to the decrees of fate; he regards things from the high perspective of fate, is not tricked into going against his own decrees and his basis of power with regard to the other gods is not based on physical violence. This is a much more Roman conception of Zeus and an essential one because so much of the story relies upon prophecy and divination about the future Augustus will bring; two important things in Stoicism. The first essential scene along these lines is his prophecy to Venus in book one. He assures her of the immovability of fate despite Juno's interventions, "Spare your fears; your children's fates abide unmoved...Aeneas you will raise on high to starry heaven. No thought has moved me." Of course Jupiter is often criticised of tailoring this speech to please Venus, which accounts for the fact that only 7 lines talk of the actual narrative, but nothing he says is untrue; his words are what will happen. Furthermore the fact he does not mention much of the toils of war and goes onto great men in the future and their fate shows how all-encompassing these words are; fate is so fixed and decided that he can talk about these future leaders with ease. There is slight ambiguity as to whether Fate is a separate entity or if it and Jupiter are one in the same thing. For example he says, "I will speak and, further unrolling the scroll of fate, will disclose its secrets." And then later, "For these I set no bounds in time or space." Whether a distinction is made or not doesn't seem particularly important, all that matters is that this idea of ultimate fate exists in the Aeneid. A major aspect of Jupiter's character is upholding the dictates of fate and on many occasions he shows himself willing and able to do so. Obvious examples include sending Mercury to tell him to leave Carthage, discussing and explaining the nature of man's fate to Hercules in relation to his own loss of Sarpedon and when he weighs the fates of Turnus and Aeneas in the scales before the duel in book twelve. A more impressive example comes in book ten in the council of the gods which Jupiter convenes in order to tell the gods that the war is against his declarations of fate. Obviously if he were an all-powerful god he could have stopped it sooner, but this
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