Imitation and Innovation: Analyzing the Figure of Aeneas between Homer and Virgil
Affiliation: Institute of Foreign Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Aeneas, a figure in Greco-Roman mythology, a clan lord, attended Troy war as the leader of the Trojans’ Dardanian allies. He was consequently described as one of the prominent figures in Homeric epics. When Troy was sacked by the Greeks, Aeneas rallied a few survivors, who then wandered at various locations in the Mediterranean and finally settled in Italy, where they built a new city and became the progenitors of Romans. Virgil took this tale of Aeneas and fashioned it into his epic Aeneid. In its subject matter, Virgil’s epic inherited the Aeneas-tales tradition from Homer’s Iliad, and wove into his own composition by imitated Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in various aspects. Meanwhile, he tailored to his own purpose, and took the pietas of Aeneas endowed by Homer to conceive the image of Aeneas. Aeneas in Virgil went through hardships and trials in vagrancies and wars. The destiny had revealed itself to the hero, who at first failed to comprehend but later assumed it. Thereby, Virgil’s Aeneas is often interpreted as the agent of destiny.

The epic Aeneid is a masterpiece in European literary history, which has always been juxtaposed with Homeric epics to be called “classics”. It’s even regarded by some as surpassing those of Homer. Virgil’s hero has been generally known as sophisticated and has received mixed comments: obvious or ambiguous, profound or shallow. Italian poet Dante attached much importance to Virgil and featured him as his guide through the realms of the Inferno and purgatorio, however finally being kept off the gate of paradise. The images of Aeneas remain a hot issue for researchers. The author of this paper intends to elaborate from his own perception: the image of Aeneas is an embodiment of religion, philosophy and political concepts in his time.