Religion In The Aeneid

1392 Words6 Pages
Augustine wrote Confessions amid the bloom of institutionalized Christianity in the Roman Empire during the Late Antique period. Early in his autobiography, he professes a distaste for heroism, romance, and fantasy in general, yet throughout the text, he makes repeated references to Virgil’s epic poem, The Aeneid. To understand this seemingly ironic literary decision, one must first understand that Christian Augustine draws strongly from his expertise in rhetoric. As a follower of God, he must fulfill a common responsibility to spread the truth to those who do not believe in spiritual salvation; at the same time, however, Augustine must introduce Christianity so that it does not force itself upon the reader. Confessions should come across as…show more content…
One day, during a conversation with his friend Alypius at their home, Augustine suddenly feels several of his internal forces conflict. Years of growing tension between his lower bodily desires and his obligations to higher standards suddenly come to a head in violent fashion: “During this agony of indecision I performed many bodily actions…I tore my hair and hammered my forehead with my fists; I locked my fingers and hugged my knees” (Confessions, p. 171). Augustine beats himself against his own will because he now understands that his spirit—enlightened by the Christian education of Father Ambrose and Augustine’s own self-speculation—wants to shed the chains of his worldly desire. The thrashing emulates Dido’s throes as she impales herself on the pyre: “Three times she tried to raise herself and strained, propped on her elbow; and three times she fell back upon the couch. Three times with wandering eyes she tried to find high heaven’s light and, when she found it, sighed” (The Aeneid, IV, 949-954). In this scene, Dido’s soul wants to escape her body, but her premature demise demands external intervention to facilitate her passing. Pitying the miserable queen, Juno dispatches Iris, who “speaks and cuts the lock with her right hand; at once the warmth was gone, the life passed to the winds” (The Aeneid, IV,
Open Document