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Political References in the Aeneid

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In The Aeneid, Virgil introduces the post-Homeric epic, an epic that immortalizes both a hero’s glory and the foundation of a people. The scope of the Aeneid can be paralleled to the scope of the Oresteia of Aeschylus, which explores the origins of a social institution, the Areopagus of Athens, and presents this origin as coinciding with a shift from the archaic matriarchal society ruled by the ties of blood to a civilized patriarchal society ruled by a court of law. Likewise, in the Aeneid, the founding of a civilization carries its own destructive consequence: the symbolic death of Turnus, and with it, the passing of an entire way of being.

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It is the moral foundation underlying stewardship decisions and actions of leaders. The Aeneid was originally written to enhance the political legitimacy of the Augustan principate, deliver a cohesive national identity, and extol traditional Roman virtues—all of which were deemed critical to the peace, prosperity and effectiveness of the Roman imperium. Further, this study reviews the epic in its historical context, codes the themes of its key leadership lessons, and employs a mixed-method research framework to juxtapose the leadership lessons identified to the demands of modern leadership. Specifically, the Aeneid is analyzed to juxtapose the resonant leadership elements of vision, culture and values—and their corresponding equivalent Roman themes of fatum, pietas, and virtus. Whether viewed qualitatively or quantitatively—in the first century BCE Rome of Virgil or across modern sectors (i.e., for profit, non profit, government)—results from this study suggests that rather than bowing to the illusion that current events (e.g., globalization, communication, computing) are beyond ancient insights, this study affirms the unequivocal relevance of the Aeneid to the demands of modern leadership.

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He had not dared to do anything, He could not… all he did was care Too much for a luckless friend” (p. 605). These words indicate that love can lead to selflessness and courage, which are necessary aspects in leadership. The concept that The Aeneid attempts to propagate at this point is that warriors should remain united in fighting for their nation to a point of losing their lives. As propaganda, this strategy is meant to make leaders and future warriors of Roman kingdom remain united against their enemies with a premise that an enemy to one person is a rival to all people. Individuality and free will of the people are therefore nabbed and tied together in the name of nationalism and loyalty to the kingdom. As Prince (2014) observes, religion was part of every facet of human life in the Roman kingdom. The Aeneid was therefore well calculated in making propaganda on matters of religion since it appealed to what people considered important. Cooksey (2008) asserts that gods are painted in a way that depicts them accepting sacrifices and making people’s lives better. However, besides destroying the lives of others for no reason, they control the fate of the leaders and leadership. For example, Aeneas and his Trojan make sacrifices to Juno the goddess, although she never stops hating them. “When gods are contrary…they stand by no one (Virgil, 2008, p. 532). This observation implies that the will of gods cannot be changed since it is controlled by fate. This situation tells the reader that it is dangerous to annoy the gods since even sacrifices that they make to them may never change their wrath. According to Pinkster (1999), the principle of instilling fear of the unknown on followers is brought out. People are wary of annoying supernatural beings that they cannot appease by opposing their appointed leaders.

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In brief, he wished to improve the morals which had been corrupted during the chaos of the last century of the Roman Republic. It was believed that those public and private morals had a higher standard in the past. The past, however, was not only a model for a supposedly better life but also provided Augustus with the auctoritas that he needed for political power.

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Virgil, R. (2008). The Aeneid. New York, NY: Word Press.

Pinkster, H. (1999). The present tense in Virgil’s Aeneid. Mnemosyne, 52(6), 705.

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Political References in the Aeneid
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