To begin with, the idea of what Aeneas did sheds light on different aspects of life, morality and law. In this respect it is vital to point out that Aeneas followed the idea of vengeance that, as he thought, was above everything else around as he promised Evander to take care of Pallas. On the other hand, Aeneas himself was one to kill young warriors who were taken care in the battlefield by other mature warriors. Thus, there is a holistic dilemma in what should be justified as right or wrong in the Aeneas’s deeds. Moreover, the rule of law is given in order to keep an eye out on how a contemporary reader can interpret the Aeneas’s revenge from the moral point of view.
First of all, the actions by Aeneas were sequential and all of them were well supported by Venus. In this case even in the final battle with Turnus and his people, Aeneas was healed by Venus in order to continue the fight. The death of Pallas was a real grief for Aeneas. However, this tragedy made him think in a wrong way of what should be done in response. The letter of law confronted with pure and deep emotions of Aeneas. Hence, he could not but kill Turnus in the final scene just because he gained sight of the Pallas’s belt.
Calculate the price
Now, it is about time to take a look at the main drives of Aeneas to kill Turnus. First, he lost Pallas, even though Pallas himself showed himself as a brave warrior in the battlefield. Second, Aeneas felt his own responsibility before Evander as he had the same paternal feelings to Pallas. Third, Turnus grabbed the sword belt after killing Pallas. It was a sign of disgrace to all three: Pallas, Evander, and Aeneas. Thus, Aeneas was driven by his duty to get that disgrace away from all three men and prove his idea right before his enemies and Turnus, in particular. By the way, a flow of divine will on the part of gods accompanied Aeneas during his journey.
By contrast, there is another side of morality which is indisputable even under warfare circumstances. It is all about the rule of law highlighted by Anchises to Aeneas. Definitely, it was the highest postulate of morality which should be determined by respectful and noble warriors. Among the points stated in this rule Aeneas especially ignored the rule of sparing the conquered. This was the main point to blame Aeneas’s actions. However, one sees an ability of the main character to stop the fight at the moment when Turnus asked for mercy. It is in this moment that Aeneas should have made the right decision and leave Turnus. However, the power of personal inner emotions and grief was higher than the voice of morality and law due to the fact that Aeneas saw the Pallas’s belt on Turnus. It was the fatal moment for both.
It goes without saying that Aeneas was not right according to the rule of law. He took that murder for granted. Moreover, he seems to use the rule of law when it was convenient solely for him. In light of the rule of law, Aeneas does not look like a positive character. He followed the same way as his enemies did. Hence, there is no difference between protagonist and antagonist. Aeneas was sensitive to what his heart said to him and to the manipulations by gods. However, he failed to be open to the rule of law which is one of the main factors related to national development.
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As might be seen in the tenth book, the death of Pallas by Turnus is outlined contrary to the death of Lausus by Aeneas. There is a causative-consecutive chain of events treated by the characters as right or wrong. Nevertheless, their fate and fortune depends on the gods’ decision. Logically, Turnus gets even with Aeneas after killing Pallas. However, an ancient rule tit for tat becomes paramount instead. Hence, it is hard to find out the truth in Aeneas’s actions. Virgil interprets everything on the part of the will of gods and their interruption into the outcome of the battle. An attentive and morally-savvy reader will have a twofold idea of the main character.
By the way, Turnus was aware of his bad fortune as he remarks that he was afraid of gods but not of Aeneas. It was a powerful remark to highlight that morality is quite neutral before the decisions made by gods for the sake of their own will. So, the main characters are just the figures of power and impact in hands of gods. This idea is seen throughout the poem as it justifies the sacred place of gods in the fates of people.
Given that, Aeneas is at the dilemma of how to act in the extreme situation when Pallas is killed and Turnus cuts and runs. The voice of his duty says to kill Turnus, but the letter of the law says to spare. In this case it is necessary to state that there is a neutral idea of morality throughout the poem. Hence, the death of Turnus is justified by Aeneas only as it is a sheer vengeance in the name of Pallas. In this vein, Aeneas deserves death as well due to the fact that he killed Lausus who was taken care by Turnus. All in all, Aeneas can be justified both positively and negatively in what he did.