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Aeneid vs. Confessions

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By howman18
Words 1329
Pages 6
Readers of literature often see similarities between various works of scholarly authors. In fact, many authors study famous writers before them and replicate their ideas. In the case of Augustine, he was always studying philosophy and popular works that were written before his age. The ancient Greek poet Virgil, author of The Aeneid, was an influential author in Augustine’s own piece, Confessions. Augustine creates a similar story to The Aeneid by recycling many of Virgil’s ideas and forming a role model for Christians around the world in his story, Confessions. Similarities between The Aeneid and Confessions are abounding. Augustine uses a very similar geographical route in his story that Virgil uses in Aeneas’s conquest. In Book III of Confessions, Augustine moves to Carthage, the same city in which Aeneas arrives in The Aeneid. Augustine, like Aeneas, leaves Carthage and goes to Italy. Both characters eventually fulfill their missions in Italy. Aeneas ultimately finds Rome, and Augustine discovers Catholicism and the Lord in Milan.
Upon arrival in Carthage, Augustine reminds the reader of Aeneas’s story saying, “I came to Carthage and all around me hissed a cauldron of illicit loves” (Book III, i). In this reference to The Aeneid, Augustine describes the love affair of Dido and Aeneas. Although they profess openly as lovers after their adventure in the caves, they are not technically married. In Augustine’s own life, he has a lover and they are not married. Ultimately, both couples are separated. In the Aeneid, Aeneas leaves Dido after Jupiter sends a messenger to tell Aeneas that his future is not in Carthage with Dido, but instead in Italy. Similarly, Augustine’s break up with his lover is comparably tragic. He is told he is to be married to another woman, and must get rid of his “consort”. The result of Aeneas’s departure has a much more horrific effect on Dido, than Augustine’s break up has on him. Dido winds up killing herself because of her loss. Augustine describes his loss as, “My heart which was deeply attached was cut and wounded, and left a trail of blood” (Confessions, Book VI, xv). This quote is a metaphor for the death Dido experienced due to her loss. Augustine says his heart was emotionally cut and wounded, just as Dido’s heart is literally cut and wounded, as she stabs herself.
Augustine utilizes another quote to demonstrate the similarities between the two works. Describing his arrival in Carthage, Augustine brings up an interest of his. He says, “I was captivated by theatrical shows” (Confessions, Book III, ii). This quote signifies the theatrics Dido puts on while she commits suicide in the same city. With a burning pyre containing Aeneas’s belongings burning below, Dido stabs herself in a very dramatic, theatrical way.
Another similarity (and difference) in the two stories is found through each character’s mother. Aeneas is the son of Venus, an immortal Greek god. Meanwhile, Augustine is the son of a mortal, Monica. However different their mothers may be, both mothers care about their son. In The Aeneid, Venus keeps a watchful eye on her son. Although she is not physically with him, Venus makes sure he has protection. An example this comes when Juno brings a storm upon Aeneas’s fleet, but Venus is there to safely guide him to shore. Similarly, Monica makes sure Augustine is safe by accompanying him as he moves from city to city. Monica helps guide Augustine away from other improper beliefs, ultimately, guiding him to Catholicism.
Another idea Augustine uses similarly to Virgil is loaning a companion to the main character. Virgil grants Aeneas with Achates. He is Aeneas’s “loyal confidante and steadfast comrade” (p. 425). Achates helps Aeneas throughout the novel whenever he needs it. Likewise, Augustine has his friend and philosophical companion Alypius. He is the person who helps convert Augustine, as they get into an argument and Augustine suddenly runs out and decides he wants to become a Catholic.
However similar things may be in the two stories, there is one drastic difference. Augustine explains in his book that he enjoys philosophical works, more than the literary works he read in his youth. This statement is confirmed in Confessions. Augustine’s work is very philosophical. He is constantly asking himself questions and delving into these questions in search of answers. Questions like, “Who understands his sins?” (Confessions, Book II, ix), “Can I hear from you….that you can explain to me why weeping is a relief to us when unhappy?” (Confessions, Book IV, v), and “What causes man to be more delighted by the salvation of a soul who is despaired of but is then liberated from great danger than if there has always been hope or if only the danger has been minor?” (Confessions, Book VIII, iii), cause readers to continuously think and stay involved in the text, in pursuit of the answers. Augustine provides a deep evaluation in his book, whereas Virgil simply writes an intriguing story to keep the reader involved. This is a major defining difference between The Aeneid and Confessions.
Another difference between the two pieces of works are the levels of drama. In The Aeneid, Virgil keeps the reader on their toes. There is much more drama in the poem, as there are deaths involved and scandalous acts. In Confessions, however, Augustine describes his life in a very detailed nondramatic way. He does not create much controversy and it is much duller.
Finally, another major difference in the writings of Virgil and Augustine is the way in which their characters make decisions and the idea of fate versus free will. In Virgil’s poem, Aeneas does not make many decisions for himself, but instead relies mostly on the gods to assist him along the way. Virgil writes that Aeneas has “a glorious destiny” (Virgil, Book IV, ln 290). This proves the point that Aeneas is not ultimately making decisions for himself. In contrast, Augustine makes his decisions out of free will. It is his free will that assists him in his decision to leave Manicheism and ultimately join the Catholic faith. Although there are many similarities between the two stories, the differences are abounding as well.
The question of whether Augustine is a hero or not, like Aeneas, is an interesting question. A hero can be defined in various ways and in my opinion Augustine is an example of a role model more than he is a hero. If you thoroughly look at Augustine’s life you will see that he has changed in a variety of ways, but has not ultimately done an amazing act to inspire the reader. As a teenager, Augustine had lots of problems that he is not afraid to admit, but over time, with the help of his mother, he finds his faith. For any Christian, Augustine can be seen as a role model. His recognition and repentance of his sins are something every Christian strives for, yet sometimes struggles to reach. If those people were to follow the example of Augustine, they would realize that it may not be as hard as it seems to reach this point. Also, Augustine shows us the right ways and reasons to convert. He can be a role model to non-Christians considering the faith by showing them why they should believe. Overall, I believe Augustine is more of a role model than he is a hero.
As time passes, many authors reuse ideas and themes created by other writers in the making of their own books. The two literary works, Confessions and The Aeneid, are a prime example of this. Although the two stories may have some differences, many ideas are reused by Augustine. This is not necessarily an uncommon thing, but in this case it creates a unique bridge between the Christianity-inspired, philosophical works of Augustine and the poems of Virgil.

Works Cited
Augustine. Confessions. Trans. Henry Chadwick. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1991. Print.
Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print.…...

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