Friday, September 28, 2012

Virgil's Ironic Portrayal of Goddesses

I find it kind of ironic the way goddesses are portrayed in the Aeneid. Although goddesses are divine and powerful, they are still given the harsh traits of stereotypical women in ancient Roman culture. Specifically, the Judgment of Paris showcased the goddesses as vain, deceitful, selfish, and willing to engage in bribery to have their way. Greeks and Romans portrayed their gods and goddesses as having human characteristics, making them more relatable to the audience. Juno, Aphrodite, and Minerva, although relatable, hardly show admirable qualities in the Judgment of Paris. The Romans depicted their goddesses, whom they supposedly respected and honored for their divinity, as possessing the same undesirable characteristics that they felt the Roman women had in their belittled and limited roles in society. That just seems a bit contradictory to me. Not cool, Virgil.

6 comments:

Lindsay A said...

The male gods in the Aedeid seem level minded while the women are ruled by their emotions. Juno cares for Carthage, so she runs around trying to save the city and Venus tries to protect her son - the goddesses bicker and use trickery throughout the epic and then - at the end - Jove comes down and puts an end to it. So even with the gods, the males still rule over the females.

wkuehne said...

While I agree that Goddesses seem to be portrayed as stereotypical women, I also think that when compared to female characters in Greek plays they seem to have gained some rights. For instance, Dido is in charge of Carthage while Medea would never have dreamed of being in power in any way other than living under her husband's umbrella of power. I think there is an important distinction between the way Greek women are portrayed and the way Roman women are portrayed, but both seem to still be living in the shadow of men within their societies.

Ian J said...

I think it sort of silly for Virgil and other epic poets to even write about goddesses if they're simply going to portray them with stereotypical woman characteristics. They should have written about goddesses as admirable, kind, good-intentioned women, as opposed to ones with intentions of deceit (example: Juno in the Aeneid). But then again it was during the Greek and Roman times where women in general were looked down upon, so maybe the portrayal of goddesses and their characteristics were an excuse for why the Greek and Roman men thought women acted the way they did?

Laura N said...

Each goddess seems like a concentrated version of a stereotypical woman. They contain very good and very bad stereotypical qualities of women. Juno, for example, is very vain, crafty and unforgiving of the Trojans and at the same time tries protects the interests of Carthage, her patron city by taking out her anger on Aeneas. Venus is the goddess of love, protecting Aeneas in the best way she can, but is also vain and cunning. The goddesses are humanized by their flaws and have extreme personalities. I think that even male gods are flawed and are sometimes prone to anger, jealousy and so on. Maybe not so much in this story though.
Going along with what Will said, Dido holds a position of power in Carthage that would have been unthinkable and probably forbidden in Greece which may show signs of progress for women. However, I think Virgil undermines her power and authority as queen because she is so infatuated with Aeneas that she neglects the city causing it to crumple and reversing its development. Maybe Virgil is saying women have no place in leadership roles because they too easily fall prey to their own emotions and will therefore neglect their responsibilities as leader.

Laura N said...

Each goddess seems like a concentrated version of a stereotypical woman. They contain very good and very bad stereotypical qualities of women. Juno, for example, is very vain, crafty and unforgiving of the Trojans and at the same time tries protects the interests of Carthage, her patron city by taking out her anger on Aeneas. Venus is the goddess of love, protecting Aeneas in the best way she can, but is also vain and cunning. The goddesses are humanized by their flaws and have extreme personalities. I think that even male gods are flawed and are sometimes prone to anger, jealousy and so on. Maybe not so much in this story though.
Going along with what Will said, Dido holds a position of power in Carthage that would have been unthinkable and probably forbidden in Greece which may show signs of progress for women. However, I think Virgil undermines her power and authority as queen because she is so infatuated with Aeneas that she neglects the city causing it to crumple and reversing its development. Maybe Virgil is saying women have no place in leadership roles because they too easily fall prey to their own emotions and will therefore neglect their responsibilities as leader.

TSHAH said...

I agree with will in regards to women having more rights in roman plays than in Greek, however I also agree with Madeline and Lindsey given that Virgil seems to portray women much of the way that Euripides had in "Medea" - overly emotional creatures who are not capable of rational thought in comparison to men. In "Medea", Jason is depicted by Euripides as man who married another women for the sake of bettering the life of his family ( completely rational thinking), while Medea is seen as an overly emotional whose immense love for Jason drives her to her own ruin (un-rational thought). This issue is paralleled in "The Aeneid" as Juno's hatred for the Aeneas is rooted in the fact that she lost the judgement of Paris, and emotional attachment to her beauty (however we know that it has more to do with the prophesy that Aeneas will bring Carthage to ruins), which further illustrates the stereotypes women were associated with.