Vergil’s The Aeneid and the Holy Bible’s Genesis were two of most famous texts. In this essay, I am going to discuss the similarities between these two texts in terms of their family values; love, loyalty, obedience, responsibility and concern. This essay is written to argue that the two passages share great homogenies since both give a description of diachronic occurrences. The Bible was translated into Latin by a roman scholar called Saint Jerome between 382-405 BCE.
Given that Virgil was born in 70 BCE and wrote The Aeneid between 29-19 BCE, it is most likely that he had read the Genesis story before writing the poem. Virgil was born during the time when Rome was experiencing civil wars due to the dictatorial rule of Augustus. His main objective was to instill some sense of self awareness among the Romans and thereby foster peace in the war torn city. From the similarities highlighted below, it is most likely that Virgil applied the Genesis story when writing The Aeneid.
In a nutshell, The Aeneid book 2 gives a vivid description of the Trojan War between the Romans and the Greek. It also shows the cultural and religious beliefs of the two groups. In this passage, Aeneas, who is the main character, describes the fall of Troy. It shows how the Trojans were tricked by the Greeks using the Trojan horse. The Trojans did not believe in their own priest, Laocoon, but instead chose to follow the advice of an alien, Sinon, who in his poetic wit convinced the Trojans that fate was in their favor.
Consequently, the entire town was brought under siege and the king beheaded. By the help of the gods, Aeneas rescued his family except his wife, Creusa. This attack by the Greeks was retaliation against Paris, the prince, who had taken a married lady (Helen) from Greece. The passage ended with Aeneas leading a small collection of people with Ascanius and his father into a far country as directed to him by his wife who appeared to him as a ghost.
Genesis is the first book of the Bible that describes the rise and fall of man. It starts by showing God’s creation of the universe and all the living things including man and how Adam and eve disobeyed God by eating fruits from the tree that God had warned them not to. Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden and cursed by God himself. It describes Noah and how he was used by God to build the ark. There is a mention of Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah due to their immorality and rebellion against God. Here, we meet Abraham, the father of faith. It is in this book where Abraham’s descendants are traced and the origin of Israelites.
It gives a brief history of the life of Isaac, Jacob and his sons and how Joseph was sold to Egyptians by his own brothers who were always envious of him. Later, we are shown how Joseph rose to power while in Egypt and how he saved their family from famine that had hit Israel. It ends with Joseph’s death in Egypt.
The first similar family value that is shared by both texts is obedience. The first related passage from The Aeneid is, “Alas! My wife Creusa taken from us by grim fate” ( Aeneid ,2.960). Aeneas’ wife never followed the instructions given to her by her husband hence ends up being captured and killed by the Greeks. The second related passage from The Aeneid is “Such as you now take, guard your own house here. When you have gone, to whom is Lulus left? Your father? Wife?-One called that long ago” ( Aeneid ,2.885).
Creusa pleaded with Aeneas her husband not to attack the Greeks for revenge but instead to remain behind and guard his family. Aeneas obeyed and chose to remain just like his wife had advised him. The first related passage from the Genesis is, “she said to Abraham, cast out that slave woman and her son…he place them over her shoulder together with the child, and sent them away” ( Gen. 21:10-14). Abraham obeyed his wife Sarah and sent Hagar away together with her son Ishmael as per Sarah’s command. The second related passage from the Genesis is “take your son, your favored one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights I will point out to you” ( Gen. 22:2).
Abraham obeyed God’s command and took his son to the mountain offer him as a sacrifice as directed by God. As a father and head of the family, he was obedient both to God and his wife. In all of the four passages, despite men being heads of their families, they also needed to listen to and obey both their wives and also God(s). Being the heads (men) did not mean they give a deaf ear to those that they are leading.
The second similar family value that is shared by both texts is that in both texts, families had a common belief in God(s) of which everyone revered. From the texts, each family had a Household God(s) that they consulted and respected at all times. The first related passage from The Aeneid is, “To the altar step itself he dragged him trembling” ( Aeneid ,2.717). Priam was caught and butchered while at the altar.
He together with his wife had run to their household gods for protection at that time when they were facing danger from all the corners. They both believed that it was only their gods that could save them out of the danger they were in. The second related passage from The Aeneid is, “Father carry our hearth gods, our penates. It would be wrong for me to handle them…until I wash myself in running water” ( Aeneid ,2.932-934).
Aeneas and his family carried along with them their family gods as they made their way out of the city. They all had a common belief that the gods would offer them full protection against their enemies. The first related passage from the Genesis is, “Do not raise your hand against the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God” ( Gen. 22:12). Abraham believed so much in his God that he was ready to sacrifice his son as commanded by God himself. he had a God whom he strongly trusted and followed. The second related passage from the Genesis is, “Fear not, for God has heeded the cry of the boy where he is” ( Gen. 21:17).
God manifested himself in Hagar’s hardship situation in the wilderness. In her state of helplessness, it was only God that could save her and her son of which he does. All of the four passages show that they share a common family value common belief in the existence of God(s). In both texts, familes showed their respect and trust in God(s) and were ready to do as directed by God(s). They also trusted God(s) for protection and provision.
The third similar family value that is shared by both texts is that there was demonstration of responsibility by parents to their children and those they were leading. The first related passage from The Aeneid is, “Ascanius, my father and the Teucrian Penates I left in my friends’ charge, and hid them well in a hollow valley” ( Aeneid ,2.932-934). Aeneas took responsibility of ensuring the safety of his son (Ascanius) and his father (Anchises) before he left to go back and search for his lost wife. The second related passage from The Aeneid is, “Then little Lulus put his hand in mine, and came with shorter steps besides his father.
My wife fell in behind. On we went, and I, lately unmoved” ( Aeneid ,2.940-942). In order to save his helpless family, Aeneas took full responsibility of ensuring his family was safe from destruction. The first related passage from the Genesis is, “He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got him a wife from the land of Egypt” ( Gen. 21:20). Hagar showed her responsibility as a parent to look for a wife for Ishmael when he was fully grown. The second related passage from the Genesis is, “and when his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded him” ( Gen. 21:4).
Abraham exercised his responsibility as a father by ensuring his son Isaac was circumcised as per God’s command. It is only a responsible parent that does everything for the good of their children and their families at large. All of the four passages show that they share a common family value of responsibility by parents and guardians towards their children and families. Parents were charged with the mandate of ensuring their family as a whole and their children in particular received the required care.
The fourth similar family value that shared by both texts is concern and care for others. The first related passage from The Aeneid is, “For what you’ve done, for what you’ve dared’ He said. If there is reward in heaven for atrocity, may the gods render fitting thanks reward you as you deserve? You have forced me to look on at the destruction of my son” ( Aeneid ,2.696-700). Priam’s concern for his son’s death arouses bitterness and pain in him against Achilles’ son who murdered the princess in the presence of the king.
The second related passage from The Aeneid is, “And my father’s image came into my mind. As our king, just his age, mortally wounded. Gasped his life away before my eyes. Creusa came to my mind, too, left alone” ( Aeneid ,2.733-735). After seeing Priam’s beheading, Aeneas immediately remembered of his family at home; he was concerned. The first related passage from Genesis is, “Early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar” ( Gen. 21:14).
Abraham expressed his care and concern for his son and maid (Hagar) by providing them food. Despite having been commanded to send the child and the mother away, Abraham was still attached to them since they were part of his family. The second related passage from the Genesis is, “Therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my kith and my kin but will deal with me and the land you have sojourned as loyally as I have dealt with you” ( Gen. 21:23).
Abimelech was so concerned with the well being and safety of his family and people that he approached Abraham to ascertain of their safety. All of the four passages show that they share a common family value of concern and care for each other. He was not only concerned of his safety but also for his family and community as a whole In this case, everyone ensured that the interests of other members were catered for as far as safety and well being were concerned.
The first five books (Torah) of the bible were first translated into Greek by the Greek scholars between the third and second century BCE but were completed before 132 BCE. Also, the Septuagint was translated into Latin (Vulgate) by a certain scholar by the name Saint Jerome Between 382-405 AD. The Genesis talks of personalities that believed in God and emphasizes on the need for religion. Virgil was strongly influenced by the Genesis because he also lived during this time when the books of the Bible were being translated into Greek and Latin hence it would be easier for him to compare the Greeks to the Romans in terms of culture.
From The Aeneid book two, a family comprised of the grandparent, a husband, a wife and children. They all lived in one home. However, women were not considered as citizens. In The Aeneid, no woman is mentioned to have survived to the end but only males hence implying that women were not so important in this society. Women were treated as companions and helpers to the male parents. The family was headed by the oldest male member of the family. Aeneas family comprised of his father, his wife and his son. Every family in the Roman culture had household gods; Lar (ancestral spirit) and Penate (god of the fireplace and the stockroom).
These gods were only worshipped at home. In The aeneid book two, Priam was beheaded in the midst of his wife and the family gods ( Aeneid ,2.720). Also, Panthus (Apollo’s priest) attempted to save Troy’s gods as he escaped ( Aeneid ,2.932). Similarly, Aeneas tried saving their household gods as they made their escape ( Aeneid ,2.485). In the Roman culture, the father headed the family (paterfamilias) and took charge of gods since they believed that his powers originated from Genius and were to be passed from father to son. This was why Aeneas saw his father in a vision; it was their family genius who was directing him on what to do ( Aeneid ,2.151).
However, the Romans also adopted some of the Greek divinities like Zeus who was changed to Jove, Hera to Juno, Hermes to Mercury and Aphrodite to Venus ( Aeneid ,2.1-865). Virgil was born in 70 BCE at the time when rmans were experiencing a lot of wars until they had gotten tired of it. The motive behind Virgil’s writing of The Aeneid was to create a sense of belonging and identity among the Romans and most probably bring to an end all the feuds.
From the use of Aeneas as his main character who escapes the war torn motherland to Italy where he becomes the founder of the Romans. This can also be compared to the Genesis story story where Abraham leaves his motherland and moves to a far off place where God blesses him and makes him the father of great nations and it is from him that his grandson, Jacob, becomes the founder of Israelites. Therefore from the above information, it is very evident that by the time Virgil was writing The Aeneid (29-19 BCE), the Bible had already been translated into Latin and hence he was able to read it.
In a word, these two texts show a lot of similarities in their description of historical events, family values, culture, political organization, religious beliefs and practices. The Roman culture tended to emphasize more on family units headed by the oldest male parent or guardian. Given that Virgil was born in 70 BCE and wrote The Aeneid between 29-19 BCE, it is most likely that he had read the Genesis story before writing the poem. Virgil was born during the time when Rome was experiencing civil wars due to the dictatorial rule of Augustus. His main objective was to instill some sense of self awareness among the Romans and thereby foster peace in the war torn city. From the similarities highlighted above, it can therefore be conclusively stated that Virgil applied the Genesis story when writing The Aeneid hence he had read it before.
Holy Bible, King James Version. University of Virginia Library. 1992-2007. Web.
The Aeneid: Book 2. 1994-2009. Web.