Other essays and articles in the Literature Archives related to this topic include : Fate and the Death of Turnus in Virgil’s Aeneid and Character and Divine Influence in The Aeneid and Iliad
Throughout the two books of The Aeneid by Virgil, it would seem as though the destructive effects of furor were limited to the reactions of the gods and goddesses, especially since the opening of the text introduces the reader to the violent impulses of Juno—the very embodiment of furor. This bitter goddess is introduced far before any of the mortal characters in one of the important quotes from The Aeneid by Virgil as, “Baleful Juno in her sleepless rage,” (I.8) and although the reader has not yet met the victims of her wrath, the effects of her anger incite her to beg Aeolus to, “Put new fury/ Into your winds, and make the long ships founder!” (I.97-98).
The rage and fury theme in Aeneid by Virgil is difficult to ignore, even with mild analysis of The Aeneid. Even before this command for furor-driven destruction, she is described as “smoldering” as she considers a fire-ravaged end to her enemies. It is clear from the very beginning of Virgil’s Aeneid that destructive emotion and fire are directly related. There are several examples throughout the work that link these two elements, one emotional and the other physical, although this theme is used differently upon some occasions.
Furor is not merely attributed to the gods and goddesses in The Aeneid who are prone to desctructive fits of rage in The Aeneid. Dido, the proud queen and ruler of Libya is herself, almost goddess-like (partially because she is one of the only mortal women that express emotion and complex thought). When she learns of Aeneas’ plot to leave her, she is described as, “Furious, at her wits’ end, / She traversed the whole city all aflame/ with rage, like a Bacchante driven wild.” (IV.409-411) Here, for the first time in The Aeneid, we see the connection between furor and flame, but in this case, the furious entity is a mere mortal as opposed to a god or goddess with unlimited destructive powers. Dido almost seems to be the human counterpart to Juno in her anger and rage and the difference between her wild and unrestrained emotions stands in sharp contrast to her lover, Aeneas’ calm control over his feelings.
Along these lines, it is interesting that Dido, in her confrontation with Aeneas before he leaves her, she remarks woefully in one of the quotes along this theme, “Oh, I am swept away burning by furies!” (IV.519) The connection between furor and fury cannot be mistaken and she recognizes the feeling of “burning” with anger as associated with the destructive nature of furor. To bring Dido’s statement here to full realization, it is important to point out that she is, in the end, quite literally consumed by furor, which in this context, is actually the physical representation of it—fire. Her funeral pyre in The Aeneid, in which she stabs herself with Aeneas’ sword burns, much like her passions, and even the men out on the ships can see it, even if they don’t realize what it is. This is one of the most crucial moments in the text as it relates to the connection between the emotional side of furor (the feelings) and the physical manifestation (fire and burning).
Fire and destructive rage are brought up again in The Aeneid, this time also among mortal women in The Aeneid by Virgil, although in a different sense. Juno sends Iris to distribute torches among the women so they will be incited to burn the ships of their men. This action can be taken, quite literally, as “spreading” rage through this act of “passing the torch”. While there is divine influence in this destructive act, it is only enacted by the seemingly robotic and sheep-like following of orders on the part of mortal women. This not only makes it seem as though women are more prone to furor, but that they don’t think through their actions—they act upon emotion instead of reasoning out their anger. It would be important to separate Dido from these ranks of “common” mortal women however, since she seemed to have the influence of the divine over her people (but without the “magical” powers of a true goddess).
The Aeneid opens and ends with acts of fury and rage and although the difference is that a hero emerges (as opposed to beset, as Aeneas is in the beginning), the fact remains that the theme is carried out to full fruition. Also of note, it ends with mortal, rather than god/goddess fury and Aeneas realizes that the basis for the fear lies in a more abstract (as opposed to direct, in the form of Juno) threat from the Gods. In his final battle, he states boldly in one of the important quotes from The Aeneid by Virgil, “I do not fear your taunting fury, /Arrogant prince. It is the gods I fear/And Jove my enemy.” (XII.1211-1212) If viewed in this sense, the fatalistic elements of the fury, wrath, and bounty of the gods is the only force able to crush furor, even if the gods are the same “institution” that perpetuates these struggles. The most surprising fact of the ending of the Aeneid, and perhaps a more subtly hinted-at truth, is that the final death ends not with fire, but with the mortal wounds of a sword