“The subject furnished political advantages. The legend unfolded in the Aeneid provided justification for Rome’s complex relationship with the Hellenic world, which involved military and political domination coupled with a certain cultural dependency. Representing Rome as a resurgence of a Troy destroyed by the Greeks gave the Roman conquest of Greece the coloring of legitimate revenge. Virgil did not miss the opportunity to put into the mouth of Jupiter, in a lengthy prophecy addressed to Venus, a proclamation that Rome would destroy the most renowned cities of Greece, which were responsible for the fall of Troy” (Brisson, 1989, p.22)
Moreover, the view that the Aeneid has propagandist elements in it is learnt from how its author, Virgil, panders and praises Augustus, the then emperor of Rome. In his book Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, author Robert Kaplan criticizes Virgil for his assumed role as an Augustan panegyrist. But this characterization of the author and his work is contested as it overlooks centuries of critical comment on Virgil’s works, questioning his “role as a state-sponsored propagandist”. (Harper, 2008, p.117) To narrow down Virgil to a mere propagandist and to equate his work to hyperbole is to be philistine. Such a position undermines an appreciation of the great literary merits of the narrative verse.
In conclusion, there is consensus among scholars that the image of Aeneas leaving Troy’s ruins with his beloved father on his back and young son in hand
“is an emblem of the Roman virtue pietas, or duty. But it is too easy to read Aeneas as a model hero, or to follow Kaplan in critiquing Virgil for pandering to his political masters. While the epic holds lessons on duty and Virgil does praise Augustus, the public voice is balanced by another voice-one perhaps growing louder as it resonates in our present.” (Harper, 2008, p.117)
Brisson, Jean-Paul. “Aeneas, Rome’s Man of Destiny.” UNESCO Courier Sept. 1989: 22+.
Harper, David. “With as Many Voices: The Aeneid of Virgil.” Military Review 88.2 (2008): 116+.
Whitehorne, John. “Reconciling East and West in Virgil’s Aeneid.” AUMLA : Journal of the Australasian Universities Modern Language Association 103 (2005): 1+.