The deer hunter: A portrait of Aeneas

A. De Villiers

Abstract


The theme of hunting occurs throughout the Aeneid at strategic
points to link specific events and foreshadow certain outcomes.
Many scholars have noted the increasingly ominous nature of
hunting in the epic: from Aeneas’s first hunt in book one to provide
food for his people, through Ascanius’s trophy hunt that sparks the
war in Italy, to Aeneas’s final vengeful hunting of Turnus. But as far
as the protagonist Aeneas is concerned it is specifically through acts
of deer hunting that an increasing lack of feeling in his character
comes to light. In this paper I will argue that, through recurring
instances of deer hunting, both literal and symbolic, a gradual
desensitization of Aeneas is revealed. This prepares the reader for his
final act in the epic: his killing of Turnus in book twelve, an
unnecessary act that strips him of the qualities of pietas so
abundantly attributed to him throughout the work.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/58-0-146

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ISSN 2079-2883 (online); ISSN 0303-1896 (print)

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