you suppose, my father,
That I could tear myself away and leave you?
Unthinkable; how could a father say it?
Now if it pleases the powers about that nothing
Stand of this great city; if your heart
Is set on adding your own death and ours
To that of Troy, the door’s wide open for it.
In this passage from Book II, which
precedes Aeneas’s flight from burning Troy with his father upon
his back, Virgil distinguishes Aeneas for his piety. This sense
of duty has two components. The first is a filial component: Aeneas
is a dutiful son to Anchises, and he wants to escape with him to
safety. Aeneas makes it plain that his strong sense of family loyalty
will not allow him to abandon Anchises. The second is a social component:
Anchises, Aeneas argues, cannot choose to stay and die at Troy without
affecting many others. Anchises is a patriarch, and were he to resign
himself to death, he would effectively choose death for them all.
These words of Aeneas’s lift Anchises out of the self-indulgence
of despair and remind him of the leadership role that his seniority
and status demand. In the ensuing episodes, even after his death,
Anchises serves as a wise counselor to his son as Aeneas makes his
way toward Italy.