The Aeneid

by: Virgil

Divine Intervention

Quotes Divine Intervention
He spoke; and from on high sends down the son Of Maia, that the lands and new-built towers Of Carthage might be opened to receive As guests the Trojans; lest in ignorance Of fate, Dido should drive them from her shores.

Book I introduces numerous instances of the gods’ intervention in the mortal world to get the results they desire, and here Jove asks Mercury to ensure that Dido welcomes Aeneas and his party. Jove’s interference sets up the tragedy that befalls the queen. Once Aeneas is in Carthage, Cupid, at Venus’s behest, makes Dido fall in love with Aeneas. The gods know that Aeneas has his own fate that must be fulfilled, and that he can’t remain in Carthage, yet they sacrifice Dido’s happiness and her very life when they use her in their machinations.

“Rare praise, and ample spoils You bring indeed—you, and that son of yours. A great and memorable act of power, When by the guile of two divinities One woman is overcome!”

Juno proposes to Venus that they strike a deal to engineer the marriage of Dido and Aeneas. Their exchange exemplifies the pernicious nature of divine intervention as they both agree to use Dido as a pawn. Juno hopes the marriage will keep Aeneas from fulfilling his fate and founding the Roman kingdom in Italy. Venus knows Juno’s true intent but goes along with it in order to protect Aeneas. Juno and Venus have no concern that their plans will make Dido lose what she holds dear—her husband’s memory, Carthage, her sense of self, and even her life.

Saturnian Juno from the skies sent down Iris her messenger to the Trojan fleet, And breathed the winds upon her as she went. Revolving many a scheme, the goddess kept Her ancient enmity still unappeased.

The Trojans made their way to Sicily, and Juno attempts yet again to prevent them from continuing onward to Italy by sending Iris to promote the idea to the Trojan women to burn the ships. Juno continues to interfere in Aeneas’s plans, but since she has no ability to change his fate, her efforts have unintended consequences. As the Trojans will not have enough ships for all their people, they will decide to leave the old and infirm behind. This decision actually strengthens the Italian landing party: Juno’s attempt to intervene backfires.

“What though his course Into his Latian realms I cannot bar, And by unalterable fate he takes Lavinia for his wife? Yet I may oppose Delay thereto and hindrance; yes, destroy The people of both kings.”

Juno vows yet again to block Aeneas and his plans even though she recognizes that fate is stronger than her power. She accepts that Aeneaswillreach Italy and hewillmarry Lavinia, for this destiny is foretold. However, she can still use her godly powers and make trouble. Her obsessive hatred for Aeneas leads her to take direct actions to punish Aeneas, even though in doing so, she will be the cause of the deaths of countless innocent people.

“To each his enterprise Will bring its good or ill. Jove is the same To all alike. The Fates will find their way."

Jove calls a council of the gods and declares that they all must stop interfering in the conflict between Aeneas and Turnus and leave the war’s end to fate. Jove’s commands are futile, however. As the war continues, Juno and Venus in particular refuse to stop aiding their chosen heroes. By the final blow that kills Turnus, fate and divine intervention are wholly enmeshed. Such an entanglement aptly represents the mortal world, where people constantly pray to the gods, turn to seers and prophecies for guidance, and seek out divine signs. For Aeneas and his contemporaries, the gods are always present.