The Aeneid

by: Virgil

Duty

Quotes Duty
The Greeks still held the closely guarded gates; Nor was there any further hope of aid. I yielded to my fate, and, bearing still My sire, toward the mountains took my way.

The theme of selfless duty resonates throughout theAeneid, and Aeneas’s lines at the end of Book II reinforces his depiction as a man who embodies this trait. Aeneas’s actions in Troy arise out of doing his sense of duty: to his city, the Trojan people, and his family. In the heat of the battle, he is prepared to sacrifice his life to fight for Troy but realizes he has an even greater duty to his father, Anchises. Carrying his father to safety on his back gives physical form to the numerous obligations that influence his choices in life.

And here, O youth most worthy to be praised, You, and the hard fate of your piteous death, And your most noble deeds, I shall not pass In silence, if an act so great as yours Shall be believed by any future age!

Virgil recognizes the dutiful Lausus who makes a deliberate and desperate choice to sacrifice his life to protect his injured father from Aeneas in battle. This action stands as that of an exemplar son. Not only does Virgil predict Lausus living on in future glory, he speaks through Aeneas, Lausus’ killer, in recognizing the act of duty the youth has performed. Once Aeneas has killed Lausus, instead of continuing his killing spree, Aeneas lauds his victim and attempts to confer comfort by pointing out that Lausus died at the hands of a hero, not an average fighter.

“Where do, my men, where do you go so fast? What sudden discord is this? Restrain your rage! The league is made, and all its rules arranged. I only have a right to take this field. Yield now to me; dismiss these fears of yours. With my hand I shall make the treaty firm. These sacred rites make Turnus due to me.”

Aeneas attempts to convince his men to not rise to the bait of battle when one of Turnus’s men throws a spear at them. In his speech, Aeneas evokes his ideals of duty. He and Turnus have already agreed to fight one-on-one to end the war. Aeneas sees this battle as both his due and his duty. He wants to uphold this bargain, not simply because he believes he is the man to defeat Turnus and thus his army, but because both sides already have agreed to terms.