Virgil's Aeneid includes a number of scenes in which children die in front of their parents. While the motif has a Homeric precedent, Virgil's invention of a formula (ante ora parentum: "before the faces of one's parents") suggests a particular interest in the theme. An analysis of scenes where the formula recurs (such as Aeneas's shipwreck, the fall of Troy, and the lusus Troiae) reveals a metapoetic resonance behind the motif, with the parent-child relationship acting as a metaphor for authorial influence and artistic creation. Thus the threat that Aeneas might die as Anchises looks on, for instance, evokes Virgil's own precarious position in relation to his "father," Homer. Aeneas's well-known transition into a father-figure as the poem progresses comes with the risk that he may become the parent who sees his own child die; Virgil exploits this transition, too, as a vehicle for self-reflection, concerned about the reception of his "child," the Aeneid, in the Augustan age.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Paul Allen Miller
Johns Hopkins University Press
O'Sullivan, T.M. (2009). Death ante ora parentum in Virgil's Aeneid. Transactions of the American Philological Association, 139(2), 447-486. doi:10.1353/apa.0.0027
Transactions of the American Philological Association