This story of Rome is, in Vergil’s version, a story of contradictions. Start by saying that right in the introduction to your translation.
Yes, because, look, the hero is a demigod, but he doesn’t want to be a hero. He always refuses his divine condition. It does not objectively refuse, there is never that statement, but in practice, it refuses this condition. He cries, he is always on the side of those who suffer, he suffers like any mortal. He has nothing of the heroic dimension of Homeric heroes. Above all, it has flaws, and many: it is impulsive, it reacts dragged by fury. The end of the poem is almost dark. [A morte de Turno] it is a death in cold blood, it is absolutely unjustifiable.
Yes. In Book VI, his father, Anquises, tells him that he will rule the world with his power, and then uses an expression that aims to be the maxim of life for Aeneas: “Spare those who submit and slaughter the proud ”. Now take a jump to the end of the poem. What does Aeneas have before him? A loser, with outstretched hands, [que lhe diz] “You won, stay with Lavínia” and who also asks you not to take your hatred further. It was an exact moment for Aeneas to set Rome’s future in the precept of Anquises, that is, to spare those who were defeated. Only, instead of saving him, he is overshadowed by the Furies and plunges his sword into Shift’s chest. And the last verse [do poema], as happened in the previous ones, [é sobre a morte]: “And life, with a groan, disappears, disgusted, into the world of shadows”. I think it was Saint-Exupéry who said he never managed to understand how Vergílio managed to end Aenida with that verse.
Is there not a verification by Vergílio that the history of Rome is a history of violence, death and bloodshed?
That’s right. That’s why I say that it’s not just the history of Rome [de que fala], because there is a prophetic dimension in the Aeneid.
What do you mean by that?
The history of Europe is the history of its empires, beginning with that of Rome. And in this History of empires, in which they are built through violence, because there is none in Europe that was not marked by that, there is an upward path and there is a path of ruin. On the way up, the men who made empires and considered themselves gods, just like Augustus, were marked by a sowing of corpses. Everyone left many corpses behind, that is, they dropped who had to drop, not for an objective reason, but because dropping was important for the success that followed. All of them were, if I am allowed an anachronism, Machiavellians in managing their journey. Aeneas was a little bit that, although he apparently didn’t want to be. This is my reading.
Aeneas was a Trojan. Should we look at Rome as a new Trojan?
Not entirely. There are several reasons: one is straightforward, because Juno imposes on Jupiter [a morte de Troia no final da Eneida], but there is another one that, for me, is much stronger. In Book VI, Aeneas descends to Hell as a Trojan. It is not possible to pass through Hell and leave. It is a place where you enter, you pass the Rio do Esquecimento and you die, but Eneias does not die, and this is more than a metaphor.
Aeneas is always treated like a Trojan during the first part of the journey in Hell, where he finds his past in reverse order and thus gets rid of it. In my reading, he commits his suicide as a Trojan. Philosophically, Aeneas’s passage through Hell is suicide. How does this prove? The last line of Anquises, the one I was talking about earlier, goes like this: “It is up to you to govern the peoples with your authority, O Roman, remember well.” In the farewell, Anquises calls it Roman. He is no longer a Trojan, and he left hell as a Roman when he entered as a Trojan. There is this transit here that has to be taken into account.