The helmsman and the charioteer in the Aeneid
Polk, Gail Cecelia
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This dissertation argues that although in the Aeneid Vergil engages extensively with the textual tradition to develop Aeneas’ role as helmsman and Turnus’ as charioteer into emblems of their contrasting leadership, he subsequently interweaves into the text evidence of this distinction’s instability and concludes with its reversal. Chapter 2 discusses the relevance of both Cicero’s community-centered helmsman and politicians he implies are charioteers unable to restrain their passions to the Aeneid’s two leaders and recent history and attitudes toward the Triumph. Chapter 3 argues that Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, the story of an internecine war, in which Eteocles is a figurative helmsman with polis-centered values, while Polynices and his chariot-driving, attacking forces connote future brutal domination, is an important unrecognized intertext for the Aeneid. In the development of the two emblematic images in the Aeneid’s first half (Ch. 4), Juno’s affiliation with the chariot is established in the context of Achilles’ excessive brutality. Mnestheus’ speech to his crew in the ship race engages with that of the Iliad’s charioteer Antilochus to express the salient differences in values of helmsman and charioteer in the Aeneid. The three-way intertextual dialogue between Aeneas, Palinurus and Odysseus, prepares for the substitution of Aeneas for his helmsman, but also highlights Palinurus’ misfortune, while the nature of his sacrificial death evokes the Ciceronian selfless helmsman. Chapter 5 discusses the contribution of Argonautic traces to the construction of the ambivalence of Latinus and his kingdom, symbolically manifested in his ominous gift to Aeneas of fire-breathing horses and a chariot, as well as the intertextual presence of Septem’s warriors among those in the Latin catalogue. Although the linking of Aeneas’ ship of state in his approach to battle with that of Augustus receives immortal confirmation (Chapter 6), his subsequent rage-driven domination of suppliant Latin charioteers is incongruous and exhibits similarities with Turnus’ tyrannical behavior in the scene of Pallas’ death. Significant changes in the heroes’ public speech (Ch. 7) and their exchanging of characteristics in book 12 (Ch. 8) prepare for Turnus’ allusive likening to Odysseus, foreshadowing his death, and Aeneas’ figurative assumption of the role of charioteer.