Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Julie Langford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Murray, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Decker, Ph.D.


Vergil, Aeneas, Turnus, Rome, Augustus


In a 2005 work, Yasmin Syed concluded that the Aeneid created for ancient readers an idea of Romanness that was inclusive for all and not founded along strict genetic lines. Under this hypothesis, the Aeneid offers a sort of blueprint for becoming Roman, one in which biological descent from Aeneas is unnecessary. Syed reached this conclusion by analyzing themes of ethnicity and gender, in particular the ethnic other represented by the epic's female characters. This was accomplished in the manner so often chosen by Vergil scholars-by limiting analysis to the first half of the epic. The work concludes with an exhortation for others to extend the effort into Books VII-XII.

Such an extension is undertaken here, but the conclusion reached is somewhat different than what Syed imagined. Instead of a blueprint for disparate people in conquered lands to become Roman, the second half of the epic empowers these groups by demonstrating that Rome could not exist without them. Roman power to rule, imperium, was not brought to the Romans by Aeneas. It is a product of what Vergil described as Itala virtute, or Italian manliness. The second half of the epic provides not a blueprint for citizenship but the schematics of the Roman state, one in which the mother city would have no ability to rule were it not for the Italian peoples.

Vergil accomplishes this message by thoroughly emasculating both Aeneas and Turnus before their final confrontation. That scene is read here as one of copulation, the Italian ground serving as the marriage bed in a struggle to found Rome. But with both men portrayed as effeminate in this final scene, and imperium removed as one of the prizes in the battle by Jupiter himself, the offspring born of what must be read as two mothers rather than two fathers must itself be weak and impotent. Without the strength of the Italians, Rome will not succeed.