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Blogging the Aeneid: Book 10: Jupiter in the Council of the Gods

As always, cross-posted from http://apvergil.blogspot.com - visit and add a point on my stat counter map! (And comment, of course!)

We return after a short break in which fall trimester comments consumed any free time. As promised in the last post, we'll begin with a discussion of Jupiter's role in the council of the gods in Book 10 before returning, in successive posts, to Book 1 and closer readings of the text.


Jupiter's first speech seems wholly ineffective - he tells the gods and goddesses to accept the treaty that has been agreed upon. Yet Venus and Juno immediately launch into their complaints, blatantly ignoring what Jupiter has just said. In his final speech, although he does get the last word and make the ultimate decision, it is a choice to do essentially nothing; in particular, he has backed off his previous stance that the fighting must stop because a treaty has been agreed upon. It is an interesting combination of strength and weakness - it certainly stops the bickering of the gods, at least visibly at this point and the language is fairly strong and to the point. At the same time, the position itself is a weak one - Jupiter is backing off his previous stance and refusing to make a decision in favor of either Juno or Venus, as if he's afraid of angering either one.

It is perhaps possible to see this as part of a cunning plan on Jupiter's part to resolve this quarrel among the gods with the minimum of conflict. First of all, we know coming into Book 7 that the Trojans will be fighting a major war with the Latins; it has been prophesied several times, including by Jupiter to Venus in Book 1 (bellum ingens geret Italia, populosque ferocis contundet - 'he will wage a huge war in Italy, and he will crush ferocious peoples,' 1.263-4). When Jupiter makes his speech, he is undoubtedly aware of his previous prophecy, and he should realize that this war must happen, if the fates that he has spoken earlier are to "find their way" (10.113). So why does he push for peace in his first speech of this book? It may be that Jupiter, in the interest of maintaining some peace within the gods (and specifically with Juno), does not want to appear to decide the outcome of this war - although we have seen how closely Jupiter is related to fata (and one can argue that fata is what Jupiter has spoken - fatus est), here Jupiter distances himself from fata so that he does not incur the wrath or complaints of Juno. This, along with the fact that he grants Juno permission later in the book to save Turnus, puts him in a better position to negotiate with her in Book 12 so that she will come to buy into the Trojan victory and future Roman greatness.
Of course, it's also possible I'm overanalyzing this, and Vergil has conveniently 'forgotten' Jupiter's earlier speech in the interest of making this section more interesting. Thoughts?

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