Vergil on tyrants and suppliants: Greek tragedy and the end of the Aeneid

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The article argues that in the second half of the Aeneid Vergil debates different forms of violence drawing on Greek tragic plays. It maintains that episodes of rage/mania, inspired by Euripides’ Bacchae (bk 7: Amata; bk 4: Dido) and Heracles (bk 8: Cacus) but also, by Aeschylus’ Eumenides (bk 8: Cacus), are designed to illustrate the downfall of tyrannical Turnus. In this context, his comparison to a lion (Aen. 10.454-456) evokes the bestial aspects of Bacchic frenzy, further identifying him with Pentheus. At the same time, Vergil introduces motifs of violence (and mercy) inspired by Aeschylus’ less discussed Suppliant Women (bks 7 and 12). Although Vergil’s adaptation of tragic motifs has been widely discussed in scholarship for some time, the interplay of Euripidean and Aeschylean models of violence in the second half of the Aeneid and their contribution to the issues of mercy and revenge that dominate the end of the epic have not been fully appreciated. Here, I argue that Vergil eventually accepts Aeschylus’ model of violence, according to which Turnus’ death is necessary for establishing a new order of things.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Pages (from-to)137-178
Number of pages41
JournalGiornale Italiano di Filologia
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • end of the Aeneid
  • Vergil
  • tyranny
  • supplication
  • tragedy
  • Vergil and tragedy
  • tyranny in Vergil
  • supplication in Virgil


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