Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Whether Evander should have allied with Aeneas.
Imagine having to chose between sides in a titanic struggle between great and fearsome peoples. This is what Evander does in Book VIII of Virgil’s epic poem, The Aeneid. Though he was king of the Arcadians in Italy, Evander was an old man, too old to fight, whereas His son, Pallas, was a young man, too young to fight. When Aeneas reached Evander’s kingdom, he asked for aid in the war against the Rutulians and Latins. After hosting Aeneas for the night and pondering the matter, Evander chose to ally with Aeneas.
The question remains whether this was the right choice. While everyone agrees that Evander was in a difficult position and wants him to make the right choice, some believe that Evander should have allied with Aeneas, and others believe that Evander should not have allied with Aeneas. Despite this disagreement, it is clear that Evander should have allied with Aeneas for three reasons: The gods supported pious Aeneas, Aeneas demonstrated good qualities, and the decision had good consequences.
The first reason Evander should have allied with Aeneas is because the gods supported pious Aeneas. In fact, Aeneas is the son of Venus herself, who showed steadfast support for Aeneas’ quest to found Rome. Further, the Italian river-god, Tiberius, also supported Aeneas and directed the Trojan prince to seek out Evander for men and aid. Most importantly, Jupiter, the king of the gods, supported Aeneas, as he granted not only the founding of the Roman people to Aeneas, but to Rome herself “empire without end.”
Secondly, Evander should have allied with Aeneas because Aeneas demonstrated good qualities. As already alluded, his support from the gods indicated that Aeneas was very pious, and Evander himself was very pious, as seen by his observance of rites in Hercules’ honor during Aeneas’ arrival. Aeneas also possessed prowess in battle, and would be able to teach the inexperienced Pallas by excellent example. Finally, Aeneas, being wholly of non-Italian stock, was qualified to lead not only Evander’s army, but also the Etruscan army as well. The Etruscan army sat encamped, waiting for the fulfillment of a prophecy about the coming of a non-Italian leader, such as Aeneas.
Finally, Evander should have allied with Aeneas because the decision had good consequences. The combined arms of the Trojans, Etruscans, and Evander’s Arcadians defeat the Rutulians and Latins and end the war. The precincts of Arcadia encompass the future site of Rome itself, and so Arcadia becomes the Eternal City. Finally, the alliance with Aeneas was critical in his defeat of Turnus. This enabled Aeneas to fulfill his fate as founder of Rome in Italy, and allowed Rome to complete her destiny as bringer of law to the world.
Some believe that Evander should not have allied with Aeneas because of the danger to Pallas, and the fact that the Trojans were already a defeated people. The young, inexperienced Pallas found himself in a fight with Turnus, a soldier as cunning as a wolf, that ultimately cost him his life and brought Evander great sorrow. Yet, it must be remembered that Pallas died with great glory and honor, and left a great name for himself among his friends and enemies alike, and Evander mourned not for his son’s chance at honor and distinction, but his youthful death before Evander’s own.
Additionally, given that the Trojans had already been defeated by the Greeks, some question whether Evander was wise to ally with Aeneas. Not only had the Trojans been defeated, but their king was killed, they were exiled from their homeland, and few in numbers. Nevertheless, Jupiter himself had granted to Rome an endless empire, and it was Jupiter alone who decided the Trojan War in the favor of the Greeks.
So, the danger to Pallas and the past defeat of the Trojans are not sufficient reasons to keep Evander from allying with Aeneas and joining the destiny of the Arcadians and Trojans.
Evander should have allied with Aeneas because the gods supported pious Aeneas, Aeneas demonstrated good qualities, and the decision had good consequences. This issue was especially important to the Arcadians, because their fate became intimately tied up with that of Rome, a city that dominated first Italy, then the known world.