Art And Death In The Aneid

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In the beginning of Book VI of the Aeneid, Aeneas and his men draw towards the coast of Cumae, nearing an Euboian settlement. While his men disperse into groups to various parts of the island for fuel and supplies, and to take some leave from their journey, Aeneas journeys to the temple of Apollo. There, as he stands before the gateway of the dead, he sees various scenes carved by the inventor Daedalus of his many inventions. In addition, there is a place upon the gates wherein there would have been carved a relief sculpture of the death of Icarus "" but isn't. This suggests that the art of Daedalus is related to the theme of death given its appropriation as the gates of Tartarus, and the absence of Icarus' death suggests the possibility for rebirth, even at the gates of death itself. This idea of death and rebirth is enforced to emphasize what the entire Aeneid is about: the death and rebirth of the Aegean culture as the founding of Rome after the fall of Troy.

At the juncture in the narrative wherein we are introduced to the gates, Virgil takes over as the narrator and addresses Icarus, remarking on how overcome he was with grief that he couldn't carve the fall of his son. This relationship of art to death, in the beginning of Book VI, is telling of the appropriation of art as a device of self-recognition, which allows larger narrative events to align themselves into an emblematic understanding. Hence, the gate, simply by its form and content, is the idea of death itself. This idea of death in the Aeneid is used by Virgil to signify the end of an older period, and used to signify the coming of a newer age. As well as...