The Influence of the Conception of Love in Plato's Symposium on Virgil's Aeneid and the French Eneas

By Al-Momani, Hassan Ali Abdullah | Studies in Literature and Language, March 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Influence of the Conception of Love in Plato's Symposium on Virgil's Aeneid and the French Eneas


Al-Momani, Hassan Ali Abdullah, Studies in Literature and Language


Abstract

This paper explores the influence of the conception of love in Plato's Symposium on Virgil's Aeneid and the French Eneas through a comparative analysis methodology that highlights the shared thread and influence between Plato's Symposium and Virgil's Aeneid and the French Eneas. The study mainly focuses on showing the readers how the Greek concept of the spiritual and heavenly love is highly praised and favored by Virgil's Aeneid and the French Eneas because it is an everlasting and healthy kind of love.

Key words: Earthly love; Spiritual love; Divine love; Greek concept of love; Plato's Symposium; Virgil's Aeneid; The French Eneas; Platonic love; Absolute love

There is no subject which has been ever thought of or written about in literature, particularly in poetry, more than the subject of love. Apart from the universal interest of poets in love, the fact remains that almost all human beings, primitive or civilized, must have experienced a kind of love in one way or another. Many great men of letters such as Plato and Ovid tackled the theme of love because it is a vital phenomenon which preoccupies the minds and hearts of men and women as long as there is life on earth.

Virgil's Aeneid and the French text Eneas depict the conception of love from different perspectives, in which there is clear evidence that Virgil's Aeneid and the French text Eneas are highly influenced by the Greek conception of love represented in Plato's Symposium. In this paper, I will trace this influence through studying both Plato's Symposium and its influence on Virgil's Aeneid and the French text Eneas.

There are some critics who studied the influence of Plato's Symposium on Virgil's Aeneid and the French text Eneas depending on the fact that Plato was born before Virgil. Plato, the greatest philosopher of ancient Greece, was born in Athens in 428 or 427 B.C.E. to an aristocratic family, wheras Publius Vergilius Maro was born on the 15th of October, 70 B.C.E., near Mantua. Dickinson (2002) claims that the morality of Virgil's work, especially his ideas of good and evil are derived from the Platonic philosophy. The writer refers to Professor Jackson Knight's claim that "the golden bough wherewith Aeneas gains entrance to the 'Spiritual World beyond death' as a symbolic reference to Plato...As embodied in Virgil's poetry, the moral ideas are of profound value to Christian and pagan alike: there are the strongest grounds for saying that Virgil is the greatest creative genius of Western civilization" (377). Furthermore, Dickinson thinks that Aeneas was Augustus' friend: "he was subsidized by him" (377). The critic states that "there is no question that Virgil was influenced by the times he lived in" (377). Finally, Dickinson asks "how can a great artist not be so influenced?" (377).

Additionally, Wardy (2007) claims that Virgil's Aeneid is indirectly influenced by Plato's Symposium. He thinks that this influence is represented in the "light of the purported intertextual allusion" (155). He challenges the critics who think that there is no influence of Plato on Virgil. The critic thinks that Virgil does to incorporate his Platonic material in his text. Wardy argues that Virgil "never specifically tosses in a citation or generates an echo for its own sake: for him, writing is rewriting, as he harmoniously or polemically engages with the multiple traditions which he so spectacularly enriches. His encounters with Homer, Hesiod, Callimachus, Ennius, Lucretius, Catullus, and others are intricate and subtly ambitious affairs; but his tacit dialogue with Plato is another sort of conversation altogether" (155).

Wardy thinks that Nisus and Euryalus episode in Aeneid IX draws an inspiration from Phaedrus's speech in Plato's Symposium. He argues that this relationship is not casual. He describes this similarity by saying: "a part of Symposium is a partial blueprint, model, or template for a section of the Aeneid" (155). …

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