CHAPTER IV
LITERATURE -- 3. THE MYTHS OF AENEAS

'There is in genius that alchemy which converts all metals into gold.' CARLYLE, Essay on Schiller.

WHEN Virgil chose Aeneas as his theme his choice was not idly made. Aeneas played a part, not perhaps of the highest importance, but still not an insignificant one, in the war of Troy. Though he does not accomplish very much, nor waken any very keen interest, yet the Iliad seems to recognize in him a man of heroic nature and a man with a destiny. Consequently a poet who would treat of him again has the Iliad behind him, and stands as it were in the succession of Homer. His theme is at once Homeric, epic, and potentially grand. So much might perhaps be said of Sarpedon or of Teucer, but for Virgil these heroes would have lacked what he clearly desired in his theme -- relevance to Rome. But with Aeneas the case was different, for, however it had happened, a mass of legend had grown up around him, which by degrees assumed some sort of consistency and at last became a more or less fixed tradition. Step by step it could be shown how Aeneas had made his way westward till he reached Latium, and though at one time it looked as if Sardinia might be a further stage in his westward journey, it was agreed that Latium was really his goal. Here he, or his son, or grandson, Romus, Romulus, or some such person, had founded Rome, or, if not Rome, Lavinium -- at all events, if not himself, some direct descendant of the hero had eventually founded Rome, and though chronologers might debate the number of intervening generations, there was an undoubted filiation between Rome and Troy. Thus in Aeneas Virgil found a theme, if not thoroughly Roman, still closely connected with Rome -- a

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