Beyond Augustus as Aeneas: Parallels between Ascanius and Octavian in Vergil's Aeneid

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2022
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Thesis
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en
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This thesis examines surprising parallels between the figure of Vergil’s Ascanius and the historical figure of Octavian, later known as Augustus Caesar, which have been overlooked. A close examination of the text reveals a striking number of similarities between these two figures, especially in the thematic areas of inheritance, military achievement, survival and restoration, and divine favor. These themes, widely relevant to Vergil’s Aeneid as a whole, also reflect contemporary anxiety about the socio-political climate of Rome in which Octavian rose to power and indeed contemporary concerns about Octavian as Rome’s new leader. The ambiguity of Ascanius, who can be both a positive and negative character in the epic, was also appropriate for Octavian, whose rise to power was at once encouraging and alarming for many Romans. Vergil’s text, shaped by decades of traumatic civil war, draws attention to these similarities between Ascanius and Octavian and their subsequent connotations and participates in contemporary discourse about Octavian who, like Ascanius, inspired both hope and fear in his people as he took control of Rome.
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