The Aeneid

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LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Aeneid, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Piety Theme Icon

Pietas is a Latin word that can be translated as piety or devotion, and refers to someone's dutiful acceptance of the obligations placed on them by fate, by the will of the gods, and by the bonds of family and community. From the first lines of the poem, Virgil describes Aeneas as being remarkable for his piety, and "pious" is the most-used adjective to describe Aeneas throughout the poem. Aeneas always places these obligations above his own feelings or desires. When the winds blast his ships and he wishes he had died defending Troy, he nonetheless pursues his fate. When Juno torments him, he is sad but not defiant. When Dido's love tempts him to stay in Carthage, he deserts her because he feels he must. To be pious does not mean to lack free will. In contrast, to be pious all the time is a choice, a difficult choice, and one that other characters do not make. Dido tries to thwart fate in order to preserve her love. Turnus refuses to accept that fate demands that Aeneas will marry the woman Turnus wants. For both characters, things end disastrously. In the Aeneid, it's only by being pious, by freely choosing to sacrifice ones own desires to the larger forces of fate, the gods, and family, that one can be heroic.

Yet it is worth noting that some scholars suggest that Virgil did not in fact view Aeneas as a perfect hero. What about his sneaky, unsympathetic departure from Dido? Why does he exit the Underworld through the gate of false dreams, instead of the gate of the true and pure? And why does the Aeneid end not with an image of Aeneas's leadership in his destined land, but with his frenzied murder of a defenseless man who begs him for mercy? Whether such arguments are the product of our modern society, which does not value the same things that Virgil's did, or whether Virgil himself saw a dark side to total piety, is a matter of continued debate.

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Piety ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Piety appears in each section of The Aeneid. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Piety Quotes in The Aeneid

Below you will find the important quotes in The Aeneid related to the theme of Piety.
Book 1 Quotes
A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this.
Related Characters: Aeneas (speaker)
Page Number: 1.239
Explanation and Analysis:
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Even here, the world is a world of tears and the burdens of mortality touch the heart.
Related Characters: Aeneas (speaker)
Page Number: 1.558-559
Explanation and Analysis:
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Book 3 Quotes
Search for your ancient mother. There your house, the line of Aeneas, will rule all parts of the world.
Related Characters: Apollo (speaker)
Page Number: 3.17-18
Explanation and Analysis:
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Book 5 Quotes
You trusted—oh, Palinurus—far too much to a calm sky and sea. Your naked corpse will lie on an unknown shore.
Related Characters: Aeneas (speaker)
Page Number: 5.970-973
Explanation and Analysis:
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Book 6 Quotes
…The descent to the Underworld is easy. Night and day the gates of shadowy Death stand open wide, but to retrace your steps, to climb back to the upper air—there the struggle, there the labor lies.
Related Characters: Sibyl of Cumae (speaker)
Page Number: 6.149-152
Explanation and Analysis:
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Book 12 Quotes
I shall not command Italians to bow to Trojans, nor do I seek the scepter for myself. May both nations, undefeated, under equal laws, march together toward an eternal pact of peace.
Related Characters: Aeneas (speaker)
Page Number: 12.225-228
Explanation and Analysis:
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Decked in the spoils you stripped from the one I loved—escape my clutches? Never—Pallas strikes this blow, Pallas sacrifices you now, makes you pay the price with your own guilty blood!
Related Characters: Aeneas (speaker)
Page Number: 12.1105-1108
Explanation and Analysis:
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