In the Western literary tradition the concept of the Golden Age and its identification with a special location is as old as the earliest poetic compositions, for it features prominently in the 8th c. BCE didactic epic Works and Days by the Greek poet Hesiod. Filtered through the sophisticated and poetically-determined poetry of the Alexandrians (Theocritus, Aratus), the Golden Age, now linked to an idyllic pastoral landscape, becomes the centerpiece, the common point of reference of all ten poems that comprise Vergil’s earliest work, the Eclogues. In Vergil’s pastoral art the Golden Age is identified with Arcadia, a location allegedly evoking the Greek area at the center of the Peloponnese, proverbial for its rusticity and shunning of civilization, and as a result, free of all pretention. The fashioning, significance and transformation of the Arcadia theme in literature, both ancient and later, and the evolution of the Augustan model, is the topic of the present volume, the structure and objectives of which are detailed in this introductory chapter.
A driving force in Vergil’s Aeneid is the hostility of Juno to the Trojans as they approach, and finally arrive in Italy. The epic in some ways mirrors the opposition encountered by Augustus as the new ruler of Rome. Juno’s opposition to the Trojans has its origin not only in Greek mythology, but in the history of the local peoples of Italy with whom early Romans had to contend. From the outset of the poem she becomes the personification of these opposing forces. Once the Trojans finally reach mainland Italy, she sets in motion a long war, although the one depicted in the Aeneid was not as long as the real wars Romans waged with the Latin League and with the many of the tribes of Italy, including the Veii. The reality of the wars Rome had to contend with are here compared to the relatively brief one depicted in the Aeneid, and the pacification of Juno reflects the merging of the different peoples of Rome with their subjugator.
Vergil’s depiction of Juno as saeva does not correspond to Homer’s depiction of Hera, but rather to a combination of Homer’s Hera and Pallas. Vergil’s Juno, moreover, is far less subservient to Jupiter (who is not really as active in the Aeneid as Zeus is in the Iliad). While Homer frequently pairs Hera with Pallas Athena, Vergil’s Juno acts independently, while assuming in particular many of the traits of Homer’s Pallas Athena.