Juno: the dangerous woman in Vergil’s Aeneid

Juno: the dangerous woman in Vergil’s Aeneid

Dit essay schreef ik voor het vak Introduction to Greek and Roman Literature aan de San Francisco State University. 

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In this paper I will discuss why Juno is a ‘dangerous woman’ as seen in a passage from Vergil’s Aeneid. I will be focusing on the following passage from book 1, lines 19-33:

‘But she had heard that one day Troy’s descendants

Would pull her Tyrian towers to the ground.

A war-proud race with broad domains would come

To cut down Africa. The Fates ordained it.

Saturn’s child feared this. She recalled the war

That she had fought at Troy for her dear Greeks –

And also what had caused her savage anger.

Deep in her heart remained the verdict given

By Paris, and his insult to her beauty,

And the rape and privileges of Ganymede –

A Trojan. In her rage, she kept from Italy

Those spared by cruel Achilles and the Greeks.

They tossed on endless seas, went wandering,

Fate-driven, year on year around the world’s seas.

It cost so much to found the Roman nation’

In this passage, Juno relates to the theme of ‘dangerous women’ for multiple reasons. We see some of these reasons here. First of all, Juno is considered savage, as seen in the line ‘her savage anger’ (1.25). This is a characteristic of a dangerous woman. The definition of being savage is violent and uncontrolled. It makes her cruel and brutal: dangerous.

Secondly, Juno is seen as very beautiful, which we see in the line: ‘his insult to her beauty’ (1.27). This too is an attribute of a dangerous woman. Beauty makes a woman desired by men and hated by other women, which makes it dangerous.  A beautiful woman can utilize her beauty to manipulate, control, gain wealth or status for the purpose of being adored, or have power over others.

She, however, is not the most beautiful in Paris’s beauty contest. This enrages Juno and causes her to seek revenge on the Trojans. Her rage, which again makes her a dangerous woman, can be see in this passage as well. In this passage we see the reasons why she is so angry. Besides not winning Paris’s beauty contest, she is angry at Jupiter for making Ganymede his cupbearer and the (1.28) surviving Trojans for coming to destroy her beloved city Carthage (1.19-20). Anger is another reason why Juno is a dangerous woman. Anger can easily spiral out of control and angry people (or gods in this case) can do dangerous things they would normally not do.

Juno is seen to be very cunning: she has the ability to keep the Trojans and Aeneas from Italy for a year (1.32). Being crafty and resourceful is distinctive for a dangerous woman. A cunning, crafty, resourceful woman can cause a lot of danger. Being crafty, cunning and tricky is associated with being sly and deceitful, which are dangerous character traits.

Juno’s actions, being a dangerous woman, definitely impact others in the story. The aforementioned passage shows a good example of this. Because of Juno, the surviving Trojans and Aeneas have such a hard journey to Italy (1.29-33). The actions of an individual, Juno in this case, affects a substantial group of people; the surviving Trojans and the hero Aeneas .

Besides the characteristics mentioned in this passage, Juno has another attribute that makes her a dangerous woman. Juno is a queen of gods and the daughter of the god Saturn. Divinity is often associated with the theme of ‘dangerous women’.

In book 1 we see more examples of Juno being a dangerous woman in some other passages. One of these passages is from book 1, lines 64-75:

‘Juno approached him now and made this plea:

“The king of men and father of gods

Gives you the right of men and father of the gods

Gives you the right to rouse and soothe the waves.

A race I hate sails the Tyrrhenian sea,

Bringing Troy’s beaten gods to Italy.

Goad your winds into fury, swamp the ships,

Or scatter them, strew bodies on the water.

Fourteen voluptuous nymphs belong to me,

And the most beautiful is Deiopea.

Her I will make your own, in steadfast union,

If you will help me. She will spend her life

With you – the lovely children that you’ll father!”’

In this paper I discussed multiple reasons why Juno is a dangerous woman, as seen in two passages from book 1 from Vergil’s Aeneid. I considered her savagery, beauty, rage, cunningness, how her actions impact others and her divinity. We have discussed many dangerous women in this class, such as Circe, Penelope and Helen in the Odyssey, Tomyris in Herodotus’ Histories and Medea in Euripides’ Medea and the Argonautica. Juno in the Aeneid definitely fits in with the other dangerous women.

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