黄金の枝と黄金時代 [in Japanese] The Golden Bough and the Golden Age [in Japanese]
Access this Article
Search this Article
It is the purpose of this paper to explore the symbolic meaning of the golden bough and the golden age of Augustus, both of which appear in Aeneid 6, with regard to the theme of labor of Aeneas, and to consider the relation between them and some aspects of the significance of the καταβασι&b.sigmav;. The gold of the golden bough seems to be a symbol of divine life. But just as the luxuriant growth of the forests, itself a manifestation of nature's vitality, covers the bough in the dark shadows(136, 138-9)which bear resemblance to the darkness of the underworld, so the bough casts a shadow on the life-giving earth(195-6). Life is always attended by the shadow of death. Therefore the mistletoe-simile (205-7) makes it certain that the idea in primitive belief is transferred to the bough that life and death are both aspects of a single reality and the mistletoe is a symbol of such a union. But because the gold is associated with divinity, the golden bough may be said to be an eternal embodiment of that reality. Hence the bough belongs to both heaven (Iuppiter) and hell (Iuno Inferna) and achieves agreement between them, which enables Aeneas to undergo an experience of death and rebirth. And it also indicates Aeneas' pietas which brings about a harmony of man with the gods. Moreover, it is described as though it has its own strength (virtus) to conquer the powers of death and war (represented by ferruwi) which do not meet fate's wishes (147-8). Thus the golden bough symbolizes Aeneas' own character and shows that because of his being a divine man ofpietas and virtus he can overcome the labor of death and be restored to new life as a Roman hero. The golden age of Augustus is compared with that of Saturn(792-4). But the Saturnian age of peace could not withstand the invasion of the warlike iron age of Iuppiter(8.314ff). And it is implied in the expression 'aurea condet/saecula…… rursus…/…quondam…' that Augustus will replace Saturn as a representative of Iuppiter and that the new golden age will surpass the old. For Augustus will have the strength to vanquishfuror impius typical of Iuno as an opponent to the fate of Iuppiter, because the word 'asper' in 'aspera saecula' (1.291) suggests Iuno's influence. The expansion of imperium (6.794-805) will also depend on this strength (virtus), which is here exemplified by Hercules who suffered many labores because of 'fatis Iunonis iniquae' (8.292)but conquered her furor embodied in the hellish monsters such as Cacus. Similarly, Aeneas in the second half of the poem is involved in the war caused by Iuno, but he not only exerts his virtns but also keeps a pious attitude towards her and at last prevails to make her reconciled with Iuppiter. Therefore the golden age of Augustus together with the imperium can be said to be a peaceful order having fighting force, or rather a harmonious union of peace and war, which reflects a concord between Iuppiter and Iuno, achieved through labores of the divine man of pietas and virtus. Now it is clear that both the golden bough and the Augustan golden age stand for a harmonious union of opposites, the former of life and death, the latter of peace and war, and both of Iuppiter and Iuno. And it is also indicated in both that the labor is not a mere suffering but an indispensable exertion by which a divine man of pietas and virtus can attain 'rebirth' of new life or of a stable order of peace. Thus the labor of the κταβασι&b.sigmav;, at the center of the poem, making a pivotal point of this theme, relates beforehand the labores of the succeeding story and those for the historical ideal in terms of life and death.
- Journal of Classical Studies
Journal of Classical Studies 32(0), 79-90, 1984
The Classical Society of Japan