How we cite our quotes:
So he called out, then turned to poke the embers,
The drowsing fire on his hearth, and paid
His humble duty to the Lar of Troy
And Vesta's shrine—the goddess of the hearth—
With ground meal, as in ritual sacrifice,
And a full incense casket. (5.968-973)
These lines could just as well go under the theme of Duty – and that's just the point! Most religions impose various obligations on the believer, and that of the ancient Romans was no exception. Can you think of other moments in the Aeneid when these two ideas are intertwined?
"A further thing is this: your friend's dead body—
Ah, but you don't know!—lies out there unburied,
Polluting all your fleet with death
While you are lingering, waiting on my counsel
Here at my door. First give the man his rest,
Entomb him; lead black beasts to sacrifice;
Begin with these amends." (6.217-223)
Another common feature of many religions is that of obligation to the dead. In ancient Greek and Roman religion, an unburied dead body could be said to "pollute" the living. We put "pollute" in quotation marks because it isn't simply a question of stinking up the place, though that did probably happen (sorry, but it's true). More than that, though, the "pollution" could take on an almost magical character, which could only be washed away by performing certain rituals – like the sacrifice of black beasts the Sibyl recommends.
By chance, as he blew notes on a hollow shell,
Making the sea sing back, in his wild folly
He dared the gods to rival him. Then Triton,
Envious, if this can be believed,
Caught him and put him under in the surf
Amid the rocks off shore. (6.245-251)
A word of advice from Shmoop to you: if you're ever magically transported back in time to the mythical past, please don't tell the gods you're better than them at something. (Not even if it's something that hadn't been invented yet – like video-games or…pogo-sticking, or whatever. It's just not worth risking it.) How does this little episode echo or contrast with other scenes in the Aeneid that deal with conflict between gods and mortals?