Gigantomachy in Aeneid 2

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors




The Gigantomachy, and corollary Titanomachy and Typhonomachy, are battles between cosmic forces striving to establish universal supremacy. Allusions and references to these conflicts appear in various forms of literature, both poetry and prose, throughout antiquity from as early as Homer. Philip Hardie has shown the extensive presence of the theme in the Aeneid, predominantly in the final four books of the epic, and demonstrated that its use contributes significantly to a larger cosmological design of linking the struggles of individuals and civilizations to the mythological battle for the control of the cosmos. A similar pattern, hitherto unexplored, is employed in Book 2, where allusions to and echoes of these divine conflicts appear at strategic moments to aggrandize and elevate the destruction of Troy to the cosmic level.

Vergil was commissioned to compose a new creation myth for Rome, yet the origins of their state sprang from destruction, both in the civil wars at the end of the Republic and more distantly in the fall of Troy and destruction of the previous Italian civilizations. The cosmic struggles between the Olympians and the Giants, Titans, and Typhoeus provided a close mythological analogy for Vergil to draw from. In many ways these "de-creationist" forces are seeking a reversal of cosmogony and threaten to turn the cosmos back to chaos before ending in a reaffirmation of order. The Giants' close connection to the cosmogony, both chronologically and thematically, makes them particularly apt for the poem's lofty subject, the creation of Rome. Therefore, Vergil alludes to these mythological passages highly familiar to the reader in order to create a cosmological structure in the epic, one of almost universal destruction leading to renewed creation, for which there is no clear antecedent in the Greco-Roman tradition.

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Faculty Mentor

Mark Damen

Departmental Honors Advisor

Susan O. Shapiro