David Wilson-Okamura's posting about what Virgil thinks of nature in The
Aeneid led me to start looking for passages for discussion and the first I
came upon was in Book 1, lines 184-193 where stags lead a herd of deer
towards the beach and Aeneas shoots seven of the animals with a bow and
arrow for his seven ships.

First I think this reinforces the idea that the little fleet has arrived at
what appears to be a wilderness (as Virgil says in line 308 "nam inculta

The passage also made me reflect on how powerful deer images have been over
the millennia from the earliest cave paintings to modern manifestations like
The Deerhunter (surely there are reflections of Virgil in that film).  There
is also that neat juxtaposition of culling and conservation: Aeneas kills
only seven deer, enough for each of the ships.  You should only take from
nature what you need to take - Virgil's hero kills for essential food, not
for fun, though he does appear to enjoy the process.  This kind of issue is
still debated where I live here in England and deer have to be controlled in
the local woods.

The episode also seems to me to have a rather iconic or formulaic quality.
My own experience with deer tells me that if a lead stag was shot with an
arrow, whether it fell where it stood, or ran around for a bit, the others
would be off out of bow shot immdiately.  I am sure Virgil would have known
this, but he had a point to make that needed seven dead animals delivered to
the men by one hand.

Patrick Roper

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