A general consensus has emerged among twentieth-century commentators on the Aeneid that pater ipse…superum must be taken together and understood as referring to the father of the gods and not to Mars, sire of Romulus. What remains a subject of debate is the meaning of honor here and its particular association with Jupiter. Does it betoken the abstraction itself or a concrete manifestation of it? Austin, following Donatus, opts for the former alternative (‘probably no more than “majesty”’), Norden and R. D. Williams for the latter. Of these the first finds a reference to the Zeus-given sceptre of kings, the second to Jove's thunderbolt.
The language of the passage argues in favour of metonymy for two reasons. First, we expect Anchises, when showing off Romulus, to adhere to the pattern he has already set in the two portions of his parade which have preceded. In the case of the initial hero, Silvius, we attend largely to genealogical background (760–6). The second segment, a group made up of Procas, Capys, Numitor and Aeneas Silvius, elicits from Aeneas' father a series of exclamations on the valour of their res gestae (767–77). Yet each also has a tangible symbol of martial virtus that distinguishes him.
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