The Aeneid by Virgil (translated by by Frederick Ahl)
After a century of civil strife in Rome and Italy, Virgil wrote the Aeneid to honour the emperor Augustus by praising his legendary ancestor Aeneas. As a patriotic epic imitating Homer, the Aeneid also set out to provide Rome with a literature equal to that of Greece. It tells of Aeneas, survivor of the sack of Troy, and of his seven-year journey: to Carthage, where he falls tragically in love with Queen Dido; then to the underworld,; and finally to Italy, where he founds Rome. It is a story of defeat and exile, of love and war, hailed by Tennyson as ‘the stateliest measure ever moulded by the lips of man’.
I have finally finished this book! When I first started reading it I was in the middle of my Masters and this sadly had to fall by the way side. However, on the 1st January I decided to read one book a day of this book and yesterday (yes I know a day behind) I finally finished.
The book begins in Carthage where Aeneas tells his journey to Queen Dido starting from the fall of Troy where Aeneas and the survivors he manages to gather including his father and son flee Troy and begin their 7 year journey to find a new home. Their journey goes from Carthage, to the Underworld and finally Italy his final destination.
My first thought about this book is what an amazing piece of propaganda. The amount of propaganda in this book really made me laugh but I think the pinnacle of it was in book 7. In book 7 Anchises shows Aeneas all the descendants that will come from his line and it is quite a list. Aeneas is basically the father of all the great leaders of Rome which seems highly improbable.
My husband kindly treated me to see Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas opera for my birthday which I absolutely loved but I do think Purcell was rather kind to Aeneas. In truth I always found Aeneas to be a bit of an ass. Whilst he is fleeing Troy he accidentally loses his wife, he does go back and look for her but really he shouldn’t have lost her in the first place. Then what he does with Queen Dido is in my opinion absolutely awful. Yes, I know the gods had something to do with it but really the man did not show any remorse at all and was a complete b__.
The last 6 books of the book is where Aeneas and his men, and we presume some women and children as they are briefly mentioned, land in Italy and all hell breaks loose in war. I loved how all the gods get involved and even some nymphs as this really parallels with Homer’s depiction of the war of Troy. In fact Virgil is very clever with his direct links with Homer’s work. When studying my Masters it was always amazing how much the Romans wanted to be as good as the Ancient Greeks. The Romans copied their sculptures, their texts and much more but always keeping their Roman values.
I really enjoyed this book and it was a great start to 2023 and my plan to read at least one Ancient Greek or Roman text a month. Virgil was a very talented writer who knew how to write an excellent piece of propaganda. I also loved Ahl’s translation but I knew it would be good as he is one of my favourite translators. I happily give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.
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About the author
Publius Vergilius Maro (October 15, 70 BCE – September 21, 19 BCE), usually called Virgil or Vergil /ˈvɜrdʒəl/ in English, was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid. A number of minor poems, collected in the Appendix Vergiliana, are sometimes attributed to him.
Virgil is traditionally ranked as one of Rome’s greatest poets. His Aeneid has been considered the national epic of ancient Rome from the time of its composition to the present day. Modeled after Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the Aeneid follows the Trojan refugee Aeneas as he struggles to fulfill his destiny and arrive on the shores of Italy—in Roman mythology the founding act of Rome. Virgil’s work has had wide and deep influence on Western literature, most notably the Divine Comedy of Dante, in which Virgil appears as Dante’s guide through hell and purgatory.