Written between 29-19 bc by Publius Vergilius Maro


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The Aeneid of Virgil

Written between 29-19 BC by Publius Vergilius Maro (b. October 15, 70 BC, died Sept. 21, 19 BC)

Highlights of Each Book (followed by study questions)
Muse invoked (cf. Homer). Aeneas encounters Aeolus (cf. Homer); Venus (Aeneas'

mother, Greek Aphrodite) tells him his destiny; Arrival at Carthage; Venus plots against Dido; Competition between Juno (Italy) & Venus (Trojans); Trojan legacy; Teucrians

  1. Describe the setting. Who is Aeneas? Compare the beginning of this poem to the opening lines of Homer's Odyssey (Lombardo's translation):

"Speak Memory— Of the cunning hero,

The wanderer, blown off course time and again

After he plundered Troy's sacred heights.

Speak of all the cities he saw, the minds he grasped,

The suffering deep in his heart at sea

As he struggled to survive and bring his men home

But could not save them, hard as he tried—"

  1. What is his relationship with his mother, the goddess Venus (Aphrodite)?

  2. Arrival at Carthage. Describe this city, its inhabitants. Who is Dido, and what is her relationship with Aeneas? With Venus? With Juno (Hera)?

FALL OF TROY: Aeneas narrates the story of the fall of Troy (cf Homeric Aeneas); Greeks vs. Trojans (characteristics); death of Priam; Aeneas' father Anchises, son Iulus (Ascanius), wife Creusa; Helen of Troy; omen.
1. Describe Aeneas' escape from Troy and his relationship with his wife, Creusa, his son, and his father. What are his priorities? What emotions does he struggle with?
2. How does Priam end? How does Aeneas feel about his death and all the carnage?
3. What is Aeneas' attitude toward Helen?


FALL OF TROY, cont. The spirit of Polydorus, son of Priam & Hector, tells Aeneas of his death at the hands of the Thracian king (a huge breach of the Greco-Roman "hospitality code", also told in the Greek tragedy Hecuba by Euripides. In his version, Hecuba gouges out the Thracian king's eyes and kills his sons in retaliation.); Aeneas finds out that Italy, not Crete, is the "land of his ancestors," and he must sail there to build "great walls for a great race..."; Harpies; Trojan Helenus & Andromache; Stories from Homer's Odyssey (Scylla & Charybdis, Cyclops); death of Anchises.
1. Analyze the role that Apollo and the gods play in the destiny of Aeneas. Do the Trojans themselves have decision making powers of their own? Do their own actions count?
2. How does Virgil solidify the link between the Greek myth of the Trojan War (Homer's version) and the Roman version? How well does Virgil know the Homeric tale of the Trojan War and the backstories of the characters from the myth?

DEATH OF DIDO: Dido in love (thanks to Venus); Anna; Juno vs. Venus; Rumor;

Iarbas; Mercury; Atlas; Future of Rome through Iulus; Aeneas freaks; "Night Aria:" Dido abandoned, plans her self-destruction, tricks Anna, curses Aeneas (Rome vs. Carthage)

1. Describe the relationship between Dido and Aeneas. Who is Anna? Describe her relationship with Dido. How are family and politics entwined in this Book?
2. Compare Dido with women in Gilgamesh and Homer's Iliad. How does she end up? How does her experience compare with other women we have encountered?
3. What is Aeneas' attitude toward Dido? What are his priorities? His values? How are they expressed?
FUNERAL GAMES for Anchises; cremation burial, contests (cf. Homer's Funeral Games for Patroklos); angry women set the ships aflame

1. Compare the events in this Book to those in Homer's Iliad. Identify similarities and differences in the attitude toward death, grief, and burial.

2. Why do the women burn the ships? What happens to them? How does Vergil depict them—victims? threats? trouble-makers?
THE UNDERWORLD: The Sibyl of Cumae (Prophetess connected with Apollo) advises Aeneas; describes trip to Underworld; prophecy; burial of a friend (cf. HomerÕs Odyssey); rituals & incantations performed to shades in Underworld; description of shades of dead; Charon the boatman; Palinurus; Dido again; various heroes seen; Tartarus ("Hell"); Elysium ("Heaven"); Anchises; Kings of Alba; Romulus; Future Roman cities; Augustus (praise for the living); Kings; Marcellus (d. 23 BC, age 19. Favorite nephew of Augustus, was destined to succeed him); Gates of Sleep.
1. Describe the trip to the Underworld, and burial of a friend.

2. What kind of rituals & incantations are performed to shades in Underworld? Describe shades of the dead .

3. How does Dido react to Aeneas? Analyse the discussion Aeneas has with his (dead) father Anchises. Who is Romulus? Notice praise for Augustus (praise for the living) and Marcellus (d. 23 BC, age 19. Favorite nephew of Augustus, was destined to succeed him)


ARRIVAL IN LATIUM: Circe (known from Homer's Odyssey); King Latinus in Latium; Iulus notes sign of wandering's end: "we're devouring our tables!"; Queen Amata; Turnus; Lavina; Allecto, a Fury, starts war (for Juno): Latinus & Rutuli (Turnus) vs. Trojans (Aeneas); catalog of armies (cf. Iliad, Bk. 2 "Catalog of Ships"); Camilla; the Tiber.

1. Lots of interesting women here: Analyze Juno's behavior in this Book and the female character Allecto. Is it a surprise that Allecto is a female entity? Refer back to Hesiod's Pandora to examine the female characters, including Camilla, Lavina. Examine male/female interaction.

HEROES of the BATTLE: Turnus, Evander, Hercules, Achates, Pallas; Tuscans; Vulcan's shield for Aeneas (cf. Hephaistos's shield for Achilles in the Iliad)
1. Good book for examining ideal male roles in Augustan Rome. What constitutes a hero and how does this image compare with Homer's? What virtues are prized? Note the relationship between Pallas and Aeneas. Comparable to Patroklos and Achilles? Explain.

MORE BATTLE Turnus' threat; Nisus and Euryalus go on a night raid (cf. Diomedes and Odysseus in the Iliad, Book 10); Virgil on "friendship;" Euryalus' mother laments; Iulus kills his first enemy; lots of killing; Pandarus.
1. What concept of "friendship" is described here, and how does it compare to that in the Iliad?
2. Compare the lament of Euryalus' mother to the lament of Andromache in the Iliad. Do the Romans and Greeks share the same ideas about the expression of grief?

DEATH OF PALLAS EVANDER. Venus prays for Ascanius, declaring "forget about Aeneas! save my grandson!" Juno complains about Venus; Jove leaves both sides to their fate; Aeneas gets allies (Tuscan, Alban, Etruscan, Mantuan (Virgil was born in Mantua); Pallas dies at the hand of Turnus; Turnus attacks a phantom Aeneas (made by JunoÑcf. Iliad); Mazentius, grief stricken over dead son Lausus, challenges Aeneas and is killed.
1. To Venus, who is more important---Aeneas (her son) or Iulus (her grandson)? Explain. 

2. How are political alliances formed in this book? 

3. The death of Pallas is comparable to the death of Patroklos in the Iliad. On how many levels?  Also compare it to the death of Enkidu in Gilgamesh. Many epics, including the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, feature bonding between devoted men as they fight for a cause. What function does this serve in patriarchal societies?  Are there parallels to be found in modern (contemporary) American culture? How about bonding between women? Is there an ancient parallel for "Thelma and Louise," for example? Why or why not?

BURIAL OF DEAD Aeneas laments for Pallas & cremates him in a cloak made by Dido; prisoners of war sacrificed to Pallas; big mouthed Drances (cf. Thersites in the Iliad); mass burials of dead (cremations); words of Diomede (cf. Diomedes, greatest Greek hero in Iliad); Camilla, a Volscian princess (cf. the Amazon allies of the Trojans in Homer), joins Turnus, but dies at the hands of Arruns.
1. Compare the burial of Pallas with the burial of Patroclus and Enkidu in the Iliad and Epic of Gilgamesh, respectively.
2. Examine the death of Camilla and her role in the epic.
DUEL TO THE DEATH Turnus vs. Aeneas (guess who wins?); Amata and Lavinia very upset; Turnus confirms that duel will be for Lavinia (of course); duel pact made (very civilized); forecast of union between Troy & Italy; Juturna, Turnus' sister, breaks truce; Aeneas says goodbye to his son; Juno yields; prophecy of great Roman people to come: "The race to come, mixed with Ausonian blood, will outdo men and gods in its devotion (pietas), you shall see." (1137-39);Turnus dies, Juturna laments; Turnus concedes defeat; Aeneas considers sparing him, but when he sees that Turnus is wearing Pallas' belt, he kills him. THE END?
1. What political implications are shown by this duel, which is fought for whom? Who are Amata and Lavinia ? Notice the importance of women in war. What is Juturna's role in the battle?

2. What is Iulus' future? Interpret this line: “The race to come, mixed with Ausonian blood, will outdo men and gods in its devotion (pietas), you shall see.” (1137-39)

3. Describe Juturna's laments for her brother. After the battle is over, why does Aeneas kill Turnus, when he could have spared him? (Hint: there's a parallel in the Iliad)
4. Should or could Aeneas have spared Turnus? Remember Anchises advice in Book VI. Why does Vergil have Aeneas kill him against the ealier advice of Anchises?
5. We are told that before he died, Vergil indicated that he wanted the Aeneid to be burned because he was not finished with it. Does it seem unfinished to you? How does this poem depict Augustan Rome? Do you think Augustus may have been unhappy with anything expressed or implied in this epic? Explain.


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