The Aeneid Background, Themes, Motifs, etc
P. Vergilius Maro (Vergil) 15 Oct 70 B.C. – 20 Sep 19 B.C. born 70 B.C. in Mantua, northern Italy Traditionally spelled “Virgil” in English perhaps from virga (magician’s wand) or virgo (maiden) Education studied Hellenistic poetry, Epicurean philosophy suffering an illness—perhaps tuberculosis—Vergil gave up the law after one case to devote himself to literature and philosophy
Early Works: the Eclogues • 10 rural or “pastoral” poems • Eclogue means “selection” • dactylic hexameter in form but lyric in nature • Pastoral poetry—began with Theocritus of Alexandria • Arcadian setting: a spiritual landscape • Vergil injects the Italian countryside, including effects of triumviral dispossession, into his “Arcadia” • His own family estates had been confiscated • Millennialism of the Fourth Eclogue: a child and the coming golden age
Maecenas’ Patronage • After 37 B.C., Vergil was patronized by Augustus’ friend Maecenas • After Actium in 31 B.C., Vergil began a didactic poem called the Georgics • 4 books of “farmer poems” • a technical and philosophical treatise on farming interspersed with poetic whims • highlights Roman values, particularly the work ethic • Vergil was later closely associated with Augustus directly
Writing an Epic • Vergil, the Roman Homer • divided in two—an Odyssey section (books 1-6) and an Iliad section (books 7-12) • A literary epic • A working definition of a classical epic, as established by Homer and as emulated by later Greeks and Romans, is as follows: • An epic is a long work of heroic poetry that succeeded in becoming traditional, that helped to establish a sense of national identity, and reinforced accepted values. • retains epic conventions, but painstakingly composed and written, sometimes only a line or two a day! • dactylic hexameter, epithet, formulas, redundancies, Invocation, in medias res, aristea, catalogues, epic simile, exaggerations
Themes fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work • Fate • Does it exist? • Can you fight it? • Juno, Aeneas, Dido, Turnus, etc. • The Sufferings of Wanderers • Hidden destruction • Father and son relationship
More Themes • Chaos vs. Order • Emotion vs. Logic • Piety(Pietas) vs. Impiety • War vs. Peace
Motifsrecurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes • Prophecies and predictions • Founding a new city • Vengeance
Symbolsobjects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts • Flames/Fire • Golden Bough • The Gates of War • Lares & Penates • Weather • Caves
The Iliad Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.
The Odyssey • Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.
The Aeneid • Arms, and the man I sing, who, forc'd by fate, And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate, Expell'd and exil'd, left the Trojan shore. Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore, And in the doubtful war, before he won The Latian realm, and built the destin'd town; His banish'd gods restor'd to rites divine, And settled sure succession in his line, From whence the race of Alban fathers come, And the long glories of majestic Rome. O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate; What goddess was provok'd, and whence her hate; For what offense the Queen of Heav'n began To persecute so brave, so just a man; Involv'd his anxious life in endless cares, Expos'd to wants, and hurried into wars! Can heav'nly minds such high resentment show, Or exercise their spite in human woe?