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The Aeneid - Beautiful, Stunning, and Influential

Uploaded by Gotskillz on Jun 19, 2005

When the Roman armies conquered the remnants of Alexander's empire in 168 B.C., they recognized something in Greek culture that was more impressive than anything Rome, itself, had achieved. The result is that Rome adapted itself to the model of Greece.
Among the adaptors of Greek culture, none was more brilliant, original or influential than the poet Virgil. He faced a formidable challenge in that everyone who encountered Greek culture recognized how much it had been shaped by Homer. To write a Roman equivalent to The Iliad or The Odyssey required the ability to think, a way with words, and a storytelling capacity that would enable a poet to do for Rome what Homer had done for Greece. Only one poet succeeded and that was Virgil.

Virgil began working on The Aeneid with an advantage Homer lacked: he was literate. Unlike the Greek aoidos, Virgil did not learn his art from oral storytellers. As his hero, Virgil chose a Trojan fighter whom Homer describes briefly in The Iliad. Virgil kept the outlines of Homer's Aeneas, but he developed the character in new and profound directions.

The Aeneid resembles The Odyssey in recounting a series of Mediterranean adventures and an eventual homecoming (Books 1-6). It resembles The Illiad in recounting a war to capture a city (Books 7-12). But the home to which Aeneas sails is a new one, and his quest is to establish something that had not before existed rather than to return to something he once knew, as Odysseus does. The Aeneid is a founding myth and virtually every episode is symbolically charged with the weight of Aeneas's historic destiny. This destiny is the very thing that enables Virgil to reshape the character he found in Homer, transforming a warrior hero into a man who would influence the world for centuries to come.

We see Aeneas gradually changing in a series of crises throughout the first half of the poem. Virgil presents Aeneas's departure from Troy as a departure from the values that had defined Homer's story of the war to capture Troy. One of the most memorable portraits of Aeneas is his weeping in Carthage as he contemplates depictions of the Trojan war: "there are tears for passing things; here, too/things mortal touch the mind." The tears of a Homeric hero have never had such weighty moral and historic implications.

Readers of The Odyssey will recognize that Virgil has modeled Aeneas's...

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Uploaded by:   Gotskillz

Date:   06/19/2005

Category:   Literature

Length:   4 pages (824 words)

Views:   5197

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