Introduction to virgil and the aeneid

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An introduction to Virgil and The Aeneid for World Literature.

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Introduction to virgil and the aeneid

  1. 1. World Literature I<br />Introduction to Rome, Virgil, and The Aeneid, but not necessarily in that order…<br />
  2. 2. Overview<br />In 17bc, the dying Virgil asked that his unfinished work be burned<br />Fortunately, it was not, changing the entire history of western culture<br />Along with the Bible, the Aeneid was one of the most consistently read books of the last 2000 years.<br />Virgil’s Desire?<br />
  3. 3. Overview<br />The Aeneid was composed in part to celebrate “truth, justice, and the Roman way” and to promote the revitalization of the Roman way of life under Augustus<br />To accomplish this, Virgil drew on the whole of Greek and Latin literature to create his epic.<br />Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius<br />
  4. 4. Overview<br />Over the last 2000 years, the Aeneid has been used as a pagan bible, a Latin style manual, a moral allegory, and a document of European unity.<br />The work still speaks immediately to the reader.<br />
  5. 5. Biography<br />Full name: Publius Vergilius Maro (sometimes Virgil, sometimes Vergil)<br />Born in October 15, 70bc<br />Died September 21, 19bc<br />Virgil<br />
  6. 6. Biography<br />Earliest biography was by Suetonis (2nd century AD)<br />Not much is known, but among the likeliest are: He was a Roman citizen; had excellent and expensive education; member of the Roman bar; family was ambitious)<br />
  7. 7. Biography<br />His family’s property was confiscated but returned after the intervention of they young Octavian Caesar (Augustus)<br />Wrote Eclogues (between 42 and 37 bc) and Georgics, perhaps his greatest work (between 36 and 29 bc)<br />Lived primarily in Naples but returned to Rome to die<br />
  8. 8. Biography<br />Planned to complete the epic in about 10 years<br />Acutely concerned with leaving unrevised work after death<br />The work was unfinished at his death<br />It was Augustus who intervened and preserved the work (might he also have commissioned it?)<br />
  9. 9. Themes<br />Roman History<br />Virgil is concerned with Roman history but handles it quite differently than previous writers who constructed epics out of history<br />Virgil uses a legend for the main line of the narrative, while history was insinuated into prophecy, visions, and into the description of objects (like the shield).<br />The Shield of Aeneas<br />
  10. 10. Themes<br />Right Conduct, the Roman way of life, and Roman destiny<br />Moral center is the Roman way of life which Augustus was trying to revitalize<br />System was based on duty to the gods, to country, and to family and friends<br />In system, private experience and duty are often placed in tension against public duty<br />It is clear, that Virgil believes that the ideals of Roman life and public service remain worth the often difficult struggle with self<br />
  11. 11. Themes<br />The sorrows at the heart of things<br />Human loss and regret (modern vision of theme)<br />
  12. 12. Themes<br />Private and public ideals<br />Strong sense of tension between two ideals<br />Individual human felicity<br />Mission of Rome<br />Perhaps characterizes Virgil’s ethical ideals<br />Stoic philosophy (self-sacrifice)<br />Epicurean philosophy (philosophical quietism, a retreat from the world, a longing for an absence of pain)<br />
  13. 13. Style<br />Point of view<br />Personal vision (from Aeneas)<br />Patriotic vision (concerned with the genesis of the Roman empire and Roman history)<br />
  14. 14. Style<br />Setting<br />Ranges across entire Mediterranean region<br />Map of Ancient Roman World<br />
  15. 15. Style<br />Imitation<br />Drew heavily from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey<br />Six books are “Little Iliad”<br />Other six books are “Little Odyssey”<br />
  16. 16. Style<br />Divine intervention<br />Gods have a number of roles in Aeneid<br />Providential divine intention<br />Seemingly irrational hostile forces<br />Gods were tremendously powerful artistic symbol<br />
  17. 17. Style<br />Imagery<br />Work derives power from repetition and startling variation of particular images (see serpent and fire imagery in Book 2)<br />
  18. 18. Style<br />Structure<br />Divided between books of intense action (even numbered books) and diffuse action (odd numbered books).<br />Trilogy: tragedy of dido (1-4), tragedy of Turnus (9-12), and central Roman section (5-9)<br />“Little Iliad” preceded by “Little Odyssey”<br />
  19. 19. Historical context<br />Roman government<br />Founded in 753bc.<br />250 as a monarchy <br />last king was tyrant (son Tarquin raped wife of a roman nobleman, celebrated? By Shakespeare in the Rape of Lucrece)<br />L. Junius Brutus and the Romans drove the Tarquin family out and set up a republic<br />450 years as a republic, ruled by senate and consuls<br />Imperial rule follows (with some attributes of the senate continuing)<br />Tarquin and Lucrecia<br />
  20. 20. Historical context<br />Rome and War<br />Roman history is full of wars (both under Republic and as an Empire)<br />Motives: survival, expansion, and military achievement (for nobility)<br />Punic wars (against Carthage)<br />Dido’s Carthage<br />
  21. 21. Historical context<br />Roman Society under Pressure<br />Major power after Punic wars<br />Social problems set in after defeat of Carthage (without single-minded focus, Rome began to fall apart)<br />Problems were also created by the wars, their effect on family farms, and the effects of growing estates.<br />Roman society needed drastic action<br />
  22. 22. Historical context<br />Renewal under Augustus<br />Thrown back into civil war by the assassination of Caesar ( a period culminating with the defeat of Marc Antony in 31bc).<br />Augustus attempted to revitalize the traditional way of life.<br />Virgil was commissioned to write in part to remind the Romans of the circumstances which created them<br />Augustus<br />
  23. 23. Historical context<br />The Roman Way of Life<br />Mos maiorem (manners of ancestors) had both a religious and social aspect<br />Roman religion was based on two sets of gods: Olympian (stolen from Greek, but renamed) and Penates (household gods which were protective spirits of the family, the hearth, the store room, and the countryside (each family had their own))<br />Roman society based on patronage system (along with strong family ties)<br />Practical and honorable way of life<br />Patrons stood by his clients and ensured that they always received justice under Roman Law, offered advice, and helped careers.<br />Note relationships between Aeneas and Pallas (which mirrors relationship between Anchises and Evander) or between Virgil and Augustus.<br />Olympian<br />Gods<br />Penates<br />
  24. 24. Critical Overview<br />Earliest reactions<br />Critics began with style and sources<br />Companions to the text were often published to assist readers <br />5th century writers treated Virgil as Roman Bible (an attempt to defend their gods, their way of life, and the nature of Rome from the growing Christian cult<br />
  25. 25. Critical Overview<br />Early Christian reaction<br />Mixed reaction for Virgil was the poet of the state which Christians sought to usurp<br />Work was also essential part of an education<br />Saint Augustine admitted to crying over Dido’s tragic end<br />In the end, Christianity simply co-opted Virgil—some even saw him as a prophet of Christ.<br />
  26. 26. Critical Overview<br />Middle ages<br />Used as a schoolbook for study of Latin<br />Often treated as an allegory about the soul’s growth to maturity and virtue<br />Aeneidwas treated as a sort of coded message, full of deep, hidden meanings<br />
  27. 27. Critical Overview<br />Modern criticism<br />Begins in 17th century<br />Treated work not as an allegory, but as a narrative, like a history<br />Believed narrative provided models of highest qualities of conduct for princes and their subjects<br />
  28. 28. Critical Overview<br />Romanticism<br />The Romantics found Aeneas to be a poor hero and were unimpressed by Roman destiny as a theme. <br />However, they praised Virgil for his style and emotional sensitivities. Hence much criticism praises his “private voice”<br />
  29. 29. Critical Overview<br />20th century understanding revolves around an increasingly more sophisticated understanding of the literary, social, and political reality of Virgil’s world. <br />

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