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Introduction to virgil and the aeneid

Introduction to virgil and the aeneid



An introduction to Virgil and The Aeneid for World Literature.

An introduction to Virgil and The Aeneid for World Literature.



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    Introduction to virgil and the aeneid Introduction to virgil and the aeneid Presentation Transcript

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