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Vergil's Aeneid, VII-IX

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Study Questions
On Tuesday in class, we will be looking more closely at Vergil's account of the Underworld in Book VI, as well as venturing into the "Iliadic" half of the Aeneid in books VII through XI. So please go back and take a look at the study questions for Book VI, as well as the new ones below.


  1. The structural patterns of the Aeneid come to fruition in the second half of the epic; increasingly, we need to recall where we have encountered certain themes and motifs not just in Homer, but earlier in the Aeneid itself. Where have we seen correspondences to the following: bees (l. 85 ff.), Lavinia's hair on fire (l. 95 ff.), Juno going mental (l. 388 ff.), the snake in Amata's breast (l. 475 ff.), Amata raving through the city (l. 518 ff.), her demented wedding song (l. 548 ff.), Turnus's possession (l. 629 ff.), Latinus's steadiness (l. 805 ff.), Hippolytus and Asclepius (l. 1048 ff.)?

  2. In Books I-VI Aeneas has played an Odysseus-like role; in Books VII-XII we will see how he compares to Achilles; however, in Book VII Juno calls Aeneas "a Paris once again" (l. 440), a role we have already seen him play vis-a-vis Dido in Books I-IV. How does Vergil answer the question, "Who is Aeneas?"

  3. With the Trojan refugees finally making landfall in Latium, Book VII signals a new "introduction" to a new epic project, that of founding a civilization. Consider the parallels between Book VII and Book I. Are structural elements repeated in the same or reverse order? Do the events of Book VII echo or amplify their correlatives in Book I?

  4. Are the Trojan newcomers to be considered invaders or returning proprietors in Latium? Compare the Israelites' role in Canaan (the 'promised land' of Exodus). How does Aeneas's arrival contrast with Odysseus's in Ithaka? In what ways in Lavinia a Penelope? In what ways is she a Helen, and who then is playing Paris? Are the answers to these question the saqme as they were for Dido?

  5. Vergil has, thoughout, been depicting a religion somewhat different from that of Homer's Greeks: local household gods, Olympians with long-range political plans for Earth, etc. From Book VII, he begins to describe a more fully Italianate system; pay attention to this. What is the importance of the Italians' being descended from Saturn (see p. 202, l. 268 ff.)? What about the fact that they (and, therefore, the Romans) are descended from a woodpecker (same page, l. 254)?


  1. Book VIII contains a great deal of prophecy and reinforcement regarding the heroic origins and destiny of Rome. Are you satisfied with the way Vergil incorporates these, or do you feel that narrative is sacrificed here to propaganda?

  2. Pay attention to the concept of the Saturnian Golden Age (p.240, l. 415-431). Is there any danger in portraying Evander's kingdom as the heir to this blessed epoch? What else is striking about the passages in which Vergil describes Evander's taking Aeneas on a guided tour?

    NB: in Vergil's time (Aeneas's distant future), the annual rite commemorating the defeat of Cacus took place on August 12 (my birthday!); apparently, then, this is also the day that Aeneas visits Pallanteum (future site of Rome), the anniversary of the day on which Hercules himself would have visited it (in Aeneas's distant past). Aeneas stays overnight, leaving therefore on August 13--the same day on which Augustus will win the battle of Actium, roughly 1150 years later. (Of course, the month of August did not exist by that name until it was named after Augustus himself, in 27 B.C.E.)

    By the way...The history of our current calendar, based on the Roman one, is fascinating! Check it out here.

  3. As we will see, a task of ancient and mediaeval Christian authors (Augustine, Dante) will be to create a form of Christian literature that is able to accomodate its pagan models. How does Vergil address his comparable problem (creating Latin literature in the shadow of Greek) here, by (a) manipulating the racial origins of the Romans, (b) using Homer, (c) making a virtue of the relative unsophistication (vis-a-vis the Greeks) of the Latin literary heritage?

  4. The great ekphrastic culmination of this book is, of course, the Shield of Aeneas (l..846 ff.). Compare this shield to (a) the Shield of Achilles (end of Iliad XVIII) and (b) the prophecy of Anchises (VI:1015 ff.). Compare, too, the way Achilles and Aeneas, respectively, receive their shields: Iliad XIX:1-18 and Aeneid VIII:822-36.
          The climax of the events depicted on the Shield is Augustus's defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, the [future] emperor's greatest moment in the epic. How has Augustus's triumph been fitted into the mythological schemes developed in the epic? How does Vergil deal with the fact that this greatest Roman military triumph was [will be] over other Romans? How problematic is the symbolic identificationof Aeneas with Augustus, as the epic progresses?


  1. Compare Vergil's depictions of violence with Homer's. How are they different?

  2. Nisus and Euryalus. Get out your handkerchiefs. How does the footrace back in Book V (p. 135 ff.) foreshadow what happens here (p. 273 ff.)? What pair (or pairs) of characters from the Iliad do they recall? Compare Vergil's view of love here with his depiction of the ill-fated Dido/Aeneas romance. Is the lads' doom related to any distinctive failing?

  3. Ascanius's scenes (p. 269 ff., p. 282 ff.): what are these doing here?

  4. What Homeric type(s) is/are evoked in Vergil's depiction of Turnus? What, in Homeric terms, in missing from this warrior's portrait? What is the symbolism of his being saved by the Tiber on p. 289?
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