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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.
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.)?
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?"
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
- 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
- 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)?
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?
- 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.
- 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?
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?
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
- Compare Vergil's depictions of violence with Homer's. How are they
- 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?
- Ascanius's scenes (p. 269 ff., p. 282 ff.): what are these doing here?
- 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?