The Aeneid


The Aeneid was written in a time of major political and social change in Rome, with the fall of the Republic and the Final War of the Roman Republic having torn through society and many Romans' faith in the "Greatness of Rome" severely faltering. However, the new emperor, Augustus Caesar, began to institute a new era of prosperity and peace, specifically through the re-introduction of traditional Roman moral values. The Aeneid was seen as reflecting this aim, by depicting the heroic Aeneas as a man devoted and loyal to his country and its prominence, rather than personal gains, and going off on a journey for the betterment of Rome. In addition, the Aeneid gives mythic legitimization to the rule of Julius Caesar and, by extension, to his adopted son Augustus, by immortalizing the tradition that renamed Aeneas's son, Ascanius (called Ilus from Ilium, meaning Troy), Iulus, thus making him an ancestor of the gens Julia, the family of Julius Caesar, and many other great imperial descendants as part of the prophecy given to him in the Underworld.

Despite the polished and complex nature of the Aeneid (legend stating that Virgil wrote only three lines of the poem each day), the number of half-complete lines and the abrupt ending are generally seen as evidence that Virgil died before he could finish the work. Because this poem was composed and preserved in writing rather than orally, the Aeneid is more complete than most classical epics. Furthermore, it is possible to debate whether Virgil intended to rewrite and add to such lines. Some of them would be difficult to complete, and in some instances, the brevity of a line increases its dramatic impact (some arguing the violent ending as a typically Virgilian comment on the darker, vengeful side of humanity). However, these arguments may be anachronistic—half-finished lines might equally, to Roman readers, have been a clear indication of an unfinished poem and have added nothing whatsoever to the dramatic effect.

The perceived deficiency of any account of Aeneas's marriage to Lavinia or his founding of the Roman race led some writers, such as the 15th-century Italian poet Maffeo Vegio (through his Mapheus Vegius widely printed in the Renaissance), Pier Candido Decembrio (whose attempt was never completed), Claudio Salvucci (in his 1994 epic poem The Laviniad), and Ursula K. Le Guin (in her 2008 novel Lavinia) to compose their own supplements.

Some legends state that Virgil, fearing that he would die before he had properly revised the poem, gave instructions to friends (including the current emperor, Augustus) that the Aeneid should be burned upon his death, owing to its unfinished state and because he had come to dislike one of the sequences in Book VIII, in which Venus and Vulcan have sexual intercourse, for its nonconformity to Roman moral virtues. The friends did not comply with Virgil's wishes and Augustus himself ordered that they be disregarded. After minor modifications, the Aeneid was published.

The first full and faithful rendering of the poem in an Anglic language is the Scots translation by Gavin Douglas—his Eneados, completed in 1513, which also included Maffeo Vegio's supplement. Even in the 20th century, Ezra Pound considered this still to be the best Aeneid translation, praising the "richness and fervour" of its language and its hallmark fidelity to the original.[8][9] The English translation by the 17th-century poet John Dryden is another important version. Most classic translations, including both Douglas and Dryden, employed a rhyme scheme, a very non-Roman convention that is not usually followed in modern versions.

Recent English verse translations include those by British Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis (1963) which strove to render Virgil's original hexameter line, Allen Mandelbaum (honoured by a 1973 National Book Award), Library of Congress Poet Laureate Robert Fitzgerald (1981), Stanley Lombardo (2005), Robert Fagles (2006), and Sarah Ruden (2008).

This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.