Vergil’s Aeneid: Rome’s National Epic Who Was Vergil? • Publius Vergilius Maro lived from 70-19 BC. • He was probably the son of a wealthy farmer and was born near Mantua, Italy. • Vergil received a good education. • He is most famous for 3 poetic works: – The Ecologues: pastoral poetry – The Bucolics: poems about farming – The Aeneid: the national epic of Rome Who Was Vergil? • Around 29 BC Vergil was commissioned by Augustus to write a poem about Rome’s founding. • The Aeneid details the adventures of Aeneas, a Trojan warrior who sailed to Italy and founded the Roman race. • The Aeneid is similar to the Odyssey and the Iliad of Homer. Opening Lines of the Aeneid • Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit litora… • I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate, first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to the Lavinian shores… I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate, first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to Lavinian shores – hurled about endlessly by land and sea, by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno’s remorseless anger, long suffering also in war, until he founded a city and brought his gods to Latium: from that the Latin people came, the lords of Alba Longa, the walls of noble Rome. Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity, how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man, noted for virtue, to endure such dangers, to face so many trials? Can there be such anger in the minds of the gods? Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto vi superum saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram; multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem, inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum, Albanique patres, atque altae moenia Romae. Musa, mihi causas memora, quo numine laeso, quidve dolens, regina deum tot volvere casus insignem pietate virum, tot adire labores impulerit. Tantaene animis caelestibus irae? The Aeneid • The Aeneid is divided into 12 books, or sections. • It is written entirely in a meter called dactylic hexameter: 6 measures of long-short-short. • It was still unfinished when Vergil died. Some lines are incomplete (missing beats). • He asked his friends to burn it, but Augustus ordered it to be published instead. • It is one of the most important literary works in Western literature. Aeneas, the Roman Hero • According to mythology, Aeneas was the son of the Trojan Anchises and the goddess Venus. • He was a valiant warrior and cousin of King Priam of Troy. When the Greeks invade Troy using the trick of the Trojan horse, the ghost of Hector appears to Aeneas and warns him to flee the city. Aeneas (continued) • After trying to fight, Aeneas finally flees the city with his family. • He carries his crippled father Anchises. • His wife Creusa (daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba) and son Ascanius (also called Iulus) follow behind. • They take their Trojan household gods, the Lares and Penates, with them. (statues) “ergo age, care pater, ceruici imponere nostrae; ipse subibo umeris nec me labor iste gravabit…” “…mihi paruus Iulus sit comes, et longe servet vestigia coniunx…” Aeneas (continued) • In the chaos of battle, Creusa falls behind and is killed. Aeneas goes back to find her but her ghost appears to him and explains he has to leave without her. • She also prophesies that he will sail to Hesperia (Italy) and marry another. • Aeneas gathers a band of survivors and they sail west to find a new land to settle in. • The goddess Juno is Aeneas’ enemy and tries to derail him from his fate to found a “new Troy.” Aeneas’ Adventures • Aeneas and his followers have many adventures during their wanderings. • Several times they think they’ve found the right place to settle, only to be told “no” by the gods. • His father Anchises dies on Sicily. • After 6 years, a violent storm wrecks them on the shores of north Africa, near Carthage. • Aeneas and Queen Dido of Carthage have a yearlong love affair. speluncam Dido dux et Troianus eandem deveniunt. IV.165 Aeneas’ Adventures (continued) • The gods call Aeneas back to his duty. • Queen Dido commits suicide and curses Carthage and Rome to be enemies. Aeneas’ Adventures (continued) • Aeneas visits the Sybil, a prophetess, and makes a trip to the Underworld where he sees the shades of his father and Queen Dido (who refuses to speak to him!) • The Trojans eventually reach the shores of Italy near Latium. • King Latinus of the Latins receives Aeneas and allows the exiled Trojans to live in Latium. • The king’s daughter, Lavinia, is given to Aeneas as his wife. Aeneas’ Adventures (continued) • Lavinia’s first promised husband, King Turnus of the Rutilians, declares war. • The Aeneid’s cliffhanger ending: Aeneas kills Turnus in battle. The end! • Roman historians later wrote that yes, Aeneas’ forces won the war, though King Latinus died. • Aeneas married Lavinia, founded the city of Lavinium, and became the ancestor of Romulus and Remus. Aeneas’ Heroic Traits • Aeneas was known as pius Aeneas for his piety/devotion toward his gods, family, and country. • He was a strong warrior. • He put his duty before his personal wishes (ex.: leaving Dido in Carthage). Aeneas’Legacy • The Julian family traced their ancestry back to Aeneas’ son Ascanius Iulus, and thus to the goddess Venus. • Vergil included prophetic scenes of Augustus’ family members in parts of the poem. • Vergil’s poem the Aeneid was excellent propaganda for the Emperor Augustus since it tied his family into the legends and mythologies of Troy and Rome.