Virgil Books

The Aeneid Virgil

Easton Press Virgil books:
The Aeneid - 1979
The Aeneid - Harvard Classics - 1993

Franklin Library Virgil books:
The Aeneid - 100 Greatest Books of All Time - 1975
The Aeneid - Great Books of the Western World - 1980
The Eclogues and The Georgics - Great Books of the Western World - 1981

Virgil and the Aeneid

The Aeneid by Virgil, the great national epic of Rome, composed between the years 29 and 19 B.C. by the poet Publius Virgilius Maro, more commonly known as Virgil. The epic was left without final revision upon Virgil's death in 19 B.C. The Aeneid is a mythological work in twelve books, describing the wanderings of the hero Aeneas and a small band of Trojans after the fall of Troy. Aeneas escaped from Troy with the images of his ancestral gods, carrying his aged father on his shoulders, and leading is young son Ascanius by the hand, but in the confusion of his hasty flight he lost his wife, Creusa. Having collected a fleet of twenty vessels, he sailed with the surviving Trojans to Thrace, where he began building a city. He subsequently abandoned his plan of a settlement there and went to Crete, but was driven from the island by a pestilence. After visiting Epirus, and Sicily, where his father died, he was shipwrecked on the coast of Africa and welcomed by Dido, Queen of Carthage. After a time he again set sail; Dido who had fallen in love with him was heartbroken by his departure, and committed suicide. After visiting Sicily again and stopping at Cumae, on the Bay of Naples, he landed at the mouth of the Tiber River, seven years after the fall of Troy, and there was welcomed by Latinus, King of Latium. Latvinia, the daughter of Latinus, was destined to marry a stranger, but her mother Amata had promised to give her in marriage to Turnus, King of the Rutulians. A war ensued, which terminated with the defeat and death of Ternus, thus making it possible the marriage of Aeneas and Lavinia. Aeneas died three years later, and his son Ascanius founded Alba Longa, the mother city of Rome.

Virgil's Aeneid derives its plan of style and treatment from the Iliad and less from the Odyssey, the great epics of Greek poet Homer. Virgil was partly influenced also by the epic poem Argonautica of the Greek poet Apollonius of Rhodes, and the Annals of the Roman poet Quintus Ennius, who was the first to introduce dactylic hexameter into Latin epic verse. In the Aeneid, Virgil developed both the music and the technical precision of this meter so subtly that his verse ever since has been considered a model of literary perfection. Virgil's Aeneid is usually regarded as the first great literary epic, in contrast to the Iliad, which is constructed with literary artistry but contains a great number of usages and forms found in earlier oral poetry. It is not , as that poem was from the Greeks, an inherited part of the national consciousness, but a deliberate attempt to glorify the nation and particularly to celebrate the achievements and ideals of the Roman state under the emperor Augustus. The historical and Augustan elements are especially prominent in the central section of books 5-8.

The Aeneid

Because of its ambitious design, the smooth beauty of its style, and its tenderness of feeling, the Aeneid is known as one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature.

Virgil's Aeneid was highly appreciated in its own day. To judge from the fine quality of numerous manuscripts dating from the 3rd to the 5th century A.D., and the numerous references by later Roman writers, the Aeneid was popular for along time after its composition. During the Middle Ages hidden philosophical meanings were read into the poem, and Virgil himself was thought to be a seer and a magician. The importance of the Aeneid in the history of English poetry has been considerable. The English poet Geoffrey Chaucer told part of the story in his House of Fame. Edmund Spenser, in The Faerie Queene, was indebted to Virgil's conception of the epic as a national poem. The style and technique of versification practiced by such poets as John Milton and Alfred, Lord Tennyson were influenced by the Latin of Virgil's Aeneid. The work has been in widespread use a school text for centuries. Notable translations of the poem include those by John Dryden, William Morris, and Cecil Day Lewis. 


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