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Roman Culture and Society, Seminar 3: Virgil's Aeneid

Seminar 3 - Virgil's Aeneid Week 4 (Spring term)

Seminar debate:

Is Virgil’s epic a piece of propaganda in support of the Augustan regime?

Give way, writers of Rome; you Greeks, depart this earth;
That which is greater than the Iliad is brought to birth.

Propertius, Elegies 2.34.65-66

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STEP 1: PLEASE READ THE SEMINAR WORKSHEET Seminar 3 Worksheet Aeneid 2016

WHICH OFFERS MORE DETAILED DISCUSSION AND A MORE EXTENSIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY THAN THE MATERIAL BELOW.

STEP 2: PLEASE NOTE: WHILE YOU WILL BE ASKED TO PRESENT MATERIALS IN SEMINAR, THIS TERM YOU MAY CHOOSE THE TOPIC AND THEREFORE WHO YOU WORK WITH. HOWEVER< YOU MUST BE SURE THAT ALL THREE TOPICS ARE COVERED.

You should have read the Aeneid over the vacation: having now gained an overall impression of the epic, your task is to develop expert knowledge of particular sections, and to develop an overall interpretative approach to the epic poem. Our overall themes are how Virgil adapted Homer, creating a ‘national epic’ for Rome, and the success with which he incorporated recent history into his poem.

Most of you are studying Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey during GCS. If these texts are new to you, however, you are advised to speed-read the following:
Iliad Books 1, 6, 9, 16-18, 22-24; Odyssey Books 1, 6-8, 11, 13 with introductions to translations (especially those marked * below)

The brief pamphlets by Griffin (Homer - PA 4037.G7 - Past Masters series) and Camps (An introduction to Virgil's Aeneid (PA 6825.C2) or Gransden (Virgil. The Aeneid, Landmarks of World Literature, PA 6825 G7) provide a quick way of getting into the texts.

If you haven't already, it would be worth buying copies of Aeneid, Iliad, Odyssey in translation. Bring these along to the seminar. 

Recommended Translations (personal favourites *):
  • *David West, Virgil The Aeneid (Penguin Classics 1991) [PA 6807 A5]
  • W.F. Jackson Knight, Virgil The Aeneid (Penguin Classics 1956)
  • C. Day Lewis, The Aeneid of Virgil (Hogarth Press 1961) [PA 6807 A5]
  • *M. Hammond, Homer The Iliad (Penguin Classics 1987)
  • *W. Shewring, Homer The Odyssey (Oxford World Classics 1980)
  • E.V. Rieu, Homer The Odyssey (Penguin Classics; revised edition 1991)
  • R. Lattimore, The Iliad of Homer (Univ of Chicago Press, 1961)
  • R. Lattimore, The Odyssey of Homer (New York, Perennial Classics 1999)

John Dryden's celebrated verse translation is available online at Perseus.

The Loeb translations are useful if you know some Latin and may want to refer across to the Latin from English translations for particular words.


Key questions:

  • How does Aeneas differ from Homer's heroes?
  • How closely does Virgil imitate narrative themes in Homer's epic?
  • How does Virgil intermesh heroic and historical past?
  • How important is Virgil's contemporary world for understanding his poem?
  • Is the Aeneid a greater work than the Iliad?