Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Aeneid of Virgil

I had always thought if the Aeneid as simply a Roman rip-off of the Odyssey. That might still be true. However, these lectures help show the importance it has on its own. It has endured as one of the most studied Latin texts, and thus is useful in understanding many subsequent literary works. It also was written at a time when many Greek sources were available, and thus has additional clues about the Trojan war that are not available today. And perhaps of greatest importance, it is useful for understanding the Roman psyche.

Virgil composed the Aeneid in the time of Augustus Caesar, and used it as chance to showcase the current Roman view of themselves. The adventures of Aeneas can be easily compared with those of the Greeks in the Odyssey and Iliad. The differences showcase different worldviews that the Romans had of themselves vs. the Greeks. The Romans saw themselves as "rulers" who came from elsewhere to adopt good points of others' cultures and rule over them. Loyalty to the state was important.

The lectures here start with a general Roman historical background, then go through the Aeneid,providing a summary of each section before it is discussed. This provides a quick introduction to the Aeneid, as well as background to understanding it. Events such as "funeral games" are explained in the context of their day to help with the interpretation of the work. Historical tidbits (like the fact that Virgil thought it was unfinished and wanted it destroyed) are also intriguing. Now I just need to learn enough Latin to slog through the original.

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