The Aeneid

by Virgil

Paper Book, 2006

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Available

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Publication

New York : Viking, 2006.

Description

[This book] tells the story of an epic voyage in which Aeneas crosses stormy seas, becomes entangled in a tragic love affair with Dido of Carthage, descends to the world of the dead - all the way tormented by the vengeful Juno, Queen of the Gods - and finally reaches Italy, where he will fulfill his destiny: to found the Roman people. -Dust jacket.

Media reviews

9 País, juny 1978

User reviews

LibraryThing member jasonlf
I remember Joy de Menil telling me that the first six chapters of the Aeneid were great but the last six were unreadable and worth skipping. It took me another twenty years to get around to reading it and I largely agree with Joy -- although I found some parts to like in the second half.

The first six books are Odyssey-like and recount Aeneas travels from the fall of Troy, through a variety of islands, to Carthage. It begins in media res (not sure of the Latin of this) with the gods fighting about the treatment of Aeneas. Within the first pages the narrator is careful to inform us that the book will culminate in the triumph of Rome, a theme it returns to somewhat didactically throughout.

Following the opening book, is a second book with an extraordinary and largely self-contained flashback to the haunting fall of Troy, including Aeneas' bitter recriminations about the decision to bring the wooden horse into the city walls and some moving scenes with the ghost of his wife who got separated from him in the shuffle. The tragedy of Dido and Aeneas is another largely self-contained book in the first half.

The journey's forward momentum begins with Aeneas' trip to the underworld to see his dead father (not quite as dramatic as one might have hoped). This is followed by the second half of the epic, which is an Iliad-like accounting of the Trojans war with the Latins, a conflict that is even more pointless than the Trojan War because the leaders of both sides both see the same peaceful solution but repeatedly get driven apart by Juno and her minions.

Unlike the Iliad and the Odyssey, most of the stories and characters in the second half of the Aeneid were completely unfamiliar to me. I don't think I had ever heard of Latinus, Turnus, Amata, Lavinia or Evander -- all characters that loom large in the epic war that Virgil describes. That is in stark contrast to Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Paris, Helen, Priam, Hector, Odysseus, Patrcolus, the Ajaxes, Achilles, and the many other familiar characters that populate The Iliad. I think it is largely because of this that the second half is so much less engaging and dramatic (or it could be that all of these figures are less familiar because the second half is less engaging and dramatic).

Regardless, certainly not something anyone should miss reading, even if you wait another twenty years from now.
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
In what you'll recognize as a classic "reading group review" (if you've been paying attention . . . and why would you be?), some thoughts from The Aeneid Week 1:

-I haven't been this excited about a reread in a long time.
-Indeed, what is fate here? That which must be? The desultorily enforced whim of Zeus? Its own proof, because if you just did something awesome, some god or other must have been on your side?
-I read that Virgil studied under Sino the Epicurean. I'd always thought of V. as more of a Stoic. Will read with that in mind.
-What is all this about them braving Scylla and the cyclops? Like, Aeneas did everything Odysseus did, only offscreen? Burn!
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LibraryThing member dianaleez
I read this in Latin and survived the experience only because I was young and stubborn. In truth, the Odyssey is a much better written tale.
LibraryThing member hrissliss
This was sort of a personal challenge. This book, also, took me almost a month to read. Reading it concurrently with Sacred Narrative didn't help the timing any, either.
To me, the most enjoyable part of this narrative was comparing it to the Odyssey, and seeing how Virgil inverted the epic poems of Homer in order to provide a personal mythology for the Romans, and to validate them by giving their culture great age as well. (They valued antiquity, those Romans.) I haven't read The Iliad, which might have helped me more in the latter half of this. That said, Aeneas is still probably the most human of the epic heroes.
Irritation: The lists and lists and yet more lists of men he'd never mentioned before killing other men he hadn't mentioned before. While doing this, Virgil also neglected to mention which side each man was on, so even though you know who's being killed, you have no idea who's winning.
I don't know how to rate things like these... I guess a 6/10 for enjoyment, while a 8/10 for worth.
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LibraryThing member shanaqui
I'm not sure if this is the translation I read back when I did Classics at GCSE and A Level. It seems familiar, but of course, the story would be and two different close translations might still be similar. Anyway, with my course on Tragic Love in the Trojan War, I've had the urge to reread The Aeneid all term.

I can't imagine the loss to the world that it would have been if Vergil's wishes had been carried out when it came to the burning of the manuscript. Parts of The Aeneid are just beautiful -- Homer's work has its own vitality and its own robust beauty, but not the polish of Vergil's work. There's a lot of gorgeous metaphors and similes here, things that work just right, and moments of tenderness that you wouldn't expect in the middle of what is admittedly a rather gory epic. Aeneas' attempts to embrace his dead (and therefore ghostly) wife and father are just, oh, and the little touches of humanity we get from a lot of the characters -- Amata pleading with Turnus to stay safe, Lavinia blushing, Dido falling so hopelessly in love...

It's an incredibly rich text and there's so much to enjoy about it. I should read a good poetic translation at some point -- I think I own one -- but in the meantime even the prose translation, which I imagine was far from an ideal way to translate Vergil's intentions, is lovely.
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LibraryThing member orangemonkey
I have a feeling that I'm going to get crucified by someone for only giving this book one star out of five. However, I feel it's entirely justified, because while I do recognize the historical and cultural imporance of the book, it still almost put me to sleep on several occasions before I was able to finish it.
One of the things I found most noteworthy, and almost most sad, about the Aenid is that it seems to suffer from some sort of inferiority complex. Virgil quite obviously wanted to write something on par with the work of Homer; however, the transparency of that desire greatly reduces the quality of it. The prime difference, I feel, is that Homer seemed to write to transmit the culture and history of his people: Virgil wrote to create propoganda and justify the existence of an empire. As an early example of art being used to political ends, it is interesting, but beyond that I could not enjoy it.… (more)
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
The Aeneid is a true adventure - a look towards the future and the promises made. History in the making for the Roman Empire. There are twelve books in the epic, much-loved poem. In a nutshell, the first six cover Aeneas and his wanderings after surviving the Trojan war. The second half of the poem are the details of the Trojan War. Much like how Gregory Maguire chose to tell the story of the wicked witch of the west, Virgil tells the other side of the Trojan War story. Instead of following Odysseus, we focus on Aeneas, the defeated Trojan.

On a personal level, an observation: Aeneas reminded me of Dorothy Dunnett's character, Francis, from the Lymond series. He is that deeply flawed hero that everyone roots for.
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LibraryThing member booksontrial

"The Plains of Troy Within Us"

I chose Mandelbaum's verse translation of Aeneid for two main reasons. First, because I plan to read his translation of "Divine Comedy" and the same translator might give me a better sense of the connection between the two classics. Second, Mandelbaum's introduction and a phrase in his inscription, "the plains of Troy within us", intrigued me. However, it was not until half way through the book did I get an inkling of his meaning, and started to appreciate the work as much more than an imitation of Homer's Illiad and Odyssey.

In Homer's epic poems and the Greek tragedies, Troy is a synonym of doom and total destruction, a fallen nation, a Paradise lost, but in Virgil's Aeneid, Troy is a homeland hope for, a place of destiny, a hope against hope, the Promised Land. There is a striking similarity between the story of Aeneid and that of the children of Israel in the Bible. A calamitous fall from prosperity, survival and exile of a remnant, a divine promise, a journey filled with dangers, sacrifices, afflictions and temptations.

Tracing the history of Rome back to the Trojan hero Aeneas, the son of Aphrodite and Anchises, and "foretelling", by the spirit of Anchises, the universal rule of the Roman Empire in the person of Augustus, Virgil was perhaps glorifying the Roman Empire and its first Emperor, but more than that, he expressed a sense of purpose and destiny in the life and pilgrimage of an individual, in the history of a race and the the world at large.

St. Augustine wrote in his Confession that in his youth he was moved by the love story of Aeneas and Dido, though he later turned away from pagan literature. He might have also seen in the story of Aeneas, the imperfect reflection, a distorted view from a distance, as it were, of the City of God.
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LibraryThing member Marse
While I've read both the Iliad and the Odyssey several times each, I've never gotten around to the Aeneid by Virgil, until now. The Aeneid is a sequel to the Iliad from a Trojan's point of view, specifically, Aeneus' wanderings after escaping the sacking of Troy. He is promised, by the gods, that he will found a new Troy in Latium (the future Rome), thus this epic, written during the time of Augustus Caesar, is a foundation story for the Roman Empire. It copies the structure and devices of its predecessors with the gods constantly interfering with Aeneas' mission because of their own petty quarrels, as well as wanderings from place to place, tragic loves, bloody battles between heroic men and even a trip to the underworld. In this book you'll find the description of Troy's destruction, the details about the Greek's devious ruse with the Wooden Horse, as well as the story of Dido the queen of Carthage who falls, to her own demise, in love with Aeneas. If the Aeneid is inferior to both the Iliad and the Odyssey, it is, nevertheless, enjoyable reading. I especially liked the depiction of Camilla, a female warrior that would give the Amazons a run for their money.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookworm12
After reading The Odyssey and The Iliad I was hungry for the next piece of the puzzle. The Aeneid is the continuation of the story of the Trojan War. Unlike the first two books this one wasn’t written by the Greek poet Homer. It was written centuries later by Virgil, a Roman, who modeled his writing style after the Greeks.

The story follows Aeneas, a Trojan who travels to Italy after the war and becomes one of Rome’s founders. Early sections in the book cover the storming of Troy and the betrayal with the infamous Trojan horse. I loved those sections and they worked much better for me than the later chapters on the war in Latium.

One interesting aspect of this book is the Roman names of the Gods vs the Greek names. After reading half a dozen books on Greek mythology last year it was strange to hear of Juno and Neptune instead of Zeus and Poseidon. I also read The Mark of Athena around the same time and that book focuses heavily on the different names of the gods. I would highly recommend reading it alongside this one if you like the Percy Jackson series.

BOTTOM LINE: I’m so glad I was finally able to read the thrilling account of the Trajan horse. I was so disappointed to discover that wasn’t in The Iliad. Other sections of the book dragged a bit for me, but it’s a crucial part of the story. If you love learning about Greek and Roman mythology then this one is a must and it helps bridge the gap between the two nations’ cultures.
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LibraryThing member mcgooglykins
The fact that this is unfinished makes me want to gnaw on my own liver - because it ends right when things start (finally) getting interesting. Still an interesting read, however, if only to get glimpses into the way the ancient Greeks thought.
LibraryThing member jimmoz
This is poetry, and is therefore harder for me to read. The introduction is very helpful; if doing it again, I would read the corresponding part prior to each book/chapter. The story is sort of a combination of the Iliad (war) and the Odyssey (travels).
LibraryThing member jpsnow
Sometimes you just enjoy the book.
LibraryThing member secretshelflife
I liked The Aeneid. It wasn’t exactly a pleasure read, but I liked it in the way you like arduous things (and by arduous I mean reading all 300+ pages of epic prose in 3 days) once they’re over. If you’ve ever read Grapes of Wrath maybe you know what I’m talking about. There were a lot of slow parts, many of which involved an excess of names, but there were also plenty of gripping parts that had me actually forgetting to watch the page numbers tick by as slowly as the minutes. For example, the last four books are almost entirely devoted to one long, drawn out, dramatic, and incredibly visceral battle scene. I may have cringed at least once a page, but I certainly wasn’t bored!

Two Sentence Summary: After the sack of Troy, Aeneas escapes with a group of Trojan warriors and sets out for the shores of Italy, where he will found New Troy (aka Rome). He must first overcome the obstacles of a vindictive meddling goddess, and then conquer the land destined to become a great empire.

I’m guessing most of you have heard of The Aeneid. And maybe you’ve heard whisperings of comparisons to The Odyssey. Maybe some have you have even read it. If you a) haven’t and b) have read The Odyssey and didn’t loathe it, I recommend The Aeneid as a good companion read. It’s an excellent microcosmic example that for all the energy the Romans put into dissing the Greeks, they put at least as much or more into imitating (and in their minds, improving on) them. Naturally it’s chock full of meaty themes as well, like the conflict between duty and desire, the martyrdom of present happiness for future greatness, learning what to let go of and when, the ephemerality of human life and connection, the entanglement of place and identity... the list goes on. And Virgil wasn’t kidding around. He knew his way around a vivid description (see: incredibly visceral battle scene). I’ve never read such inventive – and numerous – descriptions of dawn. They put Homer’s lovely, if repetitive, “rosy-fingered dawn” to shame. And that’s pretty much Virgil’s goal in a nutshell: outdo Homer. Whether he succeeds or not is up to you.
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LibraryThing member Unreachableshelf
In my opinion, the greatest of the Classical epics. The Aeneid does not merely praise the glory of Rome and Augustus by exhalting Aeneas; it conveys a melancholy for everything that Aeneas, the Trojans, and even their enemies underwent in order to bring about fate. Rome's enemy Carthage, and even Hannibal who lead the invading army, is here depicted as the eventual avengers of a woman abandoned by her lover not for any fault of her own, but merely because the gods required him to be elsewhere. The Italians are shown as glorious warriors, whose necessary deaths in battle may not be worth it. Finally there is the end, not with the joy of triumph, but with the death moan of the Italian leader. The translation by David West perfectly captures the tone of the original.… (more)
LibraryThing member NielsenGW
Virgil's epic on the journey of Aeneas and the founding of the Roman Empire is an epic not to be missed. Dryden's 1697 translation of said epic, however, is. It's dense, it's daunting, it's in perfect meter. The introduction (71 pages) is vainglorious, the poem tedious.

The story itself was a wonder. It could be a movie (but probably won't be). Aeneas escapes the carnage of Troy, only to gets tossed about by jealous gods from city to city, all the while just trying to secure his prophesied lineage. If you're going to read this, go with a more modern translation (Fagles is good).… (more)
LibraryThing member aoibhealfae
I do think it is a commendable effort by Fagles to translate another lengthy epic but I do think my on-going ennui while reading through this epic poetry even with the help of Simon Callow's narration was the result of Virgil's prose and storytelling itself. The Aeneid is a continuation after the fall of Troy and it set around the adventures of Aeneas and his role in the founding of Rome. However, this doesn't mean Virgil is ripping off Homer although obviously he did base his work around Iliad but Mediterranean culture often derive from the same geographical source, much like how there's some similarity between food cultures around South East Asia.

Unlike Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid is highly political and almost devoid of storytelling until usual good parts. Most of the time the poems constantly surrounded itself with 'prophetic' grandeur of the future Roman empire and its people and there's a lot of brown nosing in this book that it became unbearable. That made more sense why Virgil wanted his manuscript destroyed. Its not just a story of Aeneus, its also a 19 BC product placement story about how the then-Roman families and rulers being placed inside the mythology with stories of their grandeur.

The role of various women in Aeneid is by far the most troublesome element I had with this book. I could blame it on my modern bias but there are prevalent amount of misogyny in this book that made the process of reading as discomforting. This whole story seem to assert itself that a woman couldn't hold a position of power and always in danger of irrationality and on the verge of hysteria and suicidal at the whims of men. First we see them with Juno and Venus then Dido and Queen Amata. I do admire Dido at first but due to a deus ex machina, her characterization was tarnished and she became an even more caricatured version of Homer's Penelope and Calypso.

There are some good parts with war and fight scenes and occasional description of gore but overall the narrative seem to jump around characters. But unlike Greek's thematic Xenia where hospitality is one of the most important values, Aeneid focus more on Pietas which was piety toward the gods, the prophecy and responsibility which was prevalent throughout the book. It show Aeneus in varied position where he was pushed to his destiny and held back from his goal by people or divine stalker entity. It is laughably distracting that in a way it is a classic way to teach its listener about being pious but all I want was some coherent storytelling instead of a propaganda and a story within a story. Aeneid have its historical significance but it certainly doesn't give me much entertainment without being distracted by all the allegories.
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LibraryThing member corey1ynn
Even though "pious" Aeneas isn't as clever or as entertaining as wiley Odysseus, he's still pretty cool.
LibraryThing member nosajeel
I remember Joy de Menil telling me that the first six chapters of the Aeneid were great but the last six were unreadable and merited skipping. It took me another twenty years to get around to reading it and I largely agree with Joy -- although I found some parts to like in the second half.

The first six books are Odyssey-like and recount Aeneas' travels from the fall of Troy, through a variety of islands, to Carthage. It begins in media res (not sure of the Latin of this) with the gods fighting about the treatment of Aeneas. Within the first pages the narrator rushes to inform us that the book will culminate in the triumph of Rome, a theme it returns to somewhat didactically throughout.

Following the opening book, is a second book with an extraordinary and largely self-contained flashback to the fall of Troy, including Aeneas' bitter recriminations about the decision to bring the wooden horse into the city walls and some moving scenes with the ghost of his wife who got separated from him in the shuffle. The tragedy of Dido and Aeneas is another largely self-contained book in the first half.

The journey's forward momentum begins with Aeneas' trip to the underworld to see his dead father (not quite as dramatic as one might have hoped). This is followed by the second half of the epic, which is an Iliad-like accounting of the Trojans' war with the Latins, a conflict that is even more pointless than the Trojan War because the leaders of both sides both see the same peaceful solution but repeatedly get driven apart by Juno and her minions.

Unlike the Iliad and the Odyssey, most of the stories and characters in the second half of the Aeneid were completely unfamiliar to me. I don't think I had ever heard of Latinus, Turnus, Amata, Lavinia or Evander -- all characters that loom large in the epic war that Virgil describes. That is in stark contrast to Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Paris, Helen, Priam, Hector, Odysseus, Patrcolus, the Ajaxes, Achilles, and the many other familiar characters that populate The Iliad. I think it is largely because of this that the second half is so much less engaging and dramatic (or it could be that all of these figures are less familiar because the second half is less engaging and dramatic).

Regardless, certainly not something anyone should miss reading, even if you wait another twenty years from now.
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LibraryThing member literarilyspeaking1
The Aeneid is one of those staples of an education in Latin with which I was acquainted during my high school and college years, but only from a translation standpoint. In other words, I would be assigned to translate passages from The Aeneid as homework, but never really read the epic in its entirety until now.

I love poetry, but epic poetry is something I've never quite been able to wrap my head around. I think it's because, with epic poetry, it's so much about the story and so little (In many cases) about the symbolism that I run into trouble. The conventions of the poetic form make it difficult to follow what would be, in prose, a normal sentence over several lines. By the time I get to the end of a "sentence" in an epic, I've lost the entire meaning of the thought because of the twists and turns of the poetic dialogue.

So, basically, this was a bit of a slog for me.

Keeping in mind that, in both Greek and Roman mythology, the gods and goddesses are petty and vengeful and really, really like to indulge their whims, I really thought Juno was spot-on. She was upset that Paris chose Venus as the best goddess (That's such a reductive way to state this, but there you have it), so she decided to take it out on Aeneas. However, she didn't really take into account that Aeneas would be protected by some other gods and goddesses, so she just ended up killing a bunch of people close to Aeneas without ever really being able to touch him. I guess that's the "Hurting those closest to your target hurts more than actually hurting your target" theory of vengeance.

Aeneas is one of those characters that ran kind of hot and cold with me. At times, he seemed to be the heroic, noble founder of Rome from legends. At other times, he was kind of boring. For being the title character of this epic, I found him pretty blah.

I did find myself, during battle scenes, grimacing quite often whenever someone was slashed/impaled/beheaded/what-have-you, as Vergil was quite fond of the term "gore" and all that went with it ("Thick gore," "thick black gore," "clotted gore" -- You get the idea). Much more effective than a lengthy description of blood spurting several feet from a decapitated trunk, if you ask me.

Overall, I liked The Aeneid well enough to see why it's a classic in higher education. However, for those of you squeamish of epic poetry, I'd suggest finding either a prose version (I'm sure they exist somewhere) or a version that offers summaries of each of the books.

My rating: 7/10
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LibraryThing member MarysGirl
A classic - it is what it is. I had never studied this in college, so looked forward to reading one of the foundations of classic literature. For a modern reader, it was a slog - especially the battle scenes which listed every person killed, their back story and the gory detail of how they died. I got a little tired of vomiting blood and meddling gods. What I did appreciate was the context of the piece. It's basically a paean to Augusta Caesar by telling the family myth of illustrious and goddess-born ancestors therefore legitimizing Julius Caesar's and Augusta's own deifications. Virgil also manages to highlight a few other powerful men and their roots among the Aeneas' followers. I'm afraid I can't comment on the quality of the translation, but I found it readable.… (more)
LibraryThing member MrsLee
Interesting, humorous, informative and rather pleasant for the most part. To be honest with you, the parts I remember best are some of the races and the campfire stories and antics of some of the soldiers.I bogged down in some of the battles and other long descriptive parts, enjoyed the stories of people. The gods and goddesses were quite annoying, and if that isn't a good description of demons, I don't know what is. Petty, self-serving, envious and interfering to their own ends. Prayers and supplications made no difference, they were answered only as it suited the immortals ends, and their ends were always wrapped up in malice. As opposed to God, "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11… (more)
LibraryThing member karstelincoln
Blasted imposter, grumble grumble. Virgil is too damn pious for his own good and not worth his salt.
LibraryThing member English99
I read this in high school, in Latin. I remember carrying it around and translating it into English between the lines of text. It's a great story, and even a high school kid can be a classical scholar with this work -the Latin is not so difficult. I wonder whatever happened to that copy...
LibraryThing member selfnoise
I really enjoy Fitzgerald's translation... I think he hit a home run on this one, although I'm not as hot on his Homeric translations. The Everyman's Library edition is quite an attractive one as well. As for the Aeneid, it's a fine tale of love and war, an interesting bit of propaganda, and some nice poetry. Those interested in Vergil as alchemist, rather than as author, should check out Avram Davidson's novels (particularly The Phoenix and the Mirror).… (more)

Original language

Latin

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