Virgil’s Aeneid Analysis

1. Virgil’s Aeneid (written in Latin in the 1st century B.C.E.) is obviously deeply indebted to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (written in Greek in the 8th century B.C.E.), not simply in terms of substance and style but even in terms of the characters. Find one place in the text of the Aeneid that reminds you of a comparable place in Homer’s Iliad (the opening stanzas, or “Invocation” of each poem, for example) – either in terms of plotting or style, and comment on the similarities and differences between the texts. Be sure to use a brief quotation (or a few) from one or both texts to help your fellow students identify the points you’re making.

2. The propagandistic purpose of Virgil’s Aeneid – to explain, justify, celebrate, glorify, historicize, and mythologize the founding of Rome and the Roman Empire – crops up throughout the poem, from Aeneas’s prophetic dream on the night of the destruction of Troy, to the reminders he gets in visions and visitations from various gods, to the history of the future depicted on the shield created by Vulcan. Find one or more of these places and comment on how you think Virgil uses the epic format to define Roman culture. Virgil seems to suggest, in some places, that Rome is the new Troy, that Roman culture is Trojan culture, that, in the words of Aeneas, in “Latium … Fate holds out/ a homeland … [and] the kingdom of Troy will rise again” (Book I, lines 240-242), but then at the end, he seems to suggest otherwise, that “Troy has fallen–and fallen let her stay–/ with the very name of Troy!” (Book XII, lines 960-961). How is Virgil defining Rome by its mythological past? What values does Virgil seem to emphasize as Trojan or Roman? How does this contrast with other cultures and values depicted in the book, for example, the culture of the Greeks, the Carthaginians, or the Rutulians?

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