This epic poem, beautiful as it is, is not authentic. It does not feel Greek, let alone Homeric. The gods are not the Greek gods. It is Roman throughThis epic poem, beautiful as it is, is not authentic. It does not feel Greek, let alone Homeric. The gods are not the Greek gods. It is Roman through and through, tainted with the author's servile loyalty to an emperor. If it had been written by a Greek it would have felt false, a lacquered imitation of Homer's winding, whirling verse.
But it has its genius, and it is real genius, pure and precocious and singing of bright, glorious things that Rome, and her arrogant new emperor, never accomplished. I read this, and look at more than Virgil's glib derivation of 'Julius' from the name of Aeneas' son Iulus, and see, honest, the poet's vision for what his society could become, shown through the nobility of a group of homeless refugees. And, though my anger at Rome is deep-rooted, though I despise the sprawling power that former republic became, in reading The Aeneid, I feel for it.
Strange, how different it is, as a story, from The Odyssey, which also tells of a gods-cursed journey from a war. Aeneas and his men, the smell of smoke in their hair, curl together and say "we are survivors". The Odyssey has its deep tragedy, its pathos, in the fatherless boy trying to learn to be a man, believing in a father separated from him by a distant war, in the old, sea-hardened warrior with tears running down his cheeks when he hears the stories of his comrades sung. It is a beautiful story, and I love it. But it is a story of a war's victor, while, in Virgil's opus, Aeneas merely survives.
(I must make something, in my mind, of Aeneas' three marriages - Creusa, who left him the widower of a city [as Euripides' Hecuba is Troy's widow, and mother, and Queen:], volatile Dido and last the ingenue, flower-haired Lavinia. They are not of the same tenor as Odysseus' lovers - rather, the bear the tone of opera, and I can hear them: soprano, mezzo, soprano again.)
I rate it here for its poetry, its flawless form (though it is the form of brilliant student who has learned his classics with all assiduousness, not a bard with the rhythms of the epic in his blood), its emotion, deep and true and vivid. It troubles me still, for the Roman words slip, unsteady, in my mouth, giving to me the bitter taste of untruth and empire, but I can touch Fitzgerald's flawless translations and feel, beneath the slipperiness, a solidity that has ensured its endurance. I do not understand this supremely Roman work, but I understand enough to feel the heat of its sustained power....more
While this volume is fascinating as far as providing material for analysis of Julius Caesar, its dubious status as both political propaganda and militWhile this volume is fascinating as far as providing material for analysis of Julius Caesar, its dubious status as both political propaganda and military documentation makes it uneven as a historical record. Far more useful for what it says about the mental state of Roman military leaders at the end of the republic than for objective details on the Gallic Wars themselves....more
This book made me want to study Greek. While the often staid, ninety-year-old translations were fairly uninspired, it was a mildly exhaustive collectiThis book made me want to study Greek. While the often staid, ninety-year-old translations were fairly uninspired, it was a mildly exhaustive collection of poetry not frequently seen outside of Classics departments (Theocritus, maybe more frequently. But Bion and Moschus?), and I enjoyed the inclusion of works not to be found in my other collections, particularly the pattern poems, which is a genre of which I was not aware and now will have to examine further. The inclusion of the original Greek text alongside the English translation will, I do hope, come in handy at some point in my life....more
This volume, which usefully collects a multitude of fragments of surviving text from ancient Egyptian culture, could have been made vastly more usefulThis volume, which usefully collects a multitude of fragments of surviving text from ancient Egyptian culture, could have been made vastly more useful with the implementation of a clearer graphic design scheme. This seems a minor thing to quibble about, but the unclear font and sizing made it difficult to differentiate between Erman's introductions and the beginning of the texts themselves. A clearer system of organization and style of introduction would also have been a benefit, as would a cover which did not appear to belong to a child's coloring book. Nonetheless, an essential collection for those interested in the study of ancient Egypt. Particularly fascinating are the personal letters occasionally included, which show, more clearly than anything else in the volume, how individuals interacted with one another in that society....more