Libby's Reviews > The Aeneid

The Aeneid by Virgil
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Jul 08, 08

bookshelves: summerreading08, year-of-only-good-books
Recommended for: Classics scholars, folks who want bragging rights
Read in July, 2008

There are plenty of reviews here telling you why you should or shouldn't read book X. This review of Virgil's "Aeneid," the largely-completed first century BC nationalist epic poem that recounts the Trojan War and Aeneas's role in the eventual founding of Rome, will tell you instead why you should read a copy of "Aeneid" from a university library. Simply put: student annotations.

Nearly every book in a university catalog has been checked out at one time or another by a student reading it as primary or supplemental material for class. Thus, many books have important passages underlined, major themes listed at the beginnings of chapters, and clarifications written in the margins. The copy of "Aeneid" that I read not only contained thematic annotations from one student, but also a number of unintentionally funny comments from another. This made reading the epic poem, the sort of which spends five pages describing Aeneas's shield, much more entertaining than it might have otherwise been.

For example, beside a section in which the longevity and glory of the Roman Empire was prophesied, the befuddled student wrote, "But Rome fell- did Virgil know this?" Ah yes, Virgil the time-traveling super-poet who cleverly peppered his verse with chronologically ironic statements. The same annotator observed that Dido's downfall is that she's "too nice" (apparently, feuding goddesses had nothing to do with it) and produced a mind-boggling series of rhetorical queries that demonstrate the importance of using context when deciphering pronouns in poetry (hint: the closest noun isn't always the antecedent).

Sadly, the annotator only made it about a third of the way through the poem before either realizing that he/she could glean the crucial bits from lecture/Wikipedia or dropping the class. As a result, I was forced to pencil in similar comments in order to make it through the rest of the poem. The moral of this story is that though you may get the occasional bonehead marking up your book, reading a book that others have commented on previously gives an undeniable sense of camraderie. As in any interaction with strangers, you may be happily surprised, disappointed, or surprised into laughter. I highly recommend the experience to all.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Ameliedanjou ooh, great idea! I'm listening to a class on CD of the book, and the class was so good I thought I'd actually read it also (on my Kindle). But your idea might get me thru the Iliad!


message 2: by Miriam (new) - added it

Miriam Joy Someone in my class renamed Book 10 "Nymph My Ride" on account of the fact Aeneas's boats came back as nymphs. But nothing compares to the graffiti in the Iliad, primarily focused around Achilles and Patroclus and what they might be up to...


David Sarkies My copy of the Aeneid was the copy that I used at University, so unfortunately there are no lines or notes in it. However, I like dictionaries that were owned by primary school children because they tell you where all of the swear words are located - Choose your own adventure style.


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