Michael de Percy's Reviews > The Aeneid
Last year I managed to do cover-to-cover readings of Homer's Iliad and The Odyssey, but it has taken me some time to get around to Virgil's "sequel", The Aeneid. In The Iliad, Aeneas is whisked away from the battle at Troy (to heal) and effectively disappears from the story. Virgil, in his epic poem written during 30-19 BCE, picks up Aeneas' story (much like Homer does with Odysseus in The Odyssey) and puts him on a quest to become the founder of Rome. (This occurred before the time of Romulus and Remus. Virgil had to reconcile the myth of the wolf-suckled brothers with the earlier Greek myth.) This translation puts the epic poem into prose. It is nothing short of gripping. I enjoyed Virgil's Georgics and Eclogues, but this work was brilliant. I can see how Virgil has adapted much of Homer's approach to story-telling, but with several differences. Homer brings in the scenery, such as sunsets reflecting on battlefield bronze, as well as stories about who killed whom. Virgil does similar, but without so much of the scenery. Of course, this is a translation from the hexameter form, and was originally written in Latin rather than Greek, so how this translation compares with the original, I am at a loss. What we do know is that Virgil was honouring Augustus Caesar with this tale, and tracing Augustus back to Aeneas. (I recall a family history on the UK's Who do you think you are? where one person's lineage was traced right back to Jesus, so such myths for the aristocracy have been common for centuries.) Rather than recount the story, and what I find most fascinating, is the story of the Trojan Horse. Homer barely mentions it, and Virgil fills in some of the gaps. But the larger story that has been passed down doesn't really come from Homer or Virgil. This is not new, but I was expecting that the three books together would give a more complete story of the legend that we have come to know. As for the "quasi-plagiarism" of Homer, I tend to agree with La Trobe University's Chris Mackie that:
In this sense the criticism of Virgil of plagiarising Homer, or quasi-plagiarism, seems rather unreasonable.I am surprised to learn that the poem was never completely finished, and that Virgil wrote at the same speed I write up my research. For the record, that is "about three lines a day".
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