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Virgil - Aeneid > Aeneid Book 9

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message 1: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments The first line of Book 9, "While, far away, all this was happening" lets us know that the events about to be described happen while Aeneas is away on his journey to secure Evander's assistance. Aeneas does not appear at all in Book 9, which describes the beginning of the war with Turnus and the Rutulians in explicit and gory detail. Turnus takes advantage of Aeneas' absence to attack. Why does Vergil have Aeneas make the mission to Evander himself? Is it at all wise for the leader of the Trojans to leave his forces to fend for themselves?

Despite Aeneas' absence, the Trojans put up a disciplined front and Turnus has a hard time breaking through their defenses. He decides to set fire to the Trojan ships to draw them out. Jove saves the ships by turning them into nymphs. "The ancients vouched for this story, and it still endures," Vergil writes. It's a spectacular image, as strange as when Athena turns herself into a bird and sits in the rafters to watch Odysseus take his revenge on the suitors in the Odyssey.

The story of Nisus and Euryalus follows, seemingly based on the night mission that Odysseus and Diomedes take in the Iliad (Book 10, the "Doloneia"). The relationship between Nisus and Euryalus is much closer though, more akin to that between Achilles and Patroklos. They intend to sneak through Turnus' forces to bring back Aeneas, but they cannot resist the urge to fight, and the result is catastrophic. Is Vergil making an example of these two?

The book ends with Turnus on a rampage. He compares himself to Achilles, and his strength and fighting abilities confirm his boasting. But does he also have Achilles' weaknesses?


message 2: by Adelle (last edited Sep 18, 2012 11:39PM) (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Thomas wrote: ". Why does Vergil have Aeneas make the mission to Evander himself? Is it at all wise for the leader of the Trojans to leave his forces to fend for themselves? "

Ok, Aeneas is going to Evander himself because he's been re-thinking his outreach to King Latinus. Aeneas now thinks that he should personally be meeting with the important men of Italy instead of sending representives. Aeneas is a man who can learn from his mistakes.

He leaves the Trojan forces there because he's not overly worried about them. See comment in Book 8. Tiberinus(sp), river god told him not to fear war..."now is no time to let go, or give way to threats of war. ANGERS THAT ROSE AMONG THE GODS HAVE PASSED."

Perhaps the true meaning of T was that Aeneas didn't have to fear threats because Aeneas would triumph in the end. But...Aeneas hears that the anger among the gods has passed...he thinks, I suggest, that the gods aren't against him anymore. If he doesn't have to contend with with gods, then he's confident his men can hold their own against Turnus. Also, he's given them sound orders. Stay inside.

And Aeneas did make that perfect sacrifice...that white sow and piglets. He had prayed, gods, only be with me, give me a sign. And the Emerill was there: "Bam,". There was the white sow and her young. Just like predicted. He sacrifices the sow to Juno. Therefore, everything will be alright now.

As for your other questions, I got nothing right now. Will mull them over.


message 3: by Adelle (last edited Sep 19, 2012 07:19PM) (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Line 3. "As it chanced..." I find I really like this aspect. Sometimes what happens is due to Fate, and sometimes the efforts of the men ("pulling their hearts out"), but often, I find, it's just..."chance" ... or "by lot"


Anyway, Turnus, "the rash prince," is by chance resting in the grove of his forebear, Pilumnus, maybe a sacred spot, the trees, you know, and the valley itself was "blest of old."

A message from the gods in this sacred space probably carries more weight. And Iris speaks to Turnus.

I'm intrigued with her descriptive: "rose-lipped." Such lovely lips, worthy of remarking on. And I remembered Venus had rosy lips back in Book 2.

I'm not sure what the connection is but I feel there must be one. Are those rosy lips speaking words to manipulate the hearer? Or is it simply so incongruous to hear fierce words of war from rose-tinted lips? I don't know.

"He knew her sign." So...it's a bit like the white sow. There's a sign seemingly from the gods. In the grove of the ancestor.

And yet, I loved this about Turnus, he wasn't a complete pushover. Just like in Book 7?...yes, 7, in which Turnus had enough of himself and his wits about him that he didn't initially believe Allecto...not 'til she threw that torch into him and inflamed his passions and he lost his reasoning. Here, too, he tries, it seems to hold on to reason, he asks for the source of Iris's info: "Who brought you down to me, cloudbourne to earth?"

But then, there's that sign from heaven, and Turnus resists no longer, says "no matter who you are who call me to attack" ...

And he washes his hands in the water the same way Aeneis did when Tiberus (hoary-headed) and spoken to HIM.

Then that particular section ends with a bit of an echo of an earlier book. Some books back, when the games were being played, Iris went to the old women and then...they were lighting the ships on fire.

And now Iris has been to Turnus...and Turnus thinks of "The fleet! ... cheering his men to bring up fire, and he, himself enflamed, took up a blazing pine torch in his hand." (9.96).


message 4: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Adelle wrote: "Aeneas now thinks that he should personally be meeting with the important men of Italy instead of sending representives. Aeneas is a man who can learn from his mistakes.."

But Turnus learns that Aeneas is gone and uses that to his advantage. Aeneas can't lead in two places at the same time. Maybe it's similar to the leadership problems that occur with empire building. The Spartans could never establish an empire because their home country was too unstable. They couldn't go far without the helots revolting. The Athenians did much better, with a stable home base, but they were greedy and in time their empire became overextended. Here Vergil is showing how to perform the balancing act -- Aeneas leaves, but his base is secure enough to withstand the inevitable attack. The Roman empire did this very well for a very long time.


message 5: by Adelle (last edited Sep 20, 2012 05:24PM) (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Thomas wrote: "But Turnus learns that Aeneas is gone and uses that to his advantage

I thought about that last night. And I guess that if Turnus didn't plan to let Latinia (?) go without a fight, well, in that case now WOULD be his best opportunity. He strikes me as a little cocky, quite sure of himself. But maybe because he DOES have an eye towards opportunity. He must have been quite promising for old King Latinus (sp?) to be considering him as a son-in-law.


message 6: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Fitzgerald: 9.132: "What swerving, Mother, do you ask of fate?"

I immediately thought of that book that came out a year or two ago. I didn't read it, but it sounded interesting.


Those little points in time when...what was...what seemed would continue...swerved.

The Swerve How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt The Swerve: How the World Became Modern


message 7: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Fitzgerald 9.174+

The ships have just turned into nymphs and Turnus's men are frightened. "But Turnus'
fiery confidene held; in quick response
He blazed at them to give them heart:

'These wonders
Are all aimed at the Trojans! Jove himself
has robbed them of their usual ally,
Not waiting for our swords and fires to do it.
The open see is closed to Trojans now,
Now they haveno way out."

I find myself rather liking Turnus. He's quick-witted. He raises his men's spirits. (Like Aeneas did for his men, too.) He sees the facts and just like that he puts a positive spin on the story.

Not sure where in Book 9...but at one point while I was reading, I felt as though Turnus were Shakepeare's Henry V there before Agincourt, rousing his men.

(...that might have been Thomas...with his quote..."we few, we happy few")


message 8: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Patrice wrote: "That's Lucretius' swerve."

Really? What's Lucretius swerve? The same Lucretius we were talking about before? The one who wrote De Rerum Natura? That is so COOL~!

OK, I'll go google. Thanks Patrice!!


message 9: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Patrice, did you read it? was it great? should I try to make time to read it too?

I DID read Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Loved it.


message 10: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments I see there is a reminder here of Dido.

Ascanius says that one of the gifts he will give to Euryalus and Nisus for going out and taking information to Aeneas will be "ancient winebowl, gift
Of Dido the Sidonian" (Fitz 9.373).


message 11: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Nice little bit of foreshadowing here:

"Princely Iulus, thoughtful, responsible
Beyond his years, gave many messages
To carry to his father. These the winds
Of heaven scattered, every one, unheard,
And puffed them to the clouds" (Fitz 9.436).

So we can be sad before the sad event happens.
So we can be sadder longer...through anticipation of the sadness to come.

Maybe I already wrote this before?

A couple months ago I read of a study that had been done. It turned out that when people read descriptive menus ("delicious, smooth, velvety soup," "prime rib, perfectly prepared," "sweet, succulent lobster dripping generous amounts of melted butter," etc.....the food actually tasted better.

Seriously. Scientists measured that reactions in the brains, and when the people ate the food that their brains were primed for, the food that the people were already expecting to taste good, it actually DID taste better.

So here's Virgil doing almost the same thing. He's letting us know that the results of this expedition are going to be sad. So we can actually be sadder when it happens. Like Homer when he early on mentions the Scaean Gate...and we can be sad about Achilles long before Book 24.


message 12: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Patrice wrote: "Wow you finished the Carthage book! Good for you!
I got distracted but i do love it and will return to it soon.

I haven't read book 9 yet and I haven't read The Swerve yet. A friend of mine, fro..."


I had no idea! I picked the book up and fondled it fondly when it came out, told myself I had no time to read it, and forgot about it. So I didn't remember it was Lucretius because back then the name Lucretius meant nothing to me.

Small world, eh?


message 13: by Christina (last edited Sep 22, 2012 09:28AM) (new)

Christina (cjcourt) | 26 comments I have a soft spot for Turnus, too. He's interesting. He's rash and boastful, but he needs to be spurred to vengeful action. He compares himself to the wronged Menelaus since they were both robbed of their brides (though it's not clear to me that Lavinia was ever betrothed to him formally) and expects to be as triumphant as the Greeks, but without resorting to ruses like the Trojan horse.
He does seem to have Achilles's weaknesses as well. In his prideful, bloodthirsty, solitary wrath, he completely misses the opportunity to end the war decisively and quickly by admitting his comrades.

The signs from and actions of the gods are always open to (mis)interpretation. The newly divine ships swim off like a school of dolphins (love imagining that) and it never occurs to Turnus that the motivation behind it has nothing to do with the Trojans or the Latins.

There's a lot of predator-prey imagery in this book. Turnus circles the besieged Trojans like a wolf trying to get to bleating sheep. Like lions driven mad by hunger, Euryalus and Nisus slaughter the sleeping Latins like unsuspecting sheep. The Trojans outnumber Turnus, but when they corner him he's still a dangerous "savage lion".


message 14: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Christina wrote: "I have a soft spot for Turnus, too. He's interesting. He's rash and boastful, but he needs to be spurred to vengeful action. He compares himself to the wronged Menelaus since they were both robbed ..."

Turnus is a full-blown hero from the first time we see him. He reminds me of Homeric heroes. There's something super-human about him, which makes him magnificent to watch, but at the same time I have a harder time relating to him as a human.

It will be interesting to see how Turnus compares to Aeneas, who seems like a more well-rounded character to me. We've seen Aeneas in sensitive moments that really contrast with the warrior ethos, and we've seen him grow from a despairing fugitive to a competent leader. I think there's some narrative tension here because we don't know if Aeneas is ready or able to stand up against a force like Turnus.


message 15: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Christina wrote: "There's a lot of predator-prey imagery in this book. Turnus circles the besieged Trojans like a wolf trying to get to bleating sheep. Like lions driven mad by hunger, Euryalus and Nisus slaughter the sleeping Latins like unsuspecting sheep. The Trojans outnumber Turnus, but when they corner him he's still a dangerous "savage lion". "

Nice observations. To go with them, there's Ascanius shooting his first man, Turnus' brother-in-law. Vergil says that before this, Ascanius "only used to hunt wild creatures."


message 16: by Athens (new)

Athens | 29 comments Hi all-

Thanks for the reference to Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Easy to find new-condition hardcover for low dollars. :)

Paul


message 17: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Still thinking on the subject of words and phrases that bring to mind other events and evoke feelings that apply to both the original event and the event at hand.

Like earlier, in post 13. Where "Scaean Gate" immediately brings to mind the death of Achilles.

I'm no expert on The Iliad. But Roman readers would have been. There must have been many lines in The Aeneid that would bring to mind a scene from The Iliad, and would evoke the feelings that Homer had evoked...and those feelings would layer or shadow scenes in Virgil.

There were two lines in Book 9 which for me brought to mind events from modern times...but gave me feelings that would resonate/reinforce (sp?) the feelings that I think Virgil was wanting us to experience.

(1) Euryalus is killed.

"...his neck
Collapsing let his head fall on his shoulder--
As a bright flower cut by a passing plow
Will droop and wither slowly, or a poppy
Bow its head upon its tired stalk...." (Fitz 9.615+)

And I thought of "In Flanders Field"

by John McCrae, May 1915

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

And I was appropriately sad.



And then the 2nd place for me was

"but the tower
Under the sudden shift of weight went down" (Fitz 9.758).

And I thought of 9-11 and the tower going down.

And I was appropriately sad.


message 18: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Adelle wrote: "

(1) Euryalus is killed.

"...his neck
Collapsing let his head fall on his shoulder--
As a bright flower cut by a passing plow
Will droop and wither slowly, or a poppy
Bow its head upon its tired stalk...." (Fitz 9.615+)


The passage above may have been inspired by Catullus' poem 11:

Let her live and be happy with her adulterers,
hold all three-hundred in her embrace,
truly love-less, wearing them all down
again and again: let her not look for
my love as before,
she whose crime destroyed it, like the last
flower of the field, touched once
by the passing plough.
A.S. Kline

http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PI...

The "passing plow" cutting down a flower seems too specific to be coincidental. The Catullus poem is a disappointed love poem (the last of the Lesbia poems) and considering the relationship between Nisus and Euryalus, the allusion seems appropriate. The situation is not an exact parallel, of course, but it emphasizes the love interest between the two.


message 19: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Yes. That "passing plow" does seem to connect the two quite well. For one who was or is familiar with that poem (say a Roman), that would be a good example.

Thanks, Thomas.


message 20: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Patrice wrote: Did anyone else think of gladiator games?"

For me, gladiator games didn't come to mind, 'though I think I know what you are saying.

I connected the fights more with Quentin Tarantino (sp?) type movies and WWW All Star Wrestling: Tanantino because Virgil, like Tarantino, "zoomed in" and focused on one fight at a time, he seemed to use what is nowadays the "slow-motion" technique...describing in leisurely detail what would have happened too quickly for the eye to record, and he highlighted, like Tarantino, the blood and gore.

And All Star Wrestling because of the taunting. For the men in both venues fighting is not enough. There's a personal engagement both before and after in which the boast and taunt the opposition.


message 21: by Michael (new)

Michael Canoeist (michaelcanoeist) | 138 comments Patrice wrote: "Did anyone else think of gladiator games?"

I did not, but the writing in this book came alive for me more than most of the poem. It, including some of the lines quoted in the posts above, had fire and specificity and spirit.

This is undoubtedly an observation already made somewhere in these discussions, but the Aeneid reads to me as an epic poem written by a lyric poet. He has trouble sustaining long scenes; he often falls into rote patterns; but, periodically, he can summon up surprising images and powerful passages that can run on for dozens of lines.

This episode of Nisus and Euryalus really grabbed my attention (and, of course, arms arms arms again). Thomas, I tried to evaluate "Fortunate boys!" for irony, but I confess I was not convinced there was any. At least, not as the primary meaning. But maybe I don't give the poet enough credit.

Euryalus's mother's lament was potent and thoroughly realistic. But then, after the craziness of Nisus and Euryalus, we get back to Turnus, and the poem seemed to me to fall flat again. The battle descriptions are often very schematic; someone kills someone with a lance; the next fellow kills with a sword; the next with bow and arrow. Like he has to touch all bases, like the schematics around a vase.

That distances this reader quickly. I am afraid I can see plenty of reasons for Virgil to have been disappointed enough with his work to have wanted it destroyed.


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