All About Books discussion

Readalongs > The Aeneid - Virgil (Beth, Leslie, anyone who wants to join in)

Comments Showing 1-50 of 56 (56 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Beth (last edited May 04, 2018 11:20PM) (new)

Beth | 407 comments This is the thread for The Aeneid readalong May 2018. I might start this weekend if I have time, or next week at the latest.

message 2: by Pink (new)

Pink Right, I'm in for this. I have no time to start another book, but if that's my excuse I'll never read it! I just checked the serial reader app and they have it across 45 issues. I'll probably take the full month of May, if not longer to finish, but I'm ready!

message 3: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I have heard other people mention serial reader - what is it?

I have gotten the Robert Fagles translation from the library so I will try to start today.

message 4: by Pink (new)

Pink It's an app, for iPhone/ iPad. It has lots of classics, all broken into daily serials of 10-15 minutes each. I've used it to get through quite a few books.

message 5: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Thanks Pink - I'll have to check that out!

message 6: by Esther (last edited May 07, 2018 12:56AM) (new)

Esther (eshchory) | 1321 comments I have looked this over and remember how difficult I find it reading poetry to myself.
On Youtube they have a reading of the Dryden translation which is a bit of a classic in of itself with the added bonus of words on the screen which will stop my mind wandering and aid my understanding.
However there is also a Fagles translation read by Simon Callow. Spoilt for choice!

message 7: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Esther - I am enjoying the Fagles translation, if that helps you choose. Of course, part of what I like about it is the ancillary material (map, glossary of names and places, notes explaining certain references) which wouldn’t be available in an audiobook edition.

message 8: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I have finished Book 1 -- is anyone else reading yet or should I pause now until you are?

message 9: by Pink (new)

Pink I've just started, halfway through book 1. I'm finding it quite hard to keep track of what's happening. I don't think the poetry is helping me, although I am enjoying it. I'll post more of my thoughts later when I'm home from work.

message 10: by Leslie (last edited May 08, 2018 06:31AM) (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I did make extensive use of those ancillary materials I mentioned earlier in reading the first book. I also ended up skimming the introduction. If it helps, the introduction mentioned that "The story plunges, in Horace's famous phrase, in medias res, into the middle of events."

In Book 2, I think Aeneas will start telling his story from the beginning.

It is helpful to have an idea of the overall plot since Virgil wrote this assuming that his readers were already familiar with the legend. In the barest of outline, Aeneas and his men are fleeing the defeat of Troy and trying to reach the western shore of Italy to found a city (which eventually leads to the founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus, who will be descendants of Aeneas's son Iulus). However, they have had a difficult trip because Juno doesn't want the Trojans to found that city. The plot is quite similar to that of Odysseus's trip home in The Odyssey. At the start of the book, Aeneas and his group have completed about 2/3 of their trip and are rounding Sicily when the storm comes. Venus, who is Aeneas's mother, is trying to help them and Juno is trying to stop them, with various other gods taking sides depending on their relationship with those 2.

I hope that helps a little.

message 11: by Pink (new)

Pink Thanks Leslie, that's a great synopsis of how things start. I did a little background reading online before I started, just about the Greek versus Roman God names, as I always get confused by the Roman names. Then about the history of this story, which seems partly like The Odyssey and partly like The Iliad, which I'm reading next month. You've summarised things much better for me though!

message 12: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 66 comments

Has a nice overview of the chapters and some major terms.

message 13: by Pink (last edited May 08, 2018 10:43AM) (new)

Pink Claire wrote: "

Has a nice overview of the chapters and some major terms."

Oh that does look good! Better than sparknotes etc. Thanks :)

message 14: by Pink (last edited May 10, 2018 04:30AM) (new)

Pink I've nearly reached the end of book 1, but I'm just not taking it in, so I'm going to swap translations and restart over with Fagles.

message 15: by Beth (new)

Beth | 407 comments I'm reading the Robert Fitzgerald translation. I've read books I & II so far.

I really like this passage from book I, about the city of Carthage:
Here men were dredging harbors, there they laid
The deep foundation of a theatre,
And quarried massive pillars to enhance
The future stage -- as bees in early summer
In sunlight in the flowering fields
Hum at their work, and bring along the young
Full-grown to beehood; as they cram their combs
With honey, brimming all the cells with nectar
Or take newcomers' plunder, or like troops
Alerted, drive away the lazy drones,
And labor thrives and sweet thyme scents the honey.
Aeneas said: "How fortunate these are
Whose city walls are rising here and now!"

message 16: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 66 comments For every Roman reader, Aeneas’ remark had a lot of meaning.
Not only does it evoke the envy towards others who can allready build their city (while he and his group are still travelling), but also: Carthaga was the city of the future Hannibal, who almost conquered Rome in the Punic wars. For the Romans of Virgil’s time Carthago was an awful memory of the biggest threat their empire ever faced. The end of this treath had been only obtained by completely devastating Carthago.

message 17: by Leslie (last edited May 12, 2018 01:49PM) (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I have finished Book 2 which tells of the fall of Troy.

Here is the same passage in Book 1 that Beth quoted from the Fagles' translation:

"Here they're dredging a harbor, there they lay foundations
deep for a theater, quarrying out of rock great columns
to form a fitting scene for stages still to come.
As hard at their tasks as bees in early summer,
that work the blooming meadows under the sun,
they escort a new brood out, young adults now,
or press the oozing honey into the combs, the nectar
brimming the bulging cells, or gather up the plunder
workers haul back in, or close ranks like an army,
driving the drones, that lazy crew, from home.
The hive seethes with life, exhaling the scent
of honey sweet with thyme.
                                   "How lucky they are,"
Aeneas cries, gazing up at the city's heights,
"their walls are rising now!" And on he goes,
cloaked in cloud -- remarkable -- right in their midst
he blends in with the crowds, and no one sees him.

message 18: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Looking at the 2 translations, I must admit I like the Fitzgerald one better! I suppose that explains why I have fond memories of his translations of The Odyssey and The Iliad that I read in high school ;)

message 19: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Claire wrote: "For every Roman reader, Aeneas’ remark had a lot of meaning.
Not only does it evoke the envy towards others who can allready build their city (while he and his group are still travelling), but als..."

This is probably a foolish question, but I never could understand how Hannibal got elephants from Carthage to mainland Europe for that trip over the Alps...

message 20: by Pink (new)

Pink Hmm, that Fitzgerald translation does read better. I don't want to swap translation again though!

As for the elephants, I assume they travelled by boat, or whatever sea vessel they used at the time?! Don't know how many elephants they could fit in each boat though!

message 21: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 66 comments The street of Gibraltar is not too large. The elephant were not the biggest size either:-) They brought them indeed over water.
(See if you want to know more)

message 22: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1026 comments Pink wrote: "Then about the history of this story, which seems partly like The Odyssey and partly like The Iliad, which I'm reading next month. You've summarised things much better for me though! .."

I'll be joining in the discussion although I'm a little late. I've been away from home for the last week and had no access to a computer.

In reference to the Iliad and Odyssey, it is my understanding Virgil intentionally modeled Books 1-6 on the Odyssey and Books 7-12 on the Iliad.

message 23: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1026 comments It has been years (at least 12!) since I last read the Aeneid. But something that I find striking as I read it this time through is Aeneas emerging as a reluctant hero.

When Aeolus lets loose with hurricane winds, Aeneas goes on his knees, wishing he had died at Troy. And when they land in Libya, he urges his people to be optimistic that they will arrive in Italy (Latium). He puts on a brave face externally while harboring internal doubts.

So ran the speech. Burdened and sick at heart,
He feigned hope in his look, and inwardly
Contained his anguish.

(Fitzgerald. Book I: 284-286)

A few lines later, we are told the Trojans worry about those they left behind and mourn their friends who died at Troy.

Aeneas, more than any, secretly
Mourned for them all . . .


Aeneas is emerging as someone who is burdened with the responsibility of saving his people. He is a reluctant leader who knows if his people are to survive, he has to suppress his inner turmoil and doubts and present a positive front.

I've only just read Book 1. It’ll be interesting to see if this quality of a reluctant leader is developed.

message 24: by Pink (last edited May 14, 2018 02:54AM) (new)

Pink Tamara, I just read that too, about it being half modelled on the Iliad and half on The Odyssey. It was unclear whether this was intentional or not, but it seems to fit that structure.

I've only read book 1 as well. Though now I've finished the Fagles translation I have a better understanding of what's going on. The writing isn't as poetic, but I can cope with that, if it means I absorb the story more easily.

Aeneas does seem a somewhat reluctant hero at the moment. Perhaps he's just beaten down, after thinking he'd lost his ships and men.

I like the structure of the first book. It's starts quite abruptly, throwing us into the action, so we have to figure out what's happening, but now Aeneas has met Dido and is about to tell his story. I'm looking forward to the next part.

message 25: by Tamara (last edited May 15, 2018 01:07PM) (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1026 comments A couple of things struck me about Book 2.

First of all, Neoptolemus/Pyrrhus, Achilles' son, comes across as being a bloodthirsty savage. He kills Priam's son in front of Priam, and he stabs Priam at the altar steps where some of the Trojan women are huddled for protection. He is brute force with no compassion--unlike his father who returned Hector's body to Priam in the Iliad so he could give him a proper burial. Achilles felt compassion for Priam, remembering his own father.

The other thing that struck me is Aeneas' use of present tense as he describes the Trojan horse and the Greeks entrance into the city. The fighting that ensues is all the more immediate because of the use of present tense.

And then there is the very beautiful image of Aeneas carrying his father on his shoulder and holding his son's hand as they make their escape. Aeneas' father, Anchises, carries the household gods, the penates.

It is a beautiful image--one that was brought home to me very movingly a few years ago when hubby and I were on vacation in Italy. One of the places we visited was the Borghese Palace which houses some of Bernini's amazing sculptures. His two statues that left me breathless were the one of Persephone as she is being kidnapped by Hades, and the other was of Aeneas and family as they make their escape from Troy.

I've linked the image in case some of you would like to see it. The statues are huge and truly breathtaking. The detail in them is amazing. I hope you enjoy.

message 26: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1026 comments BTW--The three times Aeneas tries to embrace the ghost of his wife echoes the three times Odysseus tries to embrace the ghost of his mother when he encounters her in the underworld.

message 27: by Leslie (last edited May 15, 2018 04:28PM) (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I like the description of Aeneas as a reluctant hero Tamara!

I just finished Book 3 and the encounter of Aeneas with the Cyclops reminded me of something a friend recently told me: It is now postulated that the skulls of dwarf elephants gave rise to the idea of the one-eyed Cyclops.

Here is a photo from the American Natural History Museum of one such skull:

The large central hole is where the trunk was; elephants have their eyes on either side of their skulls. I can see why one would imagine that it must have belonged to a monster, even knowing what it is!

message 28: by Pink (new)

Pink Leslie, I can definitely see why they'd imagine a cyclops from that elephant skull. It's probably less of a stretch of the imagination than picturing an elephant, if you've never seen one alive.

I've finished book 2. First thoughts are surprise at how much was packed into this one section!

Tamara, I like all of your comments above, I couldn't see the pictures from your link, but found them elsewhere. The sculptures must have been wonderful to see in real life.

I'm still having to refer to outside sources to stop me from getting confused. I struggle with remembering everyone's names, especially when they have more than one and how they are related to one another.

I enjoyed the story of the Trojan Horse and although I know it well, I found it very powerful. Sinon was quite a storyteller, I was rolling my eyes at how easily he was believed, but then just the mention of offending the gods had influence over everyone. So common sense and their instincts not to trust the horse and take it into their gates, are all ignored, leading to their downfall.

I was slightly surprised at how easily Aeneas lost his wife, leaving her to wander behind them as they escaped, so it was clear that she wouldn't make it. I missed that Aeneas tried to embrace her ghost three times, but I see that there are parallels with Odysseus visiting his mother in the underworld.

Speaking of Odysseus, I'm finding it interesting to read about him as the villain. In The Odyssey he's the hero, who we want to succeed with his cunning plans, having victory over Troy and hope that he makes it home safely to Penelope. Whereas I'm already rooting for Aeneas here, wishing that Odysseus was discovered in the Trojan horse and captured. Even though I know that's not what happens. So it's interesting to consider things from a different perspective of the War. I suppose this is the difference of one work being Greek and one Latin, so their heroes have changed sides.

message 29: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 66 comments Odysseus has allways been a more dubious moral figure than Achilles and Hector. The word Homer used to describe him is ‘πολυτροπος’ , polytropos, which means ‘turning many ways’, cunny, crafty,..
And indeed: Aeneas comes from Troy, the enemy city of the Greeks, so he will not describe Odysseus nicely.

As to the likeness of Ilias/Odysseus and Aeneid, there is an interesting article here:

The big difference between them is this: the Iliad/Odyssey were written down in the form stemmed from a long oral tradition.
The Aeneid was made by an author, thinking about how to write it, trying to reference to both Greek works and wanting to sing the praise of Rome.

message 30: by Pink (new)

Pink I agree Odysseus has always been a dubious hero, but he is still the hero in The Odyssey. Immediately in this book I was rooting for the other side!

The Aeneid is definitely written with a motive. It's taking Greek stories and reworking them to fit the Roman narrative and the founding of Rome itself. I was wondering about religion at the time Virgil was writing this. I'm currently reading the four gospels, which I think were written less than 100 years later, but they're completely different. Obviously Christianity was just gaining popularity, branching from Judaism, but here we're still dealing with Roman gods. Does anyone know when these beliefs shifted? Is Virgil writing historically about Roman gods, or do people still believe in them during his time?

message 31: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 66 comments Pink wrote: "I agree Odysseus has always been a dubious hero, but he is still the hero in The Odyssey. Immediately in this book I was rooting for the other side!

The Aeneid is definitely written with a motive..."

Christianty was a small religion that started as you said, almost 100 years later. It took three more centuries before it became the official religion. While it started with a small group of followers, esp. In lower classes and among slaves, it gained more popularity over time.

Most Romans believed in this time (and the coming centuries) in the ancient gods, both in public and privately. Religion and cult/rituals were very important. The gods were partly taken over from the Greek, but some were just Roman.

Shortly after the writing of the Aeneid, the deification of Roman emperors like Augustus started.

message 32: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 66 comments If I need to shut up, just tell me.😉 I allways get too enthousiastic about my former job.

message 33: by Pink (new)

Pink Claire wrote: "If I need to shut up, just tell me.😉 I allways get too enthousiastic about my former job."

No that's great, thanks. I knew that there was a move from the old Greek and then Roman gods, to monotheism. I just wasn't sure if this mostly happened during Virgil's time, or afterwards. It seems like the shift happened in a relatively short period, just a few hundred years at most? When compared to religions that existed before and since then, it's noticeable how abrupt this shift must have been. I don't think we've had such major changes since then. Except maybe the move away from religions in the past century, with Atheism being acceptable in many cultures nowadays.

message 34: by Pink (last edited May 22, 2018 03:58AM) (new)

Pink I'm slowly plodding along, just finished book 3. More action and mention of Italy, reminding us that we're dealing with the founding of Rome, while giving us epic battles.

How is everyone else getting on?

message 35: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1026 comments Pink, I'm starting book 5. I stopped posting because I wasn't sure anyone was still reading it.
Book 3 was interesting because of all the obstacles Aeneas has to overcome before he makes it to Libya. And there are so many parallels with Odysseus' journey in the Odyssey.
In Book 4, we have Dido pining away for Aeneas. Juno and Venus conspire to have them "marry" but for different reasons. Juno wants to prevent him from going to Italy and establishing an empire; and Venus wants Dido to fall for him so she can help him. Once again, we see the gods using people as pawns to further their goals.

message 36: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1026 comments The scene that plays out between Aeneas and Dido is so interesting. She considers herself married to him because they consummated their love. She pleads with him to stay, says her reputation is ruined, and then says the inevitable, "If you must go, then at least let me have your baby so I can remember you."

For his part, Aeneas denies they are married:

I never held the torches of a bridegroom,
Never entered upon the pact of marriage.

Aeneas is pretty torn, but he has a duty to perform. Jove has sent Mercury to remind him to get going. So in one sense, he doesn't have a choice but to abandon Dido and head for Italy. On the other hand, he comes across as someone who exploits Dido's love for him and then dumps her when she is no longer convenient.

Or perhaps I'm being to hard on him?

message 37: by Pink (last edited May 23, 2018 01:46AM) (new)

Pink I've finished book 4 now. A couple of things struck me. Firstly how quickly the scene of the marriage/ consummation was dealt with. I knew this chapter dealt with Dido and their meeting in the cave, so once they got there I was expecting at least a few lines devoted to their meeting and love, but there was hardly any of this. All of the focus was on the gods instead and what each of them got out of this union.

The other thing was why didn't Dido join Aeneas? Or arrange to join him later in Italy? Reading this as a story today, that's the most logical question that sprang to my mind, but Dido dismisses it as a possibility, preferring death. She was the queen of Carthage, but she wasn't from that land and had troubles there herself, in her refusal to marry Iarbas. I suppose the reason for this is that we're reading a certain narrative about the founding of Rome. Aeneas is part of that story, but Dido is not. I believe that in previous versions of her story, Aeneas has nothing to do with Dido, or her suicide. So Virgil is again making use of existing stories and reworking them to fit his own tale within the Roman narrative.

Aeneas does seem to dump Dido pretty easily, but it seems like familiar treatment when the gods get involved!

message 38: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1026 comments Pink wrote: "The other thing was why didn't Dido join Aeneas? Or arrange to join him later in Italy?.."

When Aeneas finally ends up in Italy, he marries the princess Lavinia. That's how he and his descendants end up ruling Italy. Dido would have been in the way.
Also, I think your point that this is a story about the founding of Rome and Aeneas is part of the story while Dido is not is well taken. She is treated as something dispensable--a means to an end, which, quite honestly, is the way a lot of the women are treated in Greek and Roman mythology.

message 39: by Pink (new)

Pink Certainly agree with women being treated as a means to an end. It's mostly about the heroes, epic battles and the gods. I suppose the female gods get a better deal though.

message 40: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Sorry I have been absent -- I have been under the weather for the past several days.

I have finished Book 4. I was surprised by how quickly Aeneas's time with Dido is disposed of - like Pink, I had expected more.

I blame the gods more than Aeneas for Dido's situation. First Venus has Cupid cause her to fall in love, then Juno arranges for her to feel (be?) married & finally Jove orders Aeneas to leave. I wondered if even the gods were being used by the Fates since their actions were the cause of Carthage & Rome becoming deadly enemies (perhaps Virgil intended that implication).

Pink, I too wondered a bit about why she didn't suggest going with him. Certainly abandoning her people would be difficult but better than suicide (which also means abandoning the Tyrians)!

message 41: by Pink (last edited May 23, 2018 10:36AM) (new)

Pink Leslie, sorry to hear you've been unwell. I hope you're feeling better now.

I think your mention of Carthage and Rome being deadly enemies is probably important here. I guess Virgil can't have Dido, as first queen of Carthage, living happily ever after with Aeneas. This wouldn't set the scene for all out war between the two cities. Instead, we get Dido's speech, which ends with -

Shore clash with shore, sea against sea and sword
against sword - this is my curse - war between all
our peoples, all their children, endless war!

So that seems a pretty definitive explanation for why they are enemies!

message 42: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 66 comments Dido could not go with Aeneas as she was the ruler of Carthago, a very important task to which she was binded by honour. As Aeneas not has an empire yet, it would be more logical if he stayed.
However: Virgil is writing this myth in retrospect, explaining where the bloody wars with Carthago stemmed from. By bringing in Dido he can explain the hatred between Rome and Carthago.

As to the role of gods in the Aeneid and the Iliad, here is an interesting article for those who want to know more.

message 43: by Beth (last edited Jun 19, 2018 11:11PM) (new)

Beth | 407 comments Tamara wrote: She considers herself married to him because they consummated their love.

From what it says in book IV (lines 230-239) it seems like they disagree on whether they're actually married or not. I thought that was interesting.

I've read up to Book VIII.

message 44: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I got distracted by a sci fi series I have been working on but I am back to this now. Sorry about that!

message 45: by Pink (new)

Pink I haven't been reading this, I'm still on book 6 or 7. I enjoy reading it, but never feel the urge to pick it up, so think it will be a slow slog for me.

Is anyone else still reading?

message 46: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1026 comments I've slowed down because I keep being distracted by other books I want to read.

message 47: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I am in Book 7 now. I am still interested in continuing, though I am going a bit slower now.

message 48: by Lalitha (new)

Lalitha (falcon_) | 30 comments I will be reading this book in a week's time but I am not sure if anyone else will be reading it then along with me.

message 49: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) | 1321 comments I thought May would be a quiet time to read this - what a mistake!
Due other commitmnts and being so tired I fall asleep mid-sentence I didn't make any progress but want to try again in June.

message 50: by Pink (new)

Pink I'm going to continue as well, but I suspect I'll take all of June and maybe even July to finish! I suppose there's no hurry though.

« previous 1
back to top