Translator: Robert Fagles
Published: originally around 30 BCE; this edition in 2006
Genre: classic historical fiction epic poetry
Length: 386 pages of text, 484 pages total
Setting: various locations within the Mediterranean Sea, after the Trojan War
Summary: Short version: Aeneas and his men travel the Mediterranean to found Rome
Long version: Aeneas and a band of Trojans escape from Troy as it is being sacked by the Greeks. They travel through the Mediterranean Sea, looking for a place to settle. Aeneas is given a vision of a new land that he and his people will find. once there, they will be the progenitors of a grand new Empire (aka Rome). They think that place is Crete, but a famine convinced them they had read the signs wrong. They go back to traveling, avoiding the monsters mentioned by Odysseus. Juno blows them off course to Carthage. There, Aeneas falls in love with Queen Dido, with a little divine help. They are prepared to live happily ever after, but Jove drives Aeneas on. He finally makes it to the Tiber River in Italy. He’s all set to marry a Rutulian princess. Juno stirs up Turnus, who had previously been promised the hand of the princess. Turnus brings his people to fight the Trojans. Eventually, Jove convinces Juno to let him have his way and allow the Trojans to win.
Final thoughts: I didn’t like this story as much as the Iliad. The beginning was particularly boring to me as they travel from place to place. For example, they’re warned about the monsters like Charybdis and Scylla, so I’m expecting something exciting. But no – they just avoid them and nothing happens.
Then they end up in Carthage with Queen Dido, who did not impress me at all. It wasn’t fair because she was divinely encouraged to fall in love with Aeneas (because of course the gods can’t help but meddle). However, when Aeneas leaves her behind, she is so distraught she kills herself. Get a grip! Aeneas wasn’t that awesome. At least she had the presence of mind to curse him first, so she gets a bit of vengeance.
One thing I like better in this story was Virgil’s battle descriptions. He was more creative with his descriptions of death than Homer. It could be because he was writing his epic down, so he didn’t have to worry about remembering all the different forms of dying. Overall, it’s another story showing how the Greek gods just couldn’t help but meddling in people’s lives. We did get the story of the Trojan Horse in this book, since I waited in vain throughout the Iliad for that particular bit of history.
Title comes from: It was the story of Aeneas
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #35 for 2018, and a V in my Author Reading the Alphabet challenge
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