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Myths and Legends
HUM 2051: Civilization I
Fall 2011
Dr. Perdigao
October 21-24, 2011
The Legacy
• Founding of Rome in 753 BCE with mythological beginnings
• Legend that it was founded by Romulus and Remus; their parents were
killed and they were raised by she-wolf
• 270 BCE—Roman lit began when Greek slave translated The Odyssey from
Greek to Latin
• Begins with translation—Greek imitation—essential to formation of Rome,
Roman culture
• Only 2 kinds of literature Romans excelled at: lyric and epic
Contextualizing Virgil
• Virgil (70 BCE-19 BCE)
• In spirit of imitation and respect but Romans also alter by enlargement
(size and grandeur)
• Inheritance, respect, but alteration by change
• Virgil was a member of literary and social avant garde, goal to challenge
• His aim was to trace responses to government through literature (like
Ovid and Catullus) but with new empire of Augustus
• Chaos and order—order as the ascendancy of the power of Augustus
Constructing The Aeneid
• Values:
–Respect for the past
–Personal subordinated for good of family/state
–Intense reverence for authority
–Stoic self-control (emotions held in check)
• Virgil reimagines Homeric hero while at the same time honoring tradition
of Homer’s epic and imitating it
• Virgil spent 12 years on The Aeneid. At the time of his death, he wanted to
write for three more years; when he was on his deathbed he told his friends
to destroy it because he “hadn’t gotten it right yet”
• But it is considered one of the most “perfected” works
Virgil’s Frames
• As “eulogy” of Roman values (early reference to Fides and Vesta [939]),
the cost at which they are achieved and sustained
• Translation from prose to poetic form (not always complete hexameter
• After completing the poem, he tries to fix remaining lines but does not
change chronological sequence
Virgil’s Tradition
• Eclogues (37 BCE) as country vs. city life, pastorals
• Georgics as farmer-animal husbandry—practical compared to idealized
country life in Eclogues
• Politics of The Aeneid: idealization of central authoritative political power
as best way to organize society
• Beehives—symbol of Georgics—centralized authoritative figure, all
subordinated to task for good of the hive
• Beehive—as ideal community, Roman politics
• As cautionary tale from the history of the Republic?
Structure and Form
• The Aeneid—title
• Imitates The Iliad—but names the character, combines 2 works
• Invokes muse, begins in medias res, includes epic similes, Homeric epithets
(pious Aeneas, dutiful Aeneas)
• But the change is the focus on founding Rome rather than on personality of
• Issue of destiny—as action (unimaginable in Homer’s works)
• Books 1-6=wanderings of Aeneas from Troy, reflection of The Odyssey
• Books 7-12=battles of Aeneas and his troops, reflection of The Iliad
New Order
• Aeneas’ epithet is “pious” while the Greek hero’s physical and intellectual
traits are emphasized; Aeneas’ ethics, piety or devotion to his family, gods,
and country are emphasized
• Nostos=homecoming . . . Journey
• Pietas=deep respect and reverence for one’s father, family, country,
ancestors, and the gods
• Augustus (Julius Caesar’s great-nephew, adopted son): rule=civic renewal
of Rome, revival of traditional religious devotion, and the fostering of a
new patriotism. The arts become important vehicles for the ideals
reflected in Virgil’s work.
Comparison of Terms
• Achilles and Odysseus are motivated by “obligation by personal gain and
glory and display heroic wrath” while Aeneas is driven by obligation or
duty (pietas) (Quartarone 202).
• Juno’s wrath as motivation—like anger of Poseidon (Odyssey) and wrath of
Achilles (Iliad); her anger over Dido and Carthage, injured honor (202)
• Venus—Thetis (Iliad), Athena (Odyssey), as protectresses
• Mercury intervenes to tell Aeneas that he must forsake personal glory and
personal relationships (like/unlike when Hermes tells Odysseus that he
must leave Calypso)
Close Readings
• Opening lines, invocation to the muse, conceptual shift
• “Is this / The palm for loyalty? This our power restored?” (937)
• Response: “fated things to come,” the “gift of empire without end” (938).
From mythical beginnings to reality
• Dido’s story, betrayal, Sychaeus, Pygmalion
• Venus’ treatment of Aeneas, disguise
• Venus’ spell
• Ascanius/Iulus
• (“while Ilium stood”)
• Stories retold, caution of Trojans emphasized