Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Aeneid Virgil

The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled from Troy to Italy where he became the ancestor of the Romans. Aneas is the hero of Virgil’s great epic poem “Aeneid.  Aeneas is the son of Anchises and Aphrodite (Venus).  Aeneas fought against the Greeks in the Trojan War. There is the legend that Aeneas carried his father Anchises on his shoulders out of the burning Troy.
Augustus Caesaar, the great Roman Emperor asked Virgil, the great Roman poet to write The Aeneid in celebration of the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, because this Battle made Augustus the master of the entire Roman world. Initially reluctant to accept the commission, Virgil took several years to write and re-write the poem, dying before he had finished the final draft. Virgil left instructions for The Aeneid to be burnt, but Augustus evidently considered the poem a fitting eulogy, and not burnt honoured the great epic and kept it for future generations.  Virgil’s choice of Aeneas rather than Augustus Caesar as the hero of his epic was inspired. Aeneas was already worshipped by the Romans as the founder of their race and civilization and Virgil wanted to explain he luxurious Roman civilization and to inspire belief in an equally glorious future.  Writing for the survivors of a long and savage civil war, Virgil constructed a fairy tale modelled on the epics of Homer namely Iliad and Odessey. Intellectually challenging and tragic in its view of the world, The Aeneid roused the Romans’ pride in their past and upheld Roman ideals. Set one thousand years before Augustus Caesaar, the epic poem The Aeneid alludes directly to the emperor in prophecies and visions throughout the narrative, subtly suggesting that after a century of decline, Augustus will give birth to the recovery of Roman fortunes. The Aeneid is composed of 9,896 lines and written in Latin hexameter, it is divided into twelve books.  The first six books tell the story of Aeneas’ wanderings, divine interventions, battles and speeches from Troy to Italy and the poem’s second half tells of the Trojans’ ultimate victory in the war against the Latins under the leadership of Aeneas. The epic poem is almost similar to Homer’s Iliad and Odessey in God’s interventions, battles, speeches and extended similies that are the stock-in-trade of Hellenistic epic verse. As a document the Aeneid is central to Roman culture. The poem is given universal and timeless relevance by the broad sweep of Virgil’s narrative which includes the lives of ordinary folk. The Aeneid is a story full of individuals who  behave as real people still do.
The Aeneid can be divided into twelve books and 1-6 books explain Aeneas’ journey from Troy to Latium in Italy and books 7-12 explain the war in Latium between the Trojans and the Latins. These twelve books reflect Virgil’s ambition to rival Homer by treating both the Odyssey’s wandering theme and the Iliad’s warfare themes.  Virgil begins his poem with a statement of his theme – “I sing of arms and of a man….” And an invocation the Muse “O Muse, recount to me the causes of the principal conflict in the story…” He then explains the reasons for the main conflict in the story of The Aeneid: the enmity of the goddess Juno against the Trojan people. Virgil imitates many styles of Homer. For instance, the Aeneid also begins in medias res (in the middle of the story) and then gives flash backs to past and future – this method is followed by Homer in Iliad and the Odessey. Virgil al so uses a lot of similies. The Trojan fleet led by Aeneas left Troy for Italy, the second home of the Trojans. It has been foretold that in Italy, Aeneas will give rise to a race both noble and courageous, a race which will become known to all nations. Juno is angry because she had not been chosen in the judgement of Paris, and because her favourite city Carthage will be destroyed by Aeneas’ descendants. Also, Ganymede, a Trojan prince, was chosen to be the cup bearer to her husband, Jupiter, replacing Juno’s daughter Hebe. So Juno asks Aeolus,the King of the Winds to release a violent wind to destroy the Trojan fleet. But Neptune notices this and is angry with Aeolus and Juno for the intrusion into his domain and asks the winds to calm down. So the Trojan fleet is not destroyed and takes shelter on the coast of Africa. There Aeneas’ mother Venus, in the form of a hunting woman, very similar to the goddess Diana, encourages Aeneas and recounts to him the history of the city Carthage. Thus Aeneas reaches the city and in the temple of Juno, he seeks and gains the favour of Dido, the queen of the city. Dido falls in love with Aeneas but he goes away from Carthage on the intervention of gods, and Dido burns herself on the funeral pyre.
Trojan Horse
At a banquet given in honour of the Trojans, Aeneas sadly recounts the events that occasioned the Trojans’ arrival. He begins the tale shortly after the war described in the Iliad. Cunning Ulysses devised a way for Greek warriors to gain entry into the city of Troy by hiding in a large wooden horse. The Greeks pretended to sail away, leaving a warrior Sinon, to inform the Trojans that the horse was an offering (gift) and that if it were taken inside the city compound, the Trojans would be able to conquer Greece. The Trojan priest Laocoon saw through the Greek plot and asked to destroy the wooden horse, but his protests fell on deaf ears, so he was angry and hurled his spear at the horse and at once two serpents emerged from the sea and swallowed Laocoon, along with his two sons and the Trojans took it as a punishment from the gods and trembled with fear. They took the wooden horse inside the fortified walls of the city and went to bed. At midnight the armed Greek warriors emerged from it and opened the city’s gates and allowed the returned Greek army to kill the Trojans. Thus the ultimate victory of the Trojan war was celebrated by the Greeks.
In a dream, Hector, the fallen Trojan hero advised Aeneas to run away with his family. Aeneas awoke and saw with horror what was happening to his beloved city Troy. At first he tried to fight the enemy, but soon he lost his comrades one by one and was left alone to defeat the Greeks. He witnessed the murder of the old King Priam by Achille’s son Pyrrhus. Aeneas’ mother Venus appeared to him and led him back to his house. Aeneas tells of his escape with his son Ascanius, and father Anchises, after the occurrence of various omens such as Ascanius’ head catching fire without his being harmed, a clap of thunder and a shooting star, all explained to Aeneas to run away from Troy, his beloved city. After fleeing Troy, Aeneas goes back for his wife, but she has been killed. Her ghost tells him that his destiny is to found a new city in the West.

Aeneas continues his story. He says that he mobilised all the surviving Trojans and built a fleet of ships and continued their journey through the Meditarranean taking shelter at various sea shores. At Thrace they found the last remains of a fellow Trojan, Polydorus; at the Srophades, they encountered the Harpy Celaeno; at Crete, they thought this is the place they had to build their city but God Apolo appeared to Aeneas and said it was not the place. At Buthrotum they tried to build a new city of Troy. At Buthrotum, Aeneas meets Andromache, the widow of Hector. She is still lamenting the irrepairable loss of her husband Hector and beloved child. There too Aeneas meets Helenus, one of Priam’s sons, who has the gift of prophecy.  Through him, Aeneas learns the destiny laid out for him: he is divinely advised to seek out the land of Italy (also known as Ausonia or Hesperia), where his descendants will not only prosper, but in time rule the entire known world. In addition, Helenus also asks him to go to Sibyl in Cumae. Thus Aeneas leaves Buthrotum and goes to Sicily (Trinacria).                                           …to be continued……                               kjt/15-03-2014

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