Read The Aeneid Online

Authors: Virgil

The Aeneid

BOOK: The Aeneid
5.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

THE AENEID

PUBLIUS VERGILIUS MARO
was born in 70
BC
near Mantua in the north of Italy, where his parents owned a farm. He had a good education and went to perfect it in Rome. There he came under the influence of Epicureanism and later joined an Epicurean colony on the Gulf of Naples where he was based for the rest of his life. In 42
BC
he began to write the
Eclogues
, which he completed in 37
BC
, the year in which he accompanied Horace to Brindisi. The
Georgics
were finished in 29
BC
, and he devoted the rest of his life to the composition of the
Aeneid
. In his last year he started on a journey to Greece; meeting Augustus at Athens, he decided to travel back with him but he fell ill at Megara. He died in 19
BC
on reaching Brindisi.

DAVID WEST
is an Aberdonian, educated at the local grammar school and university and then at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He has taught in the universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh and was Professor of Latin at Newcastle upon Tyne from 1969 to 1992. He notes that no such career would now be possible, since the departments of Classics at Aberdeen and Sheffield are now both defunct. His publications include
Reading Horace
(1967),
The Imagery and Poetry of Lucretius
(1969) and
Horace
:
The Complete Odes and Epodes
(1997). He has also produced editions with text, translation and commentary of the first three books of Horace’s Odes (1995, 1998 and 2002). He is now working on a commentary on Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

VIRGIL

The Aeneid

Translated and with an Introduction by
DAVID WEST

REVISED EDITION

PENGUIN BOOKS

PENGUIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4v 3B2
Penguin Books India (P) Ltd, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India
Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd, Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank 2196, South Africa

EISBN: 978–0–140–44932–7

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

www.penguin.com

First published 1990
Published in Penguin Classics 1991
Reissued with a revised Introduction and new Further Reading 2003
1

Translation and Introduction copyright © David West, 1990, 2003

All rights reserved

The moral right of the translator has been asserted

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject
to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent,
re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s
prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in
which it is published and without a similar condition including this
condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

EISBN: 978–0–140–44932–7

Contents

Acknowledgements

Introduction

Further Reading

Note on the Translation

THE AENEID

Appendix I: The Parade of Future Romans in the Underworld (Book 6, lines 756–892)

Appendix II: The Shield of Aeneas (Book 8, lines 626–728)

Appendix III: Genealogical Trees

The Julian Family

The House of Priam

The House of Anchises

Maps, Gazetteer and Select Index

The Voyages of Aeneas

Rome during the Reign of Augustus

Gazetteer

Select Index

Acknowledgements

This translation is of course based on such of the vast scholarly literature as I have been able to read. Previous translations have been plundered. Standard commentaries have been consulted, notably R. G. Austin on Books 1, 2, 4 and 6; R. D. Williams on 3 and 5; C. J. Fordyce on 7 and 8. Particularly valuable have been E. Norden on 6, P. T. Eden on 8 and Stephen Harrison on 10. The
Aeneidea
of James Henry have been an inspiration.

Rosemary Burton and E. L. Harrison criticized the whole translation. Stephen Harrison, James Morwood and Nicholas Horsfall commented on whole books or extended passages. Pamela West, Janet Watson and Jane Curran were shrewd and generous consultants. To all of these I owe a debt that cannot be paid, as I do to my wonderful colleagues in the best of all imaginable university departments of Classics.

To the great dead who will not die

Introduction
A POEM FOR OUR TIME

The
Aeneid
is the story of a man who lived three thousand years ago in the city of Troy in the north-west tip of Asia Minor. What has that to do with us?

Troy was besieged and sacked by the Greeks. After a series of disasters Aeneas met and loved a woman, Dido, queen of Carthage, but obeyed the call of duty to his people and his gods and left her to her death. Then, after long years of wandering, he reached Italy, fought a bitter war against the peoples of Latium and in the end formed an alliance with them which enabled him to found his city of Lavinium. From these beginnings, 333 years later, in 753
BC
, the city of Rome was to be founded. The Romans had arrived in Italy.

The
Aeneid
is still read and still resonates because it is a great poem. Part of its relevance to us is that it is the story of a human being who knew defeat and dispossession, love and the loss of love, whose life was ruled by his sense of duty to his gods, his people and his family, particularly to his beloved son Ascanius. But it was a hard duty and he sometimes wearied of it. He knew about war and hated the waste and ugliness of it, but fought, when he had to fight, with hatred and passion. After three millennia, the world is still full of such people. While we are of them and feel for them we shall find something in the
Aeneid
. The gods have changed, but for human beings there is not much difference:

Pitiless Mars was now dealing grief and death to both sides with impartial hand. Victors and vanquished killed and were killed and
neither side thought of flight. In the halls of Jupiter the gods pitied the futile anger of the two armies and grieved that men had so much suffering…

10.755–9

But the
Aeneid
is not simply a contemplation of the general human predicament. It is also full of individual human beings behaving as human beings still do. Take the charm and humour of Dido putting the Trojans at their ease at 1.562–78; the grief of Andromache when she meets the Trojan youth who is the same age as her son Astyanax would have been if he had been allowed to live – we do not need to be told that Astyanax is the name on the second altar at 3.305; the cunning of Acestes and Aeneas as they shame the great old champion back into the ring at 5.389–408; the childish joke of Iulus at 7.116 and its momentous interpretation; the aged hero feasting his eyes on his old friend’s son at 8.152 or realizing at 8.560 that he can do nothing now except talk; the native’s abuse of the foreigners from 9.598; the lying harridans at the beginning of Book 10 or the death of Mezentius and his horse from 10.858; the growling of Aeneas and the fussing and fumbling of the doctor as he plies his mute, inglorious art from 12.387.

The
Aeneid
presents a heroic view of the life of man in all its splendour and anguish, but it is also full of just observation of the details of individual behaviour. It is not yet out of date.

THE
AENEID
IN ITS OWN TIME

Virgil was born seventy years before Christ. In 44
BC
, after a century of civil war and disorder, Julius Caesar was assassinated by Brutus and Cassius in the name of liberty. His heir was his nineteen-year-old grand-nephew and adopted son, Octavian, astute, ruthless and determined. In 42
BC
at Philippi Brutus and Cassius were defeated and the fortunes of Virgil were at their lowest ebb. His family estates at Mantua were confiscated by the victors to provide land for their soldiers to settle on. But he won the patronage of Maecenas, one of the two chief aides of
Octavian, and published his pastoral
Eclogues
in 37
BC
. In 29
BC
, after Octavian had made himself master of the known world by defeating Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, Virgil finished what John Dryden called ‘the best poem of the best poet’, the
Georgics
, on the agriculture of Italy. Throughout the twenties Virgil was at work on his
Aeneid
, a poem in imitation of Homer’s
Iliad
and
Odyssey
and in praise of Augustus, the name Octavian had taken on 16 January 27
BC
. Virgil died before finishing it, on his way back from Athens with Augustus in 19
BC
. To qualify for membership of the Senate, a Roman had to be extremely wealthy. When Virgil died, he owned property ten times that requirement. He left instructions that the
Aeneid
was to be burned. These instructions were countermanded by Augustus.

It is therefore clear that Virgil wrote and wrote acceptably in praise of his patron, the ruler of Rome.

It would be easy to despise or dislike the poem for that. But wrong, for the following reasons:

(1)
Rome had endured a century of violence, discord, corruption and insecurity of life and property. Augustus, after intense effort and suffering, notably in his disastrous campaign in Sicily in 37
BC
, by his victory at Actium promised peace, order, prosperity and moral regeneration. He even, according to Suetonius (
Life of Augustus
89), fostered the talents of his generation in every possible way. It was the promise of a Golden Age, and in this euphoria Virgil and his friend Horace, another client of Maecenas and Augustus, wrote their great patriotic poems. At that time it was not foolish to hope and to believe.

(2)
Although Virgil wrote in praise of Augustus and the ideal of empire, he was no Chauvin. He loved country people and country ways, their traditions and their stubborn independence. He responded to human love, between man and woman, between father and son, between men and their homes (consider only 6.450 ff., 12.435 ff., 10.779 ff.), and he knew that empire had to be bought with the coin of human suffering and deprivation. He also knew the other side – the hard work and danger,
the dedication and sacrifice which empire demanded of those who had made it and who maintained it, notably Augustus. Virgil does not solve the problems inherent in all this. He does not even pose them. The
Aeneid
is a story. But behind that story we have all the issues which would have moved a contemporary Roman, and may still move us.

(3)
Praise is one thing. Flattery is another, and the
Aeneid
is not flattery. The action of the epic is set a thousand years before Augustus and it praises him in two ways: first, by telling the story of his great ancestor, the first founder of Rome, in such a way as resembles the story of Augustus himself, its third founder. The resemblances are not pointed out. The reader is left to observe and ponder them for himself if he wishes. The second mode of praise is direct allusion to Augustus in prophecies and visions, notably near the beginning and end of the poem, in the descent of Aeneas to consult his father in the Underworld at the end of Book 6, and on the great shield of Aeneas at the end of Book 8.

The
Aeneid
is, among other things, a search for a vision of peace and order for Rome and for humanity. To see its outlines through the mists of time nothing is more helpful than the family tree of the Julians on
page 295
. Allusions to these names in the
Aeneid
are often to be heard as praise of Augustus, the contemporary Julian.

THE
AENEID
BOOK BY BOOK
Background

Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy, judged Venus to be more beautiful than Juno and Pallas Athene, and claimed his reward, Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. The Greeks gathered an army and sacked the city of Troy after a ten years’ siege. Aeneas escaped with his father, Anchises, and his son, Ascanius Iulus. Driven by the jealous hatred of Juno, he wandered across the Mediterranean for six years, trying to found a new city. At
the opening of the poem, his father has just died in Sicily and Aeneas is sailing for Italy.

BOOK
1
STORM AND BANQUET

Juno sends a fearful storm which wrecks the Trojan ships on the coast of Libya, near Carthage. There the Trojans are hospitably received by Dido, queen of Carthage. Venus, mother of Aeneas, anxious for the safety of her son, contrives that Dido should fall in love with him.

BOOK: The Aeneid
5.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Game Theory by Barry Jonsberg
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Embittered Ruby by Nicole O'Dell
Salt by Mark Kurlansky
The Great Rift by Edward W. Robertson
Sleeping Handsome by Jean Haus