Monday, July 13, 2015
Virgil - The Aeneid
Another book crossed off my Classics Club list, and this one was another CLASSIC classic. I'd heard a lot of amazing things about this book, most of them from my little brother, who did Latin all through high school and is still a big fan of Greek and Roman literature.
First things first: this is basically fan fiction. Virgil wrote it at a time when Rome was in upheaval, and this legitimises not only the origins of Rome, but the reign of Julius Caesar and, by extension, Augustus who was emperor at the time Virgil was writing. So yeah. It's basically rewriting Roman history to authenticate it and give it a basis in the existing history of the classical world as it was known at the time.
In The Aeneid, Virgil takes a minor character from The Iliad whose fate is ambiguous. He has him lead a party of Trojans away from Troy as it falls, and they travel across the Aegean and around Sicily to Carthage before heading up into Italy and fighting a series of wars to claim their homeland and found Rome. Virgil died before finishing the poem, so it finishes in the middle of a series of wars, prior to the founding of Rome.
I...had mixed feelings about this. I really loved the initial books, the story of Aeneas and his family trying to get out of Troy, the story of the Trojan horse, the story of their flight across the Aegean to Carthage. All of that was really compelling stuff, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I even enjoyed the slightly weird sixth book where Aeneas visits the Underworld and his dead father gives him a prophecy about Rome's future.
But then the second half of the story is battle after battle after battle. We get introduced to character after character just before they die in horribly graphic ways, interspersed with discussions from the gods about what's going on and debates about who should marry who to end the wars. And uuuuuuuugh.
Honestly, it doesn't surprise me that I felt this way. The first half of the story follows the style of The Odyssey, which I very much enjoyed. The second half is more like The Iliad, which I found to be kiiiiiind of a repetitive snorefest.
I ended up giving The Aeneid three stars. Like I said, I very much enjoyed the beginning of it but by the end? I kind of just wanted it to be over. And then it ended all too abruptly. Sigh.
Have you read it? What did you think??