Understanding Virgil’s Aeneid

This Web page has been designed to assist students to:

  • Explore the Roman Empire.
  • Develop perspective on the influences of poets on one another.
  • Deepen appreciation for ancient epic poetry.

For ease of study, topics have been divided into 4 categories

  1. Virgil
  2. Golden Age of Latin Literature
  3. Aeneid
    1. Overview
    2. Themes in focus

Note: Some of these categories will naturally overlap.

Virgil (70-19 B.C.)

A poet who defined the Roman Empire, Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil or Vergil) was the greatest poet of ancient Rome and an outstanding poet of world literature.

Virgil Encycolopedia Britannica article which spotlight the political background during Virgil’s lifetime. Subscription is required, but a free trial exists. Citation information is at the bottom of the article.

Virgil David Wilson-Okamura’s translation of Aelius Donatus’s Life of Virgil. The text includes information about Virgil’s childhood and poetry.

Virgil Wikipedia biography on Virgil. Links in notes at the bottom of essay for further research.

Virgil A public domain essay about the life of Virgil from Fordham University’s Internet History Sourcebooks Project.

Virgil Project Gutenberg’s Vergil – A Biography is available to download to your computer or mobile device or read online.

Virgil A short biography from PBS to complement The Roman Empire series.

Golden Age of Latin Literature

From 27 B.C. to A.D. 14 the emperor Augustus took a personal interest in the literary works produced during his years of power. During this period Virgil produced the Aeneid which took 11 years. Virgil was editing the poem when he died.

The Roman Empire A summary from PBS to complement The Roman Empire series.

The Roman Empire A website focused on illustrating the history of the Roman Empire. Interactive maps, photographs and video of historical sites and reenacted battles.

The Roman Empire Short essay about the development of the Roman Empire.

Ancient Epic Poetry Information defining the genre of ancient epic poetry. Most of the information given is on Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey and less to Aeneid.

Homer and Virgil An essay by John D. Cox comparing Homer’s work to Virgil’s Aeneid. Cox writes about how Virgil transforms Homer’s characters into a new sort of hero.

Homer and Virgil An essay by Nancy Thuleen detailing the interaction and reaction between these two poets. Thuleen spends a lot of time detailing the geographical and topological imagery in the poetry.

Homer and Virgil Slideshow combining history and literature of the ancient epic poem and the contributions of these poets.

Augustus and Virgil Essay which focuses on the patron-client relationship and how the Aeneid emerged from it.

Overview

Aeneid YouTube lecture (7:19) with slideshow introducing the Aeneid with story background and information on Virgil.

Aeneid Short (:36) film of Dido and Aeneas. The actors speak in Latin (English subtitles) and retain the Latin metre of Virgil’s poetry.

Aeneid YouTube rap song (4:54) which summarizes the epic poem. Perfomed by TPaul and Shelbytime. Viewing discretion is advised. Mild language.

Aeneid Summary explaining how the Roman culture differed from the Greek culture and how this shaped the Aeneid. A map of Aeneas’s voyage and notes on Books 1-6 are included.

Aeneid A basic level guide with synopsis and analysis of the epic poem. Includes links for deeper understanding.

Aeneid Line by line summary of each line of the Aeneid. Can be printed for reference.

Theme in focus: Fate and Free Will

Fate and Free Will Shmoop summary of fate and free will in Aeneid. Questions to prompt thinking about the theme with a link to quotes referring to fate and free will.

Fate and Free Will Published in 1907, this essay details why Aeneas had free will within his fate. Quotes from the Aeneid are in Latin.

Fate and Free Will Essay by Christina Vester which argues that Aeneas was aware of his fate and made decisions to follow it. PDF format. Part 1 of 2.

The Role of Fate A series of blog posts written by research student about how fate and free will are perceived in classical texts. The comments after each post also offer insight into the role of fate in the Aeneid.

The Role of Fate A Working Paper by Gemino Abad about duty and fate in the Roman culture. Background information includes brief discussion on Virgil’s Messianic Book 6. PDF format.

 

Theme in focus: Warfare

Warfare Article by George E. Duckworth about the military campaign in Books 7-12. Full access to the article through libraries.

Warfare A website comparing warfare in the Aeneid with modern wars. Covers topics on nationalism and propaganda, also includes a photostory of the Aeneid.

Warfare Article by William Hardy Alexander discussing how the Aeneid resembles a military manual. Full access to the article through libraries.

Warfare Shmoop summary of how Virgil uses warfare in the Aeneid. Includes questions to prompt further thinking about the topic with a link to quotes about warfare.

 

Theme in focus: Religion

Religion Essay comparing visits to the Underworld in the Illiad and Aeneid.

Religion Essay about the influence of the Aeneid in shaping Roman thoughts on religion. Free subscription required for full access.

Religion Shmoop summary about religion in the Aeneid. Includes questions to prompt further thinking about the topic with a link to quotes about religion.