The Aeneid – Virgil

History records that Virgil wrote his epic poem The Aeneid to fulfill two purposes. One is to restore the faith among Romans in the “Greatness of Rome” at a time such faith was hard tried. The second reason is to legitimize the Caesar line to the Roman throne. To achieve this end, Virgil picks up a Trojan hero by the name of Aeneas, who is a mythical legend in Homer’s epic poem the Iliad, and weaves a tale of how he became the founding father of future Roman rulers.

Having drawn his hero from Homer, Virgil also draws his influence from Homer. The Aeneid in all sense is a structural mixture of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Out of the twelve books, first, six tell the story of Aeneas’s wanderings and many obstacles he faces in his voyage to Italy thus imitating the pattern of the Odyssey. The next six books hold the story of warfare; the war between the Trojans and the Rutulians for the throne of Italy and the royal bride. This part imitates Homer’s Iliad. However, after this second reading, I felt that Virgil, while imitating Homer, has also surpassed him in a different aspect. Virgil’s portrayal of this legendary story is more passionate and expressive than either of Homer’s classics. Even the hero Aeneas, is portrayed more like a human than the superheroes Hector, Achilles, and Odysseus, so as to make the human connection to the ruling Caser line more plausible.

The reading experience of the Aeneid was quite pleasant this time. The translation I read is quite commendable. The story was engaging and went quite smoothly through the twelve books. I enjoyed the story and very much enjoyed the dramatic effect with which it was portrayed.

One particular thing struck me after this read. According to this tale, the Trojans, representing the east, are to become the founding fathers of the western Roman line, mixing them with the native Italians. But, here Virgil says that Jupiter, in order to satisfy his wife, Juno, promises that the new mixed race emerging from the Trojan-Italian union will keep the customs, speech, dress, values, and lifestyle of the native Italians, and not of the Trojans. I couldn’t help wondering whether this was Virgil’s way of expressing the triumph of the West over the East.

However, from a modern reader’s perspective, this epic poem is a literary justice to the Trojans who are finally rescued from their humiliation and restored to their dignity. For the sympathizers of Troy and Trojans, Virgil has furnished a good antidote.

Rating: 4/5

About the author

Piyangie Jay Ediriwickrema is an Attorney-at-Law by profession. Her devotion to literature has taken shape in reading and reviewing books of various genres set in different periods of time. She dabs at a little poetry and fiction of her own and hopes to share her work with the readers in the future.