Originally Posted by HarryT
Yes, that's exactly what Virgil did. Books 1-6 of the Aeneid are based on the Odyssey, and books 7-12 on the Iliad.
I can definitely see Virgil's attempt to mirror the Iliad and the Odyssey in the Aeneid. To me that seems to be the only point of Book V, Aeneas staging athletic competitions at a memorial service for Anchises as did Achilles for the funeral of Patroclus in the Iliad. I see no other reason for this book in the Aeneid as it does nothing to further the story. All it reveals is that the Trojans do not mind poor sportsmanship and are more inclined to award prizes based on popularity and handsome appearance than on performance. There is the bit about the Trojan women attempting to burn all the Trojan ships to force the men to abandon plans for future travel and conquest in Italy in favor of just staying in the comfortable situation they find themselves in Sicily. Or is this a device Virgil includes to explain the presence of [future] cities occupied by Romans prior to the expansion of the Roman Republic to Sicily?
Virgil does seem to actually start following the Odyssey in Book VI though in that Aeneas journeys to the underworld to speak with his dead father and receive prophecies about the future as did Ulysses in the Odyssey. I found it interesting that the underworld is divided into Elysium and Tartarus, essentially corresponding to heaven and hell, respectively, in Abrahamic religions, and that Aeneas encounters his father Anchises in Elysium and Agamemnon in Tartarus. Definitely a Trojan point of view there?
Originally Posted by sun surfer
I also think it's interesting how sympathetic Virgil is to Dido. He wants to use this whole section to foreshadow why the Romans and Carthage fought yet he seems taken in by Dido's story himself and can't help making her tragic and sympathetic to the point that it makes his argument for why Rome eventually fights against Carthage less convincing; one comes away more with the sense that Carthage itself has a tragic and undeserved fate. Perhaps that's what Virgil really felt anyway but couldn't write explicitly.
Dido is a fascinating character though. To survive all of what she did prior, to escape and found a city in a foreign hostile land and be its leader, and then to go mad over this and commit suicide. Really quite a life.
I also found the portrayal of Queen Dido as a neurotic who becomes unhinged at being abandoned by Aeneas a bit odd. Her history depicts a competent and tough lady who overcomes the treachery of her brother, including the murder of her first husband Sychaeus (who the Aeneid reveals remains the true love of her life), and founds the successful city of Carthage. It is made clear as well though that Queen Dido had before the arrival of Aeneas put off aggressive suitors among the rulers of local Libyan tribes. Having first succumbed to Aeneas and then been abandoned by him she fears that such advances will be renewed with vigor that can't be resisted so this contributes also to here thoughts of suicide?