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Old 09-20-2012, 06:13 PM   #31
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So I am now through Book III and have to say that I am enjoying this the most of the three classic saga that Issybird inspired a group read for. Probably more the change in original author, but maybe the change in translator to Mandelbaum is a factor as well. So I have just a couple comments so far, and given the existing discussions I won't bother with spoiler tags. I am hoping our resident Greek and Roman classical literature experts can provide some comment.

I was familiar with the major plot points of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but unfamiliar with the Aeneid. Did the Romans at the time of Virgil really believe that they were descendents of refugees from Troy? One of the reasons that the goddess Juno visits such hardship on the Trojans as the sail from Troy toward their final destination is stated to be that their descendents [as Romans] will destroy Juno's favored city of Carthage, that in addition to Juno's ongoing hostility to Trojans. I had to check, but in fact the people of Carthage had their own gods, and did not worship any of the Greek pantheon of gods. However, the Romans at the time of Virgil did, having assimilated them from Greece. Surely Virgil would have been aware of these facts?
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:17 PM   #32
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Good question about Juno and Carthage. I've been hunting around for an answer, and this is the best I could find: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanit. The link on Interpretatio Graeca seems to offer some clues.
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:24 PM   #33
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I think that they did perhaps just interpret a local goddess as being a local incarnation of sorts of Juno. When reading about Celts and Slavs I remember the Latin text saying things along the lines of "The Slavs worshipped Jupiter, whom they called Perun" or "The Celts worship Mercury, called such and such by them".

Also, an interesting link between the Italian peninsula and Asia Minor is seen in the Stele from Lemnos:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemnian_language

The Lemnian language was apparently spoken on Lemnos in the 6th cent. B.C., and seems to be related to Etruscan. Etruscan does not otherwise have any known relatives, and was spoken in what is modern Tuscany. It exerted a strong influence on Roman culture and the Latin language as well to some extent. Perhaps there was some sort of movement between Italy and Asia Minor that gave rise to legends about an Asian origin.

At any rate, I was told in university by one professor that the romans likely did believe to some degree that they were descended from Aeneas, which is evidenced by Livy in book one of Ab urbe condita as well. He interpreted these myths as being a way for the Romans to legitimize themselves to the Greeks in a way - to prove to them that they had an ancient and noble heritage, and weren't just newcomers to mediterranean politics.

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Old 09-22-2012, 01:13 PM   #34
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Thank you to both rkomar and Latinandgreek form your comments. I have now completed Book IV and found that Virgil has the Libyan tribes from which Carthage obtained rights to build the city also worshiping the same gods (Jupiter, Juno, etc.). So did Virgil just wanted all involved to be under the influence of the same gods?

In Book IV, things really got good in the sense of drama.

Spoiler:
Aeneas marries poor Queen Dido to make his temporary stay there more pleasant, but when Mercury arrives to tell him that Jupiter wants him to be on his way to Italy he attempts to sneak away without as much as a goodbye to Dido. What a guy! So Dido kills herself, but first lays a curse on the descendents of Aeneas. The good news is that Aeneas is once more available ladies.

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Old 09-22-2012, 01:42 PM   #35
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For that matter, why would the Trojans in the Iliad be worshiping the same gods as the Greeks? This was long before the Hellenistic period.
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Old 09-23-2012, 03:11 AM   #36
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The Greeks believed that everyone worshipped the same gods. They may, perhaps, call them by different names, but they were the same gods. When Greek travellers such as Herodotus visited Egypt, for example, they equated each of the Egyptian gods with a Greek god.
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Old 09-23-2012, 03:28 PM   #37
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The Greeks believed that everyone worshipped the same gods. They may, perhaps, call them by different names, but they were the same gods. When Greek travellers such as Herodotus visited Egypt, for example, they equated each of the Egyptian gods with a Greek god.
The Greeks seemed to have a deity for every conceivable human trait and for everything that mattered in their lives. I don't know if any other culture could have done the same thing in the other direction (i.e. equate each Greek deity with one of their own). Did the Romans come up with new names for all of them?
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Old 09-23-2012, 04:20 PM   #38
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The Greeks seemed to have a deity for every conceivable human trait and for everything that mattered in their lives. I don't know if any other culture could have done the same thing in the other direction (i.e. equate each Greek deity with one of their own). Did the Romans come up with new names for all of them?
They both had Apollo.
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Old 09-23-2012, 04:20 PM   #39
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The Romans "adopted" the Greek pantheon lock, stock, and barrel. They gave many of them new names, certainly, but they adopted the whole body of Greek mythology practically unchanged.
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Old 09-23-2012, 05:24 PM   #40
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They both had Apollo.
Ha! Then I guess the answer is No. I was kind of asking if they only renamed the major deities, or if they cared about and renamed even the lesser ones, but my question was broken even before I asked it. Thanks to HarryT for answering my implicit question.

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Old 09-23-2012, 06:09 PM   #41
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Well, I don't think they renamed the Greek deities per se, but rather identified them with deities that they already knew, i.e. Hestia with Vesta. Traces of the original Roman myths, not received from the Greeks, can be seen in Livy, Virgil and other authors.
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Old 09-23-2012, 06:32 PM   #42
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I think I read this in the Introduction to my translation (or maybe it was in Alberto Manguel's Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey), that Virgil pretty much put all the responsibility for the major actions on the deities, whereas the humans still had some responsibility in Homer's works. I've read the first five books in The Aeneid, and this really stands out to me so far. The humans are pretty low in initiative (except where the negative traits like greed or pride are involved), and seem to be nothing more than pawns, whether dutiful or roguish. I wonder if this was a prevailing view of the time, or if Virgil just uses it to bolster the idea of Rome's divine inception?
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Old 09-23-2012, 06:52 PM   #43
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The edition I'm reading mentions the different gods in the annotations. For instance, the Carthaginians worshipped Astarte among others, who is somewhat the equivalent of Venus. So the Romans just considered her Venus under another name.

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The Greeks believed that everyone worshipped the same gods. They may, perhaps, call them by different names, but they were the same gods. When Greek travellers such as Herodotus visited Egypt, for example, they equated each of the Egyptian gods with a Greek god.
The Greeks were probably onto something then. The different groups of gods probably all started from a similar place, and then broke off and evolved separately, similar to the way Judaism, Christianity and Islam all evolved from a similar place.


~


Separately, it's very interesting reading this after The Odyssey. I never had any clue how similar they both are. It seems as if Virgil decided to basically copy the structure of the Odyssey very closely and try to insert his own story about Aeneas into it, and, as issybird mentioned, even starting media res.

One difference I've noticed is that Virgil can be smaller in scope. He uses the gods less, includes less fantastic things, and he keeps action smaller and tighter more often. An example is the scene in the beginning where Aeneas and his friend hunt for dear near Carthage. In that scene, I visualise the forest on top of the cliffs, and I feel as if I'm close by the two men and seeing deer run by in the distance. Whereas in Homer, I'd imagine he may start that way but then start zooming back by talking of the entire forest, then the entire area and finally the gods above and it would be more as if I were viewing the scene from far away with Homer. Or rather, using film terms, Virgil employs more close-ups and zoom-ins while Homer likes the panoramic shots and zoom-outs.

Another difference is in the way they were written. Homer's was oral, and though they sprung from tradition it seems he may have made a lot of the structure up. On the other hand, Virgil is trying to take literally every myth and legend and story related to Aneas' odyssey and his settlement in Italy, even contradictory ones, and fit it into this one epic. With the annotations I'm also reading its interesting seeing how he's doing this. However, I do think, along with this epic occurring in the known world unlike Odysseus' more mythical unknown ends of the world, it lends a little less excitement to the epic since the structure he was working with was much more constrained.

For instance, in regard to it being interesting seeing how he fit contradictory myths all together, apparently in some myths it wasn't Dido who falls in love with Aeneas and kills herself but instead was her sister Anna. So what does Virgil do but make Dido and Anna "soul mates" and insinuate that Anna was also in love with Aeneas and perhaps even seeing him on the side. And when Dido kills herself Anna climbs up on the pyre as well and laments her own soul dying since her soulmate is. There are many other instances of intertwining of separate contradictory myths into one throughout what I've read so far.


~


Finally, I do have two questions for anyone who may know the answer.


The first is concerning Virgil's account of the Trojan Horse trick. He, or rather Aeneas, mentions that Laocoon, who originally pierced the Trojan horse with a spear, ends up getting eaten by two monstrous serpents in retaliation for hurting the "gift to a god".

I don't understand what is trying to be explained here. The Trojan Horse ruse was supposed to be a trick and Sinon a liar, yet something really happens that proves that Sinon is telling the truth (even though we still know he's a liar)? It seems contradictory.

The best I can think of is that either Aeneas is lying about the serpents to make his people's gullibility seem less blame-worthy to the Carthaginians, or Virgil himself is trying to make the Romans' mythical ancestors gullibility seem less blame-worthy by including this contradictory event. But wouldn't Virgil have noticed the contradiction?


Second is concerning the time travel to Dido's Carthage. My edition explains how the Romans in Virgil's time knew Carthage wasn't built in Aeneas' time, and Dido lived long after Aeneas, so the whole Carthage segment is a bit of not only traveling through space but also time for Aeneas and the other Trojans.

What I wonder is, is that intentional? Is Virgil purposefully meaning for Aeneas to be traveling in time, or instead is he trying to rewrite history to make them all contemporaries? The annotations in the edition I'm reading suggest the former, citing evidence such as the Carthaginians building their city with art depicting the fall of Troy and many specifics including even Aeneas himself, which wouldn't seem likely only a few years after the fall in a non-Trojan city far away from Troy. Also, the Carthaginians and Dido seem to know all about Aeneas. But then, it's odd that no one seems to mention this time-travel if that were Virgil's intention. They all seem to take it in stride.
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Old 09-24-2012, 03:55 AM   #44
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Separately, it's very interesting reading this after The Odyssey. I never had any clue how similar they both are. It seems as if Virgil decided to basically copy the structure of the Odyssey very closely and try to insert his own story about Aeneas into it, and, as issybird mentioned, even starting media res.
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.

Quote:
The first is concerning Virgil's account of the Trojan Horse trick. He, or rather Aeneas, mentions that Laocoon, who originally pierced the Trojan horse with a spear, ends up getting eaten by two monstrous serpents in retaliation for hurting the "gift to a god".

I don't understand what is trying to be explained here. The Trojan Horse ruse was supposed to be a trick and Sinon a liar, yet something really happens that proves that Sinon is telling the truth (even though we still know he's a liar)? It seems contradictory.

The best I can think of is that either Aeneas is lying about the serpents to make his people's gullibility seem less blame-worthy to the Carthaginians, or Virgil himself is trying to make the Romans' mythical ancestors gullibility seem less blame-worthy by including this contradictory event. But wouldn't Virgil have noticed the contradiction?
The story of Laocoon is a much older story than Virgil; Virgil certainly didn't make it up - he simply incorporates this old myth (as he did so many others) as an episode in the Aeneid. The best account we have of the original story is in the epic poem the "Posthomerica", by the 4th century Roman poet Quintus Smyrnaeus. In that original version, the serpents are sent by Athena who, as you'll remember from our reading of the Iliad, was supporting the Greek side in the Trojan war.

The Greek playwright Sophocles wrote a tragedy (now, alas, lost) telling the story of the death of Laocoon.

In Virgil's version of the story, it's Minerva who's supporting the Greeks, and she who sends the serpents, as is indicated by the fact that the serpents go into the shrine of Minerva after devouring Laocoon and his two sons. Many commentators feel that Virgil is using the death of Laocoon to fortell the fate of the entire city of Troy only a few hours later.

You have to remember that gods are major participants in the Aeneid, and they are fighting with each other. Juno and Minerva both hate the Trojans as a result of the "Golden Apple" incident, in which Paris, the Trojan prince, chose Venus (Aeneas's mother) as being the most beautiful goddess out of Venus, Juno and Minerva, and she promised him the most beautiful woman in the world (Helen) as a bribe for choosing her. Goddesses don't like losing, and Juno and Minerva hate the entire Trojan race as the result of being spurned by Paris.
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Old 09-24-2012, 04:08 AM   #45
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I wondered about the artwork, though I don't think the actual fall of Troy was depicted was it? - just some scenes of parts of the story. My feeling is that the telescoping of time was just artistic licence on Virgil's part, in order to give an historic reason for the enmity between Rome and Carthage.

What did startle me on reading Book Four was that Dido came across as positively unhinged. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" I know, but for someone who supposedly loved Aeneas, she is extraordinarily vengeful. As soon as Mercury tells Aeneas that he must go, he knows Dido will be enraged, rather than distressed:

"... What can he dare say now
to the queen in all her fury and win her over?" (349-350)

And then when he is asleep on his ship, he dreams that someone like Mercury warns him:

"... That woman spawns her plots,
mulling over some desperate outrage in her heart" (702-3)

It seems to me that Virgil is excusing Aeneas' treatment of Dido by portraying her as someone positively dangerous from whom he needs to get away. However, given that he was ordered to go by Jupiter, the only reason for her portrayal has to be to explain the enmity between Carthage and Rome.

It's a long way from the beautiful, grief-filled lament "When I am laid in earth" from Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas".
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