Home Page Home Page

Virgil. Aeneid. Lecture 3.

Virgil moved from Epicureanism to Stoicism.

Epicurean - Be happy by pleasure

Stoicism - Be happy by doing duty; will suffer along the way


taught Plato

Plato taught Aristotle

Aristotle taught Alexander the Great

Aristotle's Ethics and Politics.  

Aristotle says the chief aim of existence is to be happy.

Fleur de Lis divider

Aristotle's ways to achieve happiness.

  1. Refined pleasure (lowest form).  This was taken up by Epicurus
  2. Public service.  Followed by Epictetus
  3. Philosophical contemplation - Plotinus (neo-Platonism), neo-Aristotlianism

Educated Romans were schooled in Greek language, art, philosophy, etc.

Well-educated people should spend time in leisure contemplating eternal verities.  Otium - refined leisure

Only the rich have the leisure  and money to get a good education and spend time in thought.

Can pursue the levels of happiness based on age (if you're rich enough)

  1. Pleasure as a young man
  2. Serve in prime
  3. Retire to contemplate as an older man

Romans were attracted to Epicureanism and Stoicism.

In private lives, the Romans were pretty wild. 

In Public Life, you have a public persona.  Stoic duties (officium) applied to you as a public person.

Romans embraced stoicism as the official public philosophy. 

Cultivated the image of the stoic in public lives.

Catullus and Lucretius precede Virgil.  Lucretius was refined Epicurean, Catullus was an earthy epicurean. 

Catullus wrote great love poetry.  Wrote to Lesbia, which evokes Sappho and fills in metrically for Clodia, his mistress. 

Wrote bitter poems about her after she dumped him.  Odi et amo - a poet of extremes. 

Julius Caesar wrote his commentaries right before Virgil.  War journals (the Commentaries)

Cicero also wrote right before Virgil.  Letters.  Political essays, Philosophy.  De officiis - on Duties.
Very imp.  Must do duty to be happy.

Pius.  The good person is the one who fulfills the duties 

  1. To the gods (deī) Most imp duty
  2. To the patria (country) 2nd most
  3. To our family - familia
  4. To our amici - friends
  5. To ourself

Fulfill duties in spite of pain & hardship it may cost us.  May cost us our lives.

Major statement of Roman stoicism that was circulating as Virgil writes the Aeneid.

Georgics embrace a stoic pov.  Farmer must work hard.  Labor.
Georgics on surface a poem about farming.  Is really on doing the work the gods have given us despite difficulty.  Combines Virgil & Hesiod.

Bring in Socrates again - work god in the garden of our soul to maintain order and harmony.  Reason rules the passions.

Georgics combine Hesiod, Socrates, Cicero (Roman stoicism)

All these produce the ideal farmer, who must wage war against nature to tend the farm. 

Ideal farmer is the ideal stoic philosopher and the ideal soldier.

Move now to the Aeneid.  We meet Aeneas, who combines

  1. Socrates - gods have given us a self to take care of
  2. Hesiod - gods have given us a particular kind of work to do
  3. Cicero - gods want us to do our duty properly.

These three meet in Aeneas. 

Aeneas very different from both Achilles and Odysseus.  Has characteristics of both.

29 BC - 19 BC Virgil worked on the Aeneid.

Supposedly wrote it in prose, then turned it into verse. 

Virgil's poetry was recognized immediately, all the way up to the Emperor.

His poetry was an instant and permanent classic.  Established as part of the Western canon. 

As Christianity seeped in, was taught in Xn schools.  Taught in Medieval schools, Renaissance schools, 18th cen, 19th cen. 
Only in the 20th century was Virgil demoted somewhat.

Reception theory - different people read a text, respond to it differently.

But from the first reading of the poem, it was always recognized as master.

Horace praises Virgil for
molle et facetum (smooth and well-made).  Horace recognizes Virgil's technical skill.

Virgil is always the poet's poet.  If you want to learn to write poetry, study Virgil. 

Virgil's poetry is heightened poetry.  Careful with the sounds of the words, with which word is by which word.  Has to be read in Latin.  Not a problem from 1st Century to 19th Century, good schools taught Latin.
Latin curriculum for almost 2000 years.
1st year - grammar
2nd year - Caesar
3rd year - Virgil

Really not the same in translation.  Like reading a translation of an opera.  Learn the plot; don't experience the opera.

As people stopped reading Virgil in Latin, his place in the canon began to slip.

extraordinary piece of literature in the Western Canon.  Most important work in Western Literature.  Has made an impact on every great writer since then.  Who did Shakespeare study? Virgil.

Aeneas is very different from Achilles and Odysseus.

Bia and metis the qualities of Homeric heroes.

Aeneas has these qualities.  He already has bia in Iliad - attacks Achilles and Diomedes.  Very courageous. 

Aeneis in Virgil's poem is much older.  Like Odysseus, has been drifting around the Mediteranean having similar adventures

Aeneid 1-6 Aeneas parallel to Odysseus. Like the Odyssey

Aeneid 7-12 Aeneas parallel to Achilles & the Iliad

Aeneid based heavily on Homer

Aeneas is to go to Italy to fulfill his destiny.  Jupiter has foreseen this.

Comes to Italy without a wife. 
Finds the locals have a prophecy that the king's daughter Lavinia should marry a foreigner, mother the race that will rule Italy

King switches to give his daughter to Aeneas.

Turnus already betrothed to the princess.  Supported by the King's wife and his own sister. 

Aeneid probably not finished.  Ends very abruptly. 

Looking at the Aeneid itself.

Look at key passages.  Look at the words in those passages.

He is very old-fashioned.  Familiar with newer methods.  Likes 19th cen philology.

Aeneid 1:1ff

Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit
litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
vi superum saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram;

I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate,
first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to
Lavinian shores ? hurled about endlessly by land and sea,
by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno's remorseless anger,

IRA - Anger, wrath of Juno pursues him. 

multa quoque et bello passus,
suffering much in war.  Like Odysseus, who suffered. 

                                  dum conderet urbem
inferretque does Latio; genus unde Latinum
Albanique patres atque altae moenia Romae.

                                until he founded a city
and brought his gods to Latium: from that the Latin people
came, the lords of Alba Longa, the walls of noble Rome.

"The fathers of Alba" The Romans were fixated on fatherhood

Musa, mini causas memora, quo numine laeso
quidve dolens regina deem tot volvere casus
insigne pietate virum

Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity,
how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man,
noted for virtue

a man noted for his piety. 

tot volvere casus
impulerit.  tantaene animis caelestibus irae?

Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity,
how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven,

Must fight against both nature and the wrath of Juno.  But is destiny to father the founders of Longa Alba, and grandfather Romulus and Remus.

Labor not a concept in Homer.  The warriors eat, drink, party, fight.  They don't labor. 

Romans conquer world through military.  With Roman soldiers,  who came from Roman farms, where they learned to labor. 

With such anger in divinities, what do you do?  Like Odysseus, you endure.  In the case of Aeneas, no reason for the anger, so you just slog through it.  Suck it up. 

Book 12 Line 436
Aeneas is wounded.  Today a good day to stay home and heal.  But he doesn't stay home.  Puts on armor. 

Speaks to Ascanius
"disce, puer, virtutem ex me verumque laborem
fortunam ex aliis. 

"learn, boy, manliness from me and true labor; fortune from others

You want to be lucky, work hard every day.  Make your own luck. 

virtus means manliness.  Like Bia in Greek.  Romans equate being manly with being virtuous.  The virtuous man is the strong tough man (vir). 

Nietzsche says the Christians flip virtues.  virtus is the humble man who doesn't fight.

He uses this as a teaching moment to train his son to have proper values.  Work and manliness are the basis for our lives. 

The Aeneid gives us the main Roman values.  How we view the poem today somewhat depends on how we view those values. 

Roman character - qualities of the ideal Roman

  1. Dignitas.  Repect that's due to a person from others based on the person's accomplishments.  If you have accomplished worthwhile things, others owe you their respect.    Marius fleeing Sulla - soldiers wouldn't kill the great Marius
  2. Gravitas.  Is a popular word in modern politics.  Roman politician does not want to be one of the people.  He is serious at all times, esp in public.  Aristocrats are supposed to be dignified and serious at all times.  Has two uniforms - military for war, toga for peace.
  3. Integritas. Personal honor.  If you've given your word, mustn't break it.  Regulus legend.  Captured & carried  a message to Senate.  returned to the captors b/c he had said he would.
  4. Severitas.  Romans really differ from us here.  They are the people of the wolf.  Descend from Mars, god of war, & his animal the wolf.  Romans stress the notion that everybody experiences pain & suffering.  Everybody will die.  Should realize they are there & meet them directly.  Don't run in battle.  March up and destroy enemy or die trying.  They think this way militarily, but also applies to how they solve problems.  Infantry fighting their prime method.
  5. Pietas.

Take a moment to compare this list to the Tenets of Tech that come in your e-mail every month.

The Roman mission

Aeneid VI. 847-853

Excudent alii spirantia mollius aera,
credo equidem, vivos ducent de marmore voltus,
orabunt causas melius, caelique meatus
describent radio, et surgentia sidera dicent:                            
tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento;
hae tibi erunt artes; pacisque imponere morem,
parcere subiectis, et debellare superbos.

Others will forge breathing bronzes more smoothly
(I believe it at any rate), and draw forth living features from marble.
They will plead law-suits better and trace the movements
Of the sky with a rod and describe the rising stars.
You, O Roman, govern the nations with your power- remember this!
These will be your arts to impose the ways of peace,
To show mercy to the conquered and to subdue the proud.

debellare superbos.  Grind down the proud.  Compare this to how subsequent empires like Britain and American have seen the mission of our empires.

Romans took kids to gladiator events.  Got them used to war.  Fight well until you die, like the gladiators.  Boys will have to fight in war; girls will have to grow up to bear children and lose the men in their lives.  Went to gladiators too. 

Ludus - Game.  Their term for the events.  Not a light-weight game.

SEVERITAS.  Roman legend.  Rome was beseiged by the Clusiums, and were fighting a hopeless battle. Gaius Mucius volunteered to sneak in to kill the enemy commander.  He was captured when he killed the wrong man by mistake.  Tells king his mission.  99 other Romans have sworn to kill him.  Commander threatens to torture him.  Roman puts his hand in the fire & burns it off. "Watch this," he declared. "so that you know how cheap the body is to men who have their eye on great glory."

The enemy king Lars Porsena was so impressed and frightened that he made peace and released Gaius Mucius.  Grateful Romans gave him and his descendents the honorific title Scaevola -- Lefty. 

5. Pietas.  Respect for the gods.  Understand what they want you to do, even when it's not what you want to do.  Represents Cicero's DUTIES.  to gods, country, family, friends, self. 
PIUS man fulfills his duties.  Pius Aeneas is a good stoic who labors constantly against great difficulties, to fulfill his duties. 

This is Roman stoicism.  Also matches Hesiod's view that the good person does the work assigned by the gods.  Socrates says that task is to think - use your mind.

Virgil is more focused on practical duties.  Homer's heroes strive for glory.  Aeneas isn't interested in glory - wants to do will of gods & found Rome. 

This duty will cost him happiness with Dido.  He washes up in north Africa where he meets & falls in love with Dido.  First time he's happy since b/f Trojan War.

He & Dido have torrid affair.  She thinks they're married.  He would be happy  to stay there.  Mercury gives him message to go.  B/c he's pius Aeneas, he leaves to do his duty.

What's her attitude toward him leaving. 

He sneaks off and leaves her.  She is devastated by him leaving and commits suicide. 

Why does she commit suicide?
She is governed by her emotions, not her reason.

Juno is governed by emotions, not reason.  Hates the Trojans and their survivors.  Knows Rome will destroy Carthage.

Aeneas usually governed by reason. When he is told to leave, he does so.

Sees her ghost in the underworld.  Goes to give a lame excuse; she turns silently away. 

Fleur de Lis divider Home Page
Home Page