Classical Mythology Images and Insight, Third Edition

Following is an outline of the chapter along with the main learning objectives.  To help coordinate your studies, this outline and the learning objectives are organized to match your textbook.  This organization is also utilized in the chapter review section.

Part 1:Virgil

  1. You should be aware that Publius Vergilius Maro, known as Virgil, was author of the Roman "sequel" to the Homeric epics and the Aeneid, and be able to discuss the resonances in the story of Virgil's own experiences as he witnessed a civil war in Rome.

  2. You should be able to discuss the basic storyline of the Aeneid: the journey of the only Trojan Hero to escape the destruction of Troy and his adventure filled journey to Italy where he will be involved in a civil war, win the hand of a princess and become the progenitor of the Romans.

  3. You should be aware of the tenor of the previous works by Virgil, including many pastorals that were very popular to his urban audiences; his works were funded by the Emperor Augustus, who would have seen the Aeneid as a tribute.

Part 2: The Aeneid: Significant Themes and Characters

  1. You should be able to discuss the deliberate parallels between Virgil's Aeneid and the works by Homer to add the veneer of Greek sophistication to the work: including genealogical ties between the Emperor Augustus and the Hero Aeneas; the invocations of the Muse; the first six books describing a journey that retraces the route of Homer's Odyssey and the second part of the Aeneid which parallels the Iliad.

  2. You should be aware of the deliberate "historicizing" of myth by Roman writers; such as in the Aeneid, where there are specific dates that relate real events (and people -- usually rich, powerful or aristocratic) to the narrative.

  3. You should be aware of the Aeneid's focus on the role of the city as given in the narrative: to provide boundaries and barriers; to spread civilization and teach the ways of peace, including security, roads; and to represent the Roman way in its acquisition of territory. 

  4. You should be able to discuss the difference in the Roman Hero as compared to his Greek predecessors in terms of his commitment to the city and glory of Rome in contrast to the Greek Hero's combat for personal glory and relate this emphasis on the need and glory of the Roman military might represented by the warrior/Hero to the Roman nostalgia for the peace of pastoral heavens.

  5. You should be able to discuss the significance of the Roman hero's lack of choice in the face of his destiny, for Aeneas, his every act is committed by  divine directive to the destiny of founding Rome.

  6. You should be able to discuss the Roman Hero's character in terms of self-discipline and commitment to responsibility in contrast to the Greeks who were more impulsive, self-indulgent and (in the case of referring to Aeneas' opponent Turnus as a "new Achilles", ruthless and bent only on personal glory), including their expressions of violent rage (for Aeneas the motivation is not slights to his ego, but moral injustices).

  7. You should be able to discuss the significance of the women characters in the narrative:

  1. Cresda, Aeneas' dutiful wife, who while he rescues his father and son, is killed by Greek soldiers, but even her shade urges Aeneas on to find a new wife in order to found a new kingdom; Lavinia, a hostile Latin princess who Aeneas weds to forge a bond between Trojans and indigenous Latins; Dido, who tries to detour Aeneas from his mission, thinking of him as her husband, loses control of her city, Carthage, and is abandoned and told in no uncertain terms that he had entered no such agreements; and the dismissal of Amata in the affairs of her daughter's marriage.

  2. You should be able to compare the maternal roles of the Goddess Thetis, who seeks to protect her Hero son, Achilles to that of the Goddess Venus, who propels her son into whatever circumstances will be assure the completion of his mission.

  3. You should be able to discuss the roles of the women who are Roman adversaries, especially the role of the Goddess Juno, who lights a firebrand of war, and though she eventually capitulates to the God Jove's plans for Rome, the firebrand of war kept burning.

  4. You should be able to discuss the role of Dido in the Aeneid in terms of her "excessive emotion" that leads her to "un-Roman" behavior -- mourning to intensely what was past, betraying her commitment and responsibility to her city, as well as her attempt to imprison her lover if he would not stay willingly, including the concept that Virgil portrays her (along with Turnus) as somehow the victims of a set of values no longer appropriate to Rome.

  1. You should be able to discuss the concept that the Aeneid reveals the Roman view: that human destiny is a function of divine politics: the war between the Trojans and the Greeks really a war between the Gods; that human scenarios, including love, were orchestrated by the Gods, and only humankind's only real choices are in how they respond.
  2. You should be able to discuss the images of the Underworld, especially the concepts of punishment, reincarnation, purification of the soul and the eternity of the Elysian Fields and relate these concepts to the decision made by the Hero Aeneas as he turns his back on paradise for the promise of Rome's Golden Age.
  3. You should be able to discuss the significance of the future of Rome as prophesied in the narrative to the Emperor Augustus.
  4. You should be able to discuss the significance of the last, final battle in the narrative as an anti-climax to an all-ready determined fate, decided on by the Gods before the battle even begins.
  5. You should be able to discuss the complexity of characters in terms of: Aeneas whose last act in the narrative reduces him from model Roman Hero to the ruthless tool of government institutions; conversely Aeneas can be seen as: killing his alter-ego, Turnus, as an act symbolic of casting aside the older order of Heroic values; too humanistic to kill with the cool detachment of a government agent but only by working himself into rage; the inter-connected themes of a private man and the public man.
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