by Virgil and Robert Fagles
Passions and a Man
A review by Emily Wilson
Virgil was the closest thing
to the poet laureate of Augustan Rome. Augustus saw himself as the
liberator of the Roman people, the man who had brought peace after
years of civil war, and who controlled and expanded Rome's enormous
empire. The new ruler was eager to find artists and poets to celebrate
and to immortalize his achievements. But many of the most talented
poets of the age -- including Horace, Propertius, and Ovid -- refused to
write the grand political epic that Augustus hoped for. Only Virgil
came close to giving the emperor what he wanted. The close association
between the Aeneid and imperial power has made many readers uncomfortable with it -- including, perhaps, Virgil himself.
The poet, who lived from 70 to 19 B.C.E., spent ten years on the Aeneid,
and it was still unfinished at the time of his death. Legend has it
that he ordered his executors to burn the work, although the emperor
overrode his dying wishes. Perhaps -- as Hermann Broch suggested in his
diffuse, dream-like novel The Death of Virgil -- the poet finally decided that he had gone too far in toadying up to the powers that were. The Aeneid
has often been read as a conservative, pro-imperialist, triumphalist
celebration of imperialism in general and of the emperor in
It is certainly concerned with the historical power of Rome. Rome is not just any big city (as Troy, in the Iliad, could be any city under siege, or Ithaca, in the Odyssey,
any homeland). Rome, for Virgil, is the culmination of history. The
poem looks obliquely at the contemporary Rome of the poet's own day,
from the perspective of the distant mythological past. But the Aeneid
remains deeply rooted in the history of its time. Auden famously
criticized Virgil for his craven attempt to make the particularities of
his own time look like universal truth, and to make Augustan Rome seem
the culmination of a progressive world history:
No, Virgil, no:
Behind your verse so masterfully made
We hear the weeping of a Muse betrayed.
But as even Auden acknowledges, the Aeneid includes the sound of weeping as well as the din of mastery and power.
One can argue that the high cost of
empire increases its value: Virgil shows us how much Rome matters by
showing us how much pain went into its building. Or one may feel that
the heart of the poem lies in the grief of those who lose out to
empire. It is ultimately impossible to decide whether Virgil was "for"
or "against" Augustus, whether the poem is fundamentally "optimistic"
or "pessimistic," whether it is history written for the winners or the
losers. These dualisms become too crude to account for the complex
texture of the poem, in which Virgil seems always to acknowledge a
multi-layered reality. Personal desires are always thwarted by the
progress of history. The Aeneid is not merely a celebration of
Roman power; it is also an analysis of the costs of empire, both to the
conquered and the conquerors.
was born not in Rome, but in Mantua, near Naples. As Bernard Knox
emphasizes in his fine introduction to Robert Fagles's new translation,
"Virgil was an Italian long before he became a Roman." He had seen at
first hand the damage caused to rural Italians by the long period of
civil war. In 42 B.C.E., when Virgil was in his twenties, many
land-holdings in the Mantua area were confiscated to reward veteran
soldiers after the battle of Philippi. Virgil's own father seems to
have been exempt from the expropriation, perhaps through the direct
intervention of Octavian (the man who later became Augustus). Virgil's
first two works of poetry, the Eclogues and the Georgics, both deal with life in the Italian countryside. Both those works, like the Aeneid
itself, present Italy as a place of struggle, where farmers can be
evicted from their lands by armies, storms, economic hardship, or
Virgil returns, in the Aeneid, to the theme of the last book of the Georgics:
the contrast between, on the one hand, love, beauty, art, and personal
happiness; and, on the other hand, society, order, military success,
and self-control. In order to become the founder of Rome, Aeneas must
lose almost everything that is of personal value to him. He loses his
home, his wife, his father, his lover Dido, the Trojan name of his
people, his foster son Pallas -- even, perhaps, his own moral standards,
his identity as the "good guy," and his capacity for pity and human
T.S. Eliot claimed that the Aeneid
is the ultimate "classic": "our classic, the classic of all Europe." It
is probably the single text from classical antiquity that has had the
longest continuous influence over the later Western tradition. Virgil
was more readily assimilated into a Christian school syllabus than the
racier classical poets, and he continued to be read throughout the
Middle Ages. There was an ancient tradition of misreading Virgil's
Fourth Eclogue as a prophecy about the birth of Jesus. The poet, whose
real name was Publius Vergilius Maro, was dubbed "Virgil" because his
magic wand (virga) can guide even a Christian reader closer to the truth about God, as in Dante's Inferno. The sortes Virgilianae
have always been one of the most helpful magical ways to make a
decision or to predict the future, and much cheaper than psychic
hotlines: just pick a line from Virgil at random and all your questions
will be answered.
Yet the central position of the Aeneid
in the Western canon is not entirely explicable by the supposedly
magical or proto-Christian powers of its author. This poem has
continued to be read and re-read for two thousand years because it has
never lost its relevance. Almost every country in Europe has seen
itself at some point as the new Troy, and hence as the new Rome. The Aeneid
is not only a survivor from classical antiquity, but also a poem that
is explicitly concerned with the problem of how a lost ancient
civilization can be perpetuated in the modern world. Perhaps the lost
city of Troy can be rebuilt again, as the newly flourishing world power
of Rome, or Constantinople, or Paris, or London, or Washington. Or
perhaps we can create a new and peaceful society only by forgetting our
history: as Juno says in the twelfth book of the poem: "Troy has
fallen -- and fallen let her stay!"
In our day, however, for almost the first time since its composition, the Aeneid
has slipped from its place as the central text in Western educational
systems. In 106, 1406, 1706, or 1906, it would have been unimaginable
that somebody could be considered fully educated and not have read a
word of the Aeneid in the original Latin. This is no longer the
case; I imagine that a large number of the intellectual readers of this
magazine have never learned any Latin. Perhaps for this very reason,
there has never been a more interesting time to read the Aeneid.
If you have not been forced through Latin grammar in your earliest
youth, and if you do not harbor the presupposition that the Aeneid
is a poem of the conservative establishment, then you are in an
excellent position to see the contemporary relevance of Virgil,
particularly for Americans.
It is a poem about the formation of a vast imperial power, and the human cost of that process. The second half of the Aeneid,
in which the Trojans fight against the Rutulians -- a group of native
inhabitants -- has clear resonance with the beginnings of American
colonial history, and even with the current war in Iraq. Aeneas has no
difficulty establishing an initial stronghold in Italy; the difficult
thing is to pacify the natives and to win the peace. Virgil's analysis
of the formation of a multicultural society -- composed of Latins,
Rutulians, and Trojans, all mixed together and speaking the same
language, forgetful of their historical differences -- is an obvious
prototype for modern America. Aeneas's difficulties are those that face
anybody trying to create a multi-ethnic, racially mixed society: what
to do about minorities; how to integrate different histories and
different cultural traditions; how to maintain order and avert civil
war, but without suspending the rule of law or violating citizens'
rights. How can we guarantee that force is used properly? At what point
should we say "no mercy" and give up habeas corpus? The poem
shows us what a thin line there may be between mastery and brutality.
It shows, too, how a dominant world power may take on the rhetoric of
the underdog: the triumphant Romans present themselves as poor,
defeated Trojans. All wars are fought for redemption and retaliation
and pre-emptive self-defense, never in outright aggression.
translators will give the Latin-less reader very different images of
Virgil's poem. The most commonly read verse translations, before
Fagles, are those by Allen Mandelbaum (1971), Robert Fitzgerald (1981),
and Stanley Lombardo (2005). Mandelbaum's Aeneid has an otherworldly, fluid rhythm, and uses a pentameter inflected by Dante's terza rima.
Composed during the Vietnam War, this version of the poem makes
particularly clear the personal voice of loss, within the grand
imperial quest. Fitzgerald's Aeneid is much grander, more
obviously "epic," more focused on the Roman achievement than on its
cost. Echoing the density of Virgil's language, Fitzgerald's English is
deliberately slow, stiff, and often slightly archaic. Lombardo's Aeneid
is a completely different poem again: a fast-moving, exciting adventure
story, about a man who achieves his goal despite many obstacles.
Robert Fagles's Aeneid is, I
think, the best translation of our age. It is lively and colloquial,
though it uses a somewhat slower pace than Lombardo. This is an
advantage. Fagles allows us to pause before rushing on to the next
event. There are some wonderfully vivid descriptions. Here is the
simile comparing the Golden Bow to an evergreen plant:
As mistletoe in the dead of winter's icy forests
leafs with life on a tree that never gave it birth,
embracing the smooth trunk with its pale yellow bloom,
so glowed the golden foliage against the ilex evergreen.
Fagles makes beautiful use of
alliteration and assonance for this strange, mystical moment. He is
equally good at the gory bits. Here is Camilla, the Amazon warrior
princess, chopping up a Trojan on the battlefield:
her battle-ax smashes down,
blow after blow through armor,
bone, splitting his skull,
warm brains from the wound go
splashing down his face.
One of the hardest tasks facing any modern translator of the Aeneid
is how to make Virgil sound suitably dignified. Virgil did not write in
street Latin. He observes careful decorum -- far more so than Homer. At
the funeral games in the Iliad, Ajax slips in horse manure.
There is no manure in Virgil. He chooses the more dignified register
over the more colloquial. Thus, the colloquial Latin word for kiss was basium (as in Catullus, da mi basia mille, "give me a thousand kisses"); but Virgil invariably uses the more elevated literary word, osculum.
The danger, for a contemporary English
translator who hopes to echo Virgil's language, is that a would-be
elevated, epic tone will sound stilted, pompous, and unreadable -- or
just silly. Dryden, whose 1697 version of the Aeneid remains
one of the most powerful English translations, was at an advantage,
because English heroic poetry was a living possibility at that period: Paradise Lost had been published only a few decades earlier. But a modern translator
has no contemporary tradition of English epic to draw on.
In general, Fagles is extremely
successful at creating a voice that sounds like modern English but
maintains a reasonably dignified register. He uses a relatively long,
roughly six-beat line, which has a number of advantages over the more
common iambic pentameter. It is closer to Virgil's dactylic hexameter,
and it allows Fagles to create more movement within his line and to use
more effective enjambment. By contrast, Lombardo's short, snappy
tetrameters feel to me a little too end-stopped, a little too abrupt.
Consider the famous first lines of the poem: Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris. ... Here is Lombardo:
Arms I sing -- and a man,
The first to come from the shores
Of Troy, exiled by Fate, to Italy
and the Lavinian coast....
Lombardo here takes two and a half
lines to cover the material that Virgil packs into his first line.
Fagles, by contrast, manages to retain some of the complexity and
weight of Virgil's narrative voice, but without sacrificing
Wars and a man I sing -- an exile
driven on by Fate,
he was the first to flee the coast
destined to reach Lavinian shores
and Italian soil....
Fagles takes us -- as Virgil does -- in medias res, "into the middle of the action," in the very first line.
is probably impossible to find a precise modern English equivalent to
the extraordinarily dense music of Virgil's hexameter, which is both
highly regular and highly varied. We have become used to the idea that
the English "equivalent" to the classical hexameter -- and especially to
the Virgilian hexameter -- is iambic pentameter. One of the first
attempts to translate Virgil into English verse was by Robert Surrey,
who published his Book Four in 1554 and Book Two in 1557. Surrey's
translations of the Aeneid were the first-ever instances of
English unrhymed iambic pentameter. Fairly few verse translators of
Virgil since Surrey have tried anything other than iambic pentameter.
Lombardo uses a kind of tetrameter; L.R. Lind in 1962 and Edward
McCrorie in 1995 experimented with dactylic pentameter; James
Mantinband tried hexameter in 1964, not very successfully. But until
now the mainstream had been represented by Mandelbaum and Fitzgerald,
who work in unrhymed pentameter.
Fagles shows authoritatively that a
flexible, mostly six-beat line can work beautifully as an English
version of the classical hexameter. He uses roughly six main stresses,
occasionally five, occasionally seven. The basic technique was
pioneered by Richmond Lattimore in his translations of Homer, but
Fagles's version is more varied, more delicately modulated. His Aeneid
feels much less compressed than the original, and it is not a
line-for-line translation. Yet Fagles's looser, longer line allows him
to pack in more information, and in this way to come closer to the
plenitude of Virgil's language.
Ezra Pound's favorite version of the Aeneid
was by the medieval Scottish poet Gavin Douglas (finished in 1513,
published posthumously in 1553). Pound claimed that Douglas had
improved on the original, because Douglas, unlike Virgil, had heard the
sea. By this criterion, Fagles's Aeneid is certainly the best
version since Douglas. Fagles has a marvelous sense for the rollicking
rhythms of sea voyages: the pleasures of reading the early books of
this Aeneid match those of reading Conrad, or Patrick O'Brian.
Here is a characteristically vigorous passage, where Aeneas's fleet
runs into a storm off the coast of Sicily:
They snapped to commands,
pulled hard, Palinurus first
to swerve his shuddering prow
to port for open sea
and the whole fleet swung to port
with oars and sails.
Up to the sky an immense billow
hoists us, then at once
as the wave sank down, down
we plunge to the pit of hell.
I don't know if Fagles is a sailor, but
he writes like a man who knows the sound and the rhythm of the sea, as
well as the meaning of words such as "welter," "yawing," "cables,"
"squalls," and "killer-breakers."
Fagles's tone is not entirely
consistent. Every so often I was bothered by modern proverbs bordering
on cliché -- as when Aeneas is stuck "between the devil and the
deep blue sea." Sometimes the diction is not quite appropriate to the
situation, and there are a few unfortunate comic lapses: Aeneas at his
most brutal, triumphing over one of his slaughtered enemies, is made to
sound like a hoity-toity Mitford sister: "Now lie there, you great,
frightful man!" But more often Fagles's use of colloquialism brings to
life even the most familiar lines of Virgil. At the triumphal moment in
Book Nine, when Apollo calls down from the sky to praise Iulus
(Aeneas's son, and the forefather of Julius Caesar), Fagles achieves
just the right tone of schoolmasterly enthusiasm: "Bravo, my boy,
bravo," says the god. "That's the path to the stars."
Fagles's sensitivity to Virgil's metaphors is especially impressive. When Dido "feeds" or "nourishes" (alit)
the wound of her love for Aeneas, Fagles not only notices the metaphor,
but hints at its implications: "hour by hour nursing the wound with her
lifeblood." It is as if the love that Dido feels for Aeneas is itself
their baby, the fictional baby they never actually have. She nurses her
own desire and destruction as if it were a child.
Fagles's most impressive achievement is that he is sensitive to a far
wider range of voices and points of view than any previous translator
known to me. Fagles shows us, much more clearly than Mandelbaum,
Fitzgerald, or Lombardo, that each of the characters in the poem has
his or her own different perspective on the story. He shows, too, that
this is an enormously emotional poem, which is intensely concerned with
the fulfillment and the control of emotions. Most translators are
better on one side of the emotional spectrum than another: sorrow or
anger, not both. But Fagles renders brilliantly the bitter rage of Juno
against the Trojans and the bewilderment of Aeneas as his city is
burnt, and also the passionate grief of Dido abandoned by Aeneas, the
intense desire of Nisus to die for the sake of the boy he loves, the
distinct battle-rages of Mezentius, Camilla, and Aeneas himself -- all
with an unmatched vividness.
The Aeneid is a highly literary,
highly written work -- but it is written from, and about, the heart.
Virgil is far more interested than Homer was in analyzing the internal
states, the conflicting emotions, of his characters. Thus the poem
traces a connection, through the imagery of fire, from the burning
passion of Juno, to the burning of Troy, to the burning heart of Dido,
to the flames that mark the house of Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus,
the burning ships of the Battle of Actium, and the burning anger of
Aeneas as he kills Turnus. Emotions become the key to history. Fagles,
more than any other translator, shows that the Aeneid is a poem of passion.
Fagles comes to the Aeneid after producing highly successful versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
I admire Fagles's Homer enormously, but I agree somewhat with those who
feel that Fagles has a tendency to make his narrative too emotional,
too pointed. He is not very successful at conveying the Homeric sense
that, whatever happens, the world goes on the same. He leaves out a lot
of the repeated epithets (such as "swift-footed Achilles"), or else
tries to make them relevant to the particular narrative moment in which
they appear. He adds moody parentheses and pauses, which sometimes make
the verse seem a little stagey. Fagles's Homer feels like a text
written for reading aloud, not like the transcription of an oral epic.
(Perhaps for this reason, it makes an excellent audiobook. You can get
a boxed set of the Fagles Iliad and Odyssey together, read by Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi. The new Aeneid has been recorded by Simon Callow.)
The Aeneid suits Fagles's
pointed narrative style better than the Homeric poems. Virgil nods to
Homer by pretending to "sing," like an oral poet, but his work is
self-consciously literary, designed for reading aloud or private
reading. Just as bear cubs (according to a rather sweet ancient
misapprehension) are born unformed and must be licked into shape by
their mother, so Virgil said he "licked" his manuscript into its proper
form, working at a rate of about three lines a day. Fagles reminds us
of Virgil's careful art. He recognizes that Virgil is the most
thoughtful of poets, not only as a writer of lines but also as a writer
of people, feelings, and visions of the world.
Bakhtin once drew a sharp contrast between epic and history, which
supposedly employ a single "objective" point of view, and the novel,
which is "polyglossic," using many voices and multiple points of view.
Like all such charming generalizations, Bakhtin's rule does not really
work: the Aeneid is, by these criteria, a novel, not an epic.
Fagles's knowledge of nineteenth-century novels certainly helps him to
read Virgil. He shows us that the Aeneid is in many ways comparable to Anna Karenina or War and Peace. Like Tolstoy, Virgil sets passionate sexual longing against duty and self-control.
Virgil makes extensive use of limited
points of view; of metaphors and similes that may reflect either
reality or only a part of it. He even uses that typically novelistic
technique, "free indirect discourse." In the Aeneid, we are
often aware that we may be seeing only what one character sees -- not the
whole world, as if from a god's-eye vision; or that an objective view
is not available to those within the story. We are told, for instance,
what is depicted on the Shield of Aeneas -- the whole future history of
the Roman race; but we are also reminded that our position as readers
is very different from that of Aeneas. He has no idea what the future
means: "He knows nothing of these events." The limitations of any
single person's knowledge is one of the great themes of the poem. There
is no such thing as a total vision; there are only partial glimpses,
which may be delusions -- as when Aeneas thinks he sees his lost beloved
Dido in the underworld: "as one/when the month is young may see or seem
to see/the new moon rising up through banks of clouds."
Fagles insists that impressions and
value judgments may be entirely subjective. A striking example is his
version of the story of Dido. You will remember that Dido is inspired
by Juno to fall in love with the Trojan stranger when he is shipwrecked
on her shores. In the middle of a thunderstorm, Aeneas and Dido take
shelter together in a cave. Juno, goddess of marriage, sends a sudden
display of lightning, which seems -- but perhaps only to poor deluded
Dido -- to legitimate the beginning of their sexual relationship. At this
moment, Virgil tells us, coniugium vocat, hoc pratexit nomine culpam.
Dryden translates this line to read that Dido "called it 'marriage,' by
that specious name/To veil the crime and sanctify the shame."
Fitzgerald is less obviously censorious, but he still insists that Dido
was to blame: she "called it marriage. Thus, under that name,/She hid
her fault." Despite the grief that all readers cannot but feel for
Dido's death, the perception of this character as a fallen woman, whose
death is caused by the crime, fault or sin of sexual immorality, has
haunted almost every translation of the poem into English. To find more
sympathy for Dido, we have to look back as far as Chaucer, who condemns
Aeneas's treachery for the poor queen's death.
But Fagles restores Dido's honor
without damning Aeneas, by suggesting that what Dido lost in that cave
was not her respectability but her self-respect. His Dido
no longer thinks to keep the
affair a secret,
no, she calls it a marriage,
using the word to cloak her sense
This Dido is not a dishonored woman.
She is a woman who has lost her sense of her own worth -- an importantly
different thing. The interpretation of culpam ("fault" or
"guilt") as Dido's perception, not the narrator's objective judgment,
is a compelling one, which makes sense of the narrative much better
than the fallen-woman story. The narrator insists that Dido is infelix,
"unhappy" -- or as Fagles renders the word, "tragic." Fagles brilliantly
shows us a Dido whose tragedy -- like the tragedy of Anna Karenina or
Madame Bovary -- is largely a product of her own solitary imagination, as
in this marvelous passage:
She always feels alone,
abandoned, always wandering down
some endless road,
not a friend in sight....
Fagles emphasizes the subjectivity of other characters' moral judgments, too. Aeneas's central characteristic, his pietas -- duty,
filial piety, holiness, morality -- is sometimes rendered by Fagles as
his "sense of devotion"; Aeneas's son Ascanius benefits not from his
objectively good behavior (mores), but from his "sense of worth." Turnus is spurred on not by his "courage inwardly known" (Fitzgerald's translation of conscia virtus), but by his "sense of his own worth." Indeed, the phrase "sense of ..." threatens to become a tic in the translation.
This extraordinary sensitivity to
Virgil's multiple points of view allows Fagles to treat Aeneas, as well
as Dido, with more sympathy than most translators can muster. It is a
difficult task to bring to life the stiff, passive, sometimes
cipher-like hero of the early books of the Aeneid. But Fagles
picks up on details that evince Aeneas's humanity, even at his most
block-like. When Dido has sent her sister to make her last passionate
appeal to her lover to stay -- even if only for a little while, even if
he must abandon her in the end -- we are told that Aeneas made no reply
at all, and was deaf to Dido's pleas. Dryden makes Aeneas unable even
to hear what she is feeling: "Fate, and the god, had stopped his ears
to love." Fitzgerald's Virgil comments that "God's will blocked the
man's once kindly ears." But both these translations simplify the
complex emotional situation that Virgil evokes. The Latin, on the face
of it, suggests that Aeneas's ears are still "kindly" (placidas)
even when he is refusing to give Dido what she so desperately wants.
Fagles credits Aeneas with sympathy at the very moment when he refuses
Dido's appeals: "and heaven blocks his gentle, human ears." This
translation manages to present Aeneas as a person who has both strength
and genuine emotional depths. He is a hero, but more than that, he is a
human being, who struggles to remain true to his conviction and his
obligation. In reading Fagles, far more than most translators, I
believed in Aeneas as a man whose sense of obligation is constantly
threatened, and finally overwhelmed, by emotion.
At this moment in American history, we
are all conscious that imperialism has a price. President Bush, who was
certainly speaking without Virgil in mind, recently declared that "the
road to victory will not be easy. We should not expect a simple
solution. The fact that the fighting is tough does not mean our efforts
in Iraq are not worth it." Such a rhetoric of cost and complexity is
strongly reminiscent of Virgil's analysis of empire. As the narrator
exclaims at the beginning of the poem: tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem, "Such a long hard labor it was to found the Roman people."
But Virgil's narrative, unlike that of
the president, acknowledges that the perspective of the powerful is not
the only one available. Aeneas's dead father, Anchises, tells him in
the Underworld that a Roman leader must use the perfect combination of
violence and mercy. You must "rule with all your power," but also
Put your stamp on the works and
ways of peace,
to spare the defeated, break the
proud in war.
Fagles is characteristically sensitive
to the complexity of this famous injunction, reminding us that the
militaristic Roman "stamp" (mos -- custom, culture, ideology) may
be difficult to combine with the "works and ways of peace." Contrast
Dryden, who suggests that the powerful can do no wrong: "disposing
peace and war thy own majestic way"; or Fitzgerald, who assumes that
imperialism brings order to anarchic native societies: "to pacify, to
impose the rule of law."
In the final lines of the poem, Aeneas
the pious, the dutiful and the devoted, becomes inflamed with
passionate rage against his enemy Turnus. He rejects Turnus's appeal
for mercy, remembering only that this man killed his friend. In his
anger, Aeneas seems to forget that being Roman was supposed to include
sparing the defeated along with breaking the proud. Or perhaps it is
sometimes impossible, in the real world of the living, to distinguish
one from the other. Aeneas founds the city of Rome by burying his sword
in his enemy's body: the Latin verb condidit (in Fagles,
"plants") means both to "found" and to "bury." "Blazing with wrath, he
plants/his iron sword hilt-deep in his enemy's heart."
This is perhaps the most disturbing
ending of any great epic poem. You could say, with Bush, that Aeneas is
simply adapting to the danger posed by Turnus, just as the president's
administration is "taking new steps to help secure Baghdad, and
constantly adjusting our tactics across the country to meet the
changing threat." Perhaps it takes a lot more force than one might have
hoped to put a Roman stamp on the "works and ways of peace." But from
the perspective of Turnus, Aeneas has committed an "outrage": he has
refused an appeal to "go no further down the path of hatred." For
Virgil, the critique of empire offered by history's losers cannot be
fully incorporated within one dominant, single-voiced discourse. The Aeneid
is a poem that glorifies an invasive imperialist war. But it is also a
poem that insists that the victors are not the only people who have a
valid vision of the world. It recognizes, too, that the resort to arms
can sometimes get out of anybody's control, that the cost of victory
can be too high, and that the stubborn voice of passion may impede the
path to peace.
Emily Wilson teaches classics at the University of Pennsylvania.
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