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In what ways does the Aeneid fulfill its aim to provide the Romans with a national...

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caiti126 | Student | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 20, 2011 at 12:09 AM via web

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In what ways does the Aeneid fulfill its aim to provide the Romans with a national epic?

Compare the literary scope and historical range of the Aeneid with Homer’s Greek epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

I have looked up definitions for this question, but I do not think I really understand what this is asking of me.  I was wondering if you could please define what a literary scope and historical range are.  From my understanding, a literary scope has to do with genre, and historical range is what events are going on during the story.  Your help would be very much appreciated!

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted November 20, 2011 at 12:31 AM (Answer #1)

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In contrast to the Homeric epics, Vergil's Aeneid has a specific nationalistic purpose. The Homeric epics were written at a time when Greece was not a unified nation, but rather a collection of independently governed city-states who shared a common language and worshipped a common set of divinities. So, in the late 700s BCE, when the Homeric epics were finally written down after perhaps hundreds of years of being transmitted orally, there was no politically unified country of Greece (nor would there be anything close to a unified "Greece" for another 400 years until the time of Alexander the Great). We might also note that Athens, which became the dominant Greek city state throughout most of 400s BCE, has very little presence in the Homeric epics.

In contrast, Vergil's Aeneid was composed 700 years after the traditional founding of Rome. When Vergil was composing the Aeneid in the late 20s BCE, Rome was the dominant political power in the Mediterranean. Thus, the Aeneid can look back over a history that already existed and suggest reasons why Rome's domination existed: namely because this had been the gods' plan. In Aeneid 1, Jupiter tells Venus that Aeneas is destined to establish an empire without end. Vergil's Roman audience could see that this was coming to pass because at the time Vergil wrote his epic Rome had become the dominant power in that part of the world.


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