What do you like about Virgil's Aeneid?
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I like this question because my students have tended not to like the Aeneid. I'm not sure why, because I really like the poem. Of course, it's much better in Latin than in English, because Virgil has taken such great care with the poem that practically every word is dripping with some sort of symbolism or important meaning. So, one reason I like the Aeneid is because it IS a poem that is deliberately filled with meaning and symbolism, and that meaning and symbolism was directly related to the first century BCE Roman world in which Virgil lived. Aeneas strikes me as a far more complicated character than his Homeric predecessors Achilles or Odysseus. Aeneas is part Achilles, part Odysseus, part Jason, part Augustus, part Marcus Antonius, and so on.
Another reason I like the Aeneid is because the poem's hero is struggling mightily to figure out what he is going to do with his life. Aeneas is tugged in many directions and struggles with what he wants to do versus what his father wants him to do, what his mother wants him to do, what his people want him to do, what his girl friend wants him to do, and what the gods want him to do. Aeneas is trying to balance his responsibility to all of these various forces and I think most humans face the same challenges in our lives. Thus, as Aeneas himself says in Book 1, the Aeneid is a poem where
...virtue has its rewards, here too
there are tears for events, and mortal things touch the heart.
(A.S. Kline translation)
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