- Expected Feb 16, 2021
A fresh and faithful translation of Vergil’s Aeneid restores the epic’s spare language and fast pace and sheds new light on one of the cornerstone narratives of Western culture.
“The best version of the Aeneid in modern English: concise, readable and beautiful, but also as accurate and faithful to Vergil’s Latin as possible.”—James J. O’Hara, George L. Paddison Professor of Latin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
For two thousand years, the epic tale of Aeneas’s dramatic flight from Troy, his doomed love affair with Dido, his descent into the underworld, and the bloody story behind the establishment of Rome has electrified audiences around the world. In Vergil’s telling, Aeneas’s heroic journey not only gave Romans and Italians a thrilling origin story, it established many of the fundamental themes of Western life and literature—the role of duty and self-sacrifice, the place of love and passion in human life, the relationship between art and violence, the tension between immigrant and indigenous people, and the way new foundations are so often built upon the wreckage of those who came before. Throughout the course of Western history, the Aeneid has affirmed our best and worst intentions and forced us to confront our deepest contradictions.
Shadi Bartsch, Guggenheim Laureate, award-winning translator, and chaired professor at the University of Chicago, confronts the contradictions inherent in the text itself, illuminating the epic’s subversive approach to storytelling. Even as Vergil writes the foundation myth for Rome, he seems to comment on this tendency to mythologize our heroes and societies, and to gesture to the stories that get lost in the mythmaking.
Bartsch’s groundbreaking translation, brilliantly maintaining the brisk pace of Vergil’s Latin even as it offers readers a metrical line-by-line translation, provides a literary and historical context to make the Aeneid resonant for a new generation of readers.
Princeton scholar Fagles follows up his celebrated Iliad and Odyssey with a new, fast-moving, readable rendition of the national epic of ancient Rome. Virgil's long-renowned narrative follows the Trojan warrior Aeneas as he carries his family from his besieged, fallen home, stops in Carthage for a doomed love affair, visits the underworld and founds in Italy, through difficult combat, the settlements that will become, first the Roman republic, and then the empire Virgil knew. Recent translators (such as Allen Mandelbaum) put Virgil's meters into English blank verse. Fagles chooses to forgo meter entirely, which lets him stay literal when he wishes, and grow eloquent when he wants: "Aeneas flies ahead, spurring his dark ranks on and storming/ over the open fields like a cloudburst wiping out the sun." A substantial preface from the eminent classicist Bernard Knox discusses Virgil's place in history, while Fagles himself appends a postscript and notes. Scholars still debate whether Virgil supported or critiqued the empire's expansion; Aeneas' story might prompt new reflection now, when Americans are already thinking about international conflict and the unexpected costs of war.