The Aeneid - Virgil. A translation into English prose by A. S. Kline. Illustrated edition.
In the Aeneid, Virgil retells, and partially invents, the story of Aeneas, the son of Anchises and the goddess Venus-Aphrodite who, fleeing the ruins of Troy carrying his father on his shoulders, and bearing his household gods, journeyed to Italy. In doing so Virgil consciously creates the national epic of Rome, posits a semi-divine lineage for the Imperial house of Augustus Caesar, and provides an origin for the Roman people. Full of powerful and evocative passages, for example those describing Aeneas’ desertion of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and those describing his visit to the Underworld, the Aeneid ensured Virgil’s literary fame.
Aeneas embodies the Roman virtues of steadfastness, and loyalty, coupled with a sense of destiny, which Virgil reinforces with pseudo-prophetic elements implying that the founding of Rome was a fated consequence of the destruction of Troy. From a literary viewpoint, Aeneas provides continuity between the epics of Greece, where he appears as a character in the Iliad, and the epics of Rome where he is portrayed as an ancestor of Romulus, Rome’s founder.
Virgil’s work had a wide influence on later Roman epic and on European literature in general. Dante in particular employed Virgil as guide to his journey through the Inferno and Purgatory of the Divine Comedy, seeing him as a proponent of Empire, a master of the poetic tradition, and a prophet of the advent of Christianity.
This and other texts available from Poetry in Translation (www.poetryintranslation.com).
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.