Monday, September 30, 2013

The Aeneid: Virgil and Other Epics

As I read The Aeneid it was so natural to compare Virgil’s work to other epic poetry.  Of course the character Aeneas and many of the events Virgil mentions are recounted or at least based on the Greek epics of The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer.  <<<WHICH WAS COMPLETELY INCIDENTAL ACCORDING TO VIRGIL'S SHADE>>>> 

But in no other place does The Aeneid beg for comparison but in the sixth book, where Aeneas goes down to the Underworld to talk to his dead father.  This is so much like what Odysseus did in The Odyssey that it’s practically plagiar<<<NO IT'S NOT!!!>>> 

But Virgil didn’t just reap inspiration from earlier epics: he would eventually inspire other poets to rip off from him, as well.  I noticed as I read Book VI that Virgil notes some of the prominent people that were condemned in the underworld…which is very similar to what Dante Alighieri did in The Divine Comedy.  Dante even wrote Virgil into the role of tour-guide of the underworld in this Italian epic! 

Here is Virgil wearing the laurel crown and blowing his nose on his toga while next to him is Dante wearing...a Spanish Inquisition costume? From a painting in the Orsay Museum in Paris, France, c. 1850.  The nudey hell people and the demons are cut out of this image for your viewing pleasure.

But the influence isn’t just limited to Dante.  At the beginning of John Milton’s Paradise Lost Satan and other angels fall from God’s grace and are cast into Hell.  This is the origin of the famous quotation: “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.”  Because I was reading The Aeneid via audiobook I can’t point out the exact place, but there is a passage that has certain similar sentiments as Aeneas makes his journey in Tartarus.

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