Aeneid Study Guide

From Gerald R. Lucas

Virgil’s Aeneid recounts events after the fall of Troy, and written as a secondary, or literary, epic in 14CE. Out of the destruction of Troy came an heroic figure who would found a new state. The Aeneid is a story of return that is providentially ruled by the gods. Aeneas' story is one of founding and rebirth that is very different from the Homeric epics, but borrows from them in important ways.[1]

Questions for Consideration

  1. Virgil deliberately models his poem on Homer; the first six books are Aeneas' Odyssey, the last six, his Iliad. Sometimes specific incidents from Homer are imitated, yet though the relation to the model is in every case clear, Virgil makes the material serve his own, different purpose. Discuss the nature and effect the Virgilian adaptation of:
    • Odysseus' interview with Ajax in Book XI of the Odyssey with Aeneas' interview with Dido in Book VI of the Aeneid
    • Homer's description of the shield of Achilles in the Iliad Book XVIII with that of Aeneas' shield in the Aeneid Book VIII
    • Odysseus' story of his wanderings at the court of Phaeacia with Aeneas' account of the Fall of Troy and his subsequent wanderings at Dido's banquet
  2. Discuss the character of Aeneas as an epic hero. Is it justified to compare him to Achilles and Odysseus? Or is he better to compare him to Moses of Exodus and Jesus of the Gospels? How would he compare to later heroic figures such Beowulf or Roland?
  3. Give your interpretation of the love story of Dido and Aeneas. Concentrate on their degree of free will, what actually happened, how much of a bond this amounted to for Aeneas, and the conflicting claims of love and duty as they appeared to Aeneas. Do you feel Dido was wronged by Aeneas? What, if anything, should he have done differently?
  4. Imagine a situation in which Dido and Aeneas came before a jury to state their cases in their love dispute. Assume that even the gods and goddesses can be called as witnesses. Determine who is responsible for Dido's death. Write a script for this scenario.
  5. Compare the portrayal of the gods in Homer to those in the Aeneid. Be specific with each god.
  6. What are the characteristics of Aeneas as an epic hero?
  7. Would you say that Virgil's characters are realistic persons?
  8. What is the overall tone of Virgil’s writing?
  9. What is his attitude toward history?
  10. How would you evaluate the realism of Turnus as a character?
  11. Why is it necessary for Turnus to die?
  12. How would you evaluate the realism of Dido as a character? as a woman?
  13. Who are the two major god influences? What doe the represent and how do they function in the structure of the work?
  14. What solution does Virgil work out at the end of the epic? What is the nature of the new Roan heroism?
  15. How does Virgil socially bridge the gap between Rome's past, present, and future? Cite four important episodes which show this.
  16. Why is the father image so important with Virgil?

Notes

  1. Lucas, Gerald (January 26, 2014). "Virgil's Aeneid". GRLucas.net. Retrieved 2019-04-20.