Virgil: possible test questions 1. Bk I: 1-11 Invocation to the Muse I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate, first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to Lavinian shores – hurled about endlessly by land and sea, by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno’s remorseless anger, long suffering also in war, until he founded a city and brought his gods to Latium: from that the Latin people came, the lords of Alba Longa, the walls of noble Rome. Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity, how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man, noted for virtue, to endure such dangers, to face so many rials? Can there be such anger in the minds of the gods? * Give a brief overview of the context of the passage. * Explain the significance of the phrase “arms and the man”. What / who are the two themes referred to here? * Who is the speaker, whom does he address, and why? * What is the reason for Juno’s remorseless anger? Who is the object of her anger? * Who is the man “noted for virtue” and why? * How is this passage typical of epic poetry? I sing of warfare and a man at war. From the sea-coast of Troy in early days He came to Italy by destiny, To our Lavinian western shore, A fugitive, this captain, buffeted . . Till he could found a city and bring home His gods to Laetium, land of the Latin race, The Alban lords, and the high walls of Rome. Tell me the causes now, O Muse, how galled . . . From her old wound, the queen of gods compelled him— . . . To undergo so many perilous days And enter on so many trials. Can anger Black as this prey on the minds of heaven? (I. 1–19) With these opening lines of the Aeneid, Virgil enters the epic tradition in the shadow of Homer, author of the Iliad, an epic of the Trojan War, and theOdyssey, an epic of the Greek hero Ulysses’ wanderings homeward from Troy.
By naming his subjects as “warfare and a man,” Virgil establishes himself as an heir to the themes of both Homeric epics. The man, Aeneas, spends the first half of the epic wandering in search of a new home and the second half at war fighting to establish this homeland. Lines 2 through 4 summarize Aeneas’s first mission in the epic, to emigrate from Troy to Italy, as a fate already accomplished. We know from Virgil’s use of the past tense that what he presents is history, that the end is certain, and that the epic will be an exercise in poetic description of historical events.
In the phrase “our Lavinian . . . shore,” Virgil connects his audience, his Roman contemporaries, to Aeneas, the hero of “early days. ” Even though we do not learn Aeneas’s name in these lines, we learn much about him. The fact that Aeneas’s name is withheld for so long—until line 131—emphasizes Aeneas’s lack of importance as an individual; his contribution to the future defines him. He is a “fugitive” and a “captain” and therefore a leader of men. That he bears responsibility to “bring home / His gods” introduces the concept of Aeneas’s piety through his duty to the hearth gods of Troy.
Most important, we learn that Aeneas is “a man apart, devoted to his mission. ” Aeneas’s detachment from temporal and emotional concerns and his focus on the mission of founding Rome, to which Virgil alludes in the image of walls in line12, increase as the epic progresses. In this opening passage, Virgil mentions the divine obstacle that will plague Aeneas throughout his quest: the “sleepless rage” of the “queen of gods,” Juno. Aeneas will suffer in the face of storms at sea and, later, a war on land, and Virgil attributes both these impediments to Juno’s cruelty.
In line 13, the poet asks the muse to explain the causes of Juno’s ire. The invocation of a muse is the traditional opening line to an epic in the classical tradition beginning with Homer. Virgil delays his invocation of the muse by a dozen lines, first summarizing what might be considered a matter of mortal history, and then inquiring the muse of the matter’s divine causes. Virgil’s question, “Can anger / Black as this prey on the minds of heaven? ” brings up the ancients’ relationship to the gods. Within their polytheistic religious system, the Greeks and Romans reckoned the will of the gods to be the cause of all events on Earth.
Instead of attributing forces of good and evil to the gods, as later religions did, the Greeks and Romans believed the gods to be motivated by emotions recognizable to humans—jealousy, vanity, pride, generosity, and loyalty, for example. The primary conflict in the Aeneid is Juno’s vindictive anger against the forces of fate, which have ordained Aeneas’s mission to bring Troy to Italy, enabling the foundation of Rome. 2. Bk I: 257-296 Jupiter’s Prophecy ‘Don’t be afraid, Cytherea, your child’s fate remains unaltered: You’ll see the city of Lavinium, and the walls I promised, and you’ll raise great-hearted Aeneas high, to the starry sky. But the boy Ascanius, surnamed Iulus now (He was Ilus while the Ilian kingdom was a reality) will imperially complete thirty great circles of the turning months. … From this glorious source a Trojan Caesar will be born, who will bound the empire with Ocean, his fame with the stars, Augustus, a Julius, his name descended from the great Iulus. You, no longer anxious, will receive him one day in heaven, burdened with Eastern spoils: he’ll be called to in prayer. Then with wars abandoned, the harsh ages will grow mild: White haired Trust, and Vesta, Quirinus with his brother Remus will make the laws: the gates of War, grim with iron, nd narrowed by bars, will be closed: inside impious Rage will roar frighteningly from blood-stained mouth, seated on savage weapons, hands tied behind his back, with a hundred knots of bronze. ’ * Give a brief overview of the context of the passage. (Who is speaking? To whom is this person speaking? What is the general message? ) * Explain the link between Aeneas and Augustus. Why is this link important? (Focus on the characteristics of the two men and explain Virgil’s political intention). * What do the “gates of War” refer to? Explain the significance of the last four lines. 3. Bk II: 624-670 Aeneas Finds his Family Oh, you,” he cried, “whose blood has the vigour of youth, and whose power is unimpaired in its force, it’s for you to take flight. As for me, if the gods had wished to lengthen the thread of my life, they’d have spared my house. It is more than enough that I saw one destruction, and survived one taking of the city. Depart, saying farewell to my body lying here so, yes so. I shall find death with my own hand: the enemy will pity me, and look for plunder. The loss of my burial is nothing. Clinging to old age for so long, I am useless, and hated by the gods, ever since the father of the gods and ruler of men breathed the winds f his lightning-bolt onto me, and touched me with fire. ” So he persisted in saying, and remained adamant. We, on our side, Creusa, my wife, and Ascanius, all our household, weeping bitterly, determined that he should not destroy everything along with himself, and crush us by urging our doom. … “ Did you think I could leave you, father, and depart? Did such sinful words fall from your lips? If it pleases the gods to leave nothing of our great city standing, if this is set in your mind, if it delights you to add yourself and all that’s yours to the ruins of Troy, the door is open to that death… Give a brief overview of the context of the passage. * Comment as fully as possible on Anchises’ attitude and what it reveals about his character. * Explain the decision Aeneas has to make. 4. Bk IV: 584-629 Dido’s Curse O Sun, you who illuminate all the works of this world, and you Juno, interpreter and knower of all my pain, and Hecate howled to, in cities, at midnight crossroads, you, avenging Furies, and you, gods of dying Elissa, acknowledge this, direct your righteous will to my troubles, and hear my prayer. If it must be that the accursed one should reach the harbour, and sail to the shore: f Jove’s destiny for him requires it, there his goal: still, troubled in war by the armies of a proud race, exiled from his territories, torn from Iulus’s embrace, let him beg help, and watch the shameful death of his people: then, when he has surrendered, to a peace without justice, may he not enjoy his kingdom or the days he longed for, but let him die before his time, and lie unburied on the sand. This I pray, these last words I pour out with my blood. Then, O Tyrians, pursue my hatred against his whole line and the race to come, and offer it as a tribute to my ashes.
Let there be no love or treaties between our peoples. Rise, some unknown avenger, from my dust, who will pursue the Trojan colonists with fire and sword, now, or in time to come, whenever the strength is granted him. I pray that shore be opposed to shore, water to wave, weapon to weapon: let them fight, them and their descendants. ” * Give a brief overview of the context of this passage. * Who is the speaker? What does her tone convey? Explain why this is so. * What important theme can be identified in the passage? Explain in detail. * Comment on Aeneas’ reasons for leaving Carthage.