This article was originally published on the defunct Ancient World Magazine website and is now re-published here.
We’ve been writing a lot about the Trojan War on Ancient World Magazine and also devoted an earlier episode of the podcast to chat about the 2004-movie Troy. Virgil’s Aeneid is a useful topic of discussion, as it connects the world of Greek mythology with that of Roman legend, and also connects myth to history.
Virgil (70–19 BC) consciously modelled the Aeneid after the two Homeric epics, Iliad and Odyssey. The first half of the poem (books 1 through 6) focus on Aeneas’ wanderings and are analogous to the Odyssey. The second half (books 7 through 12) focus on Aeneas’ struggles in Latium and the war against the Rutulians and their allies, with clear allusions to the Iliad.
Virgil’s poem is an intricate work of literature, incorporating Greek and Italic myths, legends, and folklore. A key theme of the poem is the tension between pietas (piety) on the one hand, and furor (violence, rage) on the other. More specifically, Virgil asks us whether the end justifies the means. Is human suffering in the short term worth the establishment of peace and order in the long term?
As always, there’s also a YouTube version of this episode.