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Thread: Questions about The Aeneid

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    Questions about The Aeneid

    I just started rereading The Aeneid, and I was confused about a couple of things. First, why does Virgil refer to the gods by their Roman names? I realize that Virgil was Roman, however isn't The Aeneid supposed to be about the journey that Aeneas and his fellow Trojans takes to find a new home that will eventually be Rome? In other words, Rome doesn't officially exist until the end of the story. I thought that the Romans copied several of their gods from the Greek gods. Zeus=Jove and so forth. Shouldn't everyone be thinking of and referring to these gods by their Greek names and not their Roman ones?

    Secondly, why does Virgil say that Aeneas's mother is Venus/Aphrodite, but then from her description make her sound like Artemis? When Aeneas first talks to "Venus", Virgil talks about how she's a huntress, how she's wild, she has a bow and arrow etc. . .As far as I know, that does not describe Venus/Aphrodite, it describes Artemis. I actually noticed this when I was reading Black Ships by Jo Graham. She referred to the sacrifice of Iphigenia and said that it was done because Aphrodite refused to let the wind blow so the Greek ships could go to Troy unless Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter. However, everything else I've read about this says that it was Artemis who demanded this sacrifice and not Aphrodite. The author said that her book is based on The Aeneid. Did Virgil mix up his goddesses, which caused Jo Graham to get things mixed up, or am I missing something here?

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    Quote Originally Posted by varnish7 View Post
    I just started rereading The Aeneid, and I was confused about a couple of things. First, why does Virgil refer to the gods by their Roman names? I realize that Virgil was Roman, however isn't The Aeneid supposed to be about the journey that Aeneas and his fellow Trojans takes to find a new home that will eventually be Rome? In other words, Rome doesn't officially exist until the end of the story. I thought that the Romans copied several of their gods from the Greek gods. Zeus=Jove and so forth. Shouldn't everyone be thinking of and referring to these gods by their Greek names and not their Roman ones?
    If Romans do not use the roman names, who would? The Roman god's are similar to greek gods, but they have difference. Plus, Virgil and Romans admire the greek art, but they identify themselves with trojans, they had no reason to specifically use greek.

    Secondly, why does Virgil say that Aeneas's mother is Venus/Aphrodite, but then from her description make her sound like Artemis? When Aeneas first talks to "Venus", Virgil talks about how she's a huntress, how she's wild, she has a bow and arrow etc. . .As far as I know, that does not describe Venus/Aphrodite, it describes Artemis. I actually noticed this when I was reading Black Ships by Jo Graham. She referred to the sacrifice of Iphigenia and said that it was done because Aphrodite refused to let the wind blow so the Greek ships could go to Troy unless Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter. However, everything else I've read about this says that it was Artemis who demanded this sacrifice and not Aphrodite. The author said that her book is based on The Aeneid. Did Virgil mix up his goddesses, which caused Jo Graham to get things mixed up, or am I missing something here?
    But the poet knows she resembles Diana. He says it. She is disguised, Mortal may correct me, but it was a irony. Diana is the oposite of Afrodite, she is revelling Dido to Aeneas, not herself to her son. Plus, it may show a more warlike approach to Carthage... I dunno about Jo Graham however...

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    In Greece, Jupiter was viewed the Roman version of Zeus, and vice versa. Virgil was a Roman poet, writing for a Roman audience, so naturally he used Roman terminology.

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    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Virgil's a Roman, so he uses the Roman names for things. The reason that Venus is portrayed with Artemis-like features is because she is in disguise. This book of the Aeneid corresponds to Book 6 of Homer's Odyssey where Odysseus meets Nausicaa. It is Nausicaa who resembles Artemis.
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    I know that Virgil is Roman, so that he would use the Roman name for things. My point was that Aeneas and the others are NOT Roman yet. Rome doesn't exist yet. From my understanding, the Romans/Italians incorporated the Greek gods into their mythology and changed the names. In other words, it sounds like Aeneas travelled to what would eventually become Rome, joined his people with those already there and introduced the Greek gods to them. Over time the Greek gods' names were changed to Roman ones. Isn't Virgil referring to the gods by names that shouldn't exist at the time he's telling the story? Wouldn't it be like me writing a story that takes place during World War I and referring to the conflict as World War I instead of the Great War?

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    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Now that you mention it, how do they speak in first century Latin, when it's the year 1250 BC? Why's everybody speak in verse if they're not all poets? And how come the Carthaginian's understand them perfectly without translators?
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    Cool Virgil wrote in Latin. so any translation, such as the ....

    Dryden translation would be with Roman gods. Stranger yet, my Iliad and Odyssey, translated by Alexander Pope, uses Roman names since Pope translated from Latin, not Greek. You seem to be worrying about things which do not change the story.

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    Roman god same as Christian god. maybe exist since universe born. or before?

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    It is not strange, we are under influence of Rome, not greece, the language that lasted more than 1000 years and it was the classical language was Latin, not greek, the poets were Ovid and Virgil, the greek texts were mostly read translated or mentioned by latine authors.

    Shouldn't Dante have used the original language and names for all people he meets in Hell and Heaven? After all those guys when died , did as greek, jews, etc and dout dying is an latin lesson.

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    OK, I guess I can see everyone's point about using the Roman names for the gods. I do have another stupid question though, where did Aeneas get all of these fabulous prizes for that Game day thing they had? From the sound of things, Aeneas escaped Troy with the city burning down around him and the enemy slaughtering everyone in sight. I'm figuring he was lucky to get out with the clothes on his back. It doesn't seem likely that he would have time to grab a whole lot in the way of valuables. Plus, didn't his ships sink at some point? I suppose Aeneas could have gotten all of this stuff when he was with Dido, but given the circumstances of their breakup, it seemed like he would want to pack light. Despite all of this, he has enough in the way of weapons and gold to just be able to give them away during a game.

    Also, where do they get the animals that they sacrifice in these epics? Are they on board the ship? Do they buy them? Hunt them? What? And it's not like any old animal will do either. Apparently, they have to get animals that are pure white or never been shorn or things like that. I remember wondering about this while reading the Iliad, when it seemed like the Greeks would sacrifice 50 animals a day that they got from "somewhere".

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    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
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    Varnish, you're approaching the Aeneid from a very modern standpoint. You have to realize that their standards of realism were not the same as ours and reading the Classical epics requires a suspension in belief. But if you insist, I think the easy answer is that Aeneas obviously lives a charmed life and is under the protection of the gods: Venus, Jupiter, etc. It's not unthinkable that if they had warned him of Troy's fall, they might've also provided him with the supplies (including ritual objects to worship the gods) he needs to escape. After all, he apparently had time to gather up the Penates before he left. And he has a fleet worth of ships (I don't remember the exact number. 10? 12?) full of men and supplies.

    Also, don't forget that Aeneas visited Helenus and Andromache in Buthrotum, who presumably give him gifts (since he's a fellow Trojan prince). And he has stolen all of Polyphemus' sheep, which might(?) be used as sacrificial animals in the games. So Aeneas has had the chance to resupply along the way.

    Edit: Also, in answer to your original question, remember that Virgil is writing for a Roman audience, so he would want to make the story familiar to them. Hence he would use the Latin language and Roman names of gods. That's simply an accepted literary feature of ancient and medieval writing. If you're writing a story, you ALWAYS set it in the past (that's the easiest way of authorizing your the truth of your narrative) but you write in a language familiar to your audience. Thus, if you're making any social or political commentary (as Virgil does), your audience can pick up on it.

    Re: Venus' disguise. Am I wrong in suggesting that Venus was dressed as a huntress to test Aeneas? (It's been a couple years since I read it...I don't quite remember.) I don't think she wants to trick Aeneas into thinking she's Diana herself, just a random human huntress who perhaps follows Diana. The point is the disguise and that Aeneas eventually recognizes her as his mother.
    Last edited by Wilde woman; 03-16-2011 at 06:06 PM.
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