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Aeneas and the Trojans, Virgil's epic

by Siv Palm, staff writer

 

“Camilla of the Volscian people came, riding ahead of her cavalry, her squadron gallant in bronze…She was hard and trained to take the shock of war, or to outrace the winds in running…To see her men and women poured from the fields, from houses, thronged her passage way and stared wide eyed with admiration at the style of royal purple, robing her smooth shoulders, then at the brooch that bore her hair in gold.”

 

Camilla was a warrior princess, riding into war against Aeneas, a surviving Trojan prince, son of Anchises brother of Troy’s former king, and the goddess Venus, destined by the gods to be the founder of a new great empire called Rome.

The passage is from the Aeneid, an epic poem written 2,000 years ago by Virgil, a close personal friend of the Roman Emperor Augustus and acknowledged today as one of the greatest Roman poets.

What the Lord of the Rings is for some people today, the Aeneid was for the Romans. The only difference is that while Tolkien’s trilogy is fantasy, the Aeneid is presented as the true tale of what happened to the Trojan people after the fall of Troy, and scholars today believe it may have basis in historical fact.

The Romans looked up to the people of Ilium, Troy, the glorious city known from Homer’s Iliad, written about 750 B.C. The Romans claimed kinship to the Trojans, and the Emperor Augustus himself claimed to be a Camilla and the armies of Italy.

The gods have already decided the outcome, but not the costs. And as in every great battle, the costs are great, even for the gods.

The Aeneid can be a bit heavy to read at times, but it is definitely worth it. The Everyman’s Library 1992 translation by Robert Fitzgerald is excellent. The language flows smoothly, and everything is explained in footnotes for the 2004 reader, who lacks what was considered common knowledge around year one.

If you like the Aeneid, you might also like to try Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. It was also written in Italy in the 14th century, and Virgil plays an important part in the story as Dante’s guide through hell and purgatory.

 

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