This week, we read Books 2 and 3 of the Aeneid, then I listened to Lecture 4. Did you catch Mr. C’s sly pun at the beginning of the lecture? Since I live with a very pun-ny guy, I know that look that precedes a pun . . .
So we breached the walls
And laid the city open . . .
Deadly, pregnant with enemies, the horse
Crawled upward to the breach. And boys and girls
Sang hymns around the towrope . . .
. . . on we strove unmindful, deaf and blind,
To place the monster on our blessed height.
~ Aeneid, II.313-329, tr. Robert Fitzgerald
The Trojans were the authors of their own destruction—tearing down the city walls to bring the horse into the city, ignoring warning after warning. How do we do this today in our country? How do I do this in my own life? There are lessons and warnings to be heeded here.
I saw before me Troy in miniature,
A slender copy of our massive tower,
A dry brooklet named Xanthus . . . and I pressed
My body against a Scaean Gate.
~ Aeneid, III.477-4801, tr. Robert Fitzgerald
Andromache and Helenus have built a small-scale replica of old Troy, and Aeneas weeps with longing. But Aeneas is to build a much more glorious new Troy in Italy. The City of Man echoes The City of God—for me, this recalls Israel seeking the shadow rather than the substance in the Old Testament, looking back and longing to rebuild the old earthly Jerusalem, oblivious to the future glories of the new heavenly Jerusalem.
You must prepare great walls for a great race.
Keep up the long toil of your flight. Your settlement
Must be changed. This coast is not the one . . .
. . . There is a country,
Hesperia, as the Greeks have named it—ancient,
Full of man-power in war and fruitful earth; . . .
. . . new generations called it Italy . . .
~ Aeneid, III.223-231, tr. Robert Fitzgerald
Aeneas’ wanderings parallel those of Odysseus in several ways. First, as we saw in the embedded maps, the routes of both men are similar. Second, both make lengthy stops along the way, but where Odysseus was going back to his old familiar home, Aeneas was heading for a new unfamiliar home. Odysseus always longs for his one true home; Aeneas was content to make any of several places along the way into home, even at the risk of ignoring or perhaps even defying his fate.
A good question from Heather on the Week 1 Roman Roads post sent me searching for understanding of Vergil’s fatum, translated fate. I found helpful thoughts in Peter Leithart’s Heroes of the City of Man. The great virtue that Aeneas must learn in order to fulfil his fate is pietas, or piety, in this context obedience to duty. Resistance to fate is furor, literally madness or frenzy, clearly seen in the actions of Juno as she tries to deter Aeneas from pietas. These are thoughts to mull over and come back to.
This gorgeous painting reproduced in the Roman Roads guide inspired me to do a little digging. The inspiration for “Captive Andromache”, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1888 was Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s translation of these lines from the Iliad, Book 4.
Some standing by
Marking thy tears fall, shall say
The wife of that same Hector that fought best
Of all the Trojans at Troy.
~ translated from The Iliad by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The English painter and Royal Academy president Lord Frederic Leighton was the first and only English painter to be given a peerage (1896). He enjoyed a friendship with the Brownings, ultimately designing Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s tomb. Many of his paintings depicted scenes from classic literature. Here’s a gallery of his work, along with his bio.
The Great Conversation includes artists as well as authors. And, Lord Leighton is now on the upcoming list of artists for Picture Study at Cottage Press.
You must not hold the woman of Laconia,
That hated face, the cause of this, nor Paris.
The harsh will of the gods it is, the gods,
That overthrows the splendor of this place
And brings Troy from her height into the dust.
Look over there: I’ll tear away the cloud
That curtains you, and films your mortal sight.
~ Aeneid, II.790-795, tr. Robert Fitzgerald