Vergil’s Aeneid Via Roman Roads – Week 7

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Vergil’s Aeneid Via Roman Roads Reading Schedule

This week I read Book VII. Book deadlines and family needs (a.k.a. chauffeur services) necessitate a short and sweet post with mostly quotes from the text. 😀

Reflection 1

Boldly with hand and jaw
They broke the crusted disks of prophecy
Making short work of all those quartered loaves.
“Look how we’ve devoured our tables even!”
Iulus playfully said, and said no more
For that  remark as soon as heard had meant
The end of wandering . . . ~ Aeneid VII, 348-350

Aeneas, “struck by the work of heaven,” once more recognized fatum:

“. . . Here is our home,
Here is our fatherland. You know, my father
Anchises once foretold this secret token—
Now I remember—of our destiny.
He told me then: ‘My son, when the time comes
That hunger on a strange coast urges you,
When food has failed, to eat your very tables,
Then you may look for home: be mindful of it . . .’ ” ~Aeneid VII, 160-166

Interesting that it was Anchises’ words, and not those of the Fury (III.349). And King Latinus also realized it:

“This is the man,”
He thought, “foretold as coming from abroad
To be my son-in-law, by fate appointed,
Called to reign here with equal authority. . .  ~ Aeneid VII, 342-345

Reflection 2

. . .Well if my powers fall short,
I need not falter over asking help
Wherever help may lie. If I can sway
No heavenly hearts I’ll rouse the world below.
It will not be permitted me—so be it—
To keep the man from rule in Italy. . . ~ Aeneid VII, 423-428

Juno’s furor continues, heedless and reckless. She enlists the Fury Allecto, to

“. . . arm
For combat brothers of one soul between them,
Twist homes with hatred . .
Shake out the folded strategems within you,
Break up this peace-pact, scatter acts of war. . .” ~ Aeneid VII, 458ff

Allecto in turn enflames Amata, the wife of King Latinus with furor:

. . . Now the goddess
Plucked one of the snakes, her gloomy tresses,
And tossed it at the woman, sent it down
Her bosom to her midriff and her heart,
So that by this black reptile driven wild
She might disrupt her whole house. . .
And the serpent . . .
went writhing on, though imperceptible
To the fevered woman’s touch or sight, and breathed
Viper’s breath into her. . .
While the infection first, like dew of poison
Fallen on her, pervaded all her senses
Netting her bones in fire—though still her soul
Had not responeded fully to the flame— . . .
The serpent’s evil madness circulated,
Suffusing her, the poor queen, now enflamed
By prodigies of hell, went wild indeed
And with insane abandon roamed the city. ~ Aeneid VII, 475ff

Yep. My worst nightmare. Snakes. And yes, of course, I read this right before bed. Oy!

Worse by far, the convicting epic simile describing a woman hell-bent on destroying her home and her husband’s kingdom. I recognize this kind of restless folly, lurking as it does in the shadows of my own heart.

One sees at times a top that a wound-up thong
Snapped into a spin, when, all eyes for the sport,
Boys drive it round a court in a great circle,
Sweeping curves on the ground, flicked by the whip,
While the small boys in fascination bend
Above the rounded boxwood as it whirls,
Given new life at each stroke of the lash.
So restless, wheeling like a spinning top,
Amata . . . ~ Aeneid VII, 121-129

Connections

The Aeneid recounts the coming of a kingdom. The Gospel of Mark, our current sermon series at church, also recounts the coming of a kingdom. In each case, I am struck by the women who accompany or who in some way intersect with the chosen king. Mark shows us the widow who gave all she had to live on, placing her two small coins in the temple box. He shows us the woman who did “what she could”, spilling out an extravagant treasure to anoint the body of Christ. Even Pilate’s wife warned Pilate “have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” (Matthew 27:19).

Vergil, on the other hand, shows us self-serving goddesses, wives and mothers burning their own ships, and queens tearing down their homes and kingdoms with their own hands. Granted, there are a few somewhat kinder, gentler portayals, yet furor thus far in the Aeneid has been mostly associated in some way with women.

This prompts a few questions: Are the women surrounding the coming of each kingdom indicative of the nature of that kingdom? Are they indicative of the true value of women in the respective kingdoms?

No answers, just questions.

Commonplace

. . . shadowed by trees and by history ~ Aeneid VII, line 230

This lovely, lovely description of Latinus’ palace conjures of visions of places that I love. Beautiful imagery, and fine example of the figure zuegma. Several students in our literature class at Providence Prep caught it also. Made this teacher’s heart happy.

Vergil’s Aeneid Via Roman Roads – Previous Week’s Posts

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6

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