This is nicely put. And I think it gets at the kinds of things teachers do in the classroom with Vergil that aren't necessarily the same things classicists do with Vergil in their scholarly writings. If the study of literature is involved in how we understand what it means to be human, then we *should* compare Aeneas to Abraham, Gilgamesh, and Beowulf. And it would be perverse to study medieval or Renaissance literature and ignore Aeneas's function in Christian culture.
Shawn Smith > -----Original Message----- > From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] > [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On Behalf Of Brian Gallagher > Sent: Monday, October 04, 2004 10:08 AM > To: [EMAIL PROTECTED] > Subject: RE: VIRGIL: Re: Ohio Girls, or: Back to Odysseus? > > Well said. I think many people dismiss any sort of talk of > Christianity and Virgil as a ridiculous anachronism. > However, consider the example of Plato, studied by Christian > scholars everywhere. Through reason, Socrates discovers true > virtue and the immortality of the soul. The poets too tell > us something about the truth of the world, though not a > systematically as the philosophers. Something Virgil, in my > opinion, knows about the truth of the world is the stain or > sorrow that people cannot escape. It seems to me that the > classical world (a gross overstatement, yes) had a melancholy > stemming from an awareness of its sins, or pollution, if you prefer. > Virgil's awareness is something similar to Odin's, who is sad > to see that even Asgaard cannot be built without some stain. > If there is to anything pure, it will not be man made, and if > there is really anything truly immaculate, it won't be > subject to rot and decay. Rome had conquered the world, but > it was a messy job, and like all men, even the best of men, > its founder had blood on his hands. > No, I don't think anyone seriously thinks Virgil as some Old > Testament style > prophet, declaring that a child shall be born...etc. But like the > philosophers, do not the poets express some truth? Why else > would they ever be remembered? > As for Aeneas and Odysseus, his journey may be modelled on > Ody., but is his character really anything like the Greek? > That sorrow about Aeneas' task comes from his slipping into > the Homeric role, spilling blood, killing another in single > combat, etc. That truer Roman virtue Aeneas exercised > earlier is perhaps impossible to perfectly apply to the earth > because, as Socrates concludes, it must come from the gods. > But even in its imperfect application, it is what Augustine > claims made Rome great. > Brian Gallagher > > >From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] > >Reply-To: [EMAIL PROTECTED] > >To: [EMAIL PROTECTED] > >Subject: VIRGIL: Re: Ohio Girls, or: Back to Odysseus? > >Date: Sun, 3 Oct 2004 21:32:39 -0400 > > > >Quoting David Wilson-Okamura <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>: > > > > > At 09:02 AM 10/1/2004 -0400, it was written: > > >> "Founder of the faith"? Which faith? Certainly not > Aeneas's faith. > > >> Isn't this just the tired old T. S. Eliot/Warde Fowler school of > > >> the Judeo-Christian Aeneas? > > > > > > "Founder of the faith" = Father of the West. But why so > scornful? If > >you've > > > read the book, fire away. Otherwise it's darkening counsel. > > > >Apologies for the scorn--perhaps I'm unconsciously absorbing some of > >the vitriol from recent skirmishes on the Shakespeare mailing list! > >Let me attempt to redeem (and clarify) myself. > > > >It's not that I think Haecker not worth reading, but the > particular "piece" > >(to > >use David's term) of Haecker that is obsolete is his (and Eliot's) > >attempt to say that Vergil is not entirely pagan, or that he > is a pagan > >who is not the same kind of pagan as Horace and Ovid (I > think Haecker > >calls Vergil an "adventist pagan," or something like that). Yes, as > >Brian points out, Augustine was powerfully influenced by > Vergil (though > >he attempts to distance himself from that influence in the > Confessions, > >no?), and he is part of a long tradition of medieval and Renaissance > >writers who used the Aeneid to harmonize the ideological and > cultural > >discontinuities between pagan and Christian Rome (as Dante > does at the > >beginning of Inferno 2). It's one thing for Dante to view > Vergil as a > >kind of proto-Christian poet, but it's quite another, I think, for a > >modern scholar to do so. The fact that Eclogue 4 sounds chillingly > >Christian has resulted in a lot of great poetry, but I don't > think any > >responsible modern scholar would would claim that Vergil was > actually > >predicting the birth of Christ. If one is trying to > understand Dante, > >it is useful to know how Aeneas *might* be viewed through > the lens of > >medieval Christianity, but if one is trying to understand Vergil, I > >don't think the lens of Christianity is a very useful tool. And not > >all early Christian writers were persuaded that Aeneas was an > >appropriate model for Christian ethics. > >Lactantius, for one, was deeply disturbed by Aeneas's slaughter of > >suppliants after the death of Pallas (a clear violation of > Anchises's > >instructions in Aeneid 6: "haec tibi erunt artes, pacisque imponere > >morem, / parcere subjectis et debellare superbos"). > > > >It seems to me that studies such as those by Thome, Barchiesi, and > >David Quint do a much better job than Haecker, Eliot, and Fowler of > >understanding Aeneas as a character because they do not > idealistically > >identify him as the hero of a nation or faith, or as a > prototype of the > >Christian hero, but because they view him as a character who > represents > >the kind of ambivalence evident in the most memorable > heroes, such as > >Achilles, who spends most of the Iliad in his tent wondering > if heroism > >is all that it's cracked up to be. And part of the > ambivalence about > >Aeneas is that he must, tragically, become Achilles in order > to found > >the Roman empire. He has made many sacrifices throughout > the poem, but > >in the end he must also give up the ethos of compassion and > mercy that > >has distinguished Trojan civilization in the past--and it is > that ethos > >that makes Aeneas attractive to Christian thinkers. Jesus made many > >sacrifices, including the ultimate one, but he did not give up his > >ability to love and pity. And in the end, I think the only > way one can > >make Vergil the beginning of European Christian literature > is to ignore > >the second half of the Aeneid--as many medieval poets did. > > > >Now, I realize there are different ways of thinking about > this topic, > >and I think this would be a great place to explore them. > But I think > >it might be even more interesting if we collectively addressed Bob > >White's original > >question: How might one compare Aeneas to Odysseus? Aeneas's > >wanderings in the first half of the Aeneid are clearly > modeled on the > >Odyssey, but other than that it's difficult for me to see many > >similarities between these two characters. They are both > dedicated to > >the idea of home and family, but Aeneas will never be able to return > >home, and he will never be able to enjoy the pleasures of > the new home > >he creates in Italy. Odysseus is clearly more cunning and deceptive > >than Aeneas, and more willing to stand up to the gods. > >But perhaps I'm missing something? Is it possible that they are > >opposites in some way? Is Lavinia an anti-Penelope? > > > >Shawn Smith > >[EMAIL PROTECTED] > > > >------------------------------------------------------------- > ---------- > >To leave the Mantovano mailing list at any time, do NOT hit reply. > >Instead, send email to [EMAIL PROTECTED] with the message > >"unsubscribe mantovano" in the body (omitting the quotation > marks). You > >can also unsubscribe at > http://virgil.org/mantovano/mantovano.htm#unsub > > _________________________________________________________________ > Express yourself instantly with MSN Messenger! Download today > - it's FREE! > http://messenger.msn.click-url.com/go/onm00200471ave/direct/01/ > > -------------------------------------------------------------- > --------- > To leave the Mantovano mailing list at any time, do NOT hit reply. > Instead, send email to [EMAIL PROTECTED] with the > message "unsubscribe mantovano" in the body (omitting the > quotation marks). You can also unsubscribe at > http://virgil.org/mantovano/mantovano.htm#unsub > ----------------------------------------------------------------------- To leave the Mantovano mailing list at any time, do NOT hit reply. Instead, send email to [EMAIL PROTECTED] with the message "unsubscribe mantovano" in the body (omitting the quotation marks). You can also unsubscribe at http://virgil.org/mantovano/mantovano.htm#unsub