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The End to the Epic
Transcript of The End to the Epic
This article attempts to show that the abruptness of the end of the Aeneid
contributes to its being, at least in part, an attack on Rome and the Augustan
settlement, because it must have been very shocking to a Roman reader and
seemed much more brutal to him than it does to us. 1 In order to prove this it is
necessary to demonstrate a basic point about ancient Greek and Roman plot
structure, which is very interesting and important in itself. It is that ancient
literary works do not end with a violent or emphatic action. Instead, the climactic
event is followed by episodes that resolve various problems, usually in a
conciliatory manner, and often point forward to new events or considerations.
Thus the impact of the climax of ancient literary works is diminished or dissolved
and their endings are anti-climactic by modem standards.
The combat between Aeneas and Turnus is modelled on that between Achilles
and Hector in Iliad 22. That is also a climactic event. It is the last fight in the Iliad
and the fulfilment of Achilles' furious desire for revenge on Hector. This theme is
developed with much more consistency and prominence in the last part of the
Iliad than Aeneas' desire for revenge against Turnus is developed in the last part
of the Aeneid. But after it are the lamentations of Hector's family, the funeral of
Patroclus, including the elaborately described contests, Priam's visit to Achilles,
and finally Hector's funeral. In the last sentence, 'Thus they held the funeral of
Hector', the particle yE before the pronominal subject creates the impression that
something antithetical should follow.
How does Virgil handle the political necessities required at the end of the Aeneid, both in terms of Turnus but also the agreement reached between the gods?
Both here, and throughout the text, how does Virgil manage to present a coherent subversion of the orientalist origins and roots of the Roman people?
Something especially important if they are, as is argued, descended from Trojan warriors whose culture finds no place in Augustan Rome.
Takayuki Yamasawa argues that the ending of the text, due to its multiple instances of foreshadowing and prophecies surrounding Turnus' death, 'is neither 'violent' or 'astonishing.' That is only a superficial impression and we might call it misdirected to try and detect Virgil's anti-Roman sentiments in these aspects of the poem.'
S. Farron argues that the abruptness of the end of the
'is utterly unique in ancient Greek and Latin Literature' and that it 'must have struck Vergil's contemporaries as extremely jarring and disturbing.'
The Submerging of the Trojan people
L.O. - To evaluate the ending of the Aeneid and the way in which it plays with classical conventions in literature.
'Vergil did not, of course, tie together all he loose ends of his epic in its closing lines. The
has no epilogue in which the author attempts to sum up the major themes of the epic. Unlike the Greek tradedians, Vergul does not append to his awork a pious platitude about the folly of men or the gods' inscrutable ways. Nor does the ending of the epic point forward to future developments or new considerations. Vergil does not follow the practice of Greek and Roman historians who often conclude their works by indicating that future historians will continue the story which they have begun or by directing the reader's attention to future events. Although Vergil includes prophecies about Aeneas and his descendants and their future in Italy earlier in his epic, the reader is not reminded of them in the final book.
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