LATN 402B/502B: “Virgil’s Aeneid Book 12”
The aim of this course is to improve your fluency in Latin and to acquaint you with the closing book of Virgil’s epic poem, the Aeneid (studied in Latin) and with the narrative arc of the entire poem (studied in English).
The Aeneid was at the centre of European culture from Virgil’s death in 19 BCE down to the 19th century. Because of this, it influenced generations of elite men who became political and military leaders. Virgil’s story concerns Trojan refugees, fleeing from the destruction of their city of Troy (in modern Turkey) and travelling westwards through the Mediterranean, repeatedly trying to settle until they reach Italy, their destined new home, which was no more an empty land (terra nullius) than were the Americas when the European colonists arrived. Virgil’s hero Aeneas is forced to fight the indigenous peoples, and he is told that after his victory his Trojans will blend with the native Latins and that the city of Rome will arise from this fusion. Since medieval times the Aeneid has often been viewed by its elite male readership as a justification of imperial expansion, especially westward expansion, and of colonialism. In essence, it explains what we (settlers) are doing here, spread through the Americas.
Book 12 with its focus on the duel between Aeneas and Turnus and on Jupiter’s overcoming of Juno’s resistance to the Trojans raises a multitude of issues, including Virgil’s reworkings of Homer’s Iliad, his sympathies for the two warriors, his ‘message’–pro-imperial or anti-imperial?–and his handling of the ending, which has seemed to many incomplete.
Undergraduates will read all of Book 12 in Latin and the whole poem in English, using Sarah Ruden’s translation. Graduate students will additionally read part of Book 1 in Latin and Maffeo Vegio’s Book 13 (written in 1428) in English.
The assigned edition of Book 12 is Richard Tarrant’s edition in the Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics series. All students will need to purchase this edition along with Sarah Ruden’s translation.
Virgil Aeneid 12 edited by Richard Tarrant. Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics. Cambridge University Press, 2012
Virgil The Aeneid translated by Sarah Ruden. New Haven, Yale University Press, 2008.