Mr. Boisvert guest lecture (Aeneid 2)

Mr. Boisvert

Mr. Boisvert sat in Classical Lit today and took us through Book 2 of The Aeneid. It is a fun section to read and discuss in this course, having read The Iliad and Odyssey previously, as well the Oresteia. There are so many parallels, and it serves as a reminder that the ancients viewed imitation as the highest form of flattery. This comes to the forefront in Book 2 of The Aeneid, in which Aeneas recounts the fall of Troy, a tale as well known to the ancient Romans as our modern narratives of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are to us. Why, asked Mr. Boisvert, would Vergil bother retelling a story (especially in such detail!) that everyone already knew. 

Well, the answer we came to is that the telos, or purpose, is different for Vergil than it was for Homer. Vergil was writing a commissioned national epic for his great patron, Caesar Augustus. To summarize the Fate of Troy: If Troy didn't fall, then Aeneas wouldn't wander. If Aeneas didn't wander, then the Trojans would not get to Italy. If the Trojans didn't get to Italy, then the Roman race would not be founded. Thus, Troy must fall, but it must fall on Roman terms. And so the story is retold with the new telos of getting pious Aeneas and his faithful comrades to Italy and begin the work of building an empire.

So massive was the labor of founding Rome
— Vergil, The Aeneid 1.44 (transl. Lombardo)