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Aeneid critical reports/4

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Introduction by Laura GribbellEdit

The critical report written by Aubree Heydrick is extremely insightful and describes a similar technique as some of the other reports. Her report was on The Birth of War: A Reading of Aeneid Book 7 by Sara Mack. Heydrick noted that the two most powerful tools of reading the Aeneid that Mack used was the comparison of Virgil to other authors as well as how women shape Book 7 of the Aeneid. The first technique noted, of the comparison to other authors, is very common among some of the other classmates’ critical reports. For instance, in the article by Gary Miles, he compares the writing of Virgil to that of Livy in order to identify the writing technique of Virgil throughout much of the entire Aeneid. By using the comparison to other authors, Mack is able to explain more of Virgil’s writing style with less ambiguity. Mack noticed that Virgil used the exact same words from one author, Apollonius’ in Argonautica, during the invocation of the muse in book 7. From Heydrick, this invocation is recognized as one of the most important for birth of war into the Aeneid.

The second technique that Mack uses is the influence of the female gender throughout Book 7. The differences and powers between genders are seen frequently in the approaches of the other articles, such as in the articles of Susan Ford Wiltshire and S. Georgia Nugent. Mack points out that the main character of Book 7 is a woman, which might seem odd in an epic about a man. Another woman is mentioned in the article that disregards all characteristics of a woman. So Mack is adding this womanly aspect that defies the traditional female characteristics into Virgil’s work.

The approaches described by Heydrick from the article by Sara Mack seem incredibly similar to many of the other authors’ techniques read by the class. I definitely see the comparison of the Aeneid to other authors’ works as strength to bringing out concepts or aspects that might have not necessarily been seen in Virgil’s work alone. As well as the womanly character that defies the typical feminine characteristics of the time is a strength that Mack uses in her article. Whether or not Virgil intended these concepts to be brought forth will forever be unknown but for now Mack’s approach is able to successfully bring out the concepts with a strong argument.

What We Don't Know Can't Hurt Us... Right? - Sara Mack's "The Birth of War: A Reading of Aeneid 7"Edit

Part 1 - Sara Mack's Chief Insights to Book 7Edit

In Sara Mack’s essay The Birth of War: A Reading of Aeneid 7, she starts right off by explaining that her focus will be on the aspects of Book 7 that most readers either have trouble with or fail to notice entirely, as opposed to any major elements of the plot. She also looks at some of Vergil’s allusions to other poets, such as Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, Apollonius, Lucretius, and Catullus, to his own poetry. By reading the Aeneid with an eye to what he has “stolen” from others, Mack explains, we as readers can enhance our enjoyment of Vergil’s poem. The first aspect of Book 7 that Mack discusses (that readers have trouble understanding) is the invocation of the Muse Erato. This appears as a parallel to the invocation of the Muse in Book 1, which seems to indicate that this is a new beginning of the story. Mack argues that with Erato’s name suggesting love and desire, it makes sense for her to lead this book which is infused with Vergil’s love for her native land, expressed over and over, from beginning to end. Therefore Erato appears to be the perfect Muse to introduce the birth of Roman history, which in Vergil’s mind is also the birth of war, hence the title. The second aspect that Mack explores, the aspect that she also gives the most attention to because readers fail to notice it, is the role of the various women characters in Book 7. She takes careful note of how female characters dominate this book and investigates all the roles played by Juno, Allecto, Amata, Lavinia, Silvia, Camilla, Caieta, Circe, Erato, Celaeno, and Danaë. While exploring these two aspects, Mack also examines the stories and ideas “stolen” by Vergil from other poets and analyzes their effect on the story.

Part 2 - What We Don't NoticeEdit

In order to understand the Aeneid like Mack does, it is important to focus on the aspects of the story that readers have trouble understanding and fail to notice altogether. It is in these elements, Mack believes, that some of the most truly amazing themes used by Vergil are present. At the same time, recognizing and understanding where these themes come from (whether they are Vergil’s original ideas or were “stolen” from other poets) is another key feature in the understanding of Book 7, and one could argue, the Aeneid as a whole. By exploring these various aspects, Mack’s goal is to enhance our understanding, interpretation, and enjoyment of the book at such a pivotal time in the overall story and provide insight to its significance.

Mack argues that the call on Erato at the beginning of Book 7 indicates that the poet is in need of a fresh creative force and new momentum to tackle what lays before him, similar to his call to the Muse in Book 1 when he is trying to understand the causas, the “reasons” for Juno’s hatred. The language throughout the invocation creates a sense of what Mack refers to as “toil and creation”: expediam (“I will disentangle”), revocabo (“I will recall or call back into being”), and exordia (“beginnings”). Erato is called upon to preside over a new birth (nascitur ordo), which implies a new order is coming into being in history and in the story. By discussing these elements Mack supports that, although confusing and seemingly unrealistic at first, the call to Muse Erato is in fact very sensible on the part of Vergil.

From here, Mack also discusses what Vergil has “stolen” from other ancient poets in every attempt to better understand the ambiguous elements of Book 7. The most significant occurrence of this takes place in the opening line of the book. Mack takes careful note of how at the beginning of Book 3 of Apollonius’ Argonautica (which is also the halfway point of the four-book epic), he calls on Erato for help as the Argonauts in the story reach their goal – the home of the Golden Fleece. Vergil does almost exactly the same thing, calling on Erato at the halfway point of his own epic as the Trojans reach their goal and the place where Roman history begins. Furthermore, Vergil even begins the invocation with a literal translation of Apollonius’ opening words: “Come now Erato, stand by my side.” Recognizing the parallel between these two great works is an essential part in understanding and appreciating Book 7 as it brings a new beginning, and the “birth of war”, into the Aeneid.

The other aspect which Mack spends more time and effort exploring, is the role and influence of the many female characters in Book 7. While it is quite possible that Vergil never thought about the matter of how females predominate in Book 7, Danaë’s presence does seem to indicate that he was fully aware of the central role he was giving women in this section of the poem. Mack believes it is indeed significant that Vergil created a part for a woman who played a man’s role in man’s world – Danaë arrived at Italy in a ship and founded a city for her fellow travelers and was successful. Mack also points out how there is no mention of Perseus; the story indicated a woman’s foundation story and gave no mention to the birth of a male hero. Another significant female character that Mack pays special attention to is Camilla, who in the final lines of the book closes the section among a catalogue of warriors. As a huntress turned warrior, Camilla ignores traditional female values and still manages to get the last word in a book which uses an array of female characters to paint the portrait of pre-Roman Italy and Troy’s impact on it. Mack argues that Camilla represents Italy as it is when Aeneas arrived, taking into account her youthful energy and paradoxical mixture of peace and militarism. As we have seen, examining the role of women in Book 7 helps to illuminate the meaning and influence of Vergil’s words in many ways. In order to understand the Aeneid like Sara Mack does we must pay closer attention to aspects of the story that we do not understand or feel are unimportant, because they may end up being eye-opening after all.

Part 3 - Iris in Book 5Edit

After reading Sara Mack’s article, the aspect that I thought has the most ramifications for the rest of the poem is how some parts or themes of the Aeneid are overlooked because they are deemed unimportant or are not understood. For those readers who do not know very much about ancient Roman or Greek mythology, this could be as simple as not understanding why a certain god or goddess is mentioned at a specific moment in the story. For example, in Book 5 Juno sends her messenger Iris down to the Trojan fleet, and she eventually performs the proper rites for Dido after her death and takes her soul to the underworld:

Dum variis tumulo referent sollemnia ludis, (605)
Irim de caelo misit Saturnia Juno
Iliacam ad classem ventosque aspirat eunti,
multa movens necdum antiquum saturate dolorem.

While they with their various games are paying honor to the tomb, Saturnian Juno sends Iris down from the sky to the Trojan fleet and she breathes out a breeze for her passage, thinking much about her ancient resentment which is still unsatisfied.

Being aware of Iris’ role in mythology is key to understanding why she is specifically brought into the story at this time. She is a messenger of the gods and goddesses and often links them to the mortals on Earth, traveling through the worlds with the speed of wind to deliver messages and perform tasks for the gods. With this in mind, it only makes sense that Iris would be sent to deliver a message to the Trojan fleet from Juno. Her task of bringing Dido’s soul down to the underworld also makes her role clearer with this information in mind. Now, a part of the story which was once perhaps overlooked becomes much more important and understood to the reader. If such focus were put on other aspects, themes, and characters in the Aeneid, parts of the story may become easier to understand and even more appreciated.

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