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Introduction (by Matt Angelosanto)Edit

Anthony Boyle’s “Aeneid 8: Images of Rome” employs two distinct approaches to interpret Book 8. On the one hand, he uses a close textual analysis of the Book to draw connections between Aeneas’ founding of Rome and what is essentially a “re-founding” of Rome by Augustus. Through these connections, he explores what it meant to be a Roman in both Aeneas’ and Augustus’ time. On the other hand, he uses an intertextual approach to compare Aeneas and Achilles, presenting characteristics of both Aeneas and the city’s history that are completely at odds with his initial conclusions.

It is difficult to challenge the conclusions that Boyle draws in the first half of his argument, mostly because they are apparent to any student of Augustan history and Roman topography. Indeed, the author writes, “Few critics would disagree with the substance of the above account,” when he begins his counterargument (Boyle, 155). This technique is effective for a general analysis of the text, but I don’t find it really adds new meaning to the work as a whole. Any informed Latin student knows that the Aeneid was essentially composed as a propaganda piece for the Augustan regime.

Far more interesting is Boyle’s second reading of the text. Again, he employs some close reading techniques. As Shelby pointed out, he looks for uses of furor, superbis/superbus, and other words indicating aggression or haughtiness in his attempt to conclude that Aeneas is more analogous to Achilles than to the Augustan Roman ideal. Meshach points out that W.S. Anderson uses essentially the same technique to draw effective conclusions about Book XI. But Boyle also uses an intertextual approach to prove his point comparing Aeneid 8 and Achilles in Iliad 18. Engaging the two texts and constructing a more original interpretation is ultimately more convincing, not to mention more compelling, than the argument he presented in the first half of his essay. I also found this sort of appositional reading of two different texts to be more fulfilling and convincing when writing my own report on Beye’s “Vergil and Apollonius.” Unfortunately, it isn’t easy and is indeed impossible for most people to engage in such a technique, as it requires a somewhat sophisticated knowledge of both Latin and Greek. But such hard work and commitment certainly seems to pay off with regards to the originality, quality, and effectiveness of the conclusions drawn.

Anthony Boyle's Obscure Interpretation of Virgil's Rome (by Shelby Cuomo)Edit

The Romantic Rise of RomeEdit

Anthony Boyle’s interpretation of Book VIII of the Aeneid involves, as his title indicates, uncovering the complete Images of Rome. The first part of his explanation focuses on the foundations of Rome, based primarily off the fact that “Roman virtus, iustitia, and pietas prove triumphant over barbarous, criminal, and monstrous enemies of civilization” (153). Boyle looks to the beginning of this epic, pointing to instances that lead to anticipation and foreshadowing of the foundation of this virtuous city, which combine “Roman history, Virgilian and Augustan ideology, and narrative fantasy” in order to achieve this ideal society (150). The most interesting segment to Boyle’s analysis, however, involve his challenges to this theory of an idealized, honorable nation, as he looks to other means of translation. By doing this, Boyle reveals “Aeneas as the ‘new Achilles,’ and … savagery, anger, and flesh-dissolving fury as the prime instruments of Rome’s success” (159). Boyle uses interesting subtle arguments to prove how it is hard to overlook these obvious connections to a more violent Rome and Aeneas, compelling readers to reconsider their initial interpretation.

Examining the Idealized Rome and AeneasEdit

To begin his counter-argument, Boyle summarizes and isolates the scenes Book VIII that most relate to the view of idealized Rome. Boyle begins his essay with the end of this book (lines 615-616), which “signals the completion of the Romanizing of Aeneas” when Venus gives Aeneas his arms and embraces him. This statement ironically summarizes two main parts of the Aeneid that Boyle looks to in order to prove his other argument: Venus’s pivotal role in Aeneas’s journey and his comparison to Achilles through the intricate shield given to him. After these lines, Boyle follows up with a passage concluding the last part of his argument, as his translation states: “yours will be the rulership of nations … to teach the ways of peace to those you conquer, to spare defeated peoples, tame the proud” (Boyle lines 1134-37). With this, Boyle looks to the actual establishment of the Roman Empire and the perceived means Aeneas accomplishes this. After stating the three main components that are used to interpret Rome as an idealized society, Boyle then looks more narrowly at the text to prove why readers may initially think this. For instance, he looks at the Arcadian Evander, who has a feast with Aeneas and shares sacred rites with him. In these lines was a picture of community that Rome strived to parallel: “With Evander were Pallas, his son, young chieftains, and his senate (there was no wealth among them) offering incense” (Boyle lines 131-38). With this picture of equality and religious identity, Boyle illustrates that “Rome’s political and religious institutions are fused with Arcadian values,” values that are inherent to an ideal society such as what Rome strives to be. To further this account, Boyle emphasizes Evander and Aeneas’s conversation about the mythical Hercules, which “sets up a paradigm for both Aeneas’ and Augustus’ subsequent victories” (Boyle pages 150-151). This comparison discusses the fact that Hercules defeated the monster Cacus to “remove moral evil and danger and to protect the established community,” which is what these two leaders, particularly Aeneas, will be doing for Rome. These examples show how Boyle attributes historical perceptions of Rome and the heroism of myths to a highly valued interpretation of Rome and Aeneas. Boyle also looks to allusions created between Virgil’s Aeneid and Homeric works, specifically focusing on the Iliad. Boyle asserts much focus over the construction of the shield, which “articulates at crucial points in the epic an idealized vision of Rome” (Boyle pg 153). This is then compared to the infamous shield made for Achilles by both the manner in which it was created and the scenes they display. Boyle notes that Thetis persuades Hephaestus to make Achilles’ armor, which is exactly what Venus does to Vulcan in order for Aeneas’s shield to be made. The shields create a competing image: Achilles’ shield illustrates “a world now lost,” whereas Aeneas’s “is the Roman future” (Boyle pg 154). With this noted allusion to a previous work of Homeric literature, Boyle indicates that the comparison between these two heroes emphasizes the valor of Rome.

Contrary Perceptions of Res RomanaeEdit

After Boyle identifies and illustrates the manner in which an idealized Rome is depicted, he turns to even more in-depth measurements of defining Aeneas’s establishment of this city. Specifically, Boyle looks to the three specific areas discussed above, proving how certain techniques provide another interpretation that questions the valor of Rome. For instance, when examining the story of Hercules and Cacus, Boyle notes that these two opposing forces are characterized as “doublets.” Specifically looking at diction, Boyle indicates how the words depict both men as proud or haughty (superbis/ superbus), fiery and prone to furor (Boyle pg 155). This is important in that these men are no longer seen as a triumph over good versus evil, but as furor over furor; the means in which Hercules’ victory was secure is due to his superior rage, not to “the triumph of civilizing values” (Boyle pg 155). Boyle also looks to other obvious instances of wrath within Aeneas himself, specifically through the fact that “Hercules” means “glory of Hera/Juno,” which is ironic for Juno has been causing most of Aeneas’s distress. Boyle takes his translation a step further by looking to other instances of rage outside of Book VIII, citing the ending of the epic where “Juno’s wrath seems placated only when Aeneas becomes its agent.” Boyle also looks to Venus’s deceiving role in Book VIII to cast a questionable light on the valor of Rome. Boyle also looks to diction employed in this section, as Virgil states Venus cast Vulcan into an aeterno amore, or “eternal love.” This, he claims, illustrates Venus’s use of seduction and trickery, which is not a characteristic of historical Rome. Boyle even refers back to the histories that provide a background for the beginning explanation of the original interpretation, citing Livy’s claim that “trickery… is not the Roman way” (Livy Book 1.53-4). The females are also examined briefly throughout the book, being characterized as the “voice[s] of war’s deprivation, suffering, and pain.” Specific instances, including the madness seen by the Trojan women in Book V when they burnt the men’s ships, fortify this point. Thus, Venus’s action are not characteristic of the ideal Rome, and the female voice throughout the epic institutes the true emotions surrounding the construction of Rome: devastation rather than triumph. Lastly, Boyle looks at Aeneas himself in comparison to Achilles concerning their similarities as seen throughout the epic. For this portion of the examination, Boyle recognizes Aeneas’s contempt towards Achilles in Book I, as he cites Achilles as Atreus’ and Priam’s “savage enemy” (Boyle line 650). The extended allusion to Achilles in Book VIII concerning the shield scene raises the question in Boyle’s mind of the true character of Aeneas: “Is Aeneas to remodel heroism for a new era… or are the savagery and violence indispensable to Achillean heroism and its unstoppable pursuit of fame to manifest themselves once more? (Boyle pg 159). Once again, the diction used implies that Aeneas carries the famamque et fata nepotum (the fame and fate of his descendents), but in this same passage he is characterized as ignarus, or ignorant to the image displayed on the shield. Boyle claims that this may mean Aeneas is ignorant to the realities of the true history of Rome, meaning that perhaps his thoughts of a civilized society are really established through barbarous butchery. When looking at historical events in Rome, such as the Sabine rapes, there is proof of barbaric behavior, thus fortifying Boyle’s claim. Through the use of diction and mainly the repeated allusion to another savage character, Boyle points out the subtle comparison Virgil attempts in order to point to a completely different Rome than we originally encounter.

The Real Rage of AeneasEdit

The rest of the epic develops into this model when looking at the very beginning of Aeneas’s troubles back at Troy. To begin Boyle’s method of interpretation, I looked at the devastation of Book II, which characterizes the end of Aeneas’s life in Troy and the beginning of his journey to establish Rome. The particular spot I isolated deals with when Aeneas sees Helen and his reaction to the sight of her. Upon seeing Helen hiding in the Vestal citadel, Aeneas states that exarsere ignes animo (the fires ignited his soul) (Virgil line 575). In this, he means the fires of hatred, for he blamed Helen for the destruction of Troy. The contemptuous description Aeneas relates about Helen and the initial rage that seizes him characterizes the Achilles-like persona Boyle points to that Aeneas continuously fights within himself. Helen also helps portray the image of the Virgilian woman, as she is a picture of the devastations of war, as she is hiding and terrified. Aeneas’s rage at seeing Helen is seen and restrained by his mother: “Nate, quis indomitas tantus dolor excitat iras?” (Virgil line 594). It is this restraint that Aeneas attempts to realize throughout the epic, as it is uncharacteristic of Rome and its leading citizen to display such emotions. It is also this devastation as illustrated by Helen that is supposed to be overcome in Rome. The final step is compiling these pieces of evidence throughout Virgil’s epic, thus it is up to the reader’s means of interpretation: are these goals realized, or, as Boyle states, is such an ideal state unachieved by Rome? --Scuomo 15:21, February 12, 2011 (UTC)

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