on 1 May 2011
This Loeb edition is undoubtedly the best - especially for those of us who occasionally need a crib! Beautifully produced, long-wearing, and clearly printed with unexceptionable translation side by side with the Latin - the latter obviously being the most important ingredient. The first six books of the Aeneid are a bonus following upon the Eclogues and Georgics. Truly a Vergilian feast at an affordable price.
Roman society was enamoured of Greek culture -- many of the best 'Roman' things were Greek; the major gods were derivative of the Greek pantheon; philosophy, literature, science, political ideals, architecture -- all this was adopted from the Greeks. It makes sense that, at the point of their ascendancy in the world, they would long for an epic history similar to the Homeric legends; the Iliad and the Odyssey, written some 500 years after the actual events they depict, tell of the heroism of the Greeks in their battle against Troy (Ilium). The Aeneid, written by Vergil 700 years after Homer, at the commission of Augustus (himself in the process of consolidating his authority over Rome), turns the heroic victory of the much-admired Greeks on its head by postulating a survivor from Troy, Aeneas, who undergoes as journey akin to the Odyssey, even further afield.
Vergil constructs Aeneas, a very minor character in the Iliad, as the princely survivor and pilgrim from Troy, on a journey through the Mediterranean in search of a new home. According to Fitzgerald, who wrote a brief postscript to the poem, Vergil created a Homeric hero set in a Homeric age, purposefully following the Iliad and Odyssey as if they were formula, in the way that many a Hollywood director follows the formulaic pattern of past successful films. Vergil did not create the Trojan legend of Roman origins, but his poem solidified the notion in popular and scholarly sentiment.
Vergil sets the seeds for future animosity between Carthage and Rome in the Aeneid, too -- the curse of queen Dido on the descendants of Aeneas of never-ending strife played into then-recent recollections of war in the Roman mind. Books I through VI are much more studied than VII through XII, but the whole of the Aeneid is a spectacular tale.
True to the Loeb translations generally, this offers the Latin text on one page and an English translation on the facing page; this translation is done by G.P. Goold, working from H.R. Fairclough's standard edition (which is true also for the second half of the Aeneid, in the second volume of the Loeb printing). The translations are careful and work more at being faithful to the text in literal without being choppy manner; poetic license (which can often wreak havoc on a comparison of original language to translation analyses) is kept to a minimum, but not entirely absent here.
Vergil died before he could complete the story. He wished it to be burned; fortunately, Augustus had other ideas. Still, there are incomplete lines and thoughts, and occasional conflicts in the storyline that one assumes might have been worked out in the end, had more editing time been available. Despite these, the Aeneid remains a masterpiece, and the Loeb editions will remain standards for academic scholarship for some time to come.