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on 23 January 2002
This translation of Virgil's masterpiece is the perfect choice for a reader who wishes to experience the original form of this Augustine work of art. It is written in easy flowing and accessible blank verse, unlike the rather cloggy and unattractive prose translations. After all The Aeneid was written to be read as an epic poem: not the post Renaissance format of a novel, and Lewis's translation is as close to capturing the originally intended delivery as you can get without the lengthy process of learning Latin.
This classic epic poem was commissioned by Augustus Caesar in 31BC, a task which was reluctantly accepted by Virgil. Ten years of writing followed, and unfortunately the poet died, by contracting a disease, whilst returning from a trip to Athens. The epic was not fully revised by then, yet the contents of all twelve books are complete except for a rather abrupt ending.
However, just before his death Virgil left strict instructions for The Aeneid to be burnt: lost to the world for all time. Yet this command was counteracted by Caesar. Why was this? Why didn't Virgil want the greatest poem in Latin to be discovered for its prominence?
These are questions which will truly interest any reader. When you hold this book in your hands you cannot help thinking that Virgil did not want you to read this - if it had not been for the Imperial arm of Caesar we would be forever lacking this great Latin work. Thus a guilty feeling pervades when reading The Aeneid, moreover, those of you already well versed in Greek mythology will know that Actaeon paid very highly for his antlers, a lesson hard to forget whilst perusing forbidden splendour.
When commissioned to write an epic with the sole purpose of portraying an almighty Augustus in 31 BC it is difficult to capture the magic of the Homeric sagas. To have the inclusion of gods and mystical powers in ordered Roman society would have been simply laughed at.
Therefore Virgil chose the legendary founder of Rome - Aeneas of Troy - as the protagonist of his epic. This poem documents the various adventures of Aphrodite's son: whose quest is to find his destined homeland - Italy. Jupiter has ordained that Aeneas's ancestors will become the great masters of Rome, and it is here that Virgil can cleverly celebrate Augustus's magnificent achievements.
But what is the underlying meaning to Virgil's epic? What you can witness in The Aeneid is Homer's similar appreciation of acts of bravery; yet what you will observe for the first time is the dreadful price that Imperialism exacts. Aeneas is forced to reject his passionate love, experience the death of his father, and kill the noble sons of people he is destined to rule.
Therefore a fundamental enigma in Virgil's work must be to endeavour whether this is a work that supports Imperialism or refutes it. Did Virgil advocate Augustus's omnipotence? If yes, why did the poet wish the epic to be destroyed? The price of blood for the fellowship of freedom is one continual theme that pervades not only archaic history, but also that of the modern day; and in Virgil's masterpiece it is portrayed no less effectively than in all great works of literature.
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on 11 February 2010
This is an excellent translation, easy flowing and very engaging. What you're left with is a wonderful poem and story. The characters are real people, the action is better than Hollywood.

(My high school Latin isn't enough to make technical comments, but it feels like the translation achieves its objectives of fidelity to the original, avoiding "flatness of uninspired literalism", and avoiding "unwarranted poeticism".)

The fact that the Aeneid glorifies Rome and Augustus doesn't detract at all.
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HALL OF FAMEon 9 January 2006
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.
Fitzgerald's modern and accessible translation makes the Aeneid really come to life for modern readers. It is a verse translation, not forced into word-by-word construction nor into false, flowery and stuffy structured verse that would seem formal and distant. This is a language familiar to modern readers, just as Vergil's Latin would have been readily accessible to the listeners and readers of his time.
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 Fitzgerald's translation will be a standard bearer for some time to come.
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on 17 April 2012
This is a translation by Michael Oakley and is in the form of a poetry translation and not a prose narrative. There is a good Introduction, and at the end are comprehensive but manageable Notes referenced from the text and a Glossary. I am only competent to say that the translation appears a good one because it is so readable and involving, but I have no idea of how it stacks up against the vey many translations available.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 September 2015
A splendid edition of the classic text intelligently translated and quite immediate. The production value of the book itself is of course excellent in keeping with the Everyman's Library series as a whole. Recommended.
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HALL OF FAMEon 11 January 2006
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.
Fitzgerald's modern and accessible translation makes the Aeneid really come to life for modern readers. It is a verse translation, not forced into word-by-word construction nor into false, flowery and stuffy structured verse that would seem formal and distant. This is a language familiar to modern readers, just as Vergil's Latin would have been readily accessible to the listeners and readers of his time.
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 Fitzgerald's translation will be a standard bearer for some time to come.
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HALL OF FAMEon 3 August 2005
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.
Fitzgerald's modern and accessible translation makes the Aeneid really come to life for modern readers. It is a verse translation, not forced into word-by-word construction nor into false, flowery and stuffy structured verse that would seem formal and distant. This is a language familiar to modern readers, just as Vergil's Latin would have been readily accessible to the listeners and readers of his time.
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 Fitzgerald's translation will be a standard bearer for some time to come.
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on 19 November 2012
This, I think, is a glorious and stunning piece of work. Maybe it's Vergil or maybe it's Sarah Ruden or maybe and more likely it's both but this English translation rocks. I loved the pace and the energy and the wistful choice of phrases. For the first time in my life I think I finally realise how powerful poetry can be. How divine. I can't read Latin and I am unable to compare this translation with famed others. But what I can say is that Vergil, in this translation, took my breath away. I did try to read this through as if I was sitting on a bench in ancient Rome, ears strained to catch every word at a reading of Vergil's superlative poem on the founding of my city, Rome. Around me, clear as sunshine, were young men whipped up in febrile patriotism, and old soldiers moved to tears; young boys dreaming of honour and glory. And there was me, in wonderment at the magic of words. This, my friends, is dangerous stuff. It's the stuff of revolution and liberty. It's power and creation and it's no wonder many of England's finest, or the finest anywhere, wanted to be poets.

A few snippets:

Priam, old King of Troy, has just witnessed his son murdered right before his eyes by the Greeks who had burst into his city via that famous horse:
"The King was dragged up to the altar,
shaking and slipping in his own son's blood.
A left hand gripped his hair."
Gruesome. I saw the man, white haired, skidding on that red sticky stuff.

After Aeneas had warmed his loins with Dido, Queen of Carthage, who had taken him in after his flight from Troy, his betrayal was about to start inflamed by the gods:
"Rumor, the swiftest plague there is, went straight out
.. She thrives on motion, drawing strength from travel;
Tiny and timid first, then shooting upward ...
She flies at night. No sweet sleep shuts her eyes
Her claws hold both true news and evil lies.
She filled the realms now with her tangled talk
Chanting in glee a mix of fact and fiction"
How true.

And here are men being whipped into war by those vengeful goddesses:
"The vicious Fury hid in the still forest;
Instantly they (the men) were there, one with a charred torch.
The next, a club with swelling knots.
What each found, Rage made a weapon"
Rage as a presence. Loved that.

I might get round to reading other translations but if you've always wanted to tackle Vergil then this is a superb and inspiring introduction.
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on 7 December 2011
This really is a great bargain. The late Frederick Davidson reads W. F. Jackson Knight's flowing prose version of Virgil's great epic poem. He reads it well, though I must confess to finding his mellifluous rendering a tiny bit camp when I first listened (I soon got over that). Epic poetry was made to be read out loud, and this version really works, at least for me. We are not accustomed to long poems, so the prose version is more natural to us, perhaps, than a version forced into a strict English verse form, and a poetic translation like Dryden's great version must become the property as much of the translating poet as the originator. Of course, Virgil spent much of his life forging the Latin hexameters from which his great poem is constructed, but without learning Latin there is no way sadly of accessing his burnished verse. Jackson Knight, the translator, was one of the greatest Virgilian scholars of the English-speaking world, and his love for Virgil does show through his translation.
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on 4 June 2006
The previous reviewer seems to have covered the plot of The Aeneid better than I could, so I just want to encourage people that this book - this translation - is not the impenetrable mumbo jumbo you might expect from such a top-class institution as Oxford. On the contrary, Aeneas' adventures are made very readable by C. Day Lewis and you don't have to have a thorough knowledge of the mythology of the ancient world to enjoy this book. It's era-defining literature with plenty of brutal bloodshed, all in an easy-to-read package!
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