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The Aeneid (Penguin Classics)

The Aeneid - Virgil, Bernard Knox, Robert Fagles I did not read this entire book. I read a chunk of it in college, for a literature course that I was initially excited about, but which became a burden when my other coursework got heavy. I was an Engineering major, so this was a "throwaway humanities elective"; it didn't have priority. I don't endorse that attitude, but it was my mindset back then... grade-driven and focused on my major. Part of me looks down on how small-minded that seems, but given the financial and career pressures that come to bear in college, part of me still understands. My lit reading assignments were longer than I had time for, and The Aeneid was particularly painful, because even for somebody who likes to read about antiquity, the writing was very dry. I really hate when this happens, but my attitude towards this book degenerated from enthusiasm to a passive-aggressive stance that I would characterize with the phrase "shut up and give me the grade". Don't ask me to appreciate the subtlety. Don't ask me to find humor in Virgil's stiff and alien jokes. Don't point out the clever or flowery language. Just shut up and give me my grade so I can move on with my life. It's sad to say, but I'm sure that's not the only time I cheated myself with "shut up and give me the grade".Part of why I hated the The Aeneid is that it isn't a spontaneously inspired work. It's state-sponsored propaganda. Augustus Caesar commissioned the popular poet Virgil to write this (obviously fictional) history of the founding of Rome, with special care to tie it back to mythical characters from the story of the Trojan War, and to include his great-uncle Julius Caesar into the supernatural bloodlines. Caesar had been an unpopular dictator, so the family's rule could use a little legitimizing from the gods. In sum, the intended message of The Aeneid is:"Look at us; our empire is so awesome, it was started by the gods! Also, our current emperor? ... a decendent of those gods! so... totally legit, and you should definitely support him."It's as if George W. Bush, after being adjudicated the U.S. Presidency in 2000 (instead of winning the election), had commissioned popular author of the day J.K. Rowlins to write that America had been founded by wizards, and one of those wizards was Bush's great-great-great-great-great grandfather. I know what my reaction to that would be. Was it different for Roman citizens? I have to wonder. Propaganda always appears so obvious from the outside, yet it persists, so maybe it works.I don't want to be completely negative in this review, so I will mention the imagery of Rumor... portrayed here as a monster that leaps from rooftop to rooftop, spreading gossip and hearsay throughout the town. That was pretty good. Also, the title is great. The story of Aeneas becomes The Aeneid. I find the attempt to make somebody's story sound momentous by turning the main character's name into an impersonal noun both pompous and hilarious. If I ever write an autobiography, I'm going to call it The Brianiad. Try it out with your name! No matter whose name you pick, it's almost always funny: The Chizuriad, The Ceridwiniad, The Eh!-iad....:)