A couple of years ago I picked up a copy of the Aeneid, written by the Roman Virgil. I’d plowed through junior fiction translations and variations on the theme of the Iliad and the Odyssey in high school, and eventually I made my way to the full-blooded translation by Robert Fitzgerald of that other story.
I call it the ‘other’ story because the Aeneid seems not to have stuck in popular culture in the same way that the Iliad in particular, but also the Odyssey, have. To my knowledge we don’t have a movie of the Aeneid; there aren’t actors torturing their bodies into shape to play Aeneas as they have done so for Achilles and Hector. It strikes me as incredibly odd given that the Iliad is essentially a book set over a ten year period in which practically nothing happens.
I may reflect on this more in the future but it will suffice for now to say – read the Aeneid. It too has long stretches where not much happens, but put up with this and in return you have an incredible story of adventure, responsibility, loss, yearning, and discovery. A father watches his home burn around him, clutches helplessly at the ghost of his wife, and carries his destitute people across the waves as they seek a new home, all the while pursued by the rage of the Gods. He sacrifices a future of love and comfort for his self-imposed mission to his people and his son. He journeys into Hell.
The Aeneid, incomplete as it is, spoke to me as the Iliad and Odyssey couldn’t.
So – I leave you with the opening of Virgil’s Aeneid, called Book One: A Fateful Haven, as from Robert Fitzgerald’s wonderful translation. You may determine for yourselves it’s relevance or otherwise to this website and to that which is and will be contained within.
I sing of warfare and a man at war,
From the sea-coast of Troy in the early days
He came to Italy by destiny,
To our Lavinian western shore,
A fugitive, this captain, buffeted
Cruelly on land as on sea
By blows from powers of the air – behind them
Baleful Juno in her sleepless rage.
And cruel losses were his lot in war,
Till he could found a city and bring home
His gods to Latium, land of the Latin race,
The Alban lords, and the high walls of Rome.
Tell me the causes now, O Muse, how galled
In her divine pride, and how sore at heart
From her old wound, the queen of gods compelled him –
A man apart, devoted to his mission –
To undergo so many perilous days
And enter on so many trials. Can anger
black as this prey on the minds of heaven?