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Virgil reads Augustus and Octavia from the Aeneid ( historical paintings of Jean-Joseph Taillasson , 1787)

Aeneis or outdated Aeneid is a Epic that the Latin poet yellowing (70-19 v. Chr.) On the basis of the particular Homer attributed Ilias and Odyssey designed.

It describes the flight of the mythological Aeneas from the burning Troy and his wanderings, which finally lead him to Latium (today's central Italy), where he becomes the progenitor of the Romans. The entire Aeneid tells an important founding myth of the Roman Empire as a legend of origin (connection) to the Trojans.

Virgil worked from 29 BC. Until his death on the epic, it consists of 12 books with a total of around 10,000 hexametric verses .

The Aeneid is an epic of the greatness of Rome and celebrates the never-ending rule (imperium sine fine) of the Romans. At the same time, the Aeneid solicits compassion for the victims of Roman supremacy who lose their lives in the power and intrigue of the gods, in the goddess Juno's senseless rebellion against fate (fatum) . In the figure of Aeneas, Virgil depicted the ideal of the Roman princeps , the “first citizen” as the official title of the Roman emperors. In doing so, he has created a hero who is not characterized by military bravado, but by his sense of duty ( pietas ) , which lets him put all his own concerns aside. Aeneas subordinates himself unconditionally to his goal and shows strong ties to authorities such as his father Anchises and to the instructions of the gods.

Structure and content

Aeneas' voyage map

The structure of the Aeneid combines several structural concepts. Most noticeable is the division into an “odyssey” and an “iliadic” half: the first six books of the Aeneid take many motifs from Homer's Odyssey (e.g. storm at sea, wanderings, descent into the underworld). In the other six books that describe the struggles in Lazio, Virgil orientates himself primarily on the Iliad . There are also groups of four, three and two.

Books 1 and 4 form a framework: Aeneas lands on the coast of Carthage after a storm at sea, which Juno sent him and the escaped Trojans out of persistent anger at the judgment of Paris . There he is hospitably received by Queen Dido . His mother Venus wants to prevent further wanderings and therefore makes sure that Dido falls in love with the guest. To this end, she lets the love god Cupid take on the shape of Aeneas' son Ascanius ; this is put to sleep by Venus and brought to her place of worship Idalium . When Amor in the form of Ascanius sits down on Dido's lap at the evening meal, he “poisons” the queen with a passion for Aeneas (love is represented as poison and a destructive flame).

Federico Barocci : Aeneas' Escape from Troy , 1598

In books 2 and 3 , Aeneas recounts the fall of Troy and his wanderings in retrospect at this feast at Dido's court .

In the second book he flees the burning city at Jupiter's command to found a new Troy. He can save his son Ascanius (Iulus), his father Anchises and the Penates , but not his wife Krëusa .

In the 3rd book , Aeneas reports on his journey so far (from Troy to Carthage): After leaving the destroyed Troy, Aeneas first lands in Thrace , where he intends to found a city after his name. But when he tries to uproot the branches of some bushes on a nearby hill that are necessary for the sacrifice, blood drips from them. Aeneas is on a burial mound, as the voice of the buried man reveals - it is Polydorus , a young son of Priam - that comes from inside the mound; the branches are the spears with which the Thracian king Polymestor murdered him. In the meeting, the decision is made to bury the compatriot properly and then to leave the tainted land.

On Delos the Trojans are received by King Anius ; the local oracle god Apollo tells the Trojans to look for their “old mother” (antiqua mater) ; that is where future generations will rule the world. Anchises, the father of Aeneas, points to the cult home of the Great Mother (Magna Mater) Cybele , namely Crete , where the Trojans are about to leave.

However, the newly founded city in Crete is soon hit by an epidemic, a dangerous drought in midsummer; Animals and humans lose their lives. When Anchises is considering a return to the oracle god, the Penates , the gods of the state , appear to Aeneas at night on behalf of Apollo and tell him about the displeasure of the supreme god Jupiter: They are not allowed to stay here on his island, they should rather continue their journey and Hesperia , also called Italy.

After leaving Crete, the Trojans get caught in a three-day sea storm that robs them of any orientation. On the fourth day they land on the stanzas , where they find unattended herds of cattle and small animals. Famished, they slaughter her as a sacrifice for Jupiter and start feasting; then the harpies attack and stain the food with their excrement. Repeated attempts at sacrifice are thwarted by repeated attacks by the disgusting bird creatures. Then Aeneas decides to go to war and lays an ambush; with this ruse the harpies are driven back, but one of them named Celaeno curses a bad famine when they arrive in Italy with reference to the highest authorities Apollo and Jupiter: they will even have to eat tables.

After Ithaca , the home of their archenemy Odysseus , whom they curse as they drive past, the Trojans reach the beach of Actium , where Aeneas holds competitions and dedicates the shield of the Greek Abas at the temple of Apollo there. (The station implicitly refers to the importance of the location as the site of the Battle of Actium .)

Around the onset of winter, the Trojans arrive in Buthrotum ; there has Helenus , son of Priam, the rule adopted over the Greeks, is at his side Andromache , widow of at Troy wins Achilles killed Hector , brother of Helenus. You first meet Aeneas when she is sacrificing at her former husband's cenotaph . When she sees the Trojans, she breaks out in a kind of hysterical attack and initially takes Aeneas for a ghost. Only gradually does she return to consciousness, and she tells of her fate after the fall of Troy - first the slave and bed-mate of Pyrrhus , then the wife of Helenus. Helenus comes over and shows them the city: a replica of Troy, complete with a castle and rivers of the same name. Weeping, Aeneas hugs the posts of the false home. After days of catering, favorable winds remind you to leave. Helenus gives Aeneas in his function as Apollo's priest an extensive prophecy about the further course of the voyage and how he should behave. In particular, a victim to Juno before the crossing from Sicily to Italy is suggested to him. After gifts and farewell words, the Trojans cross over at night from the foot of the Keraunia Mountains to the east coast of Italy.

The Trojans greet their new home with joy from the sea. But there can be no staying: As you learned from Helenus, the area is populated by hostile Greeks. After a sacrifice to Juno and Minerva at the temple in Castrum Minervae and an omen from four white horses, which promises war, but ultimately also peace, the Trojans drive towards Sicily.

On the Strait of Messina , the Trojans saw the billows of smoke from Mount Etna and, following Helenus' instructions, turned hard to the left in order to escape Scylla ; However, they end up in the Charybdis and are washed up on the shores of the Cyclops towards night, disoriented . The next day they meet the neglected Achaemenides , a companion of Odysseus who was left behind by him in the cave of Cyclops Polyphemus . He asks the Trojans to take him away, even though he is the companion of their bitter enemy, in order to save him from the monsters. Anchises shakes hands with the former enemy. Just in time they escape by hasty departure from Polyphemus, who utters a mighty scream when he can no longer reach them. Then the other Cyclops hurry up and stand threateningly on the beach without them being able to do anything.

Achaemenides now leads them past the cities of Sicily. In Drepanum (today Trapani ) on the west coast of Sicily, Anchises , the father of Aeneas, dies unexpectedly of exhaustion. The narrative is remarkably brevity here: Aeneas gives no precise account of the father's funeral or of Acestes' hospitable reception . From Drepanum, “a god” took him to Carthage, and this is how the hero ends his story.

The death of Didos , illustration around AD 400 (Vergilius Vaticanus)

In the 4th book, Dido is open to Aeneas. Venus and Juno, the protector Didos, form an alliance of convenience, and during a storm during a hunt a love union occurs in a cave, accompanied by a kind of cosmic parody of a wedding rite. Aeneas and Dido become a couple; Dido calls their being together a “marriage-like connection” ( coniugium as opposed to conubium , the legal form of marriage ), but, according to the poet, only disguises her guilt: for she has sworn to give her murdered husband Sychaeus a univira (wife of a man) stay. The rumor of the affair finally got to Jupiter's ears. He sends Mercurius to remind Aeneas of his fateful mission. Aeneas obeyed immediately and prepared for departure. When Dido found out about it, she made him desperate reproaches. But Aeneas remains firm. He leaves secretly. Dido then kills himself on a stake with a sword, a gift from Aeneas. But first she swears vengeance herself, conjures up an avenger and thus creates the basis for the later conflict between Rome and Carthage ( Punic Wars ). The book closes with the death of the Carthaginian queen: Juno takes pity on her long agony and sends the messenger of the gods Iris. This descends in a rainbow and cuts off a lock of Dido to consecrate it to the underworld. Then the body leaves the warmth of life.

The 5th book is often referred to as the "Book of Games" and describes Aeneas' second stay in Sicily.

At the beginning of the book, Aeneas is in the middle of the sea, from where he sees the glow of Didos' pyre, which is already burning: a bad omen, the exact meaning of which, however, he cannot be sure. The destination of the journey is Italy again, but Aeneas is again forced by a sea storm to change course and return to Sicily, where he is welcomed by the local King Acestes .

On the occasion of the anniversary of his father's death, who he buried here a year ago, Aeneas makes sacrifices at the grave. A snake appears and eats the food presented on the altars. Undecided whether it is a grave snake or the genius of the place, Aeneas takes it as a favorable sign. In addition, the hero holds funeral games with agons in rowing, running, boxing, archery, which take up a large part of the book. Finally, and as a surprise, Aeneas has the so-called Troy Game (Troiae ludus) , a horseback parade of the Trojan youths, performed.

At this height of the festivities, the still painful goddess Juno sends the messenger Iris, goddess of the rainbow. She sees the Trojan mothers who are not allowed to attend the games and instead complain about Anchises on a cliff; the desire for a city and the end of wanderings becomes loud. Iris takes the form of the sick and therefore absent Beroe and mixes with the mothers. In a deception she reports that in a dream Cassandra had advised her to burn the ships, since the destination of the journey had been reached here, whereupon she threw a torch at the ships. Then Pyrgo, Priam's wet nurse, takes the floor and points out that the real Beroe is sick - she has just visited her - and that she resembles a goddess in many ways. The mothers are still undecided when Iris finally reveals herself as the goddess in an impressive finish with a rainbow. The mothers get into a frenzy and set the fleet on fire with the torches from Neptune's altars. When the men gathered at the Troy game see the smoke rising, Ascanius, who led the Troy game, rides on his horse to the fleet and can bring the mothers to their senses and "free them from Juno". But only when Aeneas asks the highest god Jupiter for help, who, in response to the hero's prayer, sends a huge downpour on the fleet, is the fire extinguished. Four of the ships are lost. Aeneas now seems compelled to leave the surplus of his followers behind on the island and to found a city for them; so did his older advisor Nautes . But Aeneas is still torn between continuing and staying. Then the ghost of his father Anchises appears to him during the night, confirms the advice of the Nautes by pointing out that there is a warlike people to be defeated in Lazio and therefore only the strongest should go, and gives his son the task of visiting him in the Elysium where he can tell him more. Aeneas now founds the city and names it after Acestes, its ruler (meaning the historical Segesta ).

After a tearful farewell to the mothers, who wanted to come along after all, the fleet sails for Italy. In a conversation with the gods, Venus can ensure that the journey is safe with Aeneas, the sea god Neptune , but he announces that a person will lose his life: unum pro multis dabitur caput ("one head will be given instead of many") . On the night crossing - the crew is asleep, the winds drive the fleet by themselves - Somnus , the god of sleep, appears around midnight , with the always watchful and suspicious of the sea , the helmsman of the flagship Palinuro , sleeps him and knocks him down with him the wheel into the sea. When Aeneas notices it - they are just driving past the shores of the sirens - he takes over the steering wheel himself and mourns the lost companion through tears.

After landing on the west coast of Italy ( Book 6 ), Aeneas descends with the Sibyl of Cumae into the underworld . There he learned from Anchises about the future greatness and the historical mission of Rome, the city that will arise from its foundation. There he also meets Dido, who died by suicide, but she ignores him. She is still marked by the deep wound.

With Book 7 the history of the struggles of Aeneas begins. He ends up in Latium, the promised land, and is welcomed there by King Latinus . Latinus promises him his daughter Lavinia as a wife. Juno intervenes by means of the Allecto fury and incites the Rutulian prince , Turnus , who in turn desires Lavinia, to war against Aeneas.

The delivery of arms from Venus to Aeneas, who is looking at the shield on which the events of Roman history are depicted: etching by Pietro Testa around 1640

In book 8 , Aeneas, on the advice of the river god Tiberinus, seeks allies with Euandros of Arcadia , who settles on the site of the future Rome , and then also with the Etruscans still further north , who opposed their cruel tyrant Mezentius , a comrade in turn to rebel. In addition, Aeneas receives a shield made by Vulcanus from his mother Venus , on which important events in Roman history are depicted (the so-called shield description , see also Ekphrasis ).

Meanwhile ( Book 9 ) the Trojans are in great danger: Juno sends Iris, who points out to Turnus that there is a good opportunity to march against the Trojans' camp in the absence of Aeneas. Turnus attacks with the full force, and when no one faces him in the open field - according to Aeneas' order - he sets about setting the fleet on fire. Then Cybele intervenes with Jupiter's consent and saves the ships, which were made from the spruce trees of their holy grove on the Ida , by turning them into nymphs . Nevertheless, Rotus interprets the sign confidently against the Trojans.

During the night, the pair of friends Nisus and Euryalus , who had already appeared in the race for Book 5, tried in a failure to bring the news of the siege to Aeneas, who was far from the Etruscan camp. The two cause a bloodbath in the enemy camp. Later, however, they are discovered by a mounted reinforcement of the enemy on the shine of a captured helmet. They die a heroic death, their severed heads are impaled on lances and presented the next day before the eyes of the terrified Trojans. The complaints of the mother of Euryalus pose a threat to the morale of the troops; it is put aside in good time. In the course of the fighting that followed, Turnus was able to penetrate the camp, but alone; he was successfully repulsed and saved himself by jumping into the Tiber .

Council of Gods. Illustration in a late antique codex (Vergilius Romanus)

In book 10 , Jupiter ends a meeting of the gods by giving the parties a free hand: Fate will find its way . The fortunes of war turn for the Trojans: Aeneas returns and defends the camp. Pallas , Euandros' young son, dies in the fight against Turnus.

Book 11 tells of funeral ceremonies and an armistice, as well as of further fights with increased use of cavalry, in which the Amazon-like warrior Camilla on the Italian side moves into the center of the representation.

In the last book , Juno intervenes again for Turnus. But then there is a decisive duel between him and Aeneas. Aeneas wins; Turnus begs for mercy. Aeneas pauses; then his gaze falls on the military walk that Rotus has taken from the slain Pallas, and, inflamed with anger, he kills the defeated enemy.

Text example: The end of the Aeneid (12, 940–952)

Et iam iamque magis cunctantem flectere sermo
coeperat, infelix umero cum apparuit alto
balteus et notis fulserunt cingula bullis
Pallantis pueri, victum quem vulnere Turnus
straverat atque umeris inimicum insigne gewbat.
illo, oculis postquam saevi monimenta doloris
exuviasque hausit, furiis accensus et ira
terribilis: 'tune hinc spoliis indute meorum
eripiare mihi? Pallas te hoc vulnere, Pallas
immolat et poenam scelerato ex sanguine sumit.
hoc dicens ferrum adverso sub pectore condit
fervidus; ast illi solvuntur frigore membra
vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras.

“And more and more Turnus 'speech had begun to change Aeneas' hesitation, when the unfortunate sword belt caught his eye up on his shoulder, and with well-known ornamentation shone with the well-known ornamentation of young Pallas, whom, already defeated, Turnus with had struck down the fatal blow; and now he was wearing the adversary's jewelry on his shoulder! And after he had seized this memorial for his cruel pain, the spoils of war, with his eyes, Aeneas said terribly, kindled with furious anger: “Shall you escape me, clothed with the booty of my people? Pallas, Pallas sacrifices you with this thrust and takes revenge on criminal blood! ”And while he speaks this, he furiously thrusts the sword into the breast facing him; but that one slackened in the cold of death, and with a sigh his life flees indignantly to the shadows. "

Virgil's sources

The most important templates for the Aeneid are the Homeric classics Iliad and Odyssey . Many main and secondary motifs, even entire text passages, are closely based on Homer (for example Aeneas in a storm at sea and Achilles almost drowning in a river). Virgil is not interested in mere imitation, but in artistic competition. For this reason, too, he sums up Homer's 24 books to exactly twelve.

In addition to Homer, the Hellenistic epic Argonautica by Apollonios of Rhodes (295–215 BC) also plays a major role. This becomes clearest in the design of the love story between Dido and Aeneas after that between Jason and Medea . This is probably also the case in the Latin translation of Varro Atacinus (82–35 BC), which has been lost except for a few fragments.

The most important Latin models are the Bellum Poenicum by Gnaeus Naevius and especially the Annales of Ennius . The Annales are the classic Roman epic at the time of Virgil. Ennius is sometimes quoted verbatim at central points. The Aeneas legend can also be found in Naevius' Bellum Poenicum . There it is not in the foreground, but is cited as the cause of the Punic Wars , a series of three wars of antiquity (264 to 146 BC) between the sea and trading power Carthage and the young Roman Empire. The Annales of Ennius differ from the Bellum Poenicum and the Aeneid in that they are not restricted to a single theme, but form a continuous poem.

History of the Aeneid

Already in the Georgica , a didactic poem by Virgil between 37 and 29 BC. Chr., There is a hint of his intention to write an epic. It says there (Georg III 46-48):

Mox tamen ardentis accingar dicere pugnas / Caesaris et nomen fama tot ferre per annos / Tithoni prima quot abest ab origine Caesar
("But then I'll soon be preparing to sing the hot battles / Caesars that his name will resonate for so many years / When he counts from Tithonus down to Caesar. ”Translation: Johann Heinrich Voss ).

Augustus , the first Roman emperor, was very interested in this project and asked for drafts. Virgil is said to have created prose versions first , which he later transferred to the hexameter in an arbitrary order. In public lectures, Vergil presented individual excerpts and observed the effect on the audience. He tried to write in great detail and set high standards for his work. Therefore, he also decreed that the unfinished work should be destroyed when he died. However, when he died without being able to complete the Aeneid , Augustus ordered the administrators, Varius and Plotius Tucca , to disregard Virgil's request for annihilation and to publish the Aeneid as little edited as possible. Numerous half-verses have remained in the work; the actual extent of the revision of the Aeneid by Virgil's fellow poets is difficult to determine and is controversial in scholarship.

Controversies over the Aeneid

Aeneas and Dido

The reception history has shown that the story of Aeneas and Dido can be read in two completely opposite ways:

  • As a conflict between duty and inclination. The hero selflessly renounces personal happiness in the service of the higher cause and at the command of the Supreme God, namely in the obligation to his son Ascanius, who is to rule in Italy one day,
  • or as a conflict between true love and disdainful masculine coldness.

The author himself leaves no doubt where he wants to direct the reader, namely the conflict between duty and inclination: despite all sympathy for Dido's suffering, her love is impermissible, “culpa” ; Aeneas makes a mistake when he gets involved in the affair, but then does not hesitate to submit to the will of the gods, despite his own feelings. Dido's tears cannot change his decision to break up : mens immota manet, lacrimae volvuntur inanes . (“His posture remains unmoved, the tears flow vainly.” It must be noted that it is controversial whether this verse refers to the tears of Dido or rather those of Aeneas, for example the Virgil specialist Nicholas Horsfall (1946– 2019).) The second way of interpreting it as a conflict between love and emotional coldness is first found in Ovid's Heroides .

Aeneas and Turnus

The Aeneid ends abruptly when Aeneas kills the defenseless Turnus. This ending did not satisfy many readers. Already the church father Lactantius (approx. 250-320) found, applying a Christian term pietas , ie piety, that Aeneas turned out to be impius , i.e. godless. How is Aeneas' behavior compatible with the determination of the Romans, as formulated in the sixth book: "parcere subiectis et debellare superbos" (to spare the subjugated and to wrestle the arrogant )? Here the point of view of the omniscient narrator seems quite clear: what matters is that, when Aeneas wants to grant grace, his gaze falls on Pallas's sword belt. The turn's fight against Pallas was unfair. Turnus should not have accepted the bid to fight an obviously inferior youth. Turnus nevertheless accepted the offer to fight and then mocked the corpse and stole its equipment. Like many other things, this shows that Turnus is not an arch-villain, but the embodiment of furor impius , the negligent indulgence towards lower instincts. Turnus is a figure that is modeled on the Homeric Achilles , uncontrolled and boundless in his passions, consciously created as a contrast to the "new hero" Aeneas. The vengeance that Aeneas Euandros swore for his son is an obligation. The stylization of Augustus as the avenger of the murderers of Caesar can also be felt in the background . This was in 2 BC. The temple of Mars Ultor (for the avenging god of war) was apparently completed by Emperor Augustus. Nevertheless, it is strange that Aeneas carries out the act of revenge "furiis accensus et ira" (inflamed by rage and anger).

Gods, people and destiny

Gods are omnipresent in the Aeneid and intervene directly in earthly events. Yet people are not their playballs. Rather, the gods only make use of their inner dispositions and, as with the cave wedding, help with natural events. In another sense, the gods embody fortuna , the aimless fate that sometimes benefits one, sometimes the other. Above them, however, stands Jupiter, the father of gods and men, who represents a different form of fate: namely fatum (fate / divine proposition, plural fata ), the teleology of history, to which every fortuna must ultimately submit . Until this fate is fulfilled, the other gods, like humans, follow their personal, emotional interests, sometimes in harmony with the fata , sometimes against the fata . So Venus is guided by maternal concern for her son Aeneas, but this can also bring him into great trouble, as the Dido story shows. Juno's motive for action is anger at the shame she has suffered, which she cannot erase from her mind. Virgil tries to show that Aeneas is anxious to subordinate his own fate to fatum . For him, this is often associated with heavy sacrifices (e.g. the loss of his wife Krëusa when he left Troy) and he must be exhorted to follow the path - often with views of the prosperous future of Rome. But when Aeneas bows to the will of the gods, the foundation of Rome, which appears in the Aeneid as the goal of history, is presented as an act of deep pietas . This fulfillment of duty becomes particularly clear when Aeneas leaves Dido: Italiam non sponte sequor (IV 361) (“My instinct does not lead me to Italy”, translator Hertzberg).

The destiny of Rome, Aeneas and Augustus

The glorification of imperial Rome and its ruler Augustus, which is the ultimate goal of all history, is arguably the most problematic aspect of the Aeneid for the modern reader . Right at the beginning it becomes clear that the founding of Rome is the distant goal of the Aeneid: tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem (I 33). In several passages in the text Augustus appears as the completion of this development. Accordingly, there are many hints that establish a connection between Aeneas and Augustus. However, one has to see the Aeneid from their time and the circumstances of their formation. After a century of bloody civil wars, many Romans saw Augustus as a savior. Augustus openly demanded an August ice from Virgil, a poem of glory for the ruler. Virgil's answer was the Aeneid . In it the ruler is embedded in a plan of fate and thus made responsible; Duty, pietas , is the leitmotif of the Aeneid . Augustus has to prove himself worthy of his ancestor (as Caesar's adopted son , Augustus is the descendant of Iulus, to whom the Julier family traces itself back). The same applies analogously to the Roman Empire: its power is defined by its mandate; The goal is not pure conquest, but rather to establish laws and bring peace to the world (cf. VI 851).

Against the background of the Augustan restoration policy , the emphasis on the pietas , the memory of the mission of Rome, the evocation of the Roman virtues and the rejection of civil war means active support of the Augustan reforms. In this way there will be a new beginning and the golden age will return. In Augustus the characteristics of some outstanding people from early Roman history are combined: He appears in the heroic show (VI 752-853) as a synthesis between Romulus as the city founder and Numa , who "re-founded" Rome through religion and law. The above-mentioned claims of Virgil to his work become particularly clear here: the number of verses that describe Augustus corresponds to the sum of those dedicated to Romulus and Numa.

It should be noted that Augustus was aware of the importance of the Aeneid for his politics. At a popular meeting he is said to have quoted a verse from the Aeneid when he saw men who did not wear the classical toga : en Romanos, rerum dominos gentemque togatam! (I 282) ("See! The Romans, the rulers of the world, the toga-wearing sex.") Then he made sure that one was only allowed to stay in the forum in the traditional costume.

Two voices theory

An American line of research since the 1960s, known as the Harvard School , advocates the so-called two-voices theory. According to this view, Virgil would, on the one hand, ostensibly glorify the Augustan ideology (public voice) , on the other hand, criticize Augustus in a subtle way (private voice) . The starting point of this theory is again the end of the Aeneid , where Aeneas (as with Laktanz, see above) turns out to be a moral loser.

Impact history

Virgil (top right) with the commentator Maurus Servius Honoratus and three figures representing the works of Aeneid (top left), Bucolica and Georgica . Illumination by Simone Martini in the manuscript made for Francesco Petrarca Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Ms. SP 10/27 (= A 49 inf.), Fol. 1v, around 1340

Even when unfinished, the Aeneid was recognized as a masterpiece. Shortly after its publication, it became school reading, completely displacing the epic of Ennius as a classic. In this way it was extremely influential for further ancient and Christian-ancient literature. There were even translations into Greek. Lucan's Pharsalia was an alternative to the Aeneid , although it never achieved its significance. Virgil's work was regarded as exemplary until late antiquity ; so Gorippus still orientated himself on his epic. In addition, at the end of the 4th / beginning of the 5th century, the so-called Symmachuskreis created an improved new edition, which is now in the Vatican (Cod. Vat. Lat. 3225; Vergilius Vaticanus ).

The Aeneid handwriting tradition continued seamlessly into the Middle Ages . In the Middle Ages, Virgil was known as "the poet". An important work in Old French literature is the Aeneid- based novel d'Énéas . Its transmission in turn by Heinrich von Veldeke around 1183 marked the beginning of courtly German literature in the vernacular. At the beginning of the Renaissance , Dante designed his Divine Comedy on the basis of the sixth book of the Aeneid . The Dido story can be found in Boccaccio ("Amorosa Visione") and Petrarca , in Middle English literature by Geoffrey Chaucer ("Legend of Good Women", "House of Fame"). There have even been attempts to round the end of the Aeneid with a thirteenth book. In addition, more and more national language translations of the Aeneid appeared , in Germany first by Thomas Murner in 1515, in Spain by Enrique de Villena (1427/28). In the German classical period and especially in the romantic period, however, the reputation of the Aeneid declined because Virgil was seen as an epigone and the “original genius” Homer was preferred. It was not until the 20th century that new interest in Virgil's epic set in.

The Aeneid has undergone numerous arrangements in modern times and has also inspired many composers to set settings. The best known are the opera La Didone (1641) by Francesco Cavalli , the first independent English opera Dido and Aeneas (1689) by Henry Purcell and the great heroic opera Les Troyens (composed until 1858) by Hector Berlioz . Joseph Martin Kraus ' Æneas i Carthago eller Dido och Æneas (1799) and Franz Danzi's melodrama Dido (1811) are also dedicated to the story of Dido and Aeneas .

In 1784, the Viennese writer Aloys Blumauer wrote the very successful satire Virgil's Aeneide, which was translated into many European languages : Adventures of the pious hero Aeneas, and made fun of modern education in it. The book remained banned in Bavaria and Austria for many years.

The writer Toni Bernhart dramatized the Aeneid for the 5th Free Theater Festival Innsbruck in 2016 .

Two works from the series of Italian sandal films of the 1960s draw on the Aeneid . Ex- Mister-Universum Steve Reeves plays Aeneas in both : The Battle for Troy (1961) tells of the Trojan War from the death of Hector and of the fall of the city from the perspective of Aeneas, who here becomes the main hero of the Trojans and opponent of Achilles . Aeneas, Hero of Troy (1962) tells, despite its title, of the events in Latium (and only of these; the journey from Troy to Latium and the encounter with Dido are entirely missing). Both films differ noticeably from the literary models, not least due to the almost complete lack of a divine plot that is strongly pronounced in Virgil and Homer.

The Aeneid was filmed for television in 1970 by Franco Rossi . The German premiere of the four-part series began on November 5, 1972.

Text editions and translations


  • Gerhard Binder: P. Vergilius Maro: Aeneis. A Commentary - Volume 1: Introduction, Central Topics, Literature, Indices . Scientific publishing house Trier 2019, ISBN 978-3-86821-784-1 .
  • Gerhard Binder: P. Vergilius Maro: Aeneis. A Commentary - Volume 2: Commentary on Aeneid 1-6 . Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2019, ISBN 978-3-86821-785-8 .
  • Gerhard Binder: P. Vergilius Maro: Aeneis. A Commentary - Volume 3: Commentary on Aeneid 7-12 . Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2019, ISBN 978-3-86821-786-5 .
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  • Theodor Haecker : Virgil. Father of the West , Kösel, Munich 1931.
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  • Wolfgang Kofler : Aeneas and Virgil. Investigations on the poetological dimension of the Aeneid (= library of classical ancient studies . New series, volume 111). Winter, Heidelberg 2003, ISBN 3-8253-1330-1 .
  • Viktor Pöschl : The poetry of Virgils. Image and symbol in the Aeneid. 3rd, revised and expanded edition. de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 1977, ISBN 3-11-006885-0 .
  • Martin Claus Stöckinger: Virgil's gifts. Materiality, reciprocity and poetics in the “Eclogues” and the “Aeneid”. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2016, ISBN 978-3-8253-6462-5 .
  • Werner Suerbaum : Virgil's Aeneid. Epos between past and present , Reclam, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-15-017618-2 (Universal-Bibliothek, 17618).


Web links

Wikisource: Aeneid  - Sources and full texts (Latin)
Commons : Aeneid  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence


Audio samples

This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 22, 2005 .