Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2021) h/b 176pp £58.99 (ISBN 9781527570009)
The sleeve notes state that this book is aimed primarily at English-speaking Classical Civilization students taking courses in Virgil, epic and myth at schools, colleges and universities, but that it will also be of interest to students in providing ‘something new for those studying Virgil in translation—a detailed and in-depth literary analysis of a single book of the Aeneid’. This aim is well fulfilled.
After a brief introduction including paragraphs on Virgil’s Life and Works, a Definition of Epic, a Summary of the Aeneid, the Main Characteristics of the Aeneid and an Introduction to Book Two, M. splits the lines of the text into sections for the following chapters. Thus, Chapter 2 deals with lines 1-56 and is entitled ‘The Trojan Horse’, Chapter 3 deals with ‘Sinon’ lines 57-194 and so on through the book. Each chapter contains a faithful rendering into English of Virgil’s text followed by a literary analysis, intended to enhance one’s appreciation and enjoyment of the poet’s skill. Towards the end of each chapter, there is a mixture of exercises, topics for investigation, and references to other scholars and classical authors which are included to extend the engagement with Virgil. There are two appendices; ‘Other Versions of the Fall of Troy’ and ‘The Rest of Aeneas’ Narrative’ and a Select Bibliography to finish.
M.’s suggestions for further comparison or analysis, whether from ancient authors (either quoting them e.g. Homer, Livy, Ovid and Seneca or referencing them e.g. Sophocles, Euripides, Lucan and Suetonius) or from modern commentators, are useful and instructive. There is plenty of material here to stimulate the reader and these suggestions show how much more there is to gain from comparing the reactions of other authors.
Of course, much of M.’s analysis could be challenged but that is part of the fun of reading Virgil and examining his intentions throughout the poem. The clear comparisons between Aeneas and Augustus in Book 2, briefly mentioned in the Introduction, are not examined in extensive detail, though notably the importance of pietas and of Aeneas as the leader of his people recurs throughout, and the final demise of Priam is compared to the death of Pompey in Virgil’s contemporary epic. In addition, there are plenty of references to themes in the text, e.g. the recurring use of language relating to snakes following the Laocoon passage.
In sum, M. has written a substantial addition to the body of work on Aeneid 2 for the student, teacher and general reader alike. The only thing that might deter any of the above from purchasing the volume is its eye-watering cost.