I do think it is a commendable effort by Fagles to translate another lengthy epic but I do think my on-going ennui while reading through this epic poetry even with the help of Simon Callow’s narration was the result of Virgil’s prose and storytelling itself. The Aeneid is a continuation after the fall of Troy and it set around the adventures of Aeneas and his role in the founding of Rome. However, this doesn’t mean Virgil is ripping off Homer although obviously he did base his work around Iliad but Mediterranean culture often derive from the same geographical source, much like how there’s some similarity between food cultures around South East Asia.
Unlike Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid is highly political and almost devoid of storytelling until usual good parts. Most of the time the poems constantly surrounded itself with ‘prophetic’ grandeur of the future Roman empire and its people and there’s a lot of brown nosing in this book that it became unbearable. That made more sense why Virgil wanted his manuscript destroyed. Its not just a story of Aeneus, its also a 19 BC product placement story about how the then-Roman families and rulers being placed inside the mythology with stories of their grandeur.
The role of various women in Aeneid is by far the most troublesome element I had with this book. I could blame it on my modern bias but there are prevalent amount of misogyny in this book that made the process of reading as discomforting. This whole story seem to assert itself that a woman couldn’t hold a position of power and always in danger of irrationality and on the verge of hysteria and suicidal at the whims of men. First we see them with Juno and Venus then Dido and Queen Amata. I do admire Dido at first but due to a deus ex machina, her characterization was tarnished and she became an even more caricatured version of Homer’s Penelope and Calypso.
There are some good parts with war and fight scenes and occasional description of gore but overall the narrative seem to jump around characters. But unlike Greek’s thematic Xenia where hospitality is one of the most important values, Aeneid focus more on Pietas which was piety toward the gods, the prophecy and responsibility which was prevalent throughout the book. It show Aeneus in varied position where he was pushed to his destiny and held back from his goal by people or divine stalker entity. It is laughably distracting that in a way it is a classic way to teach its listener about being pious but all I want was some coherent storytelling instead of a propaganda and a story within a story. Aeneid have its historical significance but it certainly doesn’t give me much entertainment without being distracted by all the allegories.