c. 30-19 BCE
Virgil was one of the foremost poets of Roman history, and the “Aeneid” became one of the most important pieces of literature in ancient Rome. It was so well known that it was used in Roman education almost as soon as Virgil had died, and lines from the poem even appear as graffiti on the walls of Pompeii. In writing the “Aeneid”, Virgil rejected the chance to write a simple propagandist praise of the emperor Augustus. Instead, he decided to write an epic poem, which meant following the style of Homer.
Virgil utilized the structure of the Homeric epics in writing the “Aeneid”, but he used a clever trick to make his work original and innovative. The works attributed to Homer are the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey”, both of which are cornerstones of western literature. The “Iliad” is set during the Trojan War and covers events during the final weeks of the Greek siege of the city of Troy. The “Odyssey” tells the story of one of the heroes of the Trojan War, Odysseus, on his long and difficult journey home. Virgil swaps around the order of the two poems, starting with the long and arduous journey, and then narrating the conflict near the future site of Rome between Aeneas and its Latin inhabitants. As you read the “Aeneid”, you will see lots of parallels which have been inspired by scenes in the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.” You can extend your thinking about the Aeneid