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Some friends of mine in Italy had the pleasure of visiting “Dante’s house” in Florence recently. Besides being very jealous, I am excited about the cool pictures. Here is the link. Thanks Hutchinsons! Check out how Eric manages to use the words “Inferno” and “haunts” in the same sentence.
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…Sarah brings us a link to a pucker-faced Honorius solidus, worth reproducing here:
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The Postscript to Fitzgerald’s translation of Vergil’s Aeneid is good. In sections v and vi he puts the war scenes in the context of the Vergil’s times, the social war and Civil wars. As I read these last six books (the “neglected” books) in my Aeneid seminar, I keep recalling the end of section vi (pg. 414):
I first read through all twelve books of The Aeneid in my Oxford Classical Text in the spring, summer, and early fall of 1945, the closing months of the Second Great War, when I was stationed on an island in the western Pacific. Living and working in commodious Quonset huts on neat coral driveways amid palms regularly treated by DDT sprayed from a slow biplane, staff oficers had little to suffer but boredom off duty, and Virgil remedied that for me. Our navy’s Actium had been fought long before at Midway. But the last island fighting continued, first at Iwo, then on Okinawa, where kamikaze season got into full swing. There we were on our island in our fresh khakis, laundered and pressed, the little bars gleaming on our collars and caps, saluting the old admiral with his snowy Roman head and the urbane operations officer who held in his crystal mind the location, course, destination, and speed of every least landing craft over thousands of miles. The scene could not have been more imperial or more civilized. APO mail from the States came fast. We played tennis, skipped rope, and worked out on the heavy bag. At night at my neat desk in the B.O.Q. I read Virgil by the light of a good lamp. I heard young submarine skippers, the finest Annapolis products, give their lighthearted accounts of shelling poor junks to smithereens in the China Sea. Meanwhile, offshore of the big Japanese island to the north, picket ships where having their prows or upperworks and the men who manned them smashed into flaming junk by Japanese fighters aflame; ashore, men with flamethrowers were doing what I had heard a briefing officer in Sanf Fransisco, with an insane giggle, refer to as “popping Japs;” and a good many young and brave of both sides were tasting the agony and abomination that the whole show came down to, in fact existed for. The next landings would be on Honshu, and I would be there. More than literary interest, I think, kept me reading Virgil’s description of desperate battle, funeral pyres, failed hopes of truce or peace.
More than literary interest surely moved the first Roman readers of these books of The Aeneid, for war, the Roman specialty, had within their memories gone fratricidal and got out of hand. If Virgil intended, as he almost certainly did, an analogy between the task of Aeneas and that of Augustus, the hardest and hugest part for both was waging war to end war, to work out settlements so magnanimous as to challenge no more strife but to promote concordia and the arts of peace.
Some of my friends and I in the seminar keep discussing the emphasis on the first six books of the Aeneid by most modern readers. Vergil, however, calls his second “Iliadic” half his maius opus, or “greater task,” in line 44 of Book 7. It has been somewhat of a discovery process for me to read these books now, though I’d read the poem in translation before. Now that I’m really examining Vergil’s work, the war scenes seem to me some of his most powerful poetry.