This talk considers Vergil's Aeneid against the background of the history and the politics of the period of the poet’s life and the poem’s composition (c.70-19 BC). This was a tumultuous period indeed in the history of Rome, which saw the collapse of the Roman republic and the rise of a new style of monarchy with the establishment of the principate under Augustus. It looks at allusions to historical characters, both the several appearances of Augustus himself in the poem through the device of prophesying the future, and the poem’s potential use of symbolism and analogy: how far can its hero Aeneas be a version of Augustus, or its tragic heroine Dido a version of Cleopatra? It considers the range of political views to be found  in the Aeneid: is the poem supportive of Augustus, and how does it deal with the painful topic of civil war? And what are we to make of the way the poem finishes at the very moment when Aeneas kills his main adversary Turnus, without further interpretation or comment?


Sir Llew Edwards Building