(first published on 10-22-2004 at this location)
The Aeneid – Virgil (70-19 BC)
Written: 29-19 BC
Edition: Penguin Classics (1956)
Translator: W.F. Jackson Knight
Widely considered one of the pillars of Western Literature, the Aeneid tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan hero who escapes the sack of Troy and finds a new home in Italy. He is sidetracked often on his journey, mostly by divine intervention. Virgil portrays the Roman gods as interested in mankind, and each god or goddess has their favorite. Aeneas’ nemesis is Juno, who was for the Greeks in the Trojan War; she delays or hinders his travels many times. When Aeneas and his followers finally arrive in Italy, they becomes embroiled (thanks to the design of Juno) in a bloody conflict between the Trojans and the Rutulians, headed by Turnus. The last six books of the Aeineid resembles the Iliad with its descriptions of battle and conflict.
Virgil died before completing the Aeneid, but even so, it is a masterpiece of literature. If you have any designs of reading the best of ancient literature, this is one work you cannot miss. The edition I read contains a very nice prose translation by Knight, and also contains a very helpful glossary of names and locations. Obviously the best reading of the Aeneid will come in Latin, where Virgil’s poetic genius truly shines, but I like the prose translation mainly because the translator was not bound by the limitations of a verse translation.