Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

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doloresvariationer
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Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by doloresvariationer »

Salve!!

A while ago I was discussing the advantages and disadvantages of studying canonical vs non canonical Latin authors with one of my professors who mentioned that while non canonical authors may well be fun, it is almost certain that they read the canonical authors themselves. Thus even if you want to specialise in non canonical authors, it it still vital to read Vergil, Cicero, possibly the Vulgate, Tertullian etc.

And ever since then I've had an aching desire to read the whole Aeneid, for some reason. Ideally, I would like to be able to get through it this summer, which would amount to about 100 lines per day. But I'm guessing that's probably too quick to really understand a lot of it...
I can imagine it will be really difficult in the beginning, but generally get easier as a continue (both due to hopefully improving my Latin as well as hopefully getting more engrossed into the story).

I am also wondering how best to read it. Even if I don't manage 100 lines per day, would you recommend getting individual commentaries for each of the books, or should I be able to rely on something like Servius' commentary of the whole thing?

Are there any other resources I would really need to tackle this kind of task? Also, do you think it is even worth it? Or ought I spend my time reading a wider range of authors, perhaps easier ones?

For an idea of my level in Latin, I have read bits of Nepos, Ovid, Lucan, Suetonius, Eutropius, Aurelius Victor. Of them the only one I can read with relative fluency is Eutropius (who I understand is much easier than Vergil) but since my university course focuses more on Latin-English translation that comprehensible input, I would like to develop my ability to read more difficult texts, especially verse, more fluidly.

Thank you for your help!!

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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by cb »

Hi, yes, reading the Aeneid is worth it!

Perhaps try a few different resources (on different sections) and see how you go, like A/B testing. Maybe try reading one section using online assistance such as:

http://vergil.classics.upenn.edu/vergil ... ument_id/1

Then try reading another section using guidance from a book, such as:

https://www.amazon.com/Reading-Virgil-C ... 0521171547

There are many other resources for this canonical work, and so worth trying what works for you.

I also always recommend that people read how Vergil structures his verse: Winbolt is an excellent starting point. See my post in this thread (Search for Winbolt) for the chapters to begin from (not chapter 1):

viewtopic.php?t=70776

Cheers, Chad

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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by persequor »

Geoffrey Steadman's commentary series is very helpful. I haven't used his one on Vergil, though I have used his volumes on Ovid's Daphne and Apollo and Icarus and Daedalus. Steadman provides a brief intro to the literary work and the author, then on each page of text he provides the vocabulary and some grammar notes. He also includes a core vocabulary list. You can either buy a print version on Amazon or get a free pdf digital version, or both. Here's a link to his page: https://geoffreysteadman.com/ap-vergil-usa/

Steadman covers the College AP Vergil selections, which come from Aeneid Books 1, 2, 4, and 6, with 63 lessons.

I would focus on learning to read with comprehension (and hopefully, enjoyment), and not on translating. Although translating may be helpful in some cases, most students (and teachers) seem not to realize that reading and translating are two different skills. Also, translation, to be done well, requires real mastery of your source language. Beginning-intermediate students do not have that level of expertise yet. And of course, learning about the mechanics of the poetry can be helpful also.

To learn to read with comprehension, learning the core vocabulary, both of Latin in general and of your author in particular, is key, as is learning the basics of the grammar.

If you feel the need for translation, besides what you get from dictionaries and commentaries, go with ones done by people who have already mastered the language. For example, the ones in the Loeb Classical Library series or in the Penguin Classics. (To get free pdf volumes of the older, out of copyright Loebs, including the Aeneid volumes, go here: https://ryanfb.github.io/loebolus/. Just use CTRL-F [Windows keyboard] or Command-F [Mac keyboard] and then type "Aeneid" or "Virgil" in the search bar.)
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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by seneca2008 »

doloresvariationer wrote:For an idea of my level in Latin, I have read bits of Nepos, Ovid, Lucan, Suetonius, Eutropius, Aurelius Victor. Of them the only one I can read with relative fluency is Eutropius
I admire your enthusiasm and commitment. I wonder what you will actually achieve by rushing pell mell through the entire text over the summer? I think even someone with more experience would find it a daunting task. Many students have no option but to read Virgil or other poetry before they have the means to deal with it.

I think you would learn more about Latin and improve your fluency if you were to study some Livy or Cicero. Ultimately this will mean that when you do come to read Virgil you will be well prepared and instead of reading it with a view to understanding grammatical structures you would be reading with enjoyment and able to concentrate on the poetry.

If you are keen to study Virgil you could look at this excellent introduction and commentary of books 1 and 2.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reading-Virgil ... 156&sr=1-1

From the Preface:

"This book follows the same pattern as my Reading Ovid (Cambridge University Press 2007). It assumes readers have done a year of Latin and have a grasp of basic grammar and vocabulary at about the level of Reading Latin (Jones and Sidwell, Cambridge University Press 1986) or Wheelock’s Latin (New York 2000). Line-by-line help with grammar and vocabulary is generous to start with, and regular learning vocabularies specify what must now be learned because it will not feature in the glossing again (though the total vocabulary set to be learned is contained at the back, pp. 302–15)."

Concentrating on getting to grips with Virgil's language and thought would be a worthwhile project. You need to avoid over committing and getting disillusioned. As Jones observes:

"Virgil is not easy. The text, therefore, is split into quite small passages to start with to encourage careful reading, gradually extending in length. Comment, too, on almost any line of the Aeneid could run to pages. But this is a book for beginners, and one can do only so much. "

You could combine this with reading some Livy or Cicero to really develop your knowledge of grammar, as well as reading texts which have enormous intrinsic interest. You might also look at some Seneca although he is not always an easy author.

Others on this board (like MWH) have advised that it is better to study Ovid before Virgil. It is an easier introduction to reading poetry as well being utterly compelling and very beautiful. Again Jones has written an introductory work:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reading-Ovid-M ... 152&sr=1-1

If you were to start with Ovid combined with some prose as mentioned above you might then move onto Virgil and find the Virginian experience much richer.

I think Aetos has read the whole Aeneid and he will testify to how long it took him. He is however a very experienced Latinist.

In the old days of mods at Oxford I think it was a requirement to read all of Homer and Virgil but you had five terms (ie almost two years) to do it. Those doing this were however already very adept at both languages.

Having read this if you feel you still want to try good luck!
Persuade tibi hoc sic esse, ut scribo: quaedam tempora eripiuntur nobis, quaedam subducuntur, quaedam effluunt. Turpissima tamen est iactura, quae per neglegentiam fit. Et si volueris attendere, maxima pars vitae elabitur male agentibus, magna nihil agentibus, tota vita aliud agentibus.

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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by Aetos »

Hi,

As Seneca2008 mentioned (and thank you, Seneca, for the kind words!), I have read the Aeneid cover to cover whilst reading the Iliad. At times it was a bit of a slog, but it was always a labour of love! Being retired, I was able to read under the best possible conditions: no distractions, consistent schedule, low stress environment, and having all my secondary materials close at hand. Under these conditions then, I proceeded to read approximately 50 new lines a day, whilst revising the previous 50. As part of the revision, I would also read Page's notes from his MacMillan edition, available here . For me this took roughly an hour to an hour and a half. Each book of the Aeneid contains 800-900 lines, so at this rate I was able to complete my first read through of a book in 16-18 days. I would then make a second read through of each book before carrying on to the next. This I could accomplish in 7-8 days. At this rate, I managed to complete the twelve books in a little over a year. Now, theoretically, you could do 4 sessions a day at that rate (50 lines/ 1.5 hours) and read all of the Aeneid in 3 months. I did one session a day because I had other reading projects and because there is a lot to digest even in a 50 line daily dose of Virgil. My suggestion to you would be to try two sessions a day and see how you get on, if you want to attempt a cover to cover reading.

Seneca makes many good points and is offering some excellent advice. In another thread, Chad (CB) and Hylander also offer excellent guidance. The key, as I see it, is preparation and experience. Syntactically, Virgil is not difficult. You'll get used to the word order. You'll acquire the vocabulary. What you're striving for, though, is to appreciate the poem on as many levels as possible, not just for the narrative, but also for style, craftsmanship, intertextuality, as well as for emotional and intellectual engagement, just to name a few of these levels. For that, you need experience. The more, the better. I think one of the reasons we go back and reread many of these works is because as our experience grows we're able to appreciate these works in ways we couldn't previously.

Anyway, those are my thoughts and whether you do Virgil or Ovid, I'm sure you'll enjoy the experience. Before I let you go, though, I've got to share this story with you (It's not very long). Because my study routine used to involve reading both prose and poetry for equal periods of time, I found myself opening up my volume of Catullus' carmina, having just set down Livy's A.U.C. Libri. That particular morning, my subject was Carmen 13. It's a humorous invitation to dinner using Phalaecean hendecasyllable metre. As I read the poem, "bashing the beat" a bit, I finally realised how much more lively and fun this experience was compared to Livy. That silly little poem sold me on poetry.

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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by Hylander »

Thanks for mentioning me, Aetos. Aetos is referring to suggestions on reading Vergil I wrote just the other day in another thread. Here it is, in the hope the OP might find it useful:
Vergil is not as difficult as you might think. When I was learning Latin in secondary school 60 years ago a teacher once told me that 14-15 year-old students were capable of beginning to read Vergil after a year of Latin, but he was reserved for the fourth year of Latin, i.e., 16-17-year-olds, because the younger students lacked the maturity to appreciate him,

The vocabulary of the Aeneid is not too difficult. The Georgics, with their technical language, are a different story.

What is difficult at first is getting used to the word order -- in particular the elaborate and seemingly artificial patterns of hyperbaton in adjective-noun pairs, which sometimes interlock around a verb. This is a salient feature of classical Latin verse, not just Vergil. If you pay attention to these patterns as you begin reading, they will come to seem quite natural, and you'll begin to appreciate Vergil's artistry.

You'll enjoy Vergil much more, and you'll understand him more readily, if you learn to scan the hexameter and train yourself to read metrically, silently or aloud. It's not hard: start by writing out the scansion of, say, 10 or so verses each day and then go over them, reading aloud. Pay attention to caesuras.
I'd add that, as Aetos noted, Vergil's syntax is not too difficult, leaving aside the word order/hyperbaton issues. I think it's less difficult than Cicero's or Livy's complex periods (though to me Livy is more limpid than Cicero).

Use a good, relatively literal, translation, preferably a pedestrian prose translation, one that doesn't aim at creating a new literary masterpiece (but not an "interlinear") to help you along when you're stumped.

I don't think it would be impossible to work up to 100 lines a day, but probably not to begin with.

Good luck, and keep us posted. Don't hesitate to ask questions here.
Bill Walderman

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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by Hylander »

I can't vouch for this series of commentaries on the first six books of the Aeneid, but just from looking at them on Amazon, they seem promising for your level. They're apparently a contemporary updating of Page's excellent commentary.

https://www.amazon.com/Aeneid-Focus-Ver ... 62&sr=8-14

There is a two-volume paperback commentary on the entire Aeneid by R. D. Williams which is available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Virgil-Aeneid-I- ... 4960&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/Virgil-Aeneid-VI ... 002&psc=1
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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by seneca2008 »

hylander wrote:I can't vouch for this series of commentaries on the first six books of the Aeneid, but just from looking at them on Amazon, they seem promising for your level. They're apparently a contemporary updating of Page's excellent commentary.
This one volume commentary on six books is a condensation of six separate one book commentaries. I have a couple of these and they are useful but somewhat limited for more experienced readers. The notes are better than Pharr's.
Persuade tibi hoc sic esse, ut scribo: quaedam tempora eripiuntur nobis, quaedam subducuntur, quaedam effluunt. Turpissima tamen est iactura, quae per neglegentiam fit. Et si volueris attendere, maxima pars vitae elabitur male agentibus, magna nihil agentibus, tota vita aliud agentibus.

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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by Hylander »

In respectful response to Seneca, I don't think that reading Cicero or Livy would necessarily be a useful preliminary to reading the Aeneid.

I think that the difficulties of Latin prose are quite different from those of Latin poetry. Among other things, the elaborate periodic structures characteristic of prose -- particularly Cicero's -- are not as prominent in poetry. The biggest difficulty in poetry for relative novices, I think, is the radical hyperbaton, which becomes easier as the student progresses and recognizes the patterns. In addition, the vocabulary of Latin poetry is significantly different from that of prose.

That's not to say that reading Cicero or Livy would be of no use before tackling Vergil. The more Latin -- poetry or prose -- students have under their belt, the easier further reading of any Latin, will be.

But I wouldn't discourage anyone who has worked through the first year of Latin grammar and who wants to read the Aeneid from cover to cover from giving it a try, with the aid of a dictionary and a commentary. It will be slow going at first, but with time and effort the pace should quicken.

One more thought: Servius' commentary isn't likely to be very helpful. It's aimed at late imperial Romans with different mindsets than ours and is full of misinformation. It won't provide enough linguistic help because its audience could be presumed to know Latin backwards and forwards. You will want a competent modern commentary, with some good background information about the Augustan context of the Aeneid. Background and context are very important, and you will accumulate knowledge that will be useful in reading other Latin texts, especially from the Augustan age.
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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by seneca2008 »

Bill you make good points as ever.

I wasn't thinking about Cicero or Livy as a specific preparation for Virgil. I was thinking more of what would be appropriate to read for someone who has only relatively recently started their latin studies. The OP listed what he had read " bits of Nepos, Ovid, Lucan, Suetonius, Eutropius, Aurelius Victor." Livy Cicero Caesar and Seneca are notably absent form this list. Based on my own college experience of not reading much prose and a lot of poetry I feel my Latin would have been stronger had I concentrated more on prose. Cicero was notably absent from my reading perhaps for reasons which were not strictly linguistic.Apart from Seneca the main prose author I studied was Tacitus which in retrospect seems bizarre. The reason for the choice of that author had more to do with the future CV of our teacher rather than whether it was an appropriate choice for us. Likewise when I studied Apuleius.

So my advice remains build your skill in reading Latin by studying some more prose texts. Use the summer to work on prose composition and read some Catullus (as Vergil did). A few books of the Aeneid would be feasible. The whole work could become a chore.

The one specific feature of the Aeneid that Cicero might help with is it's rhetorical practice, When I read Vergil in class it was the lengthy passages of anaphora that caused most problems.

Ultimately maybe the best advice is read what you enjoy and if it doesn't live up to your expectations read something else.
Persuade tibi hoc sic esse, ut scribo: quaedam tempora eripiuntur nobis, quaedam subducuntur, quaedam effluunt. Turpissima tamen est iactura, quae per neglegentiam fit. Et si volueris attendere, maxima pars vitae elabitur male agentibus, magna nihil agentibus, tota vita aliud agentibus.

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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by doloresvariationer »

Hello everyone and apologies for the late update.

Over the easter break I picked up Peter Jones' Reading Vergil and could pretty comfortably get through book I in a week. Rather than creating a routine and making myself read 100 lines per day, I found that it worked well to replace whatever I would have been reading in English with the Vergil, so some days I didn't read any at all, and others I read a couple hundred lines.

I have now taken a small break for exams but next week I should have the time to get back on track. Jones' commentary has been very helpful, so I do wonder how difficult the transition between book II and III will be. Are there any other commentaries for the rest of the books that also include a few grammar explanations?I have found that commentaries often focus solely on intertextuality and narrative, rather than tricky grammar (understandably). I don't find myself needing to look at them very often, but at times they definitely make the whole process a lot smoother.

I am not sure if I will be able to get through the whole thing this summer; I certainly don't want to rush myself. But I do think I can at least get through a significant chunk of it, and if the rest of the books are as engaging and beautiful as the first I don't think it will be too much of a chore. If I get to book VI I'll be able to read Bernardus Silvestris' commentary on it too, which should be fun!

Thank you all very much for your advice and resources.

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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by Wilbur »

This is a nice thread with several resources suggested, but I have not seen Pharr's book mentioned. What is the opinion of his book versus Jones, or Williams, or the Loeb download?

I have Pharr's book and perhaps these others would make a nice complement as I get started.

Thanks

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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by cantator »

Wilbur wrote: Mon Aug 22, 2022 12:16 am This is a nice thread with several resources suggested, but I have not seen Pharr's book mentioned.
It's mentioned in the thread, though only briefly by seneca2008.

I went through it a long time ago. I had also gone through his introduction to Homeric Greek, so I figured I'd be at home with Pharr's method. For my part, I found his edition of the Aeneid (first 6 books only) to be quite interesting and helpful. NB: I'm not a classics scholar in any sense, others here clearly have a much broader acquaintance with the ancillary literature. But I certainly enjoyed that edition.

Best regards,

dp
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Re: Reading the Aeneid cover-to-cover

Post by Wilbur »

Cantator,

Thanks for your comment. I find it useful too. And, yes, I missed the earlier reference.

Cheers.

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