Activities for Virgil's Aeneid

Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

Read through the Virgil Study Guide and all of the listed Activities before making your selection. Make a copy of the Activity question to begin your response. Post your Activity to the Blackboard Activity 5: Aeneid/Bhavagad-Gita/Ramayana Forum.

In Book I of the Aeneid, Aeneas is presented as a new kind of hero, who wills to do what he has to do. Compare/contrast Aeneas to Odysseus or Gilgamesh, who do what they please and even get the gods to cooperate at times. Do you have any ideas about why they are such different sorts of heroes? Use specific examples from the Odyssey, Gilgamesh and/or the Aeneid to support your ideas.
Compare Kalypso and Kirke in the Odyssey (Books V and X) to Dido in the Aeneid (Book IV). Concentrate on  how they delay the hero's journey. Do you see any similarities? Differences? Explain and support your ideas using examples from both texts.
Being beloved by a deity has advantages, but can also create problems. Compare the relationship of Odysseus with his patron goddess Athena to Aeneas' relationship with his goddess mother Venus. Do you see any interesting similarities? Differences? What do these relationships tell you about the nature of the Greek and Roman gods?  Explain your ideas using supporting examples from both texts.
Irrational, "anti-fate" behavior in the Aeneid is mostly concentrated in the females, human and divine. Select several of these females to consider. List each one with a brief explanation of her irrational actions and attributes. Do you think Virgil is saying something about women's behavior in general? What? Be specific and support your ideas with examples from the text. You may want to explore the website Diotima for background information about women in the Aeneid.
Book VI of the Aeneid presents the Underworld as a place for purification, punishment, prophetic information, rest and recreation between lifetimes. The Odyssey presents Hades as a vague and boring place where everyone goes after death and no one leaves. However, the dead have some kinds of knowledge that the living do not. Compare/contrast these two visions of the underworld and try to make some interesting point about their differences. Support your ideas with specific examples from Book VI of the Aeneid and Books XI and XXIV of the Odyssey. Note: the textbook does not include all of book VI of the Aeneid, so if you choose this Activity, go to the Course Materials Table on the Course Home Page to get the electronic text of the full book VI.
Virgil was cherished throughout the Christian Middle Ages as a most virtuous poet, even though he died in 19 BCE., a few years before Jesus was born. Virgil was concerned with issues of divine will and how a good man could align himself with that divine will, and these were issues that medieval Christians also were interested in, although their answers were quite different.

Read the Sermon on the Mount (Volume 2, 1209-1213) OR online (see Course Materials table on Course Home Page) and compare the ideas of how to be a good human being presented there with the ideas about how to be a good human being that you find in the Aeneid. Note that these ideas are VERY different from Virgil's, yet both are deeply serious thoughts on how a good person ought to act. Support your ideas with plentiful examples from both readings.

Compare Aeneas' journey to the underworld with that of either Gilgamesh or Odysseus. In what ways are they similar? How are they different. So what? Support your ideas with plenty of specific examples from the two stories you choose to write about.
The Aeneid ends abruptly when Aeneas kills Turnus in Book 12. Why do you think Virgil ended his epic like this? What point was he making? Or do you think he would have changed the ending if he had lived to complete his revisions of the Aeneid? Develop your ideas using specific examples from the Aeneid to support them.
What about poor Dido? Do you think she was to blame for what happened to her? Was Juno? Venus? Aeneas? Explain your answer with examples from the story. If you choose this Activity you should read at least Books 1-4 of the Aeneid before writing about it.
Reread the scene of Dido's suicide carefully. Notice all the witchcraft involved. Do you think that Virgil uses this to make us less sympathetic to Dido? If so, why? Is Dido dangerous? Can you find echos of Circe or other negative women or goddesses in her? Support your ideas using specific examples from the story.
Fate is a crucial concept in the Aeneid. Start by getting a good definition of fate from a dictionary. Be sure to copy it in quote marks and cite the source. Then look in the Aeneid for several places where fate  is mentioned and discuss each example, explaining what you think Virgil meant by "Fate." Do you think his concept of fate is like the dictionary definition? How? Be specific and support your ideas with plenty of examples from the Aeneid. Is either the dictionary concept of fate or Virgil's like yours? How or how not? Give specific examples to support your insights here.
Aeneas developed a tainted reputation among some medieval writers. Among other things, he was reputed to be homosexual and reputed to have collaborated with the Greeks to betray Troy, so that he could escape from the conquered city. Can you see any aspects of Aeneas in the Aeneid that might have led to such a degrading of his character? Do you think Virgil meant to include any negative traits? If so, what do you think they were? Be very specific, supporting your ideas with examples from the Aeneid.
Go to Roman Power and Roman Imperial Sculpture. Read through the text and think about how the Aeneid was a product of this world. Augustus was, in a sense, the real world hero of the Aeneid, as well as the ultimate patron for whom Virgil wrote. Look through the images and select a few that seem to you especially relevant to the world of the Aeneid. Identify and describe them and explain in specific detail how these images affect your understanding of the Aeneid.
Virgil's Aeneid and Exodus from the Hebrew Bible both tell about a somewhat reluctant, god-selected hero who leads his people out of disaster through many dangers and difficulties to the ultimate goal of a promised country (which must be fought for) and a great heritage. Compare the characters and experiences of Moses and Aeneas to see what they have in common and see if you can identify any profound ways in which they are different. This is a complex topic and you must use specific examples from both the Aeneid and Exodus to support your ideas. Use a version of Exodus from the Hebrew Bible. See links to the Hebrew Bible on the Course Materials Table on the Course Home Page. If you do this thoroughly, it can be worth double credit.


 (c) Diane Thompson: 8/10/1998; updated: 01/25/2012