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Virgil's Aeneid From Troy to Rome

In the first century BCE, Virgil wrote the Aeneid, his epic of the founding of Rome. Virgil drew on ancient legends that told how refugees from fallen Troy had migrated to Italy, where they became the ancestors of the Roman people. Virgil drew heavily on Homer to tell his story. The first six books of the Aeneid adapt many elements of the Odyssey to tell of the wanderings of the Trojan refugees. The last six books of the Aeneid adapt many elements of the Iliad to tell of the wars in Italy between the newly arrived Trojan refugees and the already resident Latin people.graphic of arena

The Aeneid transformed the Trojan losers into winners and the Greek winners into losers. The Trojans were noble and long-suffering, the Greeks devious and dangerous. Achilles got an especially bad rap in the Aeneid---he was represented as Turnus, the raging Latin warrior who caused great destruction and had to be killed before there could be peace in Italy.

Virgil was pre-Christian (he died in 19 BCE), but the values presented in the Aeneid were compatible with Christian values, emphasizing the virtues of piety, suffering, leadership, and obedience to the gods. Oddly, the gods in the Aeneid were not much of a problem for Christian readers, perhaps because Jupiter was represented as wise and good. So, while Homer was ignored in the European Middle Ages, Virgil continued to be read and loved.

Aeneid Lecture Aeneid Activities Virgil and Rome Bibliography
Explore the links below


  • The Aeneid: a free audiobook site that includes a prose version as well.

  • The Aeneid: a BBC discussion led by Melvin Bragg. Video about 40 minutes; quite good.

  • The Argonautica: a free audiobook site that includes a prose version as well.

  • Ovid's Metamorphoses: a free audiobook site that includes a prose version as well: includes Vol. 1, books 1-7.


  • Roman Architecture: This attractive site has substantial information about Roman architecture, illustrated by a few charming old drawings. The site claims to have taken the material from old books--I wish they had cited the sources.
  • Roman Art: Part of Art History Resources on the Web; a huge collection of links, some annotated, to sites presenting images and other information about Roman art and history, grouped by time and type.



  • Lecture on Ovid's Metamorphosis: Puts this Roman epic poem, which tells of the Trojan War in Books 11-13, into a historical context.
  • Vergil and the Aeneid: Chapter 11 of Mark Damen's course from USU, Ancient Literature and Language, including a link to slides for the lecture, as well as annotations for reading the Aeneid..


  • Aelius Donatus: A Life of Virgil. From the 4th century. The main source for later lives of Virgil. Translated and introduced by David Wilson-Okamura.
  • The Aeneid: This free etext from MIT uses John Dryden's translation. Among other features, this Web Site offers you a place where you can read what other people have written about this text; you can also post your own comments about the Aeneid here. The entire text of the Aeneid can be searched as well as downloaded.
  • The Argonautica: by Apollonius Rhodius (fl. 3rd Century BCE) This famous story of Jason and the Argonauts includes the love affair of Jason and Medea. Medea, a rather terrible witch, provides an ominous source, along with Cleopatra, for poor Dido (who has a few ominous undertones herself).
  • Didone Liberata:  by Salvatore Conte. This site contains a play about Dido based on the story in the Aeneid. The play is in Italian as is much of the site. There are also extensive links to all sorts of interesting Dido materials, many in English, and some gorgeous images of Dido from great painters as well as an abstract of the play in English. Definitely worth a visit.
  • Life of Augustus: by Nicholaus of Damascus. Trans. by Clayton M. Hall (1923)
  • Metamorphosis: by Ovid. Etext of another Roman version of the story of the Trojan War, as told in Books XI, XII and XIII of the Metamorphosis. This is part of the Perseus site; scroll down the page to the Table of Contents and select the books you want to read. 
  • The Secret History of Virgil: by Alexander Neckam. A medieval author's version of Virgil's afterlife as a magician.
  • Women's Life in Greece and Rome: by Mary Lefkowitz and Maureen Fant. Adapted from their book for Diotima.



  • Ovid's Metamorphosis Englished: The images from the 1640 edition translated by George Sandys. Quite interesting to see Renaissance ideas of Roman mythology.


  • BMR Review: Virgil. Edited by Ian McAuslan and Peter Walcot and Oxford Readings in Vergil's Aeneid. Edited by S. J. Harrison.
  • BMR Review: Vergil's Aeneid and the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius by Damien Nelis.
  • Latin Language and Literature Resources: includes various study aids for Latin students.



  • Encyclopedia Mythica: Roman Mythology--an extensive alphabetical list of Roman gods and heroes and other mythical beings.


  • This is David Wilson-Okamura's very attractive home page for Virgil materials, including links to his bibliography of paperbacks by and about Virgil (see above), Mantovano--the Virgil Discussion Group, an ancient life of Virgil by Servius, and e-texts of Virgil's minor poems. A good place to start learning about Virgil on the Web.

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© Diane Thompson: 8/25/1998; updated: 8/1/2017