Great Books Challenge Lessons 7-8

These lessons include books seven through ten of the Aeneid. We are now into the second half of this epic, which is as much like the Iliad as the first half was like the Odyssey: famous warriors boasting and battling until they fall, their armor ringing around them, while the gods watch and interfere, seeking their own advantage. The parallels between the books that I noted myself or that Wes Callihan reveals help make these lessons truly intriguing. Let me note a few.

First, just as Achilles was given a glorious, Vulcan-forged shield picturing daily life in Greece, so Aeneas is given a shield picturing the glorious future of Rome. This once again shows that, while Homer was concerned with the present, Vergil is more future oriented.

Second, just as Odysseus and Diomedes made a night raid of the enemy in the Iliad, so Nisus and Euryalus raid the Rutulians in the Aeneid. I enjoyed seeing these two friends again, who raced against each other back in Book V. In the Iliad, the two heroes just circle back to their camp, but in the Aeneid, true to form, they have a forward-looking goal of bringing reinforcements. Vergil promises that future generations will remember them.

Third, just as Hector raged unstoppable until he set fire to the Greek ships and killed Achilles companion Patroclus (to his eventual doom), even so the Latin warrior Turnus sets fire to the ships of Aeneas, and kills Aeneas’s ward Pallas, signifying his eventual demise.

I enjoy reading these chapters aloud, as Wes continues to encourage his students to do. This helps me to more closely understand and even sympathize with the characters. I am disgusted by the hideous monster Allecto, and angered by her destruction of the peace. I feel friendship toward King Evander as he tells tales of Hercules, and I understand Turnus’s shame as a ship, by the will of Juno, carries him unwillingly away from the battle.

This Old Western Culture course continues to delight. I look forward to learning more from Wes Callihan as he guides me through these last two books of Vergil’s epic tale.

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