Great Books Challenge Lesson 9

This lesson completes Vergil’s epic classic the Aeneid, with books eleven and twelve. These books are battle filled page turners, with gripping side tales and a satisfying conclusion. The side tales are sometimes tragic, as when King Evander mourns the loss of Pallas: “I, in living, have undone the fate of fathers: I survive my son”; maddeningly frustrating, as when Diomedes’ suggestion of a truce is received by all but Turnus: “I shall go bold against Aeneas”; or adventurous fun, as the story of Camilla, the warrior maiden: “At the center of the struggle, like an Amazon…”

Wes Callihan has noted many parallels between Vergil and Homer (modified to match the Roman mindset), as well as Vergil and the Bible. These parallels have been insightful and educational, and have added to the pleasure of the reading. And as Vergil imitated Homer, so later writers, such as Dante, used matter from Vergil.

One modern tale echoes the story of the Aeneid quite closely: Watership Down by Richard Adams. Consider these parallels: Both stories tell of a band of friends escaping the destruction of their home, a destruction prophesied by one doomed not to be believed. As they travel, some among them hope to settle in places along the way, and one among former adversaries begs to join them. They come to a prosperous place, and begin to settle there, but the leader supernaturally learns that he must take his followers away to their destined home, following the death of a female. After further adventures they arrive at this promised home, and begin to settle in peace, only to find themselves having to battle for their home. Some from this new place join our heroes, and help them to win, with further supernatural aid.  Other intriguing parallels include the telling of a descent into the underworld, an antagonist forcing his way into the inner part of our hero’s new home during a battle, and a major incentive for the battles being the winning of women.

The Aeneid and Watership Down, stories of adventure, battle, leadership and hope, grip our hearts and raise our spirits. God has made us to love stories, and has placed us in His story. I look forward to continuing to learn about great stories from Old Western Culture.


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