Ancient Rome's most illustrious poet, Publius Vergilius Maro (aka Virgil) lived from 70-19 B.C. During those five decades, much history was made: The senators assassinated Caesar; Cleopatra committed suicide; Octavian became emperor. The Aeneid, sparked by Octavian's request for a narrative that would pay tribute to his government, occupied the last decade of Virgil's life, and although he died before he could finish it, the poem was immediately appreciated as a work of genius.
Robert Fagles' new translation of The Aeneid is a fluid, lyrical rendering of the epic. One of the world's leading classicists, whose versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey have sold more than a million copies, Fagles brings a contemporary vigor to Virgil's lines. Despite the passage of centuries, Aeneas remains a compelling protagonist, noble yet flawed, and his adventures—an affair with Queen Dido of Carthage, a journey through the Underworld, the founding of Imperial Rome—make for rousing reading. Fagles' lively, accessible translation includes a glossary and notes, which serve to put this seminal saga in context. Copyright 2006 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2006 October #1
The founding of Rome and the maturation of a hero who has greatness thrust upon him are the subjects of Virgil's first-century (b.c.) epic, newly available in Princeton scholar Fagles's energetic verse translation.It succeeds Fagles's critically acclaimed and very popular English-language renderings of Homer's the Iliad and the Odyssey, the touchstones that preceded and inspired Virgil (the Latin poet's hero Aeneas in fact makes a brief appearance in the Iliad). In 12 Books containing nearly 10,000 lines of unrhymed verse hexameters (i.e., six stresses per line), Virgil tells of the endangered voyages of Aeneas's fleet of ships following the devastation of the Trojan War; his dalliance with Queen Dido of Carthage, and the abandonment of her that adds the scorned monarch's lethal rage to that of (Aeneas's nemesis) the offended goddess Juno; the hero's journey to the underworld and reunion with the ghost of his father Anchises (one of classical literature's imperishable scenes); and a litany of the deeds and sufferings of noble Romans that expands into a prophetic vision of a glorious future. Veteran scholar Bernard Knox's replete introduction brilliantly summarizes the poem's provenance, meanings and influence. And a "Translator's Postscript" both emphasizes and illustrates "[Virgil's] unequaled blend of grandeur and accessibility . . . of eloquence and action, heroics and humanity." Fagles varies the hexameter pattern ingeniously, condensing to five stresses, or expanding to seven, depending on the desired rhetorical or emotional effect (e.g., "the dank night is sweeping down from the sky / and the setting stars incline our heads to sleep")-and demonstrates his talents smashingly in scenes set in "The Kingdom of the Dead" (where, amid sulphurous sound and fury, we hear ". . . a crescendo of wailing, / ghosts of infants weeping, robbed of their share / of this sweet life, at its very threshold too").Homer's deserved primacy makes us often forget that Virgil is in many ways his equal. Fagles's triumphant new achievement makes us remember it. Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2006 July #1
The legendary translator of the Iliad and the Odyssey, Robert Fagles now delivers another classic. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 September #3
Princeton scholar Fagles follows up his celebrated Iliad and Odyssey with a new, fast-moving, readable rendition of the national epic of ancient Rome. Virgil's long-renowned narrative follows the Trojan warrior Aeneas as he carries his family from his besieged, fallen home, stops in Carthage for a doomed love affair, visits the underworld and founds in Italy, through difficult combat, the settlements that will become, first the Roman republic, and then the empire Virgil knew. Recent translators (such as Allen Mandelbaum) put Virgil's meters into English blank verse. Fagles chooses to forgo meter entirely, which lets him stay literal when he wishes, and grow eloquent when he wants: "Aeneas flies ahead, spurring his dark ranks on and storming/ over the open fields like a cloudburst wiping out the sun." A substantial preface from the eminent classicist Bernard Knox discusses Virgil's place in history, while Fagles himself appends a postscript and notes. Scholars still debate whether Virgil supported or critiqued the empire's expansion; Aeneas' story might prompt new reflection now, when Americans are already thinking about international conflict and the unexpected costs of war. (Nov.)[Page 37]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.