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Barron's Booknotes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Book Summary
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STYLE

Just as the Aeneid's structure is modeled in part on the Iliad and the Odyssey, so is its style. Like Homer, Virgil wrote his poem in dactylic hexameter. This term describes the meter or rhythm of each line of poetry. It means that there are six major beats in each line and that each beat is made up of a dactyl (a word in which the first syllable is strong and the following two are weak) (-^^) and a spondee (a word in which both syllables are long (--). An example of a dactyl and a spondee in English are the words "fabulous pizza!". Of course, since you are reading the Aeneid in an English translation, what you're reading won't have this rhythm. But it's interesting to try to imagine how musical it must have sounded in the original Latin.

The reason for this rhythm is that Homer's epics were sung or chanted before they were written down, so it was natural to have a clear beat. Virgil kept this rhythm, even though he wrote his poem for a literate and sophisticated audience. But since he wrote the poem, instead of learning it from an oral tradition, he had the opportunity to use much more complex language than Homer could have. Virgil's poem is full of beautiful images, subtle allusions, and symbolism that give it a rich, dense texture. The result is that Virgil's epic has a very different style from Homer's.


Virgil also follows epic tradition in using many epic similes and epithets. An example of an epic simile is found in Book IV where Virgil compares Aeneas to a giant oak tree that cannot be blown down no matter how hard the winds blow. An epithet is a stock phrase that captures some part of a person's basic character. An example is "pious" Aeneas. The epithets you'll see depend on which translation you're using. Just look for the same word used over and over again to describe a person.

Another epic convention that Virgil makes great use of is long speeches by the major characters. Here we see that Virgil finally made use of his training in rhetoric. Although he might not have been a good public speaker himself, his characters surely are.


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Barron's Booknotes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Book Summary
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