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THE LYRIC AENEID:
A FAT SACRIFICE TO A SLENDER MUSE
Laura E. Mawhinney
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY
OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR
THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
I would like to thank foremost the professors of my committee, Dr. Timothy
Johnson, Dr. Gareth Schmeling, and Dr. Jennifer Rea, for guiding and advising me
throughout my research and graduate studies. I am grateful to you Big Tim for
suppressing your natural inclinations, and Dr. S. for not. Ms. Druscilla Gurahoo
deserves my utmost gratitude, without whom I would have been lost (and quite hungry).
I would like to thank my parents and my brothers and sisters whose support and
encouragement kept me good these past years. Finally, to all my friends and fellow
students who didn't.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKN O W LED G EM EN TS ............................................................................................ ii
A B ST R A C T ........................................................................................ ................... .......... iv
1 IN T R O D U CT IO N ............................ .......................................................... 1
2 THE POETOMACHIA: HELLENISTIC POETRY AND THE
CALLIMACHEAN AESTHETIC..................................................................... 4
3 POETAE DOCTI: THE CALLIMACHEAN AESTHETIC IN ROMAN
L Y R IC ................................................................................... ................. .......... 2 0
4 THE "FAT LITTLE" VERGIL................................... ............ .. 38
5 THE "LITTLE FAT" VERGIL................................... ............. 48
6 C O N CL U SIO N .................................................................. ....................... 64
W O R K S C IT E D .............. ............................................................ .............. .............. 66
BIO G RA PH ICAL SK ETCH ......................................................... ........................... 72
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in
Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
THE LYRIC AENEID:
A FAT SACRIFICE TO A SLENDER MUSE
Laura E. Mawhinney
Chair: Dr. Timothy S. Johnson
Major Department: Classics
Vergil's Aeneid is a lyrical epic. Aeneas' journey from Troy to Rome resounds
with the epic tradition of heroes and wars, gods and men. Vergil creates his epic from
deep within the context of the Homeric canon to validate and reinforce the historical
and mythological ideals of his contemporary Romans. Vergil engages his contemporary
audience with a communal and personal voice not heard in the Homeric epics: cano.
The following chapters will trace specific literary influences at work from Homer
to Vergil which allowed Vergil's communal, lyrical voice to merge with his impersonal,
epic voice. Like Vergil, the first chapter will start with Homer and will also introduce the
emergence of the Callimachean aesthetic of "fatness" and "thinness." The second
chapter will examine the reception and interpretation of Callimacheanism in Roman
lyric. The remaining chapters first discuss Vergil's adaptation of the Homeric voice, and
then explore how Vergil blends Hellenistic and Augustan poetic theory to let his own
OL084, rTO iLv 160S OTTL rCXL(-TOV
Op eai, r+lv Mo-aav 8' &'yaOAe XeewraXT'qv-'
"Singer, feed your sacrifice to be as fat as possible,
But keep your Muse slender."
Vergil never dies. His Aeneidinvigorates the Latin epic genre and encourages
Ovid, Statius, and Lucan after him to pick up the epic pen. Vergil becomes a guide
through purgatory in Dante's Divine Comedy, achieves an almost prophetic status in the
middle ages, and even peeks into the recent film Troy in a somewhat comical Excalibur
scene between Hector and Vergil's hero Aeneas. In his own time, Vergil innovatively
recasts the Homeric epics and canonizes the history and tradition of his own people.
Perellius Faustus would have us believe that Vergil plagiarizes Homer and steals
his epics.2 But imitation of past tradition, in fact, was essential to classical writers who
used previous models to lay the foundation for and validate their own works.3 Most
ancient and modem writers and scholars are more receptive to Vergil's imitation.
Bowra, Clausen, and P6schl,4 for example, examine Vergil's written adaptation of the
oral tradition (imitatio) and consider Vergil's literary transformation of Homer's oral
1 Call. Aet. 1.23-24 Pf
2 Unfortunately Faustus' catalogue of Vergilian "thefts," Furta, do not survive; cf. Clausen (1966) 75.
3 Williams (1968) 250; Clausen (1966) 75; cf. Conte (1986) and Williams (1983).
4 Bowra (1966); Clausen (1966), Poschl (1962) 1-32.
songs (aemulatio). Vergil re-imagines the Homeric heroes in his own Aeneas and creates a
more personal hero than Odysseus and Achilles as Parry and Poschl argue.5
Although scholars read Vergil's Aeneas as a more personal hero, very little is said
about Vergil's own personalization of the epic voice. Heinze, Otis, and Segal give brief
attention to moments when Vergil asserts his own voice behind the words and actions of
his characters.6 Yet the influence of these few has been hardly noticed, because the
strong association between the epic genre and the absence of a personal voice, which
Homer standardized in his impersonal invocations of the Muses and which Aristotle
emphasized in his Poetics, seems to advise against searching Vergil's Aeneid too closely for
the consciousness of the singer.
Shifts in community, philosophy, and literacy had made the imitation of
Homer-and thus the epic genre-a rocky course, if not altogether unmanageable.
Callimachus in the 3rd century B. C. engaged in a polemic against epic which carried into
Vergil's own time. The writers in Vergil's literary circle adhered to Callimachean
aesthetics in their poetic theory and practice and composed in the "lesser" genres which
encapsulated brevitas, the personal voice, and self-referentiality. In step with his
contemporaries, Vergil announces his allegiance to the Callimachean aesthetic in the
recusatio of Eclogue 6 (1-8). He will not write in the "greater" (Homeric) genre of kings
and heroes and he instead turns to Hesiod, Nicander, and Theocritus for inspiration.
Vergil's poetic art in the "lesser" genres firmly establishes him as a leading voice of the
Maecenas circle. Then after he has become a prominent writer in the "lesser" genres,
5 Parry (1966); P6schl (1962).
6 Heinze (1993) 202, 207-208; Otis (1963) 51; Segal (1974) 37.
7 Otis (1963) 63.
Vergil seemingly abandons his Callimachean recusatio against epic and turns to the
"greater" epic genre in his Aeneid. Vergil's journey from the "lesser" to "greater" genres
not only seems to contradict the poetic ambitions of his younger poetic identity but the
poetic theories of the other Augustan poets.
This rather typical reading of Vergil's career is simply too "slender." Horace
surpasses his immediate lyric predecessors, the neoterics, and revives the personal poetry
of the "lesser" genre, lyric, with its original communal power. Likewise Vergil emulates
the founder of Greek literature, the epic Homer, and thus immortalizes himself within
the epic canon. Indeed, Vergil conquers the vast gap between oral and literary epic and
in the process makes his hero Aeneas relevant to his contemporary audience, and
Vergil's literary achievement certainly does not stop there. Vergil is not writing within an
isolated competition between himself and Homer; the poetic rhetoric and dialogue of his
contemporaries, most notably Horace, emphasize the communal nature of poetry, which
is essential to both epic and lyric. In the Aeneid, Vergil adopts the same communal force
as the lyric Horace. Vergil's Aeneid is fully Callimachean: both fat and thin. In literary
terms, the epic (fat) Aeneid is lyrical (thin).
THE POETOMACHIA:1 HELLENISTIC POETRY AND THE CALLIMACHEAN
Mouo-awv 8' o pdC.Xa 8S os e'y
"I am not especially sparing of the Muses."
During the Hellenistic Age, literature and philosophy fused as scholars became
poets. Poets turned their critical, scholastic eye to the literary traditions first established
by Homer and judged all successive poetry by that master's standards. Callimachus
saturates his own texts with criticisms which detail his disparagement of Hellenistic
poetry, and he forcefully denounces the path that poets had taken from Homer to their
own times. Still, the exact targets of Callimachus' criticisms are hard to determine with
any certainty. The problem becomes more difficult because the inadequate notations of
scholiasts guide modern scholars.
Callimachus and his contemporaries lived in an atmosphere which encouraged
the exploration of literary standards. Aristotle's Peripatetic school reached Alexandria
through Demetrius of Phaleron, a student of Theophrastus, who may have been
involved in the building of the Museion under Ptolemy Soter.3 Zenodotus became the
first librarian of the Museion, followed by Apollonius Rhodius and Eratosthenes.4 Other
1 I have borrowed this term from Vessey (1971) 4-5.
2 Call. fr. 538b Pf.
3 Brink (1946) 11 discusses how Callimachus and Aristotle share the same views in philosophy but as poets
differ in opinions of literary theory.
4 Bulloch (1985) 547-549.
scholar-poets such as Lycophron, Alexander Aetolus, and Callimachus were in charge of
cataloguing the immense depository of texts at the Library.5 Through their work, the
Alexandrians were in constant dialogue with the writers of the past.
In forming impressions of past poets, Alexandrians were not working from a
blank slate, especially in regard to Homer. Aristotle praises Homer in his Poetics as the
source of literature from which writers of tragedy, comedy, and iambos draw their
inspiration. Thus for the Alexandrians, Homer spoke with a pure voice from which all
other voices flowed.6 In discussing tragedy against the backdrop of epic, Aristotle
distinguishes the narrative of the Iliad and Odyssey, which encompasses multiple levels of
action and character, from the narrative of tragedy which must be simplified. Homer
establishes a unity in his narrative through the action of the plot while interjecting his
own voice as little as possible.8 The poet sings in epic meter (dactylic hexameter), fills
his song to epic length, and fattens the plot with episodic units.
The way in which Homer constructs his plot and works within the confines of
epic meter and length becomes the canon by which Aristotle judges all other poetry.
Homer wholly depends upon the oral tradition of the bards when composing his song.9
This oral tradition discourages the poet from completely altering the outcome of known
5 Bulloch (1985) 547.
6 Newman (1986) 3.
7Arist. Po. 1459b: 20-30.
8 Arist. Po. 1451a: 1-27; 1459a: 47-48.
9 Lord (1960) 28: "What is of importance here is not the fact of exactness or lack of exactness, but the
constant emphasis by the singer on his role in the tradition. It is not the creative role that we have stressed
for the purpose of clarifying a misunderstanding about oral style, but the role of conserver of the
plots,'" but Homer renews tradition by exploiting elements of character and recognition
within the smaller episodic components." When Homer transitions from one episode to
the next, he charms the audience into a suspension of reality so that what might seem
irrational or implausible to the plot overall escapes the notice of the audience.2
Therefore, episodes encapsulate surprise and creativity, but the audience remains focused
on the general movement of the plot itself rather than the details of each episode.
Homer simplifies the plot enough that listeners can keep the beginning and the end-
that is, the goal of the song-in their minds.13
Writers after Homer used his poems as exempla for their own epics by extracting
the mythological elements and the historic, legendary scope of the material and
projecting these onto contemporary events.4 These Hellenistic writers, however,
disassociated themselves from the legendary past and chose to write on events in their
own time." As a result, they struggled to appropriately blend the mythological, poetic
style of Homer with contemporary history.16 By Callimachus' time in the third century
B. C., mythology and the world of the gods had lost their ability to contribute to the
"high style" and graitas of epic poetry within view of its contemporary setting.
Audiences, for example, would no longer accept that soldiers in the Persian wars readily
10 Aristotle (Po. 14:. '.1. 31-32) provides, for example, the generic story of Orestes killing Clytemnestra.
11 Arist. Po. 1453b: 35-6.
12 Arist. Po. 1460a: 57-64.
13 Arist. Po. 1459b: 15-16.
14 Otis (1963) 6-11; Newman (1986) 17.
15 For example, Rhianos wrote an epic on the Second Messenian War, among other epics on historical
topics (Achaika, Thessalika, Eliaka). Other historical epicists include: Phaistos (Lakedamonika); Apollonius
(Ktisis Rhodou, Alexandreias); Philo the Elder who wrote Jewish epics; cf. Otis (1963) 16-17.
16 Otis (1963) 6-8; Newman (1986) 23-30.
and easily intermingled with the gods on the battlefield." Consequently, epic poets
wrote light poems which reduced the role of mythology or wrote historical epics that
attempted to conform the Homeric canon to modern, historical events. Serious poetry
that effectively incorporated both gods and men was left to the tragedians.8
Choerilus of Samos and Antimachus, two poets against whom Callimachus
directs some of his most potent attacks, typify the trend of epic poets to divide the
mythological and historical aspects of Homer into two separate threads. Choerilus
imitated the historical aspects of the Homeric poems in his epic on Xerxes' invasion of
Greece, written around 400 B. C.9 Antimachus, writing in the fifth or fourth century
B.C., avoided history and wrote a mythological epic, the Thebais.20 These two epics are
representative of the split in Hellenistic epic between "old" (Choerilian/historic) epic
and "new" (Antimachean/mythological) epic, and reconciling these two aspects was a
central struggle for Hellenistic authors.21
The mythological Thebais of Antimachus seems to have been received with more
acclaim in the Hellenistic period than Choerilus' historical Persika, although little survives
of the texts or their reception. Choerilus versified history and thus defied the
Aristotelean and Callimachean doctrine that history and poetry represent two separate
17 As in the epic about the Persian wars written by Choerilus of Samos (Persika); see Otis (1963) 9.
18 Williams (1968) 33; Newman (1986) 26, 39.
19 Otis (1963) 9-10; Hollis (2000) 13.
20 Otis (1963) 10; Vessey (1971) 1.
21 The terms "old" and "new" belong to Briggs. The distinction is that "old" refers to historical epicists
such as Choerilus of lasos, Choerilus of Samos, or Rhianos. In the "new" category belong the epics of
Antimachus and Apollonius, who focus on the mythological aspects of Homer. In Apollonius in
particular, Briggs describes the author's use of :n rl. .1.._ which no longer functions as the source of
history for his Hellenistic audience. Briggs (1981) 950-953: "His attitude to myth allows its essential power
and beauty to carry much of the weight, although one never imagines that Apollonius is describing 'real' or
facets of literature. Whereas the art of poetry relies on a certain suspension of
believability, historical narration describes actual events in singular moments of reality
(sequential or not).23 Another Choerilus, of lasos, who wrote historical epic on the
campaigns of Alexander, becomes a symbol of bad epic poetry for the Romans in the
Augustan period and comes under attack by Horace.24 Horace's criticisms are many and
deprecatory, and concentrate on the fact that Choerilus wrote for profit (Epist.2.1.230-
44; Ars 357-60). Not only does a versified history not constitute poetry, but writing for
profit can threaten the art out of the composition.25
Antimachus is one of the first to "rival Homer by outdoing Homer at his own
game" and utilizes an obscure and archaic style that earned him the reputation of apoeta
doctus.26 Even Plato ordered that the text of the Thebais be preserved27 and marked it for
future generations. Nevertheless, by the time of the Alexandrians, Antimachus also
comes under criticism so that later the Roman poets regard him as an example of the
lengthy swollen poetry denounced by Callimachus. Catullus hopes that the small
masterpieces of his friend Calvus will be close to his heart, but he leaves the people to
enjoy Antimachus' swollen style (,;-'' mei mihi sint cordi monimenta
22 Newman (1986) 26.
23 Newman (1986) 40. Aristotle (Po. 1459a: 14-17) draws a further distinction between the unity of the
plot in history and poetry. As mentioned above, the beginning and end of a plot must be in the audience's
mind as they learn the poet's treatment of tradition. In historical writing, there is not necessarily a distinct
end nor does the narrative work towards this end.
24 The writer who keeps making the same mistake and the cithara player who keeps messing up on the
same note becomes another Choerilus to Horace (Hor.Ars 355-357).
25Johnson (2005) 23-24.
26 Otis (1963) 10; Bulloch (1985) 546.
27 Vessey (1971) 1-2. Cicero (Brutus 51) says that Plato was alone in his opinion: Plato .. .mihi unus instar est
tumidogaudeatAntimacho; Cat. 95b).2 Propertius further denounces Antimachus' epic for
misappropriating his narrow elegiac voice for grave epic themes (incipe iam angusto versus
includere torno, 2.3.43).29
The attitudes of the Roman poets also reflect Callimachus' criticism of
Antimachus in his epigrams. Callimachus attacks the Lyde in his work against
Praxiphanes (fr. 589 Pf.) where he criticizes Plato for holding the poem in such high
regard."3 Callimachus further disparages the Lyde for being fat and plain (-rayv ypd.LLa
KCLL OU Topov, Call. fr. 398 Pf.).3 Although these criticisms specifically address
Antimachus' elegiac work rather than his epic, they do address elements of style and
typify the way in which Callimachus will defend his own poetry in the prologue of his
Callimachus does not confine his criticism to Antimachus; he also takes aim at
Apollonius and his 1 ... ... 32 The Suda provides the primary evidence for
Callimachus' attacks on Apollonius and his epic style, where an entry identifies
Apollonius as the target of Callimachus' invective Ibis.3 The notion of an actual
argument between the two poets is not documented in any of their own texts, but is only
28 Vessey (1971) 2-3.
29 Propertius uses the term angustus to describe Callimachean poetry: intoned angustopectore Callimachus, 2.1.40;
illa vel angusto mecum requiescere lecto, 1.8b.34; nos contra angusto versantes proelia lecto, 2.1.45; See also Prop. 1.9.8-
12. Vessey (1971) 9 argues that Propertius gives a lucid insight into the dispute by balancing the epic
tradition (Homer and Antimachus) against the elegiac tradition (Callimachus and Philitas) and each poet's
suitability to their genre. The rejection of Antimachus continues beyond the Classical period and the poet
becomes characterized as verbose. Porphyrio writes: ut viginti quattuor volumina impleverit, antequam septem
duces usque ad Thebas perduceret (ad Hor. Ars 146).
30 Cameron (1995) 304.
31 Lefkowitz (1980) 8.
32 Lefkowitz (1980) 1-19; Bulloch (1985) 561.
33 See Lefkowitz (1980) for the history of the ancient scholars' interactions with the texts.
evidenced in the scholiasts, and then noted by modern scholars.34 According to the
scholiasts, Callimachus and Apollonius traded insults. Callimachus attacked Apollonius'
work, charging that a big book is a big evil (fr. 465 Pf.).3 Apollonius answers back:
"Callimachus-refuse, triviality, woodenhead! | The cause is Callimachus, who wrote the
Causes" (KaXXLaxos ro KGO PapC, VL, r 'yvv LVOS VOS a v-rLOS 6 ypd4as
Altria KaXXL aXos, AP 11.276).36 The vitae and scholiast remarks can often prove
anecdotal and e: .._. ...r it .1. but in this case they can be clarified through the poetry of
these two poets and critics.
Although the texts of Apollonius and Callimachus do not substantiate in
themselves the existence of a rivalry, they do reveal that the two writers interacted with
each other's works. The ancient vitae state that Apollonius was a student of Callimachus.
Although this student-teacher relationship may be another e:: t._. ..r ti. .n- of the vitae, the
influence of the two poets on one another is clear.7 Callimachus' influence on
Apollonius' 1... 'has been shown to be pervasive.38 Apollonius imitates
Callimachus, for example, when Jason thrusts his hands in the air and promises sacrifice
to the Pythian Apollo in return for a safe landing of the Argo (Call. Aet. fr. 1.18 Pf., A.R.
34 Lefkowitz (1980) 4 writes, "the ultimate source of the biographers' information is poetry by and about
Callimachus and Apollonius. Not directly, of course, but through that curious process of objectification
that characterizes ancient scholarship, by which the humorous is taken seriously, and conventional
metaphor is interpreted as literal fact."
35 Atheneus provides the account: -rL KaXXiMpaXos 6 ypLapQ[p-TLKOS 7T ya L.X'iov 'Ltov aeyEv E'vaL
-r(i p[eyiXp KCaKT (fr. 465 Pf.). For the most complete discussion of the relationship between Callimachus
and Apollonius, see Lefkowitz (1980).
36 The translation is Cameron's (1995) 227. Cameron (227-230) rejects the possibility that this epigram
belongs to Apollonius Rhodius.
37 Lefkowitz (1980) 12 cites these instances as "narrative metaphors for influence." Vit.A.8 calls
Apollonius a paL'-ris of Callimachus; cf. Lefkowitz (1980) 1.
38 Konken (2001) 78 lists the allusions he sees to Callimachus in every book of the Argonautica. For
common stylistic elements between Callimachus and Apollonius, see Briggs (1981) 950-953.
Ag. 1.367-425). Apollonius also describes specific aetiologies found in Callimachus,
such as the origin of the Argo's anchor (Call. Aet. fr. 108-9 Pf., A. R. Arg. 1.955).
Apollonius, too, provided a source for Callimachus' own works. Callimachus' Athena
addresses Chariclo with the same sense and diction (both use the rare word
-raXivdype-ov) that Phineus uses to address Jason in the Algonautica (Call. Hymn V: 103-
4; A. R. Arg. 2.444-5).39 The scholiasts, who give evidence for the quarrel, point out
some of these similarities, but, as Lefkowitz writes, they "weren't as sensitive about
questions of imitatio as we have become, or they might have suggested that Callimachus
collaborated with Apollonius."40
Even given this high degree of interaction between Callimachus and the epicist
Apollonius, it is only common sense that Callimachus' criticisms take a wide look at
multiple authors and genres. Callimachus' disparaging remarks cannot be confined to a
specific author or genre with unanimous certainty. Callimachus' criticisms, such as
araYX, ,4eya, and o' -op6v, consistently, however, emphasize style. The Aetia and Hecale
provide the greatest source of information about Callimachus' views on style. What can
be learned from these texts, then, is not whom he is attacking, but rather what stylistic
standards Callimachus is advocating via his criticism. The prologue to the Aetia (fr. 1.1-
7; 17-24 Pf.) figures most prominently in discussions of the Callimachean aesthetic:
..... .]L LOL TeXxives e'rL-Tpl.oU(3tv ,LOL8,
v'L8ESs oi MoU ms O1,K eyEvovTOo kiXoL,
E'ZEKEjv OU ev ClELOUCL SL' vEKes 'ij Ba~aX[n'
.....]. as iv i-roXXcais 'ivuaa XLXLaLV
39 Konken (2001): 78; Cameron (1995) 247-262; Lefkowitz (1980) 15. Konken (2001) 79 disagrees with
this hypothesis of mutual borrowing.
40 Lefkowitz (1980) 15; Lefkowitz (17-18) sees even more correspondence when she examines the two
poet's influence on Vergil. She concludes, "I think that one can see that Vergil at least thought that
Callimachus and Apollonius were fighting on the same side in the Battle of the Books."
...... ]ous 'ipcwas, e7ros 8' E riL -JUrov X[LaaW
-rars a-re, TriV 8' e.TeoV '9 8eKLSJ O .K oXiy'q.
eXXere BaUKaQVLqJS oXoOV yeVOLSJ' aC6LL e8 NXV
KpLVEE, ] LJL) a~OL'VJ( Hep L8i TiLVJ aooL'rv
VLwn8' a'-r' eOVe0 8I1di-Te VL'ya Cio4ouaCav &oi8'jv
T-LKT-reearL povTralv OUK eVLOV, L'XX'J ALoS.
KaCL yCp OTe TLpLt)fJTLCUTOV EkoiiS EiTi 8XTov EGO'fKa
yoIvaa v,'A[r6]XXwv 'T ev 6 pLOL AlKLOS'
".......] o. r'oIT, TO v OV o s 6OTTL rTnC(xL(TOV
OpeCaiL, Trilv MoOaav 8' (&,yace Xe-rr-aXe'qv"
(I know that) the Telchines mutter at my song, those foolish men who are not
the friends of the Muse, because I did not sing of kings and heroes in one
continuous song in countless verses, and I roll out the slender word like a child,
though I am not few in the number of my years. Then judge my skill by its
art, not by the Persian rope. Don't look for me to produce a great song
sounding an empty noise. Thundering is not mine, but Zeus'. For when I first
placed the tablet upon my knees, Lycian Apollo said to me: "Singer, feed your
sacrifice to be as fat as possible, but keep a slender Muse."
In Callimachus' vision of the Lycian Apollo, he defends his own poetry by criticizing
elements of style most readily identified with the creator of Greek literature-the epic
Homer. Callimachus accosts the Telchines41 for insisting that he sing of kings and
heroes in one continuous song (iv deipL~C 8L'qveKes).42 Nor will he sing of these kings
and heroes at length in a poem numbering thousands of lines (ev -roXXCas. .. XLXLdoLv).
"Thundering," or writing a song loudly resounding such as the Iliad and Odyssey is for the
41 Scholars do not agree on the identification of the Telchines. Scholars, ancient and modem, generally
identify the Telchines as Callimachus' critics, see Bulloch (1985) 558; Briggs (1981) 951. Lefkowitz (1980)
11 believes the Telchines are anonymous critics and states: "the Telchines and his reply to them, like
Apollo's speech, represent a ficticious situation." Mythologically, the Telchines are a "fabled goblin-race
of metal-workers, skilled in magic, who inhabited some of the Greek islands and whose most renowned
characteristics were jealousy, maliciousness and possession of the Evil Eye;" Bulloch (1985) 558.
42 Cameron (1992) 266-267 provides a history of the readings and conjectures of this line. We lack the
(possible) adjectives which modify "kings and heroes," and thus clear interpretation of Callimachus'
meaning is impossible. Cameron further notes that Vergil translates this phrase with a different twist: cum
canerem reges etroeia (Ec. 6.3). See Pagan (1991) for further textual emendations.
godlike Homer (the Zeus of the epic poets).43 Like his predecessor Aristotle,
Callimachus draws his poetic canon against a Homeric backdrop.
Callimachus defines his poetry as to content in the negative: not long, and not on
the heroic world. These criteria certainly indicate that Callimachus refuses to write an
epic.44 Nevertheless, Callimachus envisions more than the negative, and encompasses
more than the rejection of any specific genre. Through Apollo's instructions, while he
rejects one single long narrative, he puts forward positively his own poetic program.
Callimachus' vision concerns both voice and narrative, elements of structure and style.45
He commands the Telchines not to look at what he would not write, but at the art of
what he does write (TrXVv'I KpLV-re). The Lycian Apollo commands Callimachus to feed
his sacrifice to be as fat as possible (irdia-rov), but to keep the Muse slender (rrv
MoOaav Xe--rcmaXelv). Here, Callimachus reinforces this point of the slender Muse
further as he recalls the slender word of the previous lines (irros 8' 4'Tr -ruo6v).
Apollo's vision of Callimachean style presents a paradox when he recommends
poetry that is at once slender (Xe-araXk'rv, -r-Oov) and fat (-rdrXUTov). By these
seemingly contrasting elements of style, Callimachus brings to the foreground the
question of continuous narrative (ev dei-CLa 8'qveiK4s). Again, the audience is in the
realm of epic, dwelling on aesthetics of length and heroes, and thus the Thunderer
himself, Homer. Homer sings of heroes in thousands of lines, but his narrative is
43 Bulloch (1985) 559.
44 Aristotle (Po.1459b.4-5) cites length as one of the two (the other being meter) criteria which differentiate
epic from tragedy.
45 It is useful here to recall another epigram of Callimachus' which disparages the cyclic poets for dragging
the reader this way and that: ,X6alpo -T rolrllpa -r KUKXLKoV 084e KeXeUAoL IXalpto rTLs rroXXos d86
Kal (8E 4pEL(Epigr. 38.1-2 Pf); see Bulloch (1985) 560.
discontinuous and episodic." In fact, as outlined by Aristotle in the Poetics, Homer
embraces both aspects of the fat and slender which Callimachus praises. Homer
saturated his text with all the qualities that in later literature could only be unwoven by
different threads of genres, such as tragedy, history, and mythological narrative. Homer
keeps his Muse slender by weaving together a simple plot from the greater tradition of
the Trojan wars.4
Callimachus therefore does not concentrate his criticism so much on length and
subject matter as on voice and narrative. He will not write an epic of Homeric length in
a non-Homeric voice. Callimachus' criticism in fact envalues Homeric expression, as is
clear from his praise for Homer in the Hymn to Apollo. Callimachus writes that his own
voice is superior to the other writers of the time because his is closer to the source-
Homer.48 Callimachus sings with the Homeric voice and embraces both the fat (a
multiplex of tone and topics) and slender (the episodic). This is why Antimachus' epic
can at once be fat (-.raX) but still miss its mark by not being slender. Choerilus of lasos,
too, writes many verses at great length, but lacks the brevity needed to keep Homer
awake.49 This paradox becomes the essence of Callimachus' criticisms, a critical element
that the Romans adopt as brevitas.50
46 Cameron (1992) 309 hits the nail on the head when he comments, "not all epics do consist of unbroken
narrative-most conpsciously the two longest and most famous of all, the Iliad and Odssey."
48 Lefkowitz (1980) 5.
49 Hor.Ars 359.
50 See Horace, Ars 25: brevis esse labor. Newman (1986) 22 comments that "in distinguishing between
Homer and his imitators, Hellenistic critics, following Aristotle, had pronounced Homer to be superior
precisely on the grounds of his brevity."
The stylistic emphasis in Callimachus' poetic dictum was a primary concern for
Propertius, who refers to the poet's statements of style in advising a fellow poet. In
2.34b, Propertius advises his friend Lynceus, who has fallen in love, on how to write
poetry that uses language and style appropriate to its genre. He begins by listing models
that would be useless for Lynceus to follow: the natural philosophy of Socrates and
Aratus. Lynceus should rather imitate Philitas' elegies and the dreams of the "not-
inflated" Callimachus (tu satius memorem Musis imitere Philitan et non inflati somnia
C 31-32). But in his advice, Propertius does not recall Callimachus the elegist,
he refers to Callimachus the author of aetiologies. Propertius' somnia C directly
references Callimachus' vision of the Lycian Apollo in the Aetia.s5 The subject matter of
the Aetia will not benefit the elegist, thus Propertius must be emphasizing the stylistic
program set forth in Callimachus' prologue.
As Propertius draws his interpretation of Callimachus' vision, not only themes
but style takes center stage. Lynceus should avoid the epic themes of the flooding
Achelous and the wandering Maeander (non rursus licetAetoli referas Acheloi, 33; atque etiam
ut P' Maeandria campo errat et ipsa suas deipit unda vias, 35-36),52 and likewise he
should avoid writing tragedies in the Aeschylean form (desine etAeschyleo componere verba
coturno, 41). Propertius then immediately returns to the Aetia and recalls Callimachus' use
of AiOs as symbolic of Homer: "You will not go more safely than Antimachus, nor will
you go more safely than Homer, for the right girl despises the great gods" (tu non
51 If Nairn's conjecture (Aratez) for (Erecthei) is correct, then as Camps (1966a) 224-5 notes, Propertius
anticipates the Callimachean reference in the previous lines (aut quidAratei tibiprosunt carmina lecti, 29).
52 Propertius' description of the deceitful Maeander, which wanders through the camp and tricks its own
courses, is reminiscent of Callimachus' disparagement of the cyclic poets who wander this way and that
(See above). The Maeander is known for its winding course which inspired Daedalus' labyrinth (Camps
Antimacho, non tutior ibis Homero: despicit et magnos rectal. '.~.Z deos, 45-46). Propertius is
concerned that Lynceus' style, like these wandering and flooding rivers, is overblown and
not in control, which will result in an unsafe journey for both author and audience.
In the Hecale, Callimachus shows his Telchines how an epic should be written
and puts his criticisms to the test. Here, Callimachus describes the adventures of
Theseus and the killing of the Marathon bull, and creates a name for his epic from the
owner of a cottage in which the hero spends the night.3 Callimachus draws heavily from
conventional epic (Homeric) style by subordinating his own voice to the epic narrative,
beginning in medias res, and infusing Homeric similes and borrowings into his heroic
epic.54 However, the narrative of his work, like Homer, is discontinuously episodic and
does not encroach upon the poorly styled ev deai-aC &8'veics.55 Callimachus fattens his
poetic sacrifice by exploiting obscure myth and rejuvenating traditional aspects of heroic
and mythic elements. At the same time he extracts a voice from his archaic, traditional
narrative that can speak with relevancy to his contemporary Alexandrians.56 Bulloch
writes, "Callimachus' studied insistence on examining with a shrewdly quizzical eye the
very ordinary and practical aspects [of the poetic tradition] ... was a highly individual
choice and set poetry on a new direction which was to prove fruitful for centuries to
53 Cameron (1992) 312.
54 Cameron (1992) 312; Bulloch (1985) 563; Rengakos (2002) 143-145 finds many Homeric borrowings in
the texts of Callimachus and Apollonius. Rengakos hypothesizes that these borrowings represent the
actual manuscript tradition rather than conjectures and uses the two authors to reconstruct the Homeric
texts. He writes (146) that the two poets "make up a remarkably rich collection of memorial Homerica."
55 Brink (1946) 17.
56 Bulloch (1985) 557, 564.
57 Bulloch (1985) 557.
Just as Callimachus' criticisms on style color Propertius' advice to Lynceus,
Callimachus' vision of Lycian Apollo guides Roman poets in their compositions. The
Augustan poets most pointedly declare their allegiance to Callimachean standards of style
and innovation through the recusatio. Poets such as Horace, Propertius, Vergil, and Ovid
refuse to write poetry of a grand style and instead turn to genres which were in general
considered light.58 In these recusationes, the Augustans elevate the grand (epic) style of
poetry to a plane above their own abilities so that they themselves appear incapable of or
unsuitable for approaching it. The poets become apologetic that they cannot write
poetry worthy of the epic meter and describe their own poetry in Callimachean
language-tenuis, deductus, parvus. The Augustans invent within the Callimachean
aesthetic the opportunity to praise their own work or addressee, even if with a little
Horace, for example, addresses his refusal to write epic poetry in terms of his
own inability and lack of epic strength. Horace declares that he will not sing of the
deeds of Caesar:
... nec sermones ego mallem
repentis per humum quam res componere gestas
terrarumque situs et flumina dicere et arces
montibus impositas et barbara regna tuisque
auspiciis totum confecta duella per orbem,
claustraque custodem pacis cohibentia lanum
et formidatam Parthis te principle Romam,
58 Typical examples of the Augustan recusatio include Vergil (Ec. 6. 1-8), Horace (Carm.1.6, 1.20, 2.12, 4.2),
Propertius (2.1, 2.10, 2.15, 3.3), and Ovid (Ars 1.25-30). For the definitions of the recusatio, see Race
(1978), Davis (1991), Lyne (1995), and Johnson (2005). Race (1978) 180-181 comments that the
Hellenistic recusatio becomes stylized and sets the standards ofgenusgrande and genus tenue for the Augustans.
Race further discusses the conventional vocabulary of a recusatio. Race notes language of personal
preference (me iuvat, odi), ability (vires), external compulsion (necpatitur, vetuit), and decorum (pudor decet,
59 Johnson (2005) 48 emphasizes the importance of the opportunity for poetic self-definition in the
si, quantum cuperem, possem quoque; sed neque parvum
carmen maiestas recipit tua, nec meus audet
rem temptare pudor, quam vires ferre recusent.
I would no more place composing my satires, which crawl upon the earth, above
speaking of historical events, telling stories of places on the earth an rivers
speaking of citadels placed on mountains, and foreign kingdoms, and wars
completed throughout the world under your auspices, and Rome feared by the
Parthians with you as leader, even if I were able, as much as I would want to sing
these; but neither does your majesty allow my small lyric nor does my modesty
dare to try this thing which my strength forbids me to undertake.
Horace refuses to write grand praise for Caesar and uses Callimachean language in his
denial. Horace's small contribution in his lyric genre (parvum I carmen, 257-258) could not
do justice to Augustus' majesty (maiestas tua, 258). But while Augustus' majesty is the
very topic which Horace declares too lofty for his earthy poetry, Horace actually praises
Augustus' deeds in this refusal to sing them (resgestas, 251): Augustus conquered foreign
kingdoms (barbara regna, 254) and put an end to wars (confecta 1. ,, 255). Horace has
turned his refusal to write encomiastic poetry for Augustus into an opportunity to praise
his deeds. While claiming the Callimachean aesthetic, Horace has incorporated praise for
Augustus into his own chosen genre, lyric. So too will Propertius claim that his own
slender style is not suitable for grand epic themes when he admonishes Maecenas for
asking him to sail too vast a sea. Such grand sails are not fitting for his ship (quid me
scrbendi tam vastum mittis in aequor? I non sunt apta meaegrandia vela rati, 3.9.3-4).60 Propertius'
disavowal, however, includes grand praise for Maecenas, Augustus' closest comrade
(Caesaris etfamae uestigia iuncta tenebis: I Maecenatis erunt uera topaea fides, 3.9.33-34,
60 Race (1978) 190. See also Horace 4.15.3-4: neparva Tyrrhenumper aequor vela darem. Rutherford (1989) 44
continues, "Epic, as often in recusatio, provides a foil against which the less ambitious but more creative or
thoughtful work that the poet does offer can been seen to best advantage." See also Johnson (2005) 48.
The paradox within the Callimachean poetic vision warns us that when the
Augustan poets contrast their own slender style against the grand style of epic poetry, we
should not read them from too narrow a point of view. Despite claims of feebleness and
lack of vigor, the Augustans continue on from the recuatio and soar in their own genre.6
For the Augustans, the Callimachean aesthetic remains a paradox of "thinness" and
61 Smith (1968) 57.
POETAE DOCTI: THE CALLIMACHEAN AESTHETIC IN ROMAN LYRIC
SVe TOrV ev AWt8 tv X4yoi VOVOV ouVEKcL XaXKov i"yELpov
"May he not say I only struck the bronze at Dodona."
Callimachus' standard of fat sacrifices and slender Muses acts as a lens through
which the Roman poets in the first century B. C. look back to archaic Greek epic and
lyric as sources of imitation. Catullus and the neoterics embrace and rival the literary
standards of Callimachus and the Alexandrians through their poetry, and through the
process become estranged from the original spirit of the archaic Greek poets. Horace,
however, starts with the Greek lyricists themselves and infuses his poetry with
Callimachean standards in order to both imitate and emulate the full potential of lyric
The archaic lyric poets played a key role for early Greek communities by
performing hymns for festivals, drinking songs for symposia, and songs centered on the
state and politics2 to the tune of a lyre.3 Homer and the epic poets had acted as
historians for these communities and reinforced the common tradition for the myths and
beliefs of thepolis. The archaic lyric poets in turn depended on these shared myths and
beliefs to create a universality in their hymns and songs that would be performed for
1 Call. fr. 483 Pf. People who were garrulous were said to "strike the bronze at Dodona;" cf. Trypanis
2 Williams (1968) 32-33; Segal (1985) 165-166.
3 Miller (1994) 12; Commager (1965) 83.
both public and private audiences. But what differentiated epic and lyric song was the
self-referentiality afforded to the lyric singer.
Archaic lyric poets gain this self-referentiality by appealing to the universality of
the polis in terms of the individual. When Archilochus describes hiding his shield in the
bushes, for example, we hear the thoughts and emotions from the perspective of the
poet himself (5 W).s Archilochus then consoles himself: "why do I care about that
shield?' I ask. I will get another one no worse" (7T pOL piEXE &o-rr's KEKcVlr; I ppeT(W'
eia-LTS KTr oI JLL o KCKKLt)). Whereas Homer might explicitly explain the sharp pain
that comes over the hero at this loss or describe him as foolish (v-riffos) or cowardly
(8se6s), Archilochus shows his emotions to his audience. Archilochus threw his shield
away in order to save himself, although he hesitated to do so (o K ieXtwv). Likewise,
Mimnermus' discontent at the onset of old age (1 W), Alcaeus' joy at Myrsilus' death
(332 L-P), and Sappho's jealousy at a lover's conversation (31 L-P) equally construct a
persona of the poet that is foreign to Homeric epic. In these lyric scenes, the poets
describe emotions in intimate personal terms (such as the subtle flame that runs through
Sappho's body or the swelling of her tongue) so that the audience can fill in any dramatic
gaps with their own experiences and beliefs.6 Tradition had defined the epic singer in his
moment of performance, whereas in performance the Greek lyricist's voice and persona
4Johnson (1982) 54. Johnson (1982) thoroughly examines the universal nature of lyric; see especially his
discussions on Greek lyric (29-74).
5 Barron and Easterling (1985) 119; Johnson (1982) 29-30; 72. Miller (1994) 12-19 does not actually
consider Archilochus lyric because his voice is heavily influenced by Homer. Miller further denies that
archaic Greek lyric poets sing in the "poetic "' because their voices are inextricable from the polis.
Regardless of the level of "poetic 1" in the archaic lyric poems, the point I am trying to emphasize is that
the singers still create an un-Homeric persona in terms of the individual against the backdrop of the
universal. See Johnson (1982) 82-86 and Harvey (2001) for a discussion on the history of the classification
of the Greek lyric poets.
6 Johnson (1982) 72-74.
emerge so that the audience, even at times beyond the poet's own era, may construct a
picture or notion of the artist himself.
As the polis moved from the sixth to fifth centuries, the context of universality
changed when philosophers began to question the validity of the tradition set by Homer
and the epic poets. During this time, Homer and his world began to drift into the
distance and to be replaced by a more studied and systematic atmosphere that tested
ideas outside of the world of the pois.8 The emergence of writing further encouraged
and provided the means for individuals to search for explanations outside of the
traditional beliefs of the pois.' The new focus on the written word shifted the communal
experience of public performance into a possibly more private experience within a text
itself.10 The community of the pois gradually shifted from one which shared a common
tradition of myths to one in which individuals examined the nature of history and
mythology with a rationalist view. Therefore, the universality of the polls moved out of a
shared social and political context and into a philosophical, literary context more
independent of the community.
This new literary universality did not necessarily change the communal nature of
lyric poetry, but it did alter the way in which poets would develop their self-referentiality.
Like Archilochus and Sappho, Hellenistic lyric poets created polymetric poems in terms
Johnson (1982) 29-30; Commager (1965) 83. Lord (1960) 28 stresses "the constant emphasis by the
singer on his role in the tradition. It is not the creative role that we have stressed for the purpose of
clarifying a misunderstanding about oral style, but the role of conserver of the tradition."
SJohnson (1982) 55; Bing (1988) 12-13.
9 Bing (1988) 12-17. Bing (27-40) describes the changing role of the Muses as thepolis transitions from an
oral to literary focus. Bing states, "books have become the vehicle, at least, of poetic inspiration, if not its
10Miller (1994) 122-124; Bing (1988) 17, 37: "a person or place can exist wherever one finds a book."
of the individual. But because they could no longer appeal to a social or political
commonality, they wrote in terms of the new literary universality. The lyric poet,
therefore, became an individual in terms of the written word and operated within a
literary self-referentiality. Whereas the oral poetry of the archaic Greek lyric poets by its
nature did not allow for extensive self-referentiality from song to song, the new written
word allowed poets to allude to the works of others and even to their own works."
Poets pushed self-referentiality further and began to reference themselves in terms of
how they had already presented themselves. They wrote collections of poems in which
the poetic persona reacts with different emotions in different episodes. Reading lyric,
then, was no longer a process of transitioning from one episode to another in the way
that one could read Homer. Readers had to look beyond the lyric poet's persona in one
individual episode, and seek greater meaning by keeping in mind the poet's persona in the
situation before, the present situation, and a possible future situation. The poet thus
created a lyric consciousness which revealed a level of individuality and emotion beyond
each lyric episode and which was enhanced with each reading of the text.2
As poets showed an increased interest in developing new expressions of self-
referentiality within their own texts, they gradually abandoned the social and political
potential of lyric. Poets instead became literary constructs and conscious of their own
self-expression and artistry.3 Lyricists took up positions as objective reviewers of their
own work and thus in effect became literary critics. When Apollo comes to Callimachus,
11 Miller (1994) 4-5.
12 I am using Miller's terminology. Miller (1994) 1-2 defines lyric consciousness as a projection of a self-
reflexive consciousness that shifts, changes, and adds meaning with multiple readings of a literary
13Johnson (1982) 102.
for example, his instructions are not so much about the power of the Muse, but the
vision reveals what qualities the poet prefers in his own art. The poet has become
scholar. Rather than speaking to the community of thepolis, poets wrote in a highly
allusive and erudite style that could only be shared and enjoyed by a more select literary
The garland of Meleager, Parthenius, and Philodemus, only three of what were
no doubt numerous sources, introduced these Hellenistic standards of lyric poetry to the
Roman poets, but with varied results and effects on individual arts. 5 Both Catullus and
Horace, adopted the literary self-referentiality of Hellenistic lyric into their native Latin
tongue. Catullus and the neoterics, however, pushed Hellenistic self-referentiality almost
the point of an outright rejection of society. 6 When they did engage the social world,
they spoke in a new neoteric language which emphasized their political withdrawal, using
traditionally public values such asfoedus, fides, and amicitia to express private and personal
relationships." Horace, on the other hand, utilized the written word and literary self-
referentiality to revive the potential of the lyric poet's original social and political
14Johnson (1982) 102 notes that with Callimachus and the new focus of literary referentiality, lyric
becomes "oblique, learned, derivative." For further reference, see the comments of Bing (1988) 27 and
Quinn (1969) 26.
15 Ross (1969) 162. Philodemus was from the Macedonian colony of Gadara and was a student of Zeno;
cf. Frank (1920b) 109. Philodemus brought aesthetics of Epicurean philosophy and poetic theory to the
Roman poets of the first century B. C. including Vergil, Plotius Tucca, Lucius Varius Rufus, Quintilius
Varus, Catullus, and possibly Horace; see Sider (1995) for Philodemus' direct influence on the Roman
poets. Vergil may have composed a farewellpmpemptikon (Cat.V) in which he leaves rhetoric for poetry
and presumably leaves Rome to study at Naples where Philodemus, along with Siro, was influential; on
Vergil's early career cf. Frank (1920a; 1920b) and Rutherford (1989).
16 Broege (1976) 171; Miller (1994) 135.
17 Miller (1994) 135; Ross (1969) 80-95; Lyne (1980) 25-26. See also Lyne's introduction in which he
discusses the institutions of love and marriage in Late Republican Rome.
Catullus and some of his fellow poets inherited the title of "neoteric" or Poetae
Novi from Cicero,18 and these neoteroi possibly discussed and exchanged poetry between
themselves as a type of literary circle.'9 As equestrians, the neoterics (possible members
are Catullus, Valerius Cato, Calvus, Cinna, Furius Bibaculus, and Cornificius) were
removed from the political obligations of the elite order and naturally became a circle
apart from the noble class."2 As they looked inward to themselves, these poets formed a
closed literary circle in which poetry was not written for the polis at large but more for
personal exchanges between themselves, the new literary elite.21
The very idea that Catullus and his contemporaries formed an isolated literary
circle comes from Catullus' poems themselves. Catullus' numerous references to his
fellow poets created an on-going literary dialogue within his collection which illuminated
Catullus' stylistic dictum. Catullus, for example, describes writing lyric with Calvus as
they play with poetry in various meters (Hesterno, Lidni, die otiosi '. '.;. lusimus in meis
18 Att. 7.2.1, -r(iv veo-rpmv; Orat. 161,poetae novi; cf. Quinn (1969) 47; Lyne (1978) 167. See also Tusc.
3.45 in which Cicero calls the group cantores Euphorionis; Lyne (1978) 167. Cicero does not identify who
might be included in his group of neoterics, nor is it clear if he is being critical of the poetic group.
Laughton (1970) 3 concludes that Cicero's remark in Att.7.2.1 is a statement of his own poetic style rather
than a criticism aimed at the neoteroi. Lyne (1978) 168, Quinn (1969) 21, and Ferguson (1966) 871-872
argue that Cicero is deprecatory with these remarks, although Quinn and Lyne believe that Cicero is
talking to a literary group that proceeds Catullus. According to Seneca, Cicero said that even if he could
live his life again he still would not read the lyric poets (Epist.49.5); cf. Johnson (1982) 76.
19 Lyne (1978) 167 identifies the group as a literary circle. The evidence for this is controversial. I prefer
Quinn (1969) 48-49 who identifies Catullus' interaction with other poets (14, 22, 35, 36, 50, 65, 95, 116) as
evidence that there was structured dialogue exchanged between the poets: "Catullus' own poems make it
clear that he was one of a group of poets who shared confidences, aspirations and ideas about poetry and
literary criticism. It is also clear that these ideas had a permanent influence on Roman poetry."
20 Miller (1994) 132.
21 Seneca the Elder commented that there were poets who imitated the esoteric language of neoterics in his
age: they were mad on the dictionary (4t T- Xe,_LXv paLvov-rL, Contr. 9.26); cf. Wilkinson (1990) 428
n.82. Quinn (1969) 68 further notes that, "firstly, this is hard poetry-not for the general public, but for
the lettered lite who have the culture needed to appreciate its subtleties and the enthusiasm for tracking
them down. Secondly, it is the poetry of art for art's sake, the poetry of the littirature pure: above all in its
most serious productions at the highest level of intent but also in the nugae, the uselessness of which is
.... | ut convenerat esse delicatos I scbens versiculos uterque nostrum I ludebat numero modo hoc
modo illoc, 50.1-5). The two poets compose little verses (versiculos, 4) at leisure (otiosi, 1).
Catullus longs to see and to be with Calvus at once (ut tecum loquerer simulque ut essem, 13)
so that they can again compose verses in this ideal poetic situation: light-hearted (delicatos,
3) and away from the crowd.
When Catullus addresses his fellow poets in other poems, he reveals the literary
standards of this poetic circle, which look back to the highly allusive and erudite lyric of
Callimachean and Hellenistic verse.2 Like Callimachus, Catullus enumerates what is
good about poetry in terms of what is bad. Catullus, for example, praises Cinna's Zmyma
in terms of invective against Volusius' Annales.2 He envisions the doom of Volusius'
collection at Padua (Volusi Annales Paduam modrenturad ipsam, 95.7) and muses over the
nice wrapping paper they will provide for fish (et laxas scombnrs saepe dabunt tunicas, 8).
Similar to the poems which babbled on in thousands of lines in Callimachus' vision,
Volusius's poems are tumid and not at all like the slender, polished monument of his
friend Cinna (.,.;- mei mihi sunt cordi monument sodalis; a atpopulus tumido gaudeatAntimacho,
9-10). This is not the first time that Catullus disparaged Volusius' Annales, and the reader
here is reminded of Volusius' cacata charta (36.1). Catullus thus creates a stylistic dialogue
with his fellow-poets in terms of his literary criticism of others. Catullus' repeated
interplay with his contemporaries throughout his collection24 created a microcosm of
literary criticism which was more distant from the political and social world in which he
22 See poems 65, 66, and 116 for Catullus' Callimachean style; cf. Lyne (1978) 183.
23 Lyne (1978) 171: "the polemic not only confirms the cohesion of the three candidates for the neoteric
school; it may be some guide to the nature of its programme."
24 See also 14, 22, 35, 65, 116; cf. Lyne (1978) 167.
Catullus further constructs a personal microcosm through sophisticated self-
referentiality in his Lesbia poems by re-visiting his character as a lover in various
situations with his beloved. The reader encounters Catullus' infatuated persona as he
struggles to define the number of kisses that would satisfy his mad love (5,7). Catullus
exaggerates the hundreds and thousands of kisses that he might steal from his lover (da
mi basia :.., deinde centum .. ., 5.6-9) and emphasizes the whimsical, blissful love that he
and Lesbia share. The lovers are cut off from society as they reject the rumors of the
more severe old men (umoresque senum seve/orum I omnes unius aestimemus assis, 1-2) and then
deceive anyone who would be judgmental as to the extent of their love (aut ne quis malus
inviderepossit cum tantum sciat esse basiorum, 11-12). Catullus again uses hyperbole to
describe a satisfactory amount of kisses that would satiate him-only as many the are
grains of Libyan sands in silphium-bearing Cyrene (quam magnus numbers Libyssae
harenae I lasarpiiferis iacet Cjrenis, 7.2).25 This time he is madly in love (vesano Catullo, 10)
and emphasizes his insanity as he worries that curious minds might count the kisses and
bewitch the lovers with evil curses (quae necpernumerare cuiosi Ipossint nec malafascdnare
lingua, 11-12). The language of the two poems (basia, 5.7; basiationes 7.1; ; '. .centum,
5.7; quot, 7.1) and the hyperboles which Catullus uses to measure the kisses establish a
literary link between the episodes. Catullus creates an implicit level of consciousness as
the reader sees him on an emotional level in the two separate episodes. When taken in
context of the previous poem (5), the reader now sees in poem 7 an almost paranoid
pathos in Catullus' persona, which focuses on the seclusion and secrecy of the lovers. By
considering the similarities in Catullus' emotions in the two episodes, the reader also
25 I am progressing through Catullus' poems sequentially as we have them in modem collections. It is not
clear whether Catullus arranged his poems as we have them today. For a detailed discussion of
arrangement, see Wisemans' comments in Catulluan Questions (1969).
realizes the extent of Catullus' infatuation with Lesbia. If either of Catullus' basia poems
were considered in isolation, the reader might think that a momentary love enveloped
the poet. Catullus, however, created an emotional continuity within the different
contexts so that the reader sees his deep infatuation.
The depth of the poet's self-blinding love for Lesbia adds to the shock of the
break-up. Catullus commands himself to stop being silly and to face the facts ,.\1 ..
Catulle, desinas ineptire et quod videsperisseperditum ducas, 8.1-2): his girlfriend does not want
him anymore (nunc iam illa non vult, 9). Catullus' apostrophe both to himself (desinas, 1;
obstinata mente perfer, obdura, 11; obdura, 18) and to his absent girlfriend (scelesta, vae te, quae
tibi manet vita? quis nunc te adibit? ci videberis ..., 15-18) demonstrate the emotional
process that Catullus goes through in his attempts to deal with the break-up. The
audience sees Catullus first dealing with the hurt and then turning to vindictiveness.
After telling himself to "suck it up," Catullus becomes cruel toward his girlfriend and
declares that he will no longer seek her company nor ask about her (nec te required nec
rogabit invitam, 13). Soon in fact, no one at all will ask after her (at tu dolebis cum rogaberis
..,, 14). By the end of poem 8, Catullus has returned to the same, calm resignation
with which he had begun (at tu, Catulle, destinatus obdura, 18). Catullus' intense focus on
his own emotions in the episode (miser, 1; impotens, 9; obstinata mente, 11; destinatus, 18) and
his descriptive language allow the audience insight into his persona so that the reader
experiences Catullus' rejection with him.
Because Catullus empowers his poem with so much descriptive language, his
audience can still experience and understand his emotional loss in an isolated reading of
the poem. When the poem is read as part of the collection, however, the audience can
see Catullus' feelings on a dynamic plane of emotional ups and downs.26 The "unwilling
lover" is not an isolated moment but a part of Catullus' greater design and consciousness.
Catullus constructs a literary reference to his former infatuated persona blissfully seeking
endless kisses (soles occidere et redirepossunt, 5.4;fulsere quondam candidi tibi soles, 8.3)2 so that
the reader, who has experienced the lovestruck Catullus demanding innumerable kisses,
confronts Catullus' rejection poem with a deeper understanding and sympathy of the
break-up. When Catullus later experiences another trying time in his relationship, he
only needs to say that "I have and I love" (85) to bring the reader back to the dynamic of
his love lost.28 The reader re-visits the infatuated Catullus and the rejected Catullus, the
kisses, the furtive lovers, and the break-up. This resultant backdrop of feeling against
which we read the entire collection establishes Catullus' lyric consciousness and allows
the poet to actually share his experiences with his audiences.
Horace considers the poet who knows only how to sing "Catullus" and "Calvus"
a primate (simius iste nilpraeter Calvum et doctus cantare Catullum, S.1.10.18-19). Catullus and
the neoterics may have successfully brought Callimachean standards of innovation to
their poetry, but Horace claims to be the first to return to the primary spirit of lyric song
(ibera per vacuum posui vestigia pinceps, non aliena meopressipede, Epist.1.19.21-22). Horace
looks beyond his immediate Roman predecessors to the archaic Greek lyricists who
drank a substance more potent than water (.... placere diu nec vivere carminapossunt quae
26 Wiseman (1985) 137: "there are two stages to be borne in mind: that of the first-time reader of the
collection, recognizing the 'Lesbia' relationship as a major theme and having his insight into it
progressively developed as he proceeds; and that of the returning reader, who knows what comes
afterwards, and can use his knowledge to pick up cross-references in both directions. I think it is a fair
assumption that Catullus hoped for readers who would not be satisfied with going through the collection
27 Catullus reinforces this literary allusion a few lines afterwards (fulsere vere candidi tibi soles, 8.8).
28 Lyne (1980) 52 comments, "We share the experience with the poet and thereby come to an intuitive
appreciation of often inexpressible things. And that is a richer adventure than being told the expressible."
scmbuntur aquaepotoribus, Epist.1.19.2-3) and performed songs that could affect and
influence the polis. Horace, who is not satisfied with the personal context of Catullus'
nugae, imbues his song with a communal self-consciousness which surfaces repeatedly
throughout his lyric collection and which looks back to the original, political and social
potency of archaic lyric poetry.
In Horace's first ode of his tribiblos, he introduces his poetic dictum: the
viewpoint from which he wants the reader to approach his lyric. Horace constructs a
Greek setting and through it claims and re-presents the social function of the lyric poet.
He begins the song with a dedication to Maecenas:
Maecenas atavis edite regibus
o et praesidium et dulce decus meum:
sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum
collegisse iuvat metaque fervidis
evitata rotis palmaque nobilis
terrarum dominos evehit ad deos;
hunc, si mobilium turba Quiritium
certat tergeminis tollere honoribus;
Maecenas, born from royal ancestors, O my guard and my sweet honor: there
are those whom it pleases to have gathered Olympic dust on their chariot; and
both the end-posts turned round with eager wheels and the noble palm carries
them as masters of the earth to the gods. This one delights, if the crowd of
noble Quirites struggles to raise him with triple honors.
The song quickly steps into the world of archaic Greek lyric and its meter.29 The address
may be to a noble Roman, but the cadence remains decidedly Greek, signified by the
vocative (o) which like its Greek counterpart (4) remains unelided. Horace now borrows
the construction of the priamel (sunt quos, 3) from the Greek lyricists when he lists the
glories that occupy others and that are outside his own aspirations over the next
29 The meter here is First Asclepiadean. The next eight odes, known as the Parade Odes, are each in a
specific meter which establishes Horace's scope of borrowing and rivalry through the metrics. Lowrie
(1995) argues that Horace extends this rivalry beyond the metrics of the Parade Odes through 1-18 by
invoking individual lyricists themselves.
strophes.0 Horace extends the Greek setting and metaphor as he describes those for
whom it is pleasing to gather Olympic dust on their chariots (3-4) in a distinctly Pindaric
style. Horace ends his priamel on an ostensibly Greek tone:
me doctarum hederae praemia frontium
dis miscent superis, me gelidum nemus
Nympharumque leves cum Satyris chori
secerunt populo, si neque tibias
Euterpe cohibet nec Polyhymnia
Lesboum refugit tender barbiton.
quodsi me lyrics vatibus inseres,
sublimi feriam sidera vertice.
The ivies, prizes of learned minds, mix me with the gods above; the chilly grove
and the light choruses of Nymphs with Satyrs seclude me from the people, if
neither Euterpe restrains her reed-pipes nor if Polyhymnia fails to tune the
Lesbian lyre. But if you enroll me in the lyric canon, I will knock the top of the
stars with my head.
Groves, their nymphs, the satyrs and their choruses, all joined by the Muses Euterpe and
Polyhymnia create a literary celebration that is decidedly Greek. But throughout the
party Horace shifts the focus to himself. The repetition of me.. me... me (29-30; 35),
the independence from the Roman crowd (seceruntpopulo, 32), and the final striking
image of Horace's fame reaching the stars (feriam, 36) weave the poet into a Greek world.
He becomes inseparable from the Greek images, literally sewing himself within the
In the center of his Greek priamel, Horace shifts the setting to Roman themes.
Horace is just not looking back to Greek originals, but within this lyric context he will
speak to his contemporary Romans in their own language. One man exhalts in being
raised into office by his fellow Quirites (7-8), another rejoices in tilling his father's land
30 For the early Greek priamel, see Sappho 16 L-P; Pindar fr. 221 Schr.; Solon fr.1 D for the Greek
priamel; cf. Fraenkel (1957) 232-233; N.-H. (1970) 2-4. For the form of priamel, see Race (1982).
(9-10). Horace continues through the occupations that give others joy-merchants,
sailors, soldiers, and hunters. Horace has brought his poem out of the Greek literary
context into a political context that speaks to the community of Romans. Horace is not
merely concerned with a literary aspect of writing Greek verses; Quirinus himself
thought he was insane if here merely wanted to re-write Greek poetry (S.1.10.31-35).
The Roman community is central to Horace's ode and he avoids isolating his audience
from his poetry by directly speaking to them. Horace is not just translating, but
transforming lyric by making the Latin lyre assessable in a voice not spoken before (hunc
ego, non alio dictum prius ore, Latinus volgavi fidicen, Epist. 1.19.32-33). Thus Horace does not
strive to become a mere imitator of the Greek poets by translating verses; he will only be
satisfied by becoming equal to the immortalized lyric canon.3 At the same time that
Horace emulates the sources of Greek lyric themselves, he adheres to the Callimachean
standards of innovation. Horace imbues his texts with a self-referentiality that
establishes his consciousness by speaking in a voice not heard before.
Horace's introductory poem (C.1) anticipates the situations and episodes of the
rest of the collection so that Horace invites the reader to approach the artistic collection
as interplay.32 After addressing Maecenas, Horace returns to themes of patrons and
politics in 1.2 and 1.3: the first to Augustus, the second to another member of the circle,
Vergil. When Horace sings to Varro (1.6), the reader is again in the world of patronage
31 The canon of nine lyric poets includes Alcman, Alcaeus, Anacreon, Bacchylides, Ibycus, Pindar, Sappho,
Simonides, and Stesichorus (Oxford Classical Dictionary) 900.
32 I agree with Fraenkel (1957) 26 who cautions the reader not to look beyond a single ode for meaning.
What I am suggesting is that Horace, following the tradition of lyric, asks us to consider one situation at
one time and then at another. When we consider this self-referentiality, we see a transformation of the
poet. Consider, for example, the first and last odes of the collection, in which Horace first writes a
somewhat modest (even if feigned) wish to be enrolled in the lyric canon (1.1.29-31) and then at last boldly
declares that he has surpassed his models and created a more lasting monument (3.30).
and politics. The structure of the priamel foreshadows the Pindaric priamel in 1.7 and
the Pindaric motto in 1.12. In addition, the metrical variations of the Parade Odes
complement the meter of 1.1. Rather than offering nugae for his readers, Horace's
introductory poem establishes his communal consciousness, that Horace's social
contexts are never far from his own mind, nor will they be distant from the audience's
mind as they move through the collection.
I have not overlooked Maecenas. Horace gives his patron the prime position in
his lyric collection, and thereby highlights a more select audience-a private literary
circle which influenced Horace's poetry. At the same time, Maecenas, the first word in
the collection, indicates Horace's principal and foremost concern-to be communal.
Horatian lyric has political connections. Maecenas and Augustus' poets formed a literary
circle into which Horace was initiated in 38/37 B. C.33 The Augustan poets, like the
neoterics, adhered to Callimachean standards of literary innovation,34 and exchanged
poetry and creative philosophies between themselves. Unlike the politically withdrawn
neoterics, however, Maecenas' circle maintained direct contact with Rome's political
elite. Through their patron, the statesman Maecenas who held such close political ties to
Augustus,35 the poets had the opportunity to directly address matters of public policy.
Just as the archaic Greek lyricists engaged and performed a social function for thepolis,
Horace relies on the political connections of his circle to engage a wider Roman
audience. Thus he renews the spirit of the archaic Greek lyric poets, one which engages
and performs a social function for the polis. The Greek meter, Pindaric style, and Greek
33 Reckford (1959) 198.
34See my discussion of the Augustan recusatio in Chapter 1.
35 For Maecenas' political career, see Reckford (1959) 195-197; Dalzell (1956) 151-152.
allusions throughout the ode emphasize that Horace looks beyond the neoterics who
withdrew from politics to the Greek lyricists who performed an integral role for the pois.
Horace confirms the broad and more communal power of the poet with
emphatic statements of his poetic program at the end of his second and third books.
The lyric poet commands a prophetic and vatic function to such an extent that he defies
the narrow strictures of the neoterics. In C.2.20, Horace transcends boundaries:
Non usitata nec tenui ferar
pinna biformis per liquidum aethera
vates neque in terris morabor
longius invidiaque maior
urbis relinquam. non ego, pauperum
sanguis parentum, non ego, quem vocas,
dilecte Maecenas, obibo
nec Stygia cohibebor unda.
I will not fly on an common or slender wing, two-formed through the liquid
air, a vates, nor will I be delayed on the lands too long, and I will triumph over
the envy of the city. Not I, the son of poor parents, not I, whom you invite,
beloved Maecenas, will die, and I will not inhabit the Stygian waves.
Horace will not be borne on a common or slender wing (non usitata nec tenui. penna,
2.20.1-2) through the liquid air. The vates (3) will never look upon the Stygian banks (7-
8). Rather, he will glide far and wide as a bird (canorus ales, 15-16), visiting the shores of
the groaning Bosphorus and the Hyperborean fields (14-16). Horace juxtaposes the
broad range of his poetry to the common and slender wing of his opening line and uses
Callimachean language (non usitata nec tenuz) to define the stylistic qualities that will bring
him immortality. Horace will be original and will reject the narrow project, and give the
Callimachean aesthetic a new, communal focus.
Horace becomes both the vates and the ales in this poem, biformis (2). Part of him
will die, but the other will reach far and wide and never meet the underworld's gloom.
Accordingly in the beginning of the song, the phsyical world takes center stage: air (2)
and land (3), patrons (7) and cities (5). At this stage Horace's poetic ego dominates,
appearing twice in the first stanza in line-final positions (ferar 1, morabor 3) and within
each of the lines of the second stanza (relinquam ... ego, 5; ego, 6; obibo, 7; cohibebor, 8). The
anaphora iam, iam (9) emphasizes a shift into metaphor: Horace's metamorphosis into
the swan. Horace, the person, is reduced to a single passive verb (mutor, 10). Horace as
the ales moves into a more eternal and metaphorical state as new rough skin (pelles, 10)
and light feathers spring throughout his fingers and toes (leves... .plumae, 11-12). Horace
the person now becomes entirely secondary to the imagery of far-off lands and peoples
and the realm of the unreal. By the final two stanzas the poet is nearly absent as the poet
and appears only as a single me in the fifth stanza. Still, Horaces does not lose himself,
but through his poetry he is transformed into a universal and eternal presence.
The final addressees of this poem are mourners in a communal moment. In this
last stanza, Horace returns to the vatic power of the archaic lyric poet in terms of the
social and political community. He instructs the crowd of mourners to stop their grief:
absint inane funere neniae
luctusque turpes et querimoniae;
conpesce clamorem ac sepulcri
mitte supervacuos honors.
Let your dirges be absent from this empty funeral, and your vile griefs and
laments; hold your shouting in check and send away your empty honors from the
Horace quickly shifts from the far-off lands of the Hiber and Rhone to a private
moment, and appeals to the crowd in terms of personal grief (luctus, querimoniae). Horace
settles on this final impression of the poem and expresses his universal power as a vates
in the context of community-the Roman people. Here he speaks more in the manner
of an archaic Greek poet as he appeals to a universal moment of his pols. By releasing
the polis from their grief through his poetry, Horace has asserted the political and social
potential of the lyric. Through this power to be influential in even the most personal
moments, Horace writes with a timeless relevance that will carry his name and word
beyond the Stygian shores.
At the end of his second book Horace emphasized the nations far and wide that
would read his lyric, and now in the final moment of his first collection he emphasizes
the immortality of his achievement:
Exegi monumentum aere perenius
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo inpotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
Non omnis moriar multaque pars mei
vitabit Libitinam; usque ego postera
crescam laude recens, dum Capitolium
scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex.
Dicar, qua violens obstrepit Aufidus
et qua pauper aquae Daunus agrestium
regnavit populorum, ex humili potens
princeps Aeolium carmen ad Italos
deduxisse modos. Sume superbiam
quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica
lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam.
I have built a monument more lasting than bronze and more lofty than the site
of the regal pyramids, which neither the devouring storm nor the violent North
Wind is able to demolish or the innumerable passing of the years, and the flights
of times. I shall not wholly die, and a great part of me will avoid Libitina.
Continuously onwards I will grow recent with praise, while the pontifex climbs
the Capitoline with the silent virgin. I shall be spoken of, wherever the violent
Aufidus roars and wherever Daunus, poor of water, has ruled over the rural
peoples; I am rising from my humble start to become powerful, the first to have
led Aeolian song to Italian meters. Receive the pride won by my service and
willingly wreath my hair with the Delphic laurel, Melpomene.
Throughout the poem Horace highlights his role in the lyric tradition as the poet who
has created a lasting achievement. Echoes of the bold statement of far-reaching influence
from 2.20 resound through 3.30. Again, Horace boldly declares his prominence in the
emphatic first person (exegi monumentum aereperenius, 1). Horace remains the primary
focus of the poem as he proclaims that he shall not wholly die, and a great part of him
will avoid the shades of death (non omnis moriar multaquepars meil vitabit Libitinam, 6-7). He
himself will grow with praise (egopostera crescam laude, 7-8) and he will be famed among
people far and wide (dicar, qua violens obstrepitAufidus, 10). Now in this last poem of the
collection, Horace defines his monumentum (ex humilipotens Iprnceps Aeolium carmen ad
Italos I deduxisse modos, 12-14).
Horace frames his achievement on a communal moment as the Pontifex
Maximus and Vestal march through the center of his poem. Because Horace has created
referentiality in the personal and private moments of the community, as long as thepolis
stands, the community can reference and identify with his lyrics. Now as Horace reaches
prominence in the lyric canon and crowns his head with victorious ivies, Horace's
immortality is contigent on the community of the polis.
In Horace, lyric poetry has once again become inherently political. He writes
according to the Callimachean standards of fat sacrifices and slender Muses, but avoids
speaking to an isolated literary community by personalizing communal moments, and
Horace himself has achieved eternal vatic status through these personal, communal
THE "FAT LITTLE" VERGIL
ApLLprupov oiSv eLa)n'
"I sing nothing unattested."
Horace would be named by peoples far and wide for ages to come because his
poetry touched upon universal moments for the community. Yet even when read
outside of the immediate political context, readers could experience Horace's lyrics
because they are grounded in the personal, human universality. Vergil too strives to
achieve this poetic immortality but faces an opposite challenge: transforming epic, an
inherently political genre, into a personal setting, which will give him relevance to an
audience beyond his own age. Just as Horace bypassed his immediate predecessors in
favor of archaic Greek models, Vergil seeks inspiration from the master-Homer.
Vergil imitates Homeric language and style to fatten his poetic sacrifice and narrates in
episodic elements which keep his Muse slender. Vergil further adopts the bard's vatic
role as he narrates the history of his Roman people against the backdrop of the Greek
Vergil explicitly states his allegiance to Homer in the proem to his epic.
Scholarship has noted that Vergil's proem follows the proemia of Homer's epics in
structure." Closer analysis shows thematic parallels in the construction of the epic hero,
1 Call. fr. 612 Pf.
2 For the structure of the Aeneid and its relationship to the Iliad and Odyssey, see Heinze (1903); Williams
(1968); Knauer (1964a), (1' '- .41 (1990); Cairns (1989); Farrell (1991); Perkell (1999).
the journey, and the invocation to the Muse. Vergil's first words arma uirmque follow
the theme-first convention used by Homer.3 Vergil next references the poetic voice
(cano) and then continues into a narratio concerning the deeds of the hero (2-4).4 Homer
identified Zeus and Apollo as adverse deities,5 and Vergil now points to Juno (4) as the
antagonistic goddess who drives his hero to suffer. This queen of the gods immediately
returns into the narrative as the source of conflict for the hero (dolens regina deum, 9) and
forces him to undergo endless labors (10-11).
Vergil alerts the audience to his imitation by citing precise titles: arma (Iliad) and
uirum (Odyssey).6 Vergil begins with the Iliad. Although the three heroes in the proemia
each suffer at the hands of the gods, both Achilles and Aeneas face adversity as a direct
result of the god-E ow5 (6) and ob iram (4). Furthermore, both the proemia of the Iliad
and the Aeneid end with the renaming of the hero: 8los 'AXiXXeUs (7) and insignem pietate
(10). However, the opening lines to the Aeneid parallel the proem to the Odyssey more
closely than the proem to the Iliad. Vergil's virmirrors Homer's avLlp. In the Iliad, the
wrath of the hero is the subject, but in both the Odyssey and the Aeneid the poet tells the
story of the man himself. After the hero is introduced by a relative clause (6s pdAXa
TroXXa,1; qui primus ab oris, 1), Vergil's ir is thrown (iactatus, 3) just as Homer's hero is
knocked about (-rrXyX'dy q, 2). Both heroes suffer the forces of nature: the avrlp suffers
3 Perkell (1999) 29. In comparison, both the Iliad (p jvLv) and the Odyssy (dv8pa) begin with the subject of
4 After the invocation in the Iliad, Homer sings the deeds of Achilles who brought innumerable sufferings
upon the Achaeans (2), sent many stout-hearted souls to Hades (3-4), and left the bodies of heroes behind
as loot for dogs and birds (4-5). See Weber (1987) 270 for further metrical allegiance to the Iliad. Similarly
in the Odyssey, Homer describes the deeds of Odysseus in a narratio following the invocation: he destroyed
the holy city of Troy (2); he saw and learned of many cities and the mindset of men (3).
5 AL6s (/1.1.5); A'vrofi5 KaL AL6S UtL6 (1.9);'Y(TrpLovos 'HEXOLO (Od. 1.8).
6 This analysis largely confirms Cairns (1989).
many toils on the sea (iroXXd 8' 6 y' ev IrovT6 -rrdev, 4), while Vergil's 'iris tossed
about on land and on sea, and suffers also much in war (multa quoque et .l,.,passus, 5).
Furthermore, this avrlp and vir suffer at the hands of deities, just as Zeus directed the
course of the wrath in the Iliad (5). The avrlp and vir struggle against this adverse god
toward a final goal-one to secure his own safe return, the other to found a city. At the
end of both proemia, the poets have introduced two men, both still unnamed, both the
leaders of men, and both struggling to accomplish a mission.
Vergil extends his imitation beyond the proem and often quotes from the Iliad
and the Odyssey as he narrates his Roman epic. Aeneas' first speech, in fact, quotes
Odysseus' speech when he laments his own fated wanderings. Such imitations launch a
pattern of verbal reminiscences between the Aeneid and its Homeric predecessors. Both
Aeneas and Odysseus cry out, "three and four times blessed are those who died at wide
Troy" (-rp'sL VdKCLES ACVaO'L KcL TETpLKLS, T-OT' XovTo I TpoL' ev eUpel,', Od.
5.306-7; o terque quaterque beati, I quis ante orapatrum Troiae sub moenibus altis contigit
oppetere!, 1.94-96). As leaders, Odysseus and Aeneas express comfort to their
companions who suffer the wanderings with them in the same words: "O companions,
we are not ignorant of hardships" (W LXoi, o0 ydp rrw TL KCLK V a8rCL'oves EL ev,
12.208; O socii (neque enim ignari sumus ante malorum), 1.198).8 Vergil even leaves the reader
at the end of his epic with a Homeric paraphrase as Turnus' life leaves its chilled limbs
and slips into the shades below (muXq' 8' 6K p etwv 7rTarcLvQl'A Ai86&u- pEPE'KEL I
TOT6LOv Yo(TacL, XLIroO' av8poTrTCL KaCL 3'qv, 21.16.656-7; ast..'soluunturfrigore membra
7 Clausen (1966) 77-79; P6schl (1962) 26.
8 P6schl (1962) 26.
Suitaque cumgemitufugit indignata sub umbras, 12.951-2).9 Through Vergil's imitation the
Homeric models are never far from the audience's mind so that they read the Aeneid as
an extension of the Homeric tradition.
Vergil's allegiance to Homer includes structure, which effects the basic plot-lines
of his epic. Vergil condenses the events of the Iliad and Odyssey into his narrative.10 Just
as Circe and Calypso detained the Odyssean hero, for example, the African queen Dido
delays Aeneas from reaching his homeland. Aeneas and the Trojans hold funeral games
for Anchises in the same manner that the Greeks celebrate games for Patroclus
(1/.23.226-897). Both the Odyssean hero and Vergilian hero visit the underworld and
meet warriors and family members from their past (A.6, Od.11). Vergil's narration of
battle scenes, enumerations of aristeiai, and descriptions of councils of gods enhance his
imitation of Homeric plots and situate the trials of Aeneas deep within the Homeric
tradition. Vergil thus reasserts his Homeric inspiration on multiple levels of narrative,
from plot lines to the language itself.
Vergil's loaded introduction arma uirumque anticipates the Homeric structure of
his narrative. Vergil conceives the first half of the Aeneid as the Odyssey and the second
half as the Iliad. 11 The introductory uirumque and the narratio on the deeds of Aeneas
reinforce the first half as Odyssean, while the second invocation at the beginning of
9 Harrison (1971) 166.
10 This argument is confirmed in Knauer who writes the definitive analysis of the similaries in Homeric
and Vergilian plot lines in die Aeneis und Homer (1964a). See also his article "Vergil's Aeneid and Homer"
(1990) and Heinze's work Virgils epische Technik (1903).
1 Duckworth (1962) 11 extensively outlines the various structural patterns of the Aeneid. He notes the bi-
partite structure of the two halves and also examines a tri-partite division of the books, which is again
reinforced by allusion in the opening scenes of the Aeneid (1.1-96). The mention of Carthago and the
description of the old city (1.13-22) symbolizes the first third of the book (1-4: Aeneas at Carthage and
Dido). Jupiter's prophecy (1.257-296) foreshadows the second third of the book (5-7: Latium, preparation
for war, Rome's history and destiny). Finally, the Furorimpius (1.294) anticipates the last third of the book,
which concentrates on the wars and battles themselves.
Aeneid 7 (A.7.37-44) marks the halfway point and the transition to the Iliad.12 Vergil does
not adapt the whole of the Odyssey, but rather, as Knauer notes, extracts only the parts of
Odysseus' epilogoi which are important to his own narrative.3 Therefore, Vergil does not
merely imitate the language or themes of Homer, he imitates the actual compositional
methods of the epic bard. Just as Vergil borrowed select parts of the Homeric tradition,
Homer borrowed select parts from the oral tradition.14 Thus Vergil does not rewrite or
reinvent Homer, but uses his epics as a spring-board for his own epic.
In his imitation Vergil alludes to parts of the Homeric texts and allows Homer
and the tradition to speak. As Aeneas and his men wander closer to Italy, they skim by
the mythical monsters Scylla and Charybdis (3.554-560). Because Vergil's audience of
contemporary Romans would not readily believe that the historical Aeneas would
encounter such fanciful creatures, Vergil only allows Aeneas to hear the monsters from
afar (audimus longefractasque ad litora uoces, 3.556).15 Vergil's Aeneas grazes past the shores
of the Cyclops and again only sees the mythical creatures from a distance (3.655-661).
Vergil keeps Aeneas' struggles and narrative as the primary focus, and we see Homer's
12 Duckworth (1962) 3-10. Anderson (1957) discusses Vergil's imitation of the Iliadin the second half of
the book in depth. He argues that Vergil's Trojans evolve from a race of defeat and actually succeed the
role of the Greeks as the victorious race. Anderson (27-30) further argues that Vergil works through the
events of the last half of his epic so that Troy and the Trojans actually fall (occidit, occideritque sinas cum nominee
Troia, 12.828), which is necessary for Rome to rise again.
13 Knauer (1990) 397-401.
14 Arist. Po.1456a.36-54; 1459a-1459b. Aristotle cautions poets to keep their plot lines manageable by
selecting only certain aspects of the tradition. Aristotle observes that Homer himself selects only the
important parts of the tradition and does not retell every aspect of the Trojan War, but sings only of the
struggles of two heroes. Vergil constructs his poem to be read in the same way. See also the comments of
Heinze (1903) 3-4, Otis (1963) 36, and Papanghelis (1999) 275-279.
15 Papanghelis (1999) 277-290: "sailing too close to this particular Homeric coast is not an option for the
Virgilian text: the Aeneid comes close enough to Odysseus' fantasy world to catch its echo-but it will not
be drawn into it." Vergil treats Aeneas' encounter with the Sirens in a similar fashion.
world only from a distance. Vergil interweaves his own narrative with the scenes of the
Homeric story and then allows his audience's familiarity with the tradition to fill in the
gaps. The audience brings their own literary awareness and their experiences to the text,
and thus they interact with Vergil's narrative, supplying their own knowledge when
Vergil withholds his.
Vergil fattens his work with Homeric references but he keeps his Muse slender in
the same manner as Homer by composing in episodes. The ancient vitae state that Vergil
wrote the episodes of his narrative first without regard to chronology or development of
the narrative.'6 Only then did he sew the episodes together into a united narrative."
Vergil therefore divides the whole of his narrative into episodic components such as
Aeneas' arrival at Carthage, Dido's death, and Aeneas' descent to the underworld.'8 The
episodes focus on a particular scene, narrative, or dramatic event of the epic which could
be read separately from the main narrative.9 The result of Vergil's episodic manner of
composition is that the audience experiences the entire narrative as a series of brief
events. Vergil thus achieves a brevitas which keeps his audience actively involved at each
16 Suet. lit.94-96R; cf. Quinn (1968) 73.
17 Duckworth (1962) 1; Quinn (1968) 72-73. Quinn breaks the Aeneidinto 167 episodes of two types: one
which expresses a "well developed coherent structure" that is essential to narrative; the other which is
"less coherent" and provides "a link to the first type of Episode."
18 Heinze (1903) 348.
19 Heinze (1903) 210 argues that Vergil's epic was written to be sung, and thus the individual components
of the narrative had to be short enough to be read at one sitting, but relevant enough to the main plot that
the listeners could keep in mind that they were hearing only one part of the entire epic. Bowra (1966) 53-
56 divides oral (which he terms authentic) and literary epic according to various criteria, including the use
of episodes. In authentic epic, he observes, episodes are not as tightly woven and focus only on necessary
elements. In literary epics such as the Aeneid, it is Vergil's prerogative to "pack each line with as much
significance as possible, to make each word do its utmost work and to secure that careful attention which
the reader, unlike the listener, can give."
Vergil can surprise the reader with each episodic turn, but he keeps the focus of
each of his episodes solidly on the action and goal of the Aeneid. Aristotle praises
episodes because they allow the audience to experience the action of the epic in terms of
multiple tragic moments of role reversal, recognition, and suffering."2 But Aristotle
warns against writing an entirely episodic narrative in which each episode has no
relevance to the poem as a whole.21 Vergil carefully interweaves the drama and action of
each episode into the action of the main narrative. When Aeneas first visits Carthage,
for example, he marvels at the sight of the rising city (1.418-440). Aeneas sees the parts
of the city which were once huts (magalia, 421) turn into structures of civilization: walls
(423), a citadel (424), gates (427) and a theater decked with huge columns (427-428).
Amid his wonder and amazement, Aeneas cries out, "O they are fortunate whose walls
already rise!" (Ofortunati, quorum Jam moenia suzgunt, 437). The lengthy descriptions of
Carthage's rising city and Aeneas' words bring us back to the action of the very
beginning of the epic (atque altae moenia Romae, 1.7). Aeneas focuses his attention on
Carthage, but the struggle to found his city-the purpose of his quest-is the prominent
theme of the episode.
Here in Carthage Aeneas first dared to hope for a better future for his men (hic
primum Aeneas sperare salutem I ausus, 1.451-452) but his hope soon turns sour. As Vergil
describes Dido's consuming grief and pain, he does not allow the focus of the episode to
become fixed too exclusively on Dido, but rather Vergil demonstrates his preoccupation
with the events of the main narrative. After Mercury commands Aeneas to quit his
delays and return to the fulfillment of his destiny (4.265-276), Vergil describes Dido's
20 Arist. Po.1459b.l-6; 1459a.7-17.
21 Arist. Po.1451b.48-55.
distress in a frenzy of furor that overwhelms the narrative of Aeneas' visit to Carthage.
Rumor brings the news of Aeneas' departure to the queen who rages through her city
like a Bacchant (300-304). She has been utterly deserted and left with no remnant of
Aeneas, not even a child that would console her in her distress (si quis mihiparulus
aula luderetAeneas, qui te tamen ore referred, non equidem omnino capta ac desert uiderer, 328-
330). Vergil progressively directs the scene toward Aeneas who is preparing his fleet for
departure. Aeneas, however, is enveloped in concerns for the grieving queen as he
considers how he might console her (Atpius Aeneas, quamquam lenire dolentem solando cupit
et dictis auertere curas, 393-3 '4,. As the Trojans burden their ships with supplies for their
journey, Vergil interrupts and speaks directly to Dido who oversees the actions of the
Trojans: "What feelings did you have Dido, as you look upon these things? What groans
did you keep giving?" (quis tibi turn, Dido, cernenti talia sensus, I quosve dabasgemitus, 408-409).
Dido and her grief pervades the sequence of events, but in her last outburst of emotion,
the moment belongs to the Trojans. Dido's frenzy concludes in a curse against the
nullus amor populis nec foedera sunto.
exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor
qui face Dardanios ferroque square colonos,
nunc, olim, quocumque dabunt se tempore uires.
litora litoribus contraria, fluctibus undas
imprecor, arma armis: pugnent ipsique nepotesque.
May there be no love or treaties for your people. May there be an avenger to rise
from our bones who will follow the Dardanian colonists with sword and
firebrand, now, once and at whatever time strength will give itself. I beg for
shores against shores, waves against waves, arms against arms. May they and
their descendants fight.
In the end, Dido's rage has culminated in a curse that adds to the suffering and
toil of the Trojans and their descendants, Vergil's Romans. Vergil takes us back to
Aeneas buffered about on the sea by Juno's storms, to the battles already suffered at
Troy, and looks ahead to the battles that await the Trojans in Italy and the Carthaginian
wars. Dido in her maddened state will speak her last words in a resolute prayer to the
shades of death (dulces exuiaae, 651), and thus Vergil has hinged the episode's climax of
emotion on the burden which he placed on Aeneas and his men at the beginning of his
epic (tantae molis erat Romanam conderegentem, 1.33).22 Vergil has included within the main
narrative of Aeneas' journey the collapse of another exile and her city. Within the
episode, however, the audience never loses sight of the greater context of the narrative
so that the individual episode-and others like it,such as those with Evander (8), Nisus
(9), and Aeneas' shield (8)-maintains the brevity of the narrative and at the same time
adds depth and meaning to the greater themes of the epic.
Vergil has thus not only imitated Homer, but he has become the Homeric bard.
Vergil validates his epic as history by sewing his narrative deep within a Homeric
context. Simultaneously he maintains credibility with his contemporary audience by
selecting only relevant parts of the Homeric tradition and only alluding to less relevant
mythologies so that the reader actively participates in the narrative and interprets what is
left unsaid. Vergil achieves brevity through his shifting episodic narrative but fattens his
Muse through the dramatic events of each episode. Even at the most basic level of these
episodes, we see Vergil's greater design: to work through the toils and sufferings that
were necessary to found the Roman race. Vergil hoists the history of his people on his
22 We can see Vergil's focus on the goal of his narrative in comparison to the later novelist Petronius. As
Schmeling (1991: 358-359; 358 n.22) notes, when Petronius alludes to the Dido and Aeneas episode in his
Satyricon, he is able to surprise and redirect the actions of his characters and the plot itself In Vergil's case,
however, tradition and the inevitability of his ending dictate the course of the narrative. Schmeling
continues, "the story of Dido and Aeneas moves inevitably from its beginning to its clearly predestined
conclusion. Virgil lives under the constant anxiety of the ending of Aeneas' story."
shoulders and carries epic out of the disparagement of Callimachus' criticisms to
establish a completely revitalized tradition.
THE "LITTLE FAT" VERGIL
,'iKarva yap alev OL8OL 0O 1oEV
"For we singers always sacrifice unburned offerings (to the Muses)."
Propertius announces Vergil's Aeneid as a grand birth: "Give way Roman and
Greek authors, something greater than the Iliad is being born!" (cedite Romani scriptores,
cedite Grai! I nesco quid maius nascitur Iliade, 2.34b.65-66). Vergil has accomplished more
than fattening his text with a Homeric voice, he has made the epic voice his own.2 As
Vergil looks back to the original master, he does not forget the standards of innovation
set by Callimachus nor does he ignore the literary programs of his immediate literary
circle. Like Horace, the most notable lyricist of this circle, Vergil exploits the self-
referentiality that a literary text allows and concentrates the greater focus of his narrative
into recurring personal moments. On a literary level we read Vergil's Aeneid within a
Homeric context, but Vergil turns his narrative inward with a personal, lyrical focus so
that we experience his poem on a universal, communal level.
Vergil's opening themes of arms and men deeply embed the reader in a Homeric
context. Structural and compositional elements throughout the Aeneid reinforce this
Homeric imitation. But Vergil sings cano, an entirely un-Homeric disavowal of the
1 Call.fr. 494 Pf.; cf. Trypanis (1975) 257.
2 Clausen (1964a) 142: As Clausen notes, Vergil is "most himself, most Roman, when imitating Homer or
some other Greek poet, as if he were then most conscious of his own individuality."
Muses as inspiration. Vergil projects a greater individualism in his voice than Homer
who uses imperative invocations to his Muse to begin each of his epics (pTIVLV d8ELe,
06e, 21.1; 'Av8pa pLOL E vve-re, Mo(o-a, Od.1.1). Homer immediately presents himself
as the bard through which the Muses sing. Vergil's Muse, however, must wait eight lines
before Vergil will call upon her for inspiration .\1 mihi causes memora, 8). Musa
remains first in the line, but mihi directly follows and undercuts the power of the invoked
Muse. Furthermore, Vergil does not ask his Muse to sing or speak through him; rather,
he asks her only to remind him (memora, 8).4 Vergil reinforces the poet's control of the
narrative in his invocation for the second half of the Aeneid. Vergil calls upon Erato to
"come, give ear," while he himself tells of the wars that have come upon Italian shores
(Nunc age, qui reges, Erato, quae tempora ... expediam, etprimae revocabo exordiapugnae, 7.37,
40). The Muse as inspiration is absent from this invocation as the reader first encounters
the poet's ego, expediam (40), which is reinforced by the elision (expediam et) that moves
the line swiftly to reuocabo (40). Vergil actually takes over for himself the role of memory
which he had previously assigned to the Muse \ mihi causes memora, 1.8), and with
reuocabo, Vergil does not relinquish control: "I will revive the memory of things."6
3 Miller (1986) argues that the disavowal of the divine Muse is programmatic as seen through invocations
by Propertius, Ovid, and Persius. Vergil is not the first to sing in the first person. Williams (1968) 36-37
lists instances of the first person invocation by Apollonius, Callimachus, and Theocritus. Kopff (1981)
927-944 argues that the invocation in the Little Iliad (cf. Hor.Ars 136-137) provided the model for Vergil's
epic and describes other parallels between the two epics. Vergil's disavowal of a Homeric Muse is more
than a claim to the first person but is a signifier of a consciousness that Vergil will develop throughout his
4 Clausen (1964a) argues that Vergil's use of memora is a literary allusion. He explains that Vergil's appeal to
the Muse is not an appeal to the tradition but to the specific Homeric texts.
5 This use of age gives a colloquial feel to the address, which differs from the formal structure of Homer's
invocations. Williams (1968) 738 cites other colloquial instances of age, such as Mercury's speech to
Aeneas (heia age, rumpe moras, 4.569) and Charon's speech to Aeneas '" .' age, qui uenias, iam instinc, 6.389).
6 Oxford Latin Dictionary 13b: "to recall to mind;" "revive the memory of."
Vergil's first words arma uirumque cano encapsulate his poetic program, which the
bard then revives and enhances throughout his text. His subject will be an Iliad and
Odyssey, but he himelfwill sing it. Vergil imbues his text with a Horation referentiality
and introduces the reader to a degree of self-referentiality not found in Homer, a type of
lyric consciousness. Just as Horace introduced his poetic program for the tribiblos in his
opening song, Vergil begins with a condensed program of how he will write his epic. He
operates from this program throughout his narrative so that the reader perceives in each
episode a poetic intent and consciousness that looks back to the poet's own plan, cano.
Vergil's opening lines anticipate the forthcoming action of the poem and
establish a pattern of referentiality that the oral nature of the Homeric epics did not
allow.8 When Vergil describes Carthage, Jupiter's prophecy, and the impiusfuror that
awaits Aeneas, he establishes a foundation for his epic that readers will work from and
look back to as they progress through the epic. After the invocation, Vergil physically
places Carthage opposite Italy (K!.,, i',j. Italiam contra, 1.13) and at length details the city
and Juno's intense protection of its peoples (12-18). AfterJuno has scattered his fleet on
the sea, Aeneas beaches his ships on the shores of this same Carthage (1.305). Vergil
does not remind us of Juno's fierce protection of the city and her queen Dido, but we
recall her devotion from the opening lines. Vergil again asks us to recall Juno's
SVergil's declaration of a poetic program in the first lines of his poem is a weighty construction. Weber
(1987) 262-267 notes the rare metrical pattern of the opening three words trocheee + amphibrach + iamb).
Weber, citing Catullus 64 in which the poet uses a neoteric vocabulary to present his poetic genre, also
notes the importance of the inapit to poets as an opportunity for poetic statement. The opening lines
provide occasion for poets to state how they one day want to be quoted. We might consider Horace's use
of his Greek models in the "motto construction," in which he begins with a quote from an earlier Greek
lyric (e.g. Carm.1.1.4, 1.12, 1.16, 1.18, and 1.37). Feeney (1993) 44 notes that this construction "is a mark
of homage both to his poetic models and to the scholars who had catalogued them under the inpit, and it
is a self-referential anticipation of how he himself will one day be cited." We might thus consider Vergil's
inipit as Iliad (arma), Odyssey (uirm), me (cano).
8 Both Poschl (1962) 13-32 and Duckworth (1962) 1-11 note and expand upon this literary and symbolic
referentiality in Vergil's opening lines.
motivations from the previous episodes when the goddess plans a marriage for Dido and
Aeneas (4.92-104) and initiates the strife that will alienate Carthage from Italy. Carthage
is now in reality against Italy, and when the Sibyl sings of horrible wars that await Aeneas
and his men (6.86), Vergil brings us back to these opening lines. Simultaneously he casts
our thoughts forward to the Italian wars which await us in his epic and the Carthaginian
wars which await the actual Roman race.9
Vergil again references his own work when Jupiter prophesizes the ultimate
outcome of Aeneas' journey. The prophesy naturally functions as a literary device to
foreshadow forthcoming trials, but Vergil also achieves self-referentiality on a symbolic
level. As Jupiter enumerates the prominent descendents of Aeneas such as Ascanius
(1.267-271), Romulus (273-282), and Augustus (283-288), he symbolically reviews
Roman history and its heroes from past to present (6.756-892). Jupiter tells his daughter
Venus that Faith, Vesta, and Romulus and Remus will bring laws to Aeneas' race so that
the twin gates of war will close (cana Fides et Vesta, Remo cumfratre Quiinus iura dabunt;
diraeferro et compagibus artis claudentur B. 'portae, 1.292-294). Vergil directly references
monuments which frame the Roman forum: the temple to Fides on the Capitoline, the
temple to Vesta in the forum, and the gates of Janus.10 The physical monuments
symbolically anticipate Aeneas' arrival into Latium and his tour through Evander's city
(A.8). Lastly, Jupiter prophesizes that an impious furorwill rage inside these gates of
Janus-the god's hands tied behind his back and his mouth bloodied (1.294-296). The
9 Cf. Poschl (1962) 15. Poschl (13-24) examines multiple levels of symbolic unity within the first three
hundred lines of the Aeneid, which encompass wars, politics, history, and :n rlh..1.. _
10 For the location of the temples, see the entries in Steinby (1993), Richardson (1992), and the Oxford
Classical Dictionary. The location of the temple ofJanus and the gate is dubious, but we know that the gate
played a role in the triumphal route which took victorious Roman generals through the forum; see also R.
D. Williams (1972) 182-183.
furor foreshadows more than the Italian wars themselves but the wrath and violent
passion which drive the soldiers and heroes all the way through to the conclusion of
Vergil's epic (furiis accensus, 12.946). Vergil symbolically anticipates the events of his
narrative so that as an audience we no longer approach the episodes in a linear fashion,
but rather we consider how episodic scenes work on a symbolic level towards the goal of
the main narrative.
Within arma uirumque cano, Vergil creates a symbolic referentiality not found in
the Iliad and the Odyssey. Thus the tradition, a specifically Homeric tradition, to which
Vergil is inextricably and avowedly bound becomes a foundation into which Vergil
inserts his lyric consciousness. The rich epic context of these Homeric scenes allows
Vergil to write as a lyric poet, with referentiality, deictic emotions, and universal appeal in
terms of the personal. The differences between the first speeches of Odysseus and
Aeneas as stranded warriors on the open sea indicate how Vergil will give his episodes
dramatic, emotional levels of feeling in terms of personal suffering. Vergil gives us
glimpses of Aeneas reacting on an emotional level in different situations so that as we
progress through the text we form an awareness of Aeneas' inner thoughts and
emotions. We begin to see Aeneas in terms of a complex emotional context rather than
an individual reacting to an isolated episode, which in turn allows us to reconsider
Aeneas each time we encounter him in a new situation.
The contrasting motivations of Odysseus and Aeneas become apparent when
Aeneas speaks his first words, which quote Odysseus' lament. Both heroes appeal to the
gods and curse their fates, but Aeneas shows a deeper emotional concern for his people
entirely absent from his counterpart Odysseus. The two cry out:
'pLS CLtaKapES AcavaoL KaL Te-TpKLS, o' TOT-' oXovrT
TpoL'i Ev eupe, ydptiv A-pE48toai Aepovres.
as 687 Ey () 'y' &eXov Oav'ELV KaLL 'TrOTLOV EiT-rnTreiv
'iLaLT TO) OTE VLOL iTXeiToi XQaXK'ipea SoiTpa
Tpdtes E'irppi+lav -rrep' I'qrlXtwvi OavO6vTL.
TOr) K' eXaov Kc epWtv, KCL uPeu KXEOS 'yov 'Axaio.
vOv 84 uxe XeuyaXi OQav'M-) eipiap-ro iXDvai.
Three and four times blessed are the Danaans who, giving help to the sons of
Atreus, died there in wide Troy. Thus I wanted to die and to fall to my fate on
that day when more Trojans who were gathered around the dying Achilles hurled
their bronze-tipped spears at me. Then I would have obtained proper funeral
rites and the Acheans would bear my fame. But now it is fated that I wander
until my mournful death.
terque quaterque beati,
quis ante ora patrum Troiae sub moenibus altis
contigit oppetere! o Danaum fortissime gentis
Tydide! mene Iliacis occumbere campis
non potuisse tuaque animam hanc effundere dextra,
saevus ubi Aeacidae telo iacet Hector, ubi ingens
Sarpedon, ubi tot Simois correpta sub undis
scuta uirum galeasque et fortia corpora uoluit!
Three and four times blessed are those who chanced to fall before the faces of
their fathers under the high walls of Troy! O Diomedes, most brave of the
Greek race! O that I was not able to fall on the Ilian battlefields and pour forth
this soul by your right hand, where fierce Hector lies killed by the spear of
Achilles, where huge Sarpedon lies dead, where the Simois has rolled over so
many shields and has seized under its waves the helmets and brave bodies of
Both heroes rather unheroically cry out in their frustration and wish that they would
have escaped the present trial by dying at Troy. Odysseus wishes that he had been
among those warriors fighting for Agamemnon and Menelaus, who fell on Troy's plain
(306-7). He yearns to have died and met his lot (308) while the Trojans were attacking
him (iLOL, 309). Then the Achaeans would honor his fame (Peu KXEos, 311). But these
things did not happen, and Odysseus fears he will suffer a miserable death at sea (312).
His own lot, his own burial, and his own fame consume Odysseus' thoughts as he
laments his fate.
As Aeneas cries out, he at first quotes Odysseus word for word: "three and four
times blessed!," but by the end of his speech his worries move beyond his own fate to
the fate of his Trojan comrades. Although Aeneas' speech closely parallels that of
Odysseus in structure (a relative clause and infinitive constructions), Troiae, emphatically
placed at the center of its line is a heavy word for Aeneas who yearns to have died under
the high walls of his homeland. Aeneas' life takes on meaning because it is always in
relationship to his community, Troy. Whereas Odysseus and his comrades fought for
two foreign leaders, Aeneas and the Trojans battled for their homeland and lost. To
have died at Troy would have been to die before the faces of parents (ante orapatrum, 95).
Troy, mentioned by name now for the fifth time in the first one hundred lines, is the
central locus of meaning for Aeneas and his men: Troy produced offspring that would
overturn Carthage (Troiano a sanguine dud, 1.19), Juno had waged war for the Greeks
against the Trojans (ad Troiampro cais gesseratArgis, 1.24) and she had scattered them on
the sea (iactatos aequore toto Troas, 1.29-30). Most importantly, Aeneas suffers exile from
this Troy: (Troiae .fatoprofugus, 1.1-2). From this Troy Aeneas first took his father,
son, and Penates, and at this very point the fates burdened him with the fate of his
In personal terms, Aeneas appeals to the universality of suffering. Aeneas only
touches lightly upon his own near death at Troy by evoking Diomedes, the bravest of
the race of Danaus who almost killed him (97).12 The form of apostrophe brings the
lament into a more universal context and differs from Odysseus' wish to have died on
the battlefield, a more individualistic focus which is emphasized with a first person verb
11 Troiae in line 1 also holds central position. Both instances are in the third foot following a caesura.
12 1/.5.297-313; R. D. Williams (1972) 168.
(6keXov, 308) and pronouns (yw, 308; ioL, 309). On the other hand, Vergil introduces
us to Aeneas so that we experience the inner thoughts of the communal hero who bears
the weight of the Trojan race (genus unde Latinum I A.l,'..L'. ., padres atque altae moenia Romae,
1.6-7). Aeneas' grief for Hector (99) and the men whom the Simois rolled under its
waves (100-101) generalize his speech in terms of Trojan loss and suffering, rather than
the personal loss of burial rites and KXEOS which Odysseus laments. The reader pities the
hero Aeneas who has suffered but in terms of what the Trojan race itself has lost.13
Instead of enumerating the ways he wishes to have died at Troy and the cost that
it would have been to his own heroic status, Aeneas' personal grief and worry is shown
through his pain and suffering for all the Trojans. Aeneas' personal voice appeals to the
universal, a lyric moment embedded within an entirely epic, Homeric context. At the
same time that Vergil repeatedly steeps the reader in a Homeric context, he inserts his
own poetic voice by asking the reader to reconsider the situation in a Roman context,
presented and strengthened by the singer Vergil. Vergil, after delaying any action from
the hero for ninety lines, points the reader back to the first reference to Aeneas. As we
experience the Aeneas stranded on the sea, we recall the Aeneas of the proem who will
suffer until he establishes his gods in his city (dum conderet urbem inferretque deos Latio, 1.5-
6). Aeneas here too differs from Odysseus who is driven by a personal motivation to
return home (v6rrov, 1.5; VO6L-rLOV jpLap, 1.9). Aeneas, on the other hand, suffers for
his city (urbem, 1.5) and his race (genus, 6). The reader hears Aeneas' outcry within this
context and gains an emotional perspective that enhances the depth of Aeneas' speech.
13 Poschl (1962) 53: "Homer's heroes suffer through 'love of self in the high Aristotelian sense. And
Vergil's other protagonists, Dido and Turnus, suffer in a similar way; but Aeneas suffers for the sake of
Writing emotive narrative alone does not set Vergil apart from Homer nor does
it make him lyrical. It is the fact that he brings his audience back to these moments of
personal grief again and again throughout the narrative so that the reader actually
experiences Aeneas' emotions as Aeneas at one time laments his fate as a hero lost at sea,
at another time mourns over those lost in the wars when he gazes upon the Daedalean
doors (6.14-41), and at another time pities the death of his comrade's son (11.29-63).
Through the course of the Aeneid, the reader considers Aeneas in terms of his emotional
reactions as well as his actions themselves. These scenes cause the audience to revisit
Aeneas in different contexts, and ultimately bring the reader back to the Aeneas of the
proem who bears the fate of his race. It is this self-consciousness, a course directed by
the will of the singer, that sets the Aeneid into a lyric mode.
Vergil colors his epic with these personal, more intimate moments so that
readers develop a familiarity with Aeneas' character throughout his text. Vergil only
needs to touch upon certain aspects of Aeneas' character to trigger the reader's own
consciousness. Vergil does not always need to explicitly explain particular reasons behind
Aeneas' actions because the reader brings this familiarity with Aeneas to each next
situation and jointly experiences the trials of Aeneas. In two separate episodes of the
Aeneid, Vergil uses the same words to describe Aeneas' reaction to fleeing shades, both
which quote an Odyssean original. By comparing how Vergil imitates this passage on
separate occasions, we can see how he will rely on the reader's consciousness to fill in
any dramatic gaps:
-pis pv 4npw.'vO'qv, eXEeiv -rT ie Oup's vo yei,
-rp s 84 VLOL 6K XELPCiv OKL, ELKEXov i KQL o6veLpw
ei-rrr '. Eio'i 8' x OS 6O yevaEV oKETO K'opoiL L& XXov
Three times I rushed forth, and my spirit compelled me to grab her. Three times
her ghost flew from my hands like a shade or a dream. Then a more sharp pain
came upon my heart.
ter conatus ibi collo dare bracchia circum;
ter frustra comprensa manus effugit imago,
par leuibus uentis uolucrique simillima somno.
There, three times I tried to put my arms around her neck; three times in vain
her image, almost grasped, fled my hands, her image equal to the light winds and
most similar to swift sleep.
The Vergilian lines are a near translation: both heroes try to grasp the fleeing shade, and
the shades escape both their hands like a dream. The audience knows Odysseus'
thoughts and feelings only through his actions and what he does. Odysseus rushes forth
(i~4 pp,'&6rv) because his spirit compels him (p e OupLs a&voye), and a harsh pain sets in
upon his heart when he grasps at the empty shade (dXoos 6O~ yevEaKe-o K'rp6OL). The
reader judges Aeneas' emotions through the words Aeneas speaks. Aeneas himself
relates how Creusa has deserted him deserti, 791)14 and Aeneas describes how he tried
to grasp her shade (conatus). The reader discerns Aeneas' emotions through his narrative,
first with the vain attempts by Aeneas to throw his arms around his mother (frustra), then
when her shade is actually grasped (conprensa). Aeneas encapsulates the moment in
14 Segal (1974) 34-36 argues that Vergil describes Aeneas' emotionalpathos at two separate times in the text
to imitate the repetitive nature of oral poetry; cf. Brown (1990) for further analysis of Vergil's sensitivity to
the repetition of the Homeric songs. According to Segal, when Aeneas loses his wife, he is consumed by
personal emotions but when he loses his father he becomes focused on his greater purpose. Heinze
(1903) 224 too will argue that Aeneas as a character evolves through the text and reaches the ideal that
Vergil envisions for him. I want to be clear in my argument that although Vergil constructs his narrative
so that we weigh Aeneas' actions against his previous actions, this does not necessitate that Aeneas evolves
to a certain ideal. In fact, as Otis (1976) 9 n.2 notes, Aeneas actually seems to 'relapse' in the sense of
psychological development as we move through the text. I think that arguments of a development in
Aeneas' character are based on too linear a reading of Vergil's text. Vergil's lyrical presentation of Aeneas'
emotions in various episodes encourage us to evaluate Aeneas' actions not just in terms of his past actions,
but in terms of his future actions. Because he writes in an episodic narrative, Vergil does not emphasize
the actions of each episode in terms of the previous episode, but rather he concentrates the events on the
fulfillment of the purpose of the main narrative. Thus, instead of assessing Aeneas' character based on a
linear journey from Troy to Rome, we might rather consider Aeneas in the context of the purpose of the
images of futility-Aeneas' arms reaching for Creusa' neck, his empty grasps, the shade
disappearing into the wind. Aeneas makes all other actions contingent on the primary
reality, ,. 7.'. a dead-end verb that gives the action a sense of finality and completion.
Vergil describes the escaping ghost of Aeneas' father Anchises with the same
Odyssean quote (6.700-702). In both episodes, Vergil imitates the lines of Homer but
re-casts them on an emotional level. The images of futility in the scene give us glimpses
into Aeneas' inner-thoughts and permits us to infer how these emotions relate to the
main narrative when we bring our familiarity with Aeneas to the text. After the scenes of
his wife and father fleeing his futile grasps, Aeneas turns his attention to the task at hand
rather than lingering on the emotion of the moment (sic demum socios consumpta nocte reuiso,
2.795; interea uidetAeneas in reducta I seclusum nemus, 6.703-4). E. L. Harrison argues
that Aeneas' reaction does not entirely parallel Odysseus' reaction in the same situation.
He notes a "remarkable sterility about the aftermath, with Aeneas showing not the
slightest reaction to this highly dramatic incident ..."'. This in fact is most Vergilian.
Vergil leaves out the emotional aftermath of the scene because we know from earlier
episodes that Aeneas carries a burden and purpose which is greater than Odysseus'
struggle to return home. At the end of the scene Vergil leaves us to interpolate Aeneas'
motives in terms of how we have already seen him: lamenting the fate of his comrades at
sea, hoisting his father on his shoulders to save him from the burning city, abandoning a
city and a queen where he first dared to hope for better times.
Now, when turning from the fleeing shade of his wife and father, Aeneas again
moves onto greater themes. As Segal notes, Vergil does not linger on the emotion of the
15 Harrison (1971) 167-168 stresses that Odysseus' encounter with his mother and the moment of her
elusive escape provide an introduction for a narrative on the nature of the soul and the reason why
Odysseus can't grasp his mother (Od.11.215-224), whereas Vergil's quotation marks the end of a scene.
moment precisely because there are far greater things at hand-the safe escape of his
comrades and the fate of his people.16 The audience experiences Aeneas' emotions
through the narrative and must weigh Aeneas' reaction against the other emotional
settings in which Vergil has cast him. Here Vergil is the lyric poet, deictic rather than
didactic,1 showing Aeneas' emotions rather than explicitly stating them at two separate
moments of the narrative.'8
Vergil's Aeneas, even when losing his father for a second time (6.700-702),
always keeps the burden of his race in mind throughout his actions. When Aeneas turns
away from the ghost of his father, he turns away to fulfill his fate to re-establish the
Trojans in a foreign land. In the sixth book of his epic, Vergil has the opportunity to
blatantly glorify the race that Aeneas will found as he narrates Aeneas' noble
descendents. But Vergil sends his epic into a lyrical mode and universalizes the
emotional loss that is inherent to the city's establishment in an expressive, deictic
moment. He does not tell us that Rome will be great, he shows us and leaves us to
consider the suffering and grief in the context of our own personal reflection.9
16 Segal (1974) 37-40 notes that Homer's lengthened epic mode puts Odysseus' grief within the ebb and
flow of the narrative. The formulaic line KpuEpoLo -r-rapirr;tea-6 y6oio (11.212) also gives a generic
quality to Odysseus' feelings. Segal continues, "the broader time-scale of the Homeric poem lets us see
such moments as part of the continuities and expected, gradual rhythms of human existence. In the Aeneid
such moments come as discerete, violent outbursts of emotion; and epic breadth gives way to something
like lyrical intensity."
17 Deictic descriptions are a fundamental characteristic of lyric; cf. Johnson (1982) 74.
18 Segal (1974) 51-52 defines Vergil's purpose as highlighting the ambiguity and mystery of such moments.
Vergil is "more self-consciously aware that the issues with which he deals do not admit of such
definiteness or clarity [as they do in the Iliada. The fact that tension, hesitation, and ambiguity exist may be
more important for the understanding of the Aeneid than the mutually exclusive correctness of one or the
other interpretations." Segal picks up on what Otis (1963) terms Vergil's subjective style. Segal and
Harrison's differing views of Vergil's adaptation of the Homeric lines are what Otis (50-51) admits as a
disadvantage of Vergil's subjective style. Homer's objective style gives us a clear interpretation of his
19 Cf. Clausen (1964a, 1' .41,, and Parry (1966).
Vergil's description of Aeneas' descent to the underworld has Homeric
precedent. From past episodes, we know that Odysseus and Aeneas bear different
burdens and here again in the underworld Vergil contrasts Odysseus' own personal goals
with the larger, national goals of his hero Aeneas. Odysseus recognizes his mother in the
underworld (11.85) but will not talk to her until Teiresias assures him of a safe return
home (89). Teiresias prophesizes that although Poseidon has great ambitions of keeping
the hero from reaching his country, nevertheless Odysseus will reach Ithaca and restore
order to his home (100-124). Teiresias assures Odysseus of his personal safety, and
Odysseus now turns to his mother Anticlea. Odysseus' motives for speaking to his
mother are again personal as he expresses his primary concerns: he asks how she herself
came to the underworld (170-173), where his father and his son are (174), and whether
his wife is protecting his home and possessions (175-179). Odysseus vainly tries to clasp
his mother's ghost, as discussed above, and proceeds to meet the souls of women and
heroes in the underworld.
Vergil's similar plot-lines and quotations of Odysseus' speeches demonstrates
that we are deep within a Homeric context, but again Vergil manipulates the epic setting
with a personal, lyric consciousness so that the audience experiences the ramifications of
Aeneas' journey along with the hero. Aeneas learns of his destiny from the Sibyl in the
upperworld (6.83-97) but longs to journey to the underworld to visit his father (108-123).
He appeals to the Sibyl in terms of the pietas that he has shown by saving his father from
the flames of burning Troy (110-111) and by enduring the perils of the sea with his ailing
father (113). This pietas compels him to see his father once more (ire ad conspectum can
genitoris et ora contingat, 108-109) and to undergo the toils of Avernus. 20 Vergil contrasts
20 Heinze (1903) 351.
Odysseus' personal motivations against Aeneas' personal understanding of the universal
concept ofpietas. Aeneas' appeal to the Sibyl betrays his devotion to his father. Through
his direct appeal we see Aeneas' devotion to his fatherland. Aeneas enters the
underworld in an act ofpietas and brings with him the burden his devotion has set upon
In the underworld, Anchises shows his son the glory that his devotion will bring
to the Roman race. From Jupiter's prophesy in Aeneid 1 the reader already knows that
glory awaits the Roman people. The Roman race has been given power without end
(1.279) and will one day pacify the nations (1.283-296). Anchises indentifies for his son
the glorious Romans who will roam the earth: the lineage of the Roman kings (6.756-
770), the birth of Romulus (6.777-780), and the rise of the Caesars and the golden age
(6.789-797). When Anchises advises Aeneas, he addresses him as a Roman in terms
which directly speak to his contemporary audience: "Be mindful to rule your people with
power, Roman, (these will be your arts), and introduces the custom of peace on them,
and spare the subjected and war against the proud to the end," (tu regere impedo populous,
Romane, memento I (hae tibi erunt artes), pacique imponere more, parcere subiectis et ...
superbos, 12.851-853).21 The Roman Aeneas brings a custom of domination and of peace
to his people and he immediately sees the elder Marcellus enjoying this glorified labor.
This Carthaginian hero Marcellus 22 rejoices in his victorious moment with his fellow
Romans (magno turbante ,. '. .,. 857)23 and dedicates the most cherished spoils (spoliis
21 Augustus writes that he established a similar program in his own imperial government: Bella terra et man
civilian extemaque toto in orbe terrarum saepe gessi, victorque omnibus veniam petentibus civibuspeperci. Exteras genes,
quibus tuto ignoscipotuit, conserare quam excidere malui (R.G. 3).
22 R.D. Williams (1972) 513.
23 Cf. Hor. Carm.1.1.7-8: hunc, si mobilium turbaQuiritium I certat tergeminis tollere honoribus.
opimis, 855) to father Quirinus (854-859). Vergil creates an optimistic picture of the
extent and nature of Roman rule, which he reinforces in this hero celebrating the
triumphal peace that Aeneas will bring to his race.
Surprisingly Vergil passes on the opportunity to sing any specifics about the
golden age prophesized by Jupiter and Anchises. Instead he turns the celebratory image
of Marcellus into a moment of lamentation and sorrow. Aeneas sees a soldier
accompanying the triumphant elder Marcellus, but this young warrior bears an unhappy
expression and a downcast face (sedfrons laetaparum et deiecto lumina vultu, 6.862). Vergil
describes both Aeneas and Anchises' emotion and anguish with the intimate tone of an
apostrophe when they see this younger Marcellus, the nephew of the emperor Augustus.
Aeneas cries out, "What a clamor of companions there is around him! What greatness
there is in him!" (qui strepitus circa comitum! quantum instar in ipso, 865). Anchises explains
the sad fates of Augustus' nephew Marcellus, a contemporary of Vergil's audience, with
another exclamatory outcry: "Alas, whatpietas, what faith of our forefathers and what a
hand inconquerable in war!... Alas, pitiable boy, if in any way you might break your
harsh fates, you will be Marcellus," (heupietas, heuprisca fdes invictaque .ii dextera... heu,
miserandepuer, si qua fata aspera rumpas, I tu M ,;:. eds, 878-879; 882-883). The repetition
of heu ... heu. .. heu raises the drama of Anchises' speech and we actually hear the
repeated anguish and groans of Anchises in the lines.
Anchises laments the young Marcellus' pietas andfides, moral characteristics which
directly speak to Vergil's contemporary audience. Vergil is playing with the definition of
his audience-is Anchises addressing Aeneas or is he reaching into the future to speak to
Vergil's Romans? The form of the apostrophe further obscures the actual speaker of the
lines. The apostrophe of Aeneas and Anchises objectifies their own voice so that the
lamentation comes from a deeper well of emotion, perhaps from Vergil himself. Vergil
speaks from an entirely personal level of suffering that is not alien to Aeneas, his
contemporary Romans, or we ourselves today. Thus Vergil creates a universal moment
which any audience may share. At the end of Aeneas' katabasis, Vergil leaves us with the
outbursts of emotion which allow us to understand the suffering of the moment, to re-
visit the trials of Aeneas and his own people, and to reflect upon our own experiences of
suffering. In the end Vergil has not told us how to feel about the golden age which
Jupiter and Anchises prophesized, but he has allowed us to experience it.
Vergil's cano, "I sing," through the more active inclusion of his audience within
the composition of his narrative, has become canemus, "we sing." Given the communal
nature of the Aeneid, the "fat" epic Vergil may be closer to the "thin" lyric Horace than
virtute functos more patrum duces
Lydis remixto carmine tibiis
Troiamque et Anchisen et almae
progeniem Veneris canemus.
Let us sing of leaders who lived their lives virtuously according to the custom of
our fathers in a song mixed with Lydian reed pipes, and let us sing of Troy and
Anchises and the son of kind Venus.
ou0e POo K piUKOS E'XVUaEV
"And the cry of the herald did not rest."
The "fatter," older Vergil may not be that different from the younger Vergil. In
the middle of his Eclogues, Vergil sings directly to his audience in the first person canerem
cum canerem reges et proelia, Cynthius aurem
vellit et admonuit: "pastorem, Tityre, pinguis
pascere oportet ovis, deductum dicere carmen."
Nunc ego (namque super tibi erunt qui dicere laudes,
Vare, tuas cupiant et tristia condere bella)
agrestem tenui meditabor harundine Musam.
While I was singing of kings and battles, Cynthian Apollo grabbed my ear and
warned me: "It benefits the shepherd to pasture fat sheep, but to sing a slender
song. Now I (for indeed there will be those who will want to sing your praises
for you, Varus, and to fashion the sad wars) will reflect upon the rural Muse with
a light reed.
Vergil's Apollo admonishes him with the same advice Apollo gave to Callimachus: "poet,
make your sacrifices fat, but keep your Muse slender." Vergil operates within the
Callimachean paradox of fatness (pinguis) and thinness (deductum) and Callimachus' kings
and heroes become Vergil's kings and battles. But Vergil is actually interrupted.
Callimachus had only started to place his writing tablet upon his knees, whereas Vergil
claims to have already begun his composition: "while I was singing" (canerem). It should
not be a surprise, then, that when the older Vergil again put a pen to epic, he returns to
1 Call. fr. 526 Pf.
where Apollo interrupted him. Vergil was singing of kings and battles and now, in an
ironic twist, he will sing of arms and a man.
How seriously, then, should we take Vergil's recusatio? Horace and Propertius
later use Vergil's recusatio as a stylistic device to elevate the status of their own poetry.
Vergil too pits his own bucolic poetry against the military emphasis of the epic kings and
battles of his recusatio and specifically Varus' own military achievements.2 But Propertius
and Horace never actually attempted to unfurl their sails on the epic sea whereas Vergil
gives us the impression that he had already tested or was anticipating testing the waters.
With the Aeneid Vergil demonstrates that his slender Callimachean sails are entirely apt
for the vast epic waters of Homer.
2 Rutherford (1989) 44; cf. Elder (1961).
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Laura Mawhinney was born in Thomhill, Ontario, on September 24, 1980. She
moved from Canada with her family in 1982 and attended school in Marietta, Georgia.
In 1998 she moved to Manlius, New York, and graduated from Fayetteville-Manlius
High School. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2003
with a Bachelor of Arts in classics. She will receive a Master of Arts in classics from the
University of Florida in 2005.