Aeneid of Virgil

Course No. 303
Professor Elizabeth Vandiver, Ph.D.
Whitman College
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Course No. 303
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Course Overview

The Aeneid is the great national epic of ancient Rome, and one of the most important works of literature ever written. It was basic to the education of generations of Romans, and has stirred the imaginations of such writers and artists as St. Augustine, Dante, Milton, and countless others. The Aeneid represents both Virgil's tribute to Homer and his attempt to re-imagine and surpass the Homeric model. With Professor Vandiver's help and instruction, you enter fully into the gripping tale that Virgil tells.

You join Aeneas on his long journey west from ruined Troy to the founding of a new nation in Italy, and see how he weaves a rich network of compelling human themes. His poem is an examination of leadership, a study of the conflict between duty and desire, a meditation on the relationship of the individual to society and of art to life, and a Roman's reflection on the dangers—and the allure—of Hellenistic culture.

A Stand-Alone Course

Although this course makes an excellent complement to Professor Vandiver's lectures on the Iliad and the Odyssey, it is designed to stand on its own. Your encounter with the Aeneid focuses on careful, detailed examinations of the epic's background, main themes, and significant episodes. Although it is impossible to discuss every episode of Virgil's sprawling work in a course this size, with Professor Vandiver you consider all the highlights.

The first lecture provides an introduction to Virgil's Latin epic and to the plan of the course, while the second lecture covers both the mythic and literary background with which Virgil was working. Here you find an insightful summary of the legends of the Trojan War and of Romulus and Remus as well as a discussion of what scholarship can tell us about the Aeneid 's literary antecedents.

Lecture 3 provides you with a vital understanding of the historical context in which Virgil wrote, including accounts of his larger literary career, his relationship to the regime of Augustus, and his view of Roman history generally.

In Lectures 4 through 12, Professor Vandiver discusses the poem itself with clarity, economy, and enthusiasm that you are sure to find illuminating and thoroughly engaging. Throughout it all, the figure of Aeneas is never far from center stage—as fighter and lover, father and son, refugee and ruler, wanderer and founder, spellbinding storyteller, and sword-wielding man of action.

An Unforgettable Story; A Master Teacher

Whether you read the narrative of his adventures as a paean to the glories of Rome or a cautionary tale about the human costs of empire, you come to understand precisely why Tennyson called Virgil a lord of language, and lauded his special gift for golden phrase.

This course makes an excellent complement not only to Professor Vandiver's lectures on Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, but also to our 48-lecture History of Ancient Rome by Professor Garrett G. Fagan of Pennsylvania State University.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Who was Virgil? Why and how did he write this poem? Why does the Aeneid continue to demand—and reward—our attention? What was the Roman attitude in general, and Virgil's in particular, toward the tremendously influential model that Greek culture held out to the Roman world in the age of Augustus? x
  • 2
    From Aeneas to Romulus
    How does the Aeneid relate to the mythological background of the Trojan War and the story of Rome's foundation by Romulus? How does Virgil handle the problem of integrating these two strands of legendary material? What are the Aeneid's key literary antecedents, both Greek and Latin? x
  • 3
    Rome, Augustus, and Virgil
    No understanding of the Aeneid is complete without considering its historical context. We briefly examine Roman history, especially the crucial events of the late 1st century B.C.E., than the lecture reviews the political and social reforms made by Augustus and discusses his role as a patron of poets. Finally, we discuss Virgil himself, his method of composition, and the task that he conceived for himself in writing the Aeneid. x
  • 4
    The Opening of the Aeneid
    The Aeneid's preface stresses its debt to and its difference from Homer. Which crucial concepts and characters are introduced in Book I? How do these opening scenes highlight Virgil's overarching themes, including the "fated" character of Rome, the concepts of pietas (duty) and furor (passion); and the gap that separates Aeneas the public man from Aeneas the private individual? x
  • 5
    From Troy to Carthage
    In Book II, Aeneas tells of the Fall of Troy. His words are the fullest extant account of this legendary event in all of ancient literature. Next we learn how he escaped the burning city at the head of a band of survivors, and began his voyage west. Virgil continues to both imitate and depart from the Homeric model. We note especially his handling of the gods' role in the Sack of Troy and of the prophecies that Aeneas hears concerning his destiny as the founder of the Roman people. x
  • 6
    Unhappy Dido
    In Book IV, Virgil recounts one of history's most famous love affairs: the ill-fated liaison between Aeneas and Dido, the queen of Carthage. We consider the structure of the book, Virgil's presentation of the two characters involved, and the great (and unresolved) critical question of how we are supposed to interpret Aeneas's actions in this portion of the epic. x
  • 7
    Funeral Games and a Journey to the Dead
    Book V recalls The Iliad with its description of the funeral games that Aeneas stages in memory of Anchises. In Book VI, parallels with (and differences from) Odysseus move to the fore as Aeneas embarks on his journey to the land of the dead. x
  • 8
    Italy and the Future
    In Virgil's version of the Underworld, Aeneas encounters the shades of Dido, the Trojan prince Deiphobus, and most importantly, Anchises. The abode of the dead becomes a window on the future as father and son witness a pageant of Roman heroes yet to come. Book VIII reiterates Aeneas's divine mission, and closes with Virgil's description of the mighty shield of Aeneas, forged for him by the god Vulcan. x
  • 9
    Virgil's Iliad
    We examine Books IX and X, the most "Iliadic" section of the Aeneid, paying close attention to the scenes depicting the deaths of Nisus and Euryalus. Then we consider Turnus's aristeia (scene of special valor), which culminates in his slaying of Pallas—a death that in turn inspires Aeneas with furor. Finally, we consider Aeneas's killing of Lausus and his father Mezentius. x
  • 10
    The Inevitable Doom of Turnus
    We analyze the last two books of the Aeneid, in which the narrative builds inexorably to the death of Turnus at the hands of Aeneas. Finally, the lecture considers how the characters of the two warrior-maidens, Camilla and Juturna, underline and highlight both the inevitability of Turnus's death and several aspects of his character. x
  • 11
    The Gods and Fate
    What role do the Olympian deities (as opposed to the household gods or Penates) play in the action of the Aeneid? What is the role of fatum (fate), and how does it relate to the actions of the Olympians? The lecture concludes with a consideration of the character of Juno and her crucial role in the epic. x
  • 12
    The End of the Aeneid and Beyond
    The most widely discussed critical question raised by the Aeneid asks: How should we interpret the epic's conclusion? Is Aeneas justified in killing Turnus, or should he have been merciful? We review some of the arguments on both sides, and whether the final scene as we have it is how Virgil actually intended his poem to end. We then turn to considering the Aeneid's influence on later Western culture. x

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Your professor

Elizabeth Vandiver

About Your Professor

Elizabeth Vandiver, Ph.D.
Whitman College
Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver is Professor of Classics and Clement Biddle Penrose Professor of Latin at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She was formerly Director of the Honors Humanities program at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she also taught in the Department of Classics. She completed her undergraduate work at Shimer College and went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. from The University of Texas at...
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Aeneid of Virgil is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 91.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Aeneid of Virgil I grew up reading the classics. This course makes me re-live my younger years with nostalgia and happiness at the same time. I think about the good Teachers I had on the subject.
Date published: 2013-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear, concise intro to Virgil I became curious about the Aeneid after reading some Dante recently. I wanted to learn the basics about this epic before committing to reading the whole thing. Prof. Vandiver's course was just what I was looking for. She gives an excellent survey of the contents of the book, plus background about Virgil and his world. Her delivery is confident and precise. As a result of this course, I have now downloaded the Aeneid to my Kindle and hope to read it soon.
Date published: 2013-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Vandiver could read the phone book! She is easily one of the best professors that The Great Courses has to offer. I have listened to three of her previous courses and have walked away with a much great understanding of the subject. She presents differing viewpoints with minimal personal bias. She also uses the native language, in this case Latin, to further the understanding of the original text, as opposed to the many translations that are available. Could not be more pleased!
Date published: 2012-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brings back Mr. Schmidt's Latin class My introductory Latin book in high school was a simplified version of the Aeneid. The material was good and well presented. The lecturer did an excellent job.
Date published: 2012-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazingly good I had wanted to read the Aeneid for most of my life, but never got around to it. When I saw this course was available, I grabbed it, since its something I can listen to in my car. I was thoroughly impressed with every aspect. Not only was the material wonderful, but I could listen to Professor Vandiver read a phone book, and love it. If you have an interest in the classics, this is a must-have. Foundational. Enjoy.
Date published: 2012-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from always on-topic Great course. I hope to read the Aeneid when time permits, but these lectures satisfied my curiosity for now. This professor is interested in the topic, and she never swerves from the subject matter. Thank you to all involved in producing this course!
Date published: 2012-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Instructor; Important Book This is the sixth course I have taken by Prof. VanDiver. She produced another outstanding introduction to one of the most influential books in western literature. Her delivery is clear and organized. She explained the historical context of the Aeneid. She also helped me understand why the book was so important to the Romans and subsequent peoples. I must say the book itself is much bloodier than the Iliad (which takes some doing). Lots of people getting their heads cleaved in two and many others biting the ground and so forth. Fits in with the gladiators, I guess. I used this course to supplement the single lecture given in TTC's: Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition. Thank you to Prof. VanDiver and TTC for another Great Course.
Date published: 2012-04-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wish there was a DVD version The course content was great but since it is only available on CD format, misses a lot in opportunities for better presentation and visual complements.
Date published: 2012-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling treatment of the Aeneid This is the 4th TC course from Prof. Vandiver that I have taken, and it's another winner. I read in the last year an abridged treatment of the Aeneid, which was a lot less familiar to me than the Iliad and Odyssey. Vandiver covers the essence of the story well and does a great job tying it into the Roman's sense of themselves. I also found it extremely helpful for Vandiver to point out the many deep parallels in the plot between the Aeneid and the Iliad. This is a very satisfying course that anyone interested about classical mythology or the Roman world will enjoy.
Date published: 2011-12-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Did not really care for the professor I found the professor to be somewhat dry and dusty. This is only me second course but the first lecture that I listened to on Egypt was really captivating. The course is interesting though and the material is really good.
Date published: 2011-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Now I'm satisfied The Aeneid of Virgil was always on my bucket list. I had been blanketed by things "Greek" since early adulthood. Prof. Vandiver makes this audio-only version a delight to listen to as I often did as a child; forhead pressed against the radio's speaker. I have discarded junk mail, exercised, tidied up and subliminally multitasked while listening to the professor's analysis of this epic poem. This course not only brings one up-to-date on what happened to certain refugees of the Trojan war but makes us aware of the love affair between Aeneas and Dido, Queen of Carthage. We have always heard that Athena and the Dorians were responsible for Athens. Now we know that Juno and Aeneas were responsible for Rome. A very affordable course, it is quite enjoyable, relaxing and very satisfying.
Date published: 2011-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superior Just a superior presentation from the first lecture to the last. There is not much Roman Literature, and the Aeneid is really the foremost text. I think this should be a part of everyone's education. It does not matter if you spend your life as a scientist or physician, there is a great deal to learn from the classics. It also useful when your children get older because you are a natural reference. The research shows that the education of the child reflects their parents. Every parent should listen to these presentations.
Date published: 2011-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Course Yet Professor Vandiver not only brings the characters alive, she brings Virgil alive as well. I've never found a course, or lecture, or article that added so much to my enjoyment of reading a novel. I found myself sitting in my driveway or office parking lot rather than interrupting her lecture. I've never done that before.
Date published: 2011-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vandiver does it again! I only have two Vandiver courses left and I can't wait. She has a wonderful way to telling the story and teaching it but its so much more than a book review or cliff's notes! MORE PLEASE!!
Date published: 2011-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You Won't Be Disappointed The fact that you are even considering this course tells me that you will love it. Prof. Vandiver tells the story beautifully and offers insights at which you could never arrive without her. I also listened to Vandiver's Iliad and Odyssey. Homer (whoever and however many people he was) is justly immortal for doing great epic poetry FIRST, but Vandiver convinced me that Vergil did it BEST. I can't agree with other reviewers that Prof. Vandiver's speaking style is excellent. She repeats everything, she says things more than once, she tells you what she's going to say and then tells you what she said. Kind of like that. But she is still pleasant to hear, and the quality of what she says overcomes any shortcomings in delivery.
Date published: 2011-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Vandiver Continues Her Excellent Teaching I purchase Teaching Company courses on a regular basis, concentrating on the Classics. There are a few professors I especially enjoy and I would have to place Prof. Vandiver at the head of the list. I love reading Virgil and in high school I read The Aeneid in Latin. I've read a couple of translations over the years, but her remarkable insight into the work was so refreshing that after I listened to to the CDs (straight through, mind you), I grabbed a copy of Virgil from the bookshelf and read it yet again. It takes a superior teacher to get me to do that. Professor Vandiver is that superior teacher.
Date published: 2011-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dense but Fascinating! As usual, Professor Vandiver is very well organized and demonstrates elegantly her mastery of the topic. Perhaps however there is too much material for the time allotted as she speaks very fast and is at times difficult to follow. Nonetheless, I do look forward to the second listening which appears a definite must.
Date published: 2011-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Formidable Scholarship This review refers to the CD's. Like her other lectures, Dr Vandiver brings to this classic a profusion of supporting information that adds to the fascination of hearing this old story covered again. Even though it's part of our Western cultural tradition, she makes fresh, meaningful points. This lecture series is recommended to everyone interested in our Western cultural traditions.
Date published: 2011-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic The Aeneid is one of the truly great works of literature, and Professor Vandiver has given it a worthy treatment. She condenses a considerable amount of material into these lectures. The first three "scene-setting" lectures were particularly valuable. In these she outlines connections between Greece and Rome and gives a succinct but useful recapitulation of Roman republican history. I wish she had not needed to spend quite so much time offering synopses of the various books, but she defended this (and rightly so) as necessary given the needs of the audience. While anyone will find difficulty in capturing what is most marvelous in a great work in such a short amount of time, she does an admirable job. As someone whose Latin is rusty but not entirely gone, I appreciated that she referred to individual lines and words in the original language in order to unpack their meaning and art. I highly recommend this course for those discovering Virgil for the first time or for those looking to reacquaint themselves with an old friend.
Date published: 2011-03-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enriching guide to the Aeneid This course was a great guide to the Aeneid, which I read in parallel (Fitzgerald's translation). Professor Vandiver provides ample context around the epic (historical, cultural, and literary), then works methodically book by book, pointing out many things along the way I never would have realized on my own. It made reading the Aeneid a much richer experience. As I was reading the text in full, I would have preferred a bit less synopsis and more analysis, but on balance the length feels digestable and the way she links tightly to the source makes the course very accessible. Her enunciation and tone are a bit funny at first, but I got used to them. A few other notes: - I also read and recommend Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin, who brings the characters to life beautifully, faithfully and creatively. - I had the CDs but converted to MP3 and then audiobook for most convenient iPod listening. - I also enjoyed Professor Vandiver's lectures on the Odyssey and look forward to her course on Herodotus.
Date published: 2011-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course This is a good introduction to the historical context, major themes, timelines and key names of the period of the Aeneid. Prof. Vandiver's narration, along with the guideline, makes for preparing to read the actual text. I've downloaded this course on my iPod as its a convenient way to listen in 30 minute segments. I like her approach, she is clear and focuses on the important events. A good understanding of Virgil is useful before reading Dante's Divine Comedy which I have.
Date published: 2010-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Prof. Vandiver is one of the top-tier professors in the Teaching Company. She is clear, articulate, and passionate about the texts she teaches. She never loses track that her audience is made of intelligent adults, who simply do not have experience with her subject matter. I have listened to all her courses at least twice each and the re-play value is high for her. My only regret is that they didn't give her 24 lectures to cover more material. I'm sure she had many other wonderful insights to share.
Date published: 2010-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An essential companion to the Aenied. I found the Aeneid to be rather disappointing after reading the great Homeric poems. After listening to this wonderful set of lectures I still find it less interesting than the Illiad and the Odyssey but I now understand a little bit more about what Virgil was trying to achieve. Professor Vandiver manages to address many of the issues that disturbed me about the poem. For example, I initially found the second half set in Italy to be really boring. Apparently I am not alone in this feeling yet ancient audiences found this part to be the best bit. To sum up, if you are reading the Aeneid then this course is a must.
Date published: 2010-09-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid Course, a Bit Dry AUDIO DOWNLOAD 12 Lectures First let me say that I downloaded these lectures, and have begun downloading ALL audio lectures. Why? For two main reasons: 1) Saving $10 to $20 per course (saving shipping costs and mroe), and 2) I can load these straight into iTunes and onto my iPod, which I can then connect to my Mini Cooper. Unlike the Audio CDs (which have 6 or 9 subtracks for each lecture), the downloads have one subtrack per lecture, which makes them much, much easier to scan on an iPod. I have virtually all of Prof. Vandiver's courses on Ancient Greece, and I enjoy all of them very much. I find the Roman world much more dry and less interesting. Prof. Vandiver alludes to the reason, I think, in lecture 7 of The Aeneid when she points out that the Greeks were great in Art and Rhetoric (and I'd add Philosophy) while the Romans were great in Government. So for me, Virgil's Aeneid is not quite up to the Iliad and the Odyssey. Still, Prof. Vandiver offers 12 fine lectures (thankfully no more), and perhaps the best reason to listen to this set is as a prelude to the Dante course. Recommended: 4 stars (5 stars, as always, are reserved for courses I will listen to again.)
Date published: 2010-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great course by Prof. Vandiver I listened to most of Professor Vandiver’s courses and I find them all well worth the investment of time and money. I listened to the downloaded version of Aeneid. It goes without saying that she is the master of the material. Her presentation is very pleasant, easy to listen to and understand. It sounds as if she is not reading from her notes, but rather is having a conversation with you and telling you about the subject matter. Having listened to almost 100 courses from the Teaching Company, I consider Prof. Vandiver second only to the great Robert Greenberg. I have not read the Aeneid before listening to this course, but I have the book and now I am going to read it because I have a much better understanding of the story line and the history behind the book. Prof. Vandiver also covers Greek and Roman history as it pertains to the story, which is also very interesting. It is not necessary to listen to the courses covering Greek or Roman history or the Iliad and the Odyssey, as some reviewers have suggested, but it certainly would be helpful to know these subjects. Plus, the Iliad and the Odyssey are excellent and enjoyable courses in their own rights. I enjoyed this course very much, just like I did all the others by Prof. Vadiver. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2010-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sunday Escape! I got so caught up in the story and the art of story telling, that one lecture became two until I had listened to all twelve. Professor Vandiver is captivating in both her story telling and the artful asides she does to alert us of how Virgil is playing to his audience, crafting a story that will give them a sense of fulfilling a spectacular destiny. There is magic in the original language which I would not have enjoyed without this course. I have the other courses by Professor Vandiver and can't wait for another Sunday when I have the house all to myself and can fall into the greatest stories ever told.
Date published: 2010-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant As Always I have now heard every course Professor Vandiver offers. Every course she teaches is worthwhile, but the trio on epic poetry (this, The Odyssey, The Illiad) are particularly good. Starting with a solid background on the social and historical context that shaped the Aeneid, Professor Vandiver follows the story from the storm in book one till the climactic death of Turnus. Throughout the lecturers, the highlights are covered, with solid explanation of what these events would have meant to the people who read it, as well as examining the more eternal questions of what the Aeneid means to us today. Professor Vandiver's style is clear, with no hmming or ahhing, and moves quickly through the prodigious amount of information without overloading the listener. If I had any complaint, it would be that the lecture is too short, and of necessity a great deal of material is skipped.
Date published: 2009-11-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Wish I Had Liked It More Of the ten or so courses I have purchased from The Teaching Company, I enjoyed this one the least. I found Professor Vandiver's enunciation to be a jarring experience that detracted from my ability to listen to the material. Hearing all words pronounced exactly as they are spelled is not pleasant, and it's not how English speakers really speak. I know I am very much in the minority and that she is very well reviewed on this site. She covers my very favorite subjects and she does know the material, so I really wish I did not find her manner of speaking to be such a distraction.
Date published: 2009-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intersting without ever reading the poem Prof. Vandiver provides great understand to the ancient epic poems. She does a great job of explaining the poem, it's history and what's happening and why - and you end up feeling you know the whole thing and understand it without ever opening the 'book'. The poem itself never interested me but after listening to her 2 Homeric lectures, I gave this a shot and now am going back to read it - and hoping it's as good as her lecture makes it out to be. The Aeneid lecture is probably done best after the 2 Homeric lectures but it's not neccesary.
Date published: 2009-06-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from strong this course makes a very good companion to those reading the aeneid. as with many teaching company courses, let this be a supplement to the study of the primary material and not a substitute.
Date published: 2009-05-26
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