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 96.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful experience The instructor made this important work come to life. It was particularly interesting how she tied early Roman Republic/Empire history and Augustus’s rule to Virgil’s creation.
Date published: 2019-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course I studied the Aeneid a long time ago in high-school Latin class. It was a lot of fun and interested to hear the whole story presented in that way, rather than in trying the translate the first 5 or 6 books.
Date published: 2018-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Aeneid Great classic story. Love the translation and the narrator
Date published: 2018-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course--Professor Vandiver is excellent Professor Vandiver is one of the best professors at The Great Courses. Her lectures are close to what you'd get in a real college course: there's some summary of the reading--yes! she assumes you've read the material or will read it--but her main focus is on cultural and literary context. I really wish she could be hired to record more courses in the Classics. For example, I'd love to hear her take on Greek comedy and Roman tragedy, not to mention the writings of Horace and Ovid.
Date published: 2017-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Success Professor Vandiver always does a wonderful job presenting information in an academic manner. She doesn't assume the reader has any prior knowledge of the subject and provides background information as necessary. Her presentation does a great job explaining the story itself and providing the historical context (both before and during Vergil's time) necessary for analyzing the text the understanding it's importance to the Romans. I like how she presents not just her viewpoint, but also viewpoints which differ from her own in a way that lets the listener draw there own conclusions.
Date published: 2017-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really enjoyed this course I really enjoyed this course. I bought the audio book of the course as well and listened to it while listening to this course. I enjoyed the manner in which the instructor gave a context of the time the Aeneid was written, how that influence the telling of the story, and if there were differences from the time that the story took place. I very much enjoyed how the instructor would describe the scene and how people of the day would interpret those descriptions. It added a dimension to the story that I did not pick-up on while listening to the audio book. I was impressed with the instructors knowledge and how easily she communicated the information and the parallels she was able to draw upon to illustrate her points. The only compliant I have is that this course is too short to cover the entire Aeneid ... it's a epic story in every way and the course could easily have been another 8 lectures longer ... and I would have still listened to it all. I listened to this course in audio format. In some parts I wondered if the video would lend more to it, but not enough to purchase the video version.
Date published: 2017-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Good Overview I really liked how this one gave you a good idea of the overall arc of the Aeneid while contrasting the story with the Romans vs the Greeks.
Date published: 2017-02-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Professor and a Well Done Course A good solid study of the Aeneid and the events of the plots even if I was left hoping for a little more analysis on the book itself than plot summaries but this was a short course to fit alot in. Pluses: • A great book-by-book summary of the events of the Aeneid • The analysis on the ending to the book was engaging • The professor was easy to listen to (almost every sentence was easy to understand and follow) Minuses: • The professor tended to explain the same point multiple times and seemed to repeat sentences (the point could’ve been made in less sentences) • A little more literary analysis on the book rather than plot summaries would’ve been a nice touch
Date published: 2017-02-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Made me want to read the book I haven't read the Aeneid yet, but the course made me want to do so. I'm also interested in Prof. Vandiver's courses on the Iliad and Odyssey, which I have read. No doubt there's more to notice in them.
Date published: 2016-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent overview of a fascinating book Virgil's Aeneid pre-dates the New Testament writings, and pre-dates the birth of Jesus by some twenty years. After having taken a course on Dante's Divine Comedy, I naturally became interested in Virgil's epic. I chose this course to help me gain a greater perspective on the work as I was reading it. And overall, I would say I am very impressed by this course and by Professor Vandiver's presentation. She takes a little getting used to because as a classicist, she is steeped in knowledge about ancient literature, culture and history. One does not encounter individuals like this every day. She is filled with integrity, extremely literate, and communicates without reading from a script. Without question, I would take other courses from her. I am especially interested in her course on Herodotus. I am absolutely satisfied with this course, and will not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is interested in studying Virgil's epic or the classics in general.
Date published: 2016-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not the same thing as a weed-wacker This is the third course by Vandiver that I have listened to. I have purchased them all, so I hope that Vandiver gets the royalties because she deserves them. If you listen to this course, you'll get a very good introduction to the Aeneid as well as to Virgil's cultural and literary context. Vandiver is especially good on Virgil's Book IV of the Aeneid -- that's the one with Dido, the queen of Carthage. I also own Vandiver's "Greek Tragedy", which I plan on listening to soon. Of course, there is some lawn work to complete first, hence my need for a weed-wacker, which this course is not. If you wanted, you could try to use this course as a weed-wacker, but I don't think it would be very effective, but social progress depends upon bold lawn experiments, so who am I to say? I wish Vandiver would put out a course on Ovid's Metamorphoses, but i don't know if she will. It looks like most of her courses are about 15 years old, so maybe she's done with this sort of thing.
Date published: 2016-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another excellent lecture by Dr Vandiver Three words: get her lectures. Clear, informative, and so well presented. Especially for a person with my educational background, devoid of information about Greek and Roman literature, and also history, she is wonderful!
Date published: 2016-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting and wonderfully taught I got this course because Prof. Vandiver had done such a wonderful job on the Classical Mythology course. I am an engineer and know very little about either mythology or The Aenied but had always wanted to know more so when I saw these courses I jumped at them. Prof. Vandiver is clearly passionate about her subject and presents so that the course stays interesting and informative throughout. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2016-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Aeneid I struggled through translating the Aeneid from the latin in high school. Sure wish Professor Vandiver was around back then. I'd have loved to understand what I was trying to translate with the clarity and knowledge Professor Vandiver brings to the poem. Even my wife is really enjoying the lectures and she had no background in Virgil. Looking forward to taking her other classes. Thanks very much
Date published: 2016-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Context of History This epic, and Homers’ Iliad, were known by heart to Romans but the printed versions had put me to sleep. These lectures made it accessible in context of history. That historical hook made the epics sensible and offered many ah-ha moments. If they have merely been read, I would have been snoozing. Three cheers for the professor doing all the hard work for us!
Date published: 2016-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Prof. Vandiver is fascinating, detailed and does such a great job at putting things in historical perspective. All of her courses I have listened to have been superb.
Date published: 2016-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Buy Homer First and Listen; Then Take This Course audio download version As with the Iliad and Odyssey, professor Vandiver excels in making clear a classical work that many of us have either not read or read casually. Reading each lessons outline first, then the indicated chapters of the Aeneid before listening to the lecture, enabled me to maximize the value of the course. Also there are so many references (both externally by Dr. Vandiver and internally in the Aeneid) to Homer's epics that unless you are current on Homer, it is best to take those two courses first. Professor Vandiver approaches these lectures with her usual skill and flawless presentation, providing an organized structure that includes putting the details of the story into a broad context, both of the story itself and into the audience and times for whom Virgil was writing. As this is my third review in a row of her courses on the classic epics, I am running out of new, positive things about which to comment. And if I have one minor criticism, I think that she is less successful in explaining the relevance of the Aeneid today than she was in detailing what makes Homer's epics resonate with current readers. But this may be only because I enjoyed the Iliad and Odyssey more than the Aeneid. Unless you were a classics scholar, get these three courses. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2016-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertaining, informative and accessible This course examines the literary and social influences that shaped Virgil's Aeneid, while explaining the plot to those unfamiliar with it. I picked this course after being impressed with Professor Vandiver in "Classical Mythology", and was not disappointed. Without theatrical flash or gimmicks, she explains the plot and presents the factors (literary, social and linguistic) that influenced the text. I am a novice to classical literature. Prior to listening to this course I knew only small bits and pieces about the Aeneid. The course was very accessible for me, despite my limited background knowledge. It was convenient, however, that I was familiar with the plot of the Iliad and the Odessy - to those who are not I recommend to first learn about those two works that greatly influenced the Aeneid (though after listening to this course, I found the Aeneid more appealing than its Greek influences). Professor Vandiver mentions the analogies and influences from Homer's epics, but I think they are better appreciated if one was already familiar with them. As the title indicates, the course focuses exclusively on the Aeneid and is not a survey of Roman or classical literature. I highly recommend this course and this professor.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointed I was very disappointed with this course. I have listed to several THC before and enjoyed them. I felt this was a waste of time and money. After six lectures of parallel of the Odyssey and Aeneid I got it. The next lectures are unbearably boring.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fine I came to this course as a person interested in classical history, and as a fan of the Iliad. I certainly learned a few interesting things, but overall there was nothing in this course that I got too excited about. Pros: --Elizabeth knows her subject --Course was well structured --It's great that you read along with the course to enhace your appreciation Cons: --I'm not a professional critic of literature, but I didn't find the Aenied all that compelling. --Elizabeth articulated and enunciated well, but for some reason her vocal style rubbed me the wrong way --Beyond the content of the book, the insights of the course (though always germane) were never really eye-opening to me
Date published: 2015-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Aeneid Now Clear I have the download versions of The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid and they should be listened to in that order. (Due to the order of sales, I bought and listened to the Aeneid first. Not a big deal, but this led to some belated aha moments while listening to the others.) All 3 courses are truly great. Vandiver manages to get in all the scholarly stuff, all the necessary interpretations, and the story, without diminishing any of the three aspects. I understand the works much better now than I did when I was forced to study them in high school and college. And each now makes sense internally and in relation to the other two. Vandiver speaks clearly and maintained my interest throughout. She is definitely one of the top Great Courses professors and I've only got one more of her courses to buy... My only complaint about this course is that it should have been 18 or 24 lectures so she could cover even more of the text. Twelve lectures just wasn't enough to do justice to this great work. I have the DVD version of another of her courses and the graphics in that course were of poor quality. I therefore purchased the download versions of The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid and they were fine: I never felt I had missed something by not having the graphics or maps. Some familiarity with the geography will help but is not necessary. Yes, I realize I've used essentially the same review for The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid, but they make up parts of a much longer epic and, therefore, I feel the same comments apply.
Date published: 2015-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoroughly enjoyed I really enjoyed this course. I (shamefully) did not read the text in advance of the lectures but never felt like I was lacking. Prof. Vandiver is balanced, nuanced, and informative. I feel like I can now move through the Canon with firmer footing. Thank you.
Date published: 2015-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Perfect Complement! AUDIO DOWNLOAD Professor Vandiver is one the Teaching Company’s best, and her courses are truly great. ‘The Aeneid of Virgil’ is no exception. I read the ‘Aeneid’ a long time ago in a 1960s translation, so long ago that most of it is quite hazy; this course not only filled in the large gaps of memory, but also provided considerable context and insight for a greater appreciation of this epic. What led me to take up ‘The Aeneid’ again were two other TC courses that feature it, Professors Cook’s and Herzman’s ‘Dante’s Divine Comedy’ (where Virgil is Dante’s guide through the Inferno and Purgatory), and Professor Bowers’ ‘The Western Literary Canon in Context’ (in which a full lecture is devoted to ‘The Aeneid’). I had also previously listened to Professor Vandiver’s excellent TC courses on ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’. This course is not only a perfect complement to the reading of ‘The Aeneid’, but also to listening to Professor Vandiver’s courses on the Homeric epics, as Virgil uses the ‘Iliad’ and the ‘Odyssey’ as models. Indeed, as Professor Vandiver notes, the first half of ‘The Aeneid’ mostly parallels the ‘Odyssey’ and the second half the ‘Iliad’. Throughout the course she shows how closely Virgil follows Homer and also his departures, “inversions” (e.g., In Book X, the Trojan Aeneas corresponds to the Greek Achilles, just as the Latin Turnus corresponds to the Trojan Hector, Course Guidebook, Page 40), and inconsistencies (due most likely to Virgil’s having died before completing his epic). Among the many interesting aspects of this course are Professor Vandiver’s treating Roman social and political background and context; pointing out how certain parts of ‘The Aeneid’ strike modern audiences differently from the Romans of Virgil’s day (most notably on the now more favorable views of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and why the second, or ‘Iliad’-like portion, is less popular with modern audiences); frequent mentioning of differences in critical opinion on various parts of ‘The Aeneid’ (notably Professor Vandiver’s extended discussion in the final lecture on what might appear to be the unfinished nature of the final lines of the epic); highlighting Virgil’s narrative strategies; probing Aeneas’ character and explaining ambiguities in the text; and discussing how ‘The Aeneid’ has been received over time to the present. I especially enjoyed lecture eleven on ‘The Gods and Fate’. At first I thought it oddly placed at the end of the course rather than as context at the beginning, but I soon realized this is perfect placement, as Professor Vandiver used the lecture to draw together the many strands she had been weaving in the preceding lectures. Things then really clicked for me, and am grateful to her for showing how Virgil’s gods are not “…merely metaphors for human emotions or desires. They are full-fledged characters in the epic…[and the part played by the gods]…is closely bound up with the concept of …fate… The involvement of the gods in the narrative enhances the audience’s sense of inevitability. Often the action of a scene could make sense on the purely human level. By showing us the divine level as well, Virgil (like Homer) makes clear that the events must happen in just this way” (Page 48). In addition to providing a terrific introduction to ‘The Aeneid’, Professor Vandiver also points to her preferred translations by Allen Mandelbaum (1971) and Robert Fitzgerald (1981), both of whom render Virgil’s epic in iambic pentameter, though she quotes exclusively from the former, as Mandelbaum’s translation is “…slightly more sonorous than Fitzgerald’s and more effective if read aloud” (Page 67). I find no fault with this course. It is great in every way on an epic of significance even today. As noted by Professor Bowers in his lecture on the Western literary canon, even J.R.R. Tolkien “…was generally inspired by ‘The Aeneid’ [basing] his siege of Minas Tirith on a specific incident…” from it. You are in for a real treat with this course. Who knows? You may even go on from here to Professor Vandiver’s ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’.
Date published: 2014-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great course by Professor Vandiver What can I say, I am a fan. Just read my other reviews for The Iliad and her other courses and you'll see how much I enjoy her lectures. She has inspired me to no end. This course was fantastic and really gives the listener a look into the mind of Virgil. I can't wait to take her next course.
Date published: 2014-12-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great content, interesting, presentation OK I enjoyed this course, as someone with a fair understanding of history andliterature. Some content was repetitive for me, but much was new to me and definitely brought me a greater appreciation for The Aeneid as a literary work. Definitely a worthwhile course, very good to listen to while driving as there doesn't seem to be a lot of visual referencing. My only complaint regards a few speech peculiarities of the professor; instead of pronouncing the as "thee"before a word beginning with a vowel, we hear things like "thuh author" and "thuh understanding", which I just couldn't get used to. That aside, I highly recommend this course for those seeking a basic to mid-depth understanding of Virgil, the work itself, Troy or Augustan Rome.
Date published: 2014-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from ...from the flames of oblivion. Audio download. In Mrs Scott's Latin II class, during my sophomore year in high school (1964-65) we were tasked with translating parts of Caesar's Gallic Wars and Vergil's Aeneid (I can't remember which book). I (kind of) understood Caesar's prose and actually enjoyed translation it (what teenaged boy wouldn't like the war exploits of an historic legend). Vergil, however, was an entirely different can of worms. Maybe it was the poetic nature/composition that confused me, or just the complicated manner the words were juxtaposed...I just didn't get Vergil. Fast-forward to 2010 and my next/first reading of the Aeneid (Kline, 2002 translation)...not bad, but the cast of thousands was a bit daunting and the poetic presentation detracted from the story (OK, that's heresy...but the truth). I found the same to be true of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Now comes Dr Vandiver's lectures covering not only the Aeneid, but the other two works of Homer as well...admittedly a super version of Cliff-notes, but captivating nonetheless. Now I get it. Now when I re-re-read portions of the translations I can honestly understand the beauty of Vergil, and better grasp how this work help to serve as a model for the Roman population as they entered into the 'Pax Romana' and the culmination of influence and power. In this single work, the Romans established a cultural identity that lives on into current times. Very good set of lectures, delivered succinctly...even Dr Vandiver's reciting the verses in Latin, which brought back horrible memories of my having to read aloud in class in Latin those very verses way back when...that are highly recommended (especially when on sale, with a coupon, even though they are worth the full price).
Date published: 2014-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from first rate She provides a great deal of information in a clear organized manner. An expert teacher, she knows what to include and how to present.
Date published: 2014-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Roman homage to Homer LECTURER: This is the fifth course I have taken given by Professor Vandiver. Two of them are the very relevant, huge Homeric epic poems: the Iliad and the Odyssey. Professor Vandiver consistently covers the courses in an interesting, scholarly manner, but she also invariably succeeds to touch the depth and explain the emotional reactions these epic poems would have had on a contemporary audience. Some of it resonates with us as moderns, and some does not, and it is often the parts that do not which are most interesting to understand. In this course, too, Professor Vandiver's presentation is fascinating. CONTENT: The lecture is focused exclusively on Virgil's huge epic – the Aeneid. The whole poem, written in the first century BC, reflects, references, and interplays constantly with Homer's epics the Iliad and the Odyssey. In broad outline, the epic describes the journey of Aeneas, from the burning city of Troy as it is being sacked by the Greeks. In Homer's Iliad, Aeneas is described as a rather minor member of the Royal Trojan family, but here, he is described by Virgil as one of the most central figures in Troy and certainly also one of the finest warriors, second only (perhaps) to Hector. One of the first obvious references to the Iliad and the Odyssey are evident immediately at the beginning of Aeneas' journey from Troy. The journey follows in many ways Odysseus' journey back home to Ithaca. Aeneas is shipwrecked on the shores of Carthage along with seven of his ships – very similar to Odysseus' situation after leaving Calypso's island and arriving on the Phaeacian's island. First of all, Odysseus arrives alone. Secondly, although the Phaeacian princess that assists Odysseus is attracted to him, he does not get involved. In the case of Aeneas – he ends up marrying or at least having a serious relationship with the Carthaginian princess Dido, who has been afflicted with passion for him by Venus (the Roman Aphrodite). In fact she becomes so obcessed that she decides to commit suicide when Aeneas tells her that it is his destiny to continue on his journey and found the Roman people. I bring this example at some length because it exemplifies very well a trend that will follow us throughout the Aeneid – similarities, references, variations and deviations from the two epic Homeric poems. Aeneas continues in his journeys along with his surviving people, and Juno (parallel to the Greek Hera – Zeus' parner), continues to haunt him and give him bad fate. In book seven of the Aeneid, exactly at its middle, the poem changes focus. Aeneas and the Troys who have chosen to stick with him to his fate to found the Roman people arrive at Latium. Whereas the first half of Virgil's epic referenced the Odyssey, the second half references the Iliad. So Virgil is in effect using a clever interplay between the epics and creates a reversal in time – in homer's epics the Iliad precedes the Odyssey. In the second half of the Aeneid, Virgil describes how Aeneas fights the Latins for control over Latium. Aeneas explains to the Latins that he does not want to harm them, but that he must fight them and conquer their land because it is his destiny (if only we could get away with that kind of explanation). The Latins finally concede to Aeneas' on the condition that they keep their name and language and so – the Roman people are founded. The Aeneid is a deeply moving epic – resonating deeply with the content of the Iliad and the Odyssey. It is very significant that Virgil has chosen the Homeric epic poems as the basis and reference for Roman epic poem, even going as far as to connect Rome's founding father to the war with Troy, and it is a prime example of how the Roman culture chose merge with its conquered people's Hellenistic culture, yet at the same time having a repulsion from Greek culture. Overall – a fascinating and well put together course on one of the most central literary works in history. SCOPE: I heard this course after having heard the following courses in the following order: "Herodotus the father of history", "Ilia of Homer", and "Odyssey of Homer", and "Introduction to classical Myth" – all by Professor Vandiver. In retrospect, this is almost the correct order, except that "Introduction to classical Myth" should be heard first as it will help greatly in understanding the other courses.
Date published: 2014-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unbelievable I have watched/listened to many of The Great Courses but have never reviewed one because I don't have a good feel for how my prior familiarity with the subject, intellect and/or any other relevant consideration compares with the attributes of others, and, therefore, how useful my review would be. Having said that, I cannot imagine the possibility of a more interesting, informative and enjoyable presentation of The Aeneid than the one delivered by Professor Vandiver. Bravo!
Date published: 2014-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Great Job by Professor Vandiver Once again Professor Vandiver presents a winning course. Her twelve lecture coverage of Virgil’s Aeneid is first-rate. Some may think of the Aeneid as one of those indecipherable classical books of antiquity without much relevance in today’s world. Professor Vandiver proves those assumptions wrong. The Aeneid is actually quite an understandable and intriguing story. Professor Vandiver provides just enough of a plot summary to keep one informed and on target with her analysis. In her final lecture she talks of the relevance of Virgil and the Aeneid to many important writers that followed. For those who know the basics of the Iliad (a war) and the Odyssey (a journey) – the Aeneid contains a bit of both. I enjoyed learning of the many ways that Aeneas’ journey compared and contrasted with that of Ulysses in the Odyssey. A reading of both the Iliad and the Odyssey (and a listen to both of Professor Vandiver’s Teaching Company courses analyzing them) would be ideal preparation for this course. Upon knowing his death was imminent C.S. Lewis chose several of his favorite books to read one last time – among them were the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid. It would behoove us to also get to know these classics well. Professor Vandiver provides a great start with this course.
Date published: 2014-01-26
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