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Virgil and Dante on their journey together as painted by Botticelli.
Virgil and Dante on their journey together
as painted by Botticelli.

Virgil was the poet of the Roman Empire. Where Homer created the hero of Achilles to inspire generations of Greeks to excel toward heroic achievements, Virgil gave the Romans a new hero, Aeneas, someone to inspire the new imperial Romans as they extended Roman rule all over the Mediterannean world. The story of Aeneas and the foundation of ancient Rome as told in the Aeneid became the bible of the empire. It has been read for over 2000 years.


753 BC Traditional, mythological date: foundation of Rome.
509 BC Overthrow of tyrant Tarquin
450 BC Constitution, The Twelve Tables, First written constitution in Western civilization.(Greek city-states did not have written constitutions)
264 BC Rome fights first Punic War (Punic= Phoenicia) with Carthage. Carthage controls coast of North Africa. Rome wins Sicily.
234 BC Birth of Cato. Symbol of early Roman Republic. (virtue, simplicity, selflessness).
218 BC Scipio Africanis vs. Hannibal. (Second Punic War).
216 BC Battle of Cannae: Hannibal vs. Rome (Hannibal wins) Military strategists say most brilliant battle plan ever in ancient world
214 BC Success of plays of Plautus. Old Republican virtues.
205 BC First Macedonian War. Rome vs. Greece.
202 BC Scipio defeats Hannibal. Battle outside Carthage. Rome wins
186 BC Old Republican Rome of Cato. (Cicero memorializes as great time).
167 BC Polybius (Greek) to Rome,Sign that Rome now new cultural centerPraise Rome in history.
160 BC Scipio Africanis. Old Republican virtues.
155 BC Greek philosophy comes to Rome.Polybius part of this "Greek" school.
149 BC Death of Cato. (death of "old" Republic).
146-149 BC Third Punic War: Rome vs. Carthage (200,000 soldiers) Scipio Africanis (185-129) vs. Hasdrubal Rome wins Rome sacks Corinth and Carthage (decline of morality?) Many Carthaginians died from starvation during the later part of the siege, while many others died in the final six days of fighting. When the war ended, the remaining 50,000 Carthaginians, a small part of the original pre-war population, were, as was the normal fate in antiquity of inhabitants of sacked cities, sold into slavery by the victors. Carthage was systematically burned for 17 days; the city's walls and buildings were utterly destroyed. The remaining Carthaginian territories were annexed by Rome and reconstituted to become the Roman province of Africa
133 BC Revolt of Gracchi (Populist revolt). Rome politics in trouble.
106 BC Birth of Cicero. Birth of Pompey.
100 BC Birth of Julius Caesar. (d. 44 BC)
94 BC Birth of Lucretius. (d. 55 BC)
82 BC Dictatorship of Sulla, Republic in crisis. Cicero and Caesar born into crisis.
77 BC Success of young general Pompey. Rival to Julius Caesar.
70 BC Birth of Virgil. Born near Mantua.
73 BC Revolt of slaves under Spartacus. Pompey puts them down. 6000 crucified along Via Appia.
66 BC Cicero prominent. Supports Pompey.
63 BC Cicero elected Consul (key executive position of Roman constitution). Catiline Conspiracy (Dec).Cicero speaks for death penalty.Makes lifelong enemies in this attempted coup against the republic.
62 BC Scandal of Clodius & Caesar's wife (Caesar divorces). Cicero makes more enemies with his wit (Clodius).
60 BC First Triumvirate: Pompey, Caesar, Crassus.
59 BC Julius Caesar elected Consul.
58 BC Caesar: Conquest of Gaul. Clodius effects exile of Cicero from Rome(to Greece).
54 BC Invasion of Britain. Cicero: De Republica.
51 BC Cicero pushed out of Rome. Goes to Cilicia as governor.
49 BC (Jan 7) Senate passes ultimatum to Caesar: "Disband army." (Jan 10) Caesar crosses the Rubicon. (Mar) Caesar meets with Cicero, asks Cicero to join him. (Jun) Cicero turns against Caesar, joins Pompey .
48 BC (Aug 9) Caesar defeats Pompey (Pharsalus, Greece). Pompey: 48,000 infantry, 7000 cavalry. Caesar: 22,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry. Plutarch: "Some few of the noblest Romans, standing as spectators outside the battle . . .could not but reflect to what a pass private ambition had brought the Empire . . .The whole flower and strength of the same city, meeting here in collision with itself, offered plain proof how blind and mad a thing human nature is when passion is aroused." Pompey flees to Egypt, murdered by Egyptians thinking this will gain them advantage with Caesar. Head presented to Caesar upon his arrival in Egypt.Caesar cries as contemplates sad end of his friend & competitor . Caesar with Cleopatra in Alexandria (makes her Queen of Egypt) .Cleopatra gives birth to Caesar's child. Later comes to Rome.
47 BC (Sep) Caesar returns to Italy. Met at Taranto by Cicero, they make peace. (Oct) Caesar in Rome.
45 BC Cicero "retires from politics." (Dec) beloved daughter Tullia dies. Caesar dines at Cicero's country home on Italian coast (see Letters).
44 BC Ides of March. assass of Julius Caesar (Cicero present at theater). Brutus confers with Cicero, now grand old man of Roman politics.Cicero opposes idea of assass but approves after the fact, then laments nothing achieved by it. Cicero: De Senectute. Cicero: De Amicitia.Cicero: De Officiis (On Duties). Mark Antony seizes gov.(Aug)Cicero returns Rome, huge ovation, greeted by thousands as the only remaining Republican hero left in Rome, his moment of glory, greater fame and power than at any other time in his life . (Sep) Cicero launches First Philippic oration against Mark Antony.Cicero overnight becomes rallying point of old republican Rome.His enemy: Mark Antony.
43 BC (Aug) Second Triumvirate: Mark Antony, Lepidus, Octavian. (Dec 7) Antony's men find Cicero, Cut off his head and hands and bring them to Forum in Rome. Mark Antony orders that they be nailed up in Forum Wants all to see within sight of Senate. And so ends the Republic of Rome.
31 Battle of Actium. Octavian(Augustus) defeats Antony.
30 BC Antony commits suicide thinking Cleopatra dead. Octavian in Alexandria, Cleopatra tries to seduce, then suicide. Octavian (Augustus) supreme, begin of "Roman Empire."
27 BC Octavian becomes Caesar Augustus. Principate 27 BC to 14 AD .
14 AD Death of Augustus. stepson Tiberius succeeds.
14 AD Emperor Tiberias, stepson of Aug (wife Livia's son) succeeds Augustus.
29 John the Baptist preaching, foreshadowing of message of Jesus of Nazareth.
33 (April 3) Crucifixion. (see article, Humphreys, Nature: Dec 22 1983).
37 Caligula becomes Emperor.
41 Claudius succeeds as Emperor.
43 Romans invade Britain and found Londinium (London)
51 Paul in Athens. Speading Christianity among the Gentiles.
53 (Marcus Ulpius Traianus (Trajan) born into non-patrician family in Italica, in province of Hispania, Spain
54 Nero succeeds Claudius. Becomes Emperor.
64 Burning of Rome while Nero fiddles. Blame Christians, massive persecutions, executions. Death of Peter and Paul in Rome.
66 Revolt in Judea. Vespasian goes to quell rebels, destroy Temple(70 A.D.)
67 Nero makes "artistic" tour of Greece. Rome still fascinated with Greece.
68 Army and Senate turns on Nero. Nero commits suicide at villa. Year of the Four Emperors (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian
69 Vespasian wins out as Emperor. Son of humble tax collector.
70 Build Colosseum.Titus captures Jerusalem, and destroys the Jewish temple (Diaspora)
76 Publicus Aelius Hadrianus (Hadrian) born into well-established family that originated in Picenum in Italy and settled in Italica, Hispania Baetica (the republican Hispania Ulterior), near present-day Seville.
79 Titus, son of Vespasian, succeeds as Emperor (Arch of Titus). Vesuvius buries Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae
80 Baths of Titus and the Coliseum are completed.
81 Domitian becomes Emperor, succeeding Titus. Made Senate power obsolete.
96 Domitian murdered in palace conspiracy. Old Nerva becomes Emperor. Rules two years.
98 Trajan becomes Emperor, succeeding adoptive father Nerva. Rules 19 years. Greeted with enthusiasm, governed well, freed many who were unjustly imprisoned by Domitian, returned confiscated private property (process begun by Nerva). Best known for extensive public building program (Trajan's Forum, Trajan's Market, Trajan's Column), constructed with the spoils of conquest of Dacia, which ended in 106. His campaigns expanded the Roman Empire to its greatest territorial extent. Senate gave him the honorific of Optimus ("Best").
117 While sailing back to Rome, Trajan dies of a stroke in the city of Selinus. Deified by Senate, ashes laid to rest under Trajan's Column. Hadrian, adopted son of Trajan, becomes Emperor. Rules 21 years. Humanist and philhellene, sought to make Athens the cultural capital of the Empire and ordered the construction of many opulent temples in the city.
122 Hadrian commissions building of a wall in Britain to keep out the Scots and the Picts.
124 Rebuilding of Roman Pantheon completed.
138 Hadrian dies after adopting Antoninus Pius with proviso that Antonius adopt Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus in turn as his own successors.
161 Antoninus Pius dies.
161-180 Rule of Marcus Aurelius (rules with Lucius Verus until Lucius’s death in 169)
476 Last Emperor in the West to rule in Rome. (later Emperors rule in Ravenna as part of eastern Empire)

The Aeneid

The Aeneid.  This summary includes references to the Robert Fitzgerald translation, Vintage Books,   1984.  The page number for the beginning of each book is noted, and the line nunbers within each book are provided in parenthesis.

Book I , p. 1.
Trojans Arrive at Carthage: "A Fateful Haven"
"I sing of warfare and a man at war" (1)
Juno angry at Trojans (9-130)
Trojans in waters off Sicily (50)
Juno appeals to Aeolus: "Blow the Trojans off course" (90)
We meet Aeneas (131) [In Latin text line 70].
Neptune(Poseidon)saves Aeneas (193) [Latin text line 127]
Great Simile: rioting city/calming the waters (201)
Aeneas lands on coast of Africa (234) [Latin text 154]
Aeneas hunts deer (252)
Venus(Aphrodite)appeals to Jupiter(Zeus):
protect my child Aeneas (312) [Latin text line 210].
Jupiter reassures V. your Aeneas' fate is sealed, no change (347)
Jupiter enumerates Aeneas Roman fate (348-410)
Aeneas explores the coast of Africa (411)
meets his mother Venus disguised (425)
Aeneas and companions go into Carthage disguised (563)
Aeneas sees the art of Carthage with story of Troy (616)
Dido welcomes Trojans (762) [Latin text line 539].
Aeneas appears before Dido (799)
Venus sends Cupid/inflame Dido with love (895) Latin 650
Dido asks Aeneas: tell your story (1027)
Book II, p. 31
Aeneas Tells of Fall of Troy: "How They Took the City"
Aeneas tells his story: "Sorrow too deep to tell..." (1)
The Trojan Horse (21) [Latin line 15]
beware of Greeks bearing gifts
Sinon's treachery (96)
death of Laocoön (275) [Latin line 200]
Hector appears to Aeneas in dream (360)
Aeneas recounts fate of Priam (659) [Latin 505]
Aeneas meets Helen (741) [Latin 565]
Great Simile: fall of Troy and ash tree (816)
Aeneas and his father Anchises (826) [Latin 630]
Aeneas and wife Creusa (880)
Aeneas escapes Troy (960)
Trojan refugees gather together (1035)
Book III, p. 63.
Aeneas Continues His Story: "Sea Wanderings and Strange Meetings"
Proud Ilium lay smoking in the earth (1)
Trojans build a fleet (8)
Aeneas meets Polydorus (63)
Aeneas at Delos (100)
Aeneas at Crete (183)
At Strophadës with the Harpies (291) [Latin 210]
Trojans at Actium(scene of Octavian's triumph over Mark Antony)
notice Virgil attaches story to important Roman history
Games of Ilium: "The men, all naked, slippery with oil" (378)
Aeneas with Andromache who has survived the war (420) [Latin 310]
Aeneas bids farewell to Andromache & Helenus (654) [Latin 486]
Aeneas arrives in Sicily (758)
Meet Achaemenides, story of Polyphemus (812)
Death of Aeneas' father Anchises (938) [Latin 708]
Trojans arrive on Carthaginian shore (948)
Book IV, p. 93.
The Romance of Aeneas and Dido: "Passion of the Queen"
Queeen Dido in Love
"the manhood of the man, his pride of birth,
came home to her time and again, his looks...." (4)
Dido talks with sister Anna
Great Simile: Dido like a doe (95) [Latin 69]
Dido mad with love, embraces his empty couch (115) [Latin 83]
This is the most powerful depiction of sexual passion in Western literature to this date, a model for all Medieval evocations of the subject, every Medieval poet who writes about power of passion knows Bk IV of Aeneid)
Dido neglects the gov of Carthage (121)
Juno and Venus confer (131)
Dido takes Aeneas on hunt (168) [Latin 119]
The storm (221) Latin 160
Dido and Aeneas in the cave (226) [Latin 165]
"torches of lightning blazed" (230)
"prisoners of lust" (265) [Latin 194]
(another trans. "enthralled by shameless passion')
Mercury goes to Aeneas, remind him of his duty (325)
Aeneas stirred by words, decides to leave (380)
Dido confronts Aeneas: "False one!"(exact Latin) (417-18) [Latin 305]
Aeneas: "Married? Who said anything about marriage?" (468)
Think of the incredible ever-contemporary quality of this male-female exchange. First sex then discuss marriage and the guy says: "Who said anything about marriage" and you begin to understand why everyone considers Virgil one of "us" in a way Homer is not.
Aeneas leaves (795) [Latin 573]
Dido dies for love (906) [Latin 652]
Book V, p. 123.
The Funeral Games of Anchises: "Games and Conflagration"
Book V is an interlude betw hot Book IV & important Book VI
Virgil uses funeral games exactly as Homer had done
Aeneas sees flames of Carthage from his ship (5)
Trojans put in to Sicily
King Alcestes greets them
Trojans stage funeral games on one year anniv of death of Anchises
Torjans embark for Italy
Book VI, p. 157.
Aeneas' Journey to the Underworld: "The World Below"
Bk VI is most important in the whole of the Aeneid.
It is the keystone of structure both literary and philosophical.
Bk VI holds past and future together in Aeneid.
It depicts the transformation of Aeneas:
from inconstant earthbound boy to history-making man.
The last of the Trojans is reborn as the first of the Romans.
It is based on Bk XI of Odyssey where Odysseus journeys to underworld.
It is also the most influential book in any classical work of literature.
Its evocation of the underworld determines all later renditions.
Most important: it gives Dante the model for his Divine Comedy.
Trojans arrive in Italy (1)
Aeneas goes to Sanctuary of Apollo (15)
Aeneas consults the Sibyl(prophetress)Deiphobe
Aeneas addresses Apollo (92)
Sibyl prophesy: "wars ahead" (132)
Aeneas follows Sibyl's orders, goes to cavern (331)
Earth opens, Aeneas descends into underworld (351)
Aeneas and Charon (409) [Latin 300]
Charon rows Aeneas and Sibyl across Acheron (520)
Aeneas meets Dido(GREAT SCENE) (450) Latin 606
ideas of punishment in underworld (753) [Latin 560]
Aeneas comes to the Elysian Fields (853) [Latin 637]
Aeneas meets his father Anchises (918)
Anchises explains the Virgilian Metaphysic (73 ) [Latin 724]
The Prophecy of Anchises: Roman History (1014)
Aeneas returns to earth, joins men, relaunches ships (1219)
Book VII, p. 193.
The Trojans Settle in Latium: "Juno Served by a Fury"
This Book begins the second half of the Aeneid.
Virgil signals this invoking the Muses again line 47 as did in this another beginning. First six books modeled on the Odyssey; second half on Iliad. Now that Trojans arrive in Italy Virgil(an Italian who loves his country-see Georgics/Eclogues) can now use all his skill to describe the beautiful Italian countryside. Latium where they arrive is of course the area of Italy (now called Lazio) where the Romans will build the beginnings of Rome, thus King Latinus is early ancestor of the later Romans.
"Be with me, Muse of all Desire, Erato, while I call up the kings, the early times,..." (40)
King Latinus (60)
Trojans pause on riverside, share meal (139)
Aeneas remembers father's prophecy (155)
"Here is our home." (160)
Aeneas sends ambassadors to Latium (203)
Trojan Ilioneus speaks at Latin court (282)
Juno intervenes to provoke war (388)
Juno's agent(Allecto) inflames Queen Amata against Trojans (467)
Juno's agent inflames Turnus against the Trojans (580)
Ascanius hunting kills tame stag of Tyrrhus(Latinus' herdsman) (654)
Provoke war between Latins and Trojans
The Gates of the Temple of Janus (827)
Juno blasts open the Gates (for war) (851)
Vigil enumerates Latin allies gathering for war (880+)
Book VIII, p. 227.
Alliance with Evander: "Arcadian Allies"
Aeneas, worried about gathering clouds of war
Aeneas lays down and receives godly advice: seek out King Evander
Evander King of Pallentum, Greeks from Arcadia (70)
Aeneas meets Evander (138)
Evander welcomes Aeneas (208)
Venus worried about Aeneas goes to Vulcan(Hepheastus)
Venus asks Vulcan make armor for Aeneas (491)
THE ARMOR OF AENEAS:History of Italy (557) [Latin 425]
compare Armor of Aeneas to Shield of Achilles, Iliad, Bk XVIII
compare scenes and subjects presented.
Book IX, p. 257.
The Latins Attack the Trojans: "A Night Sortie, A Day Assault"
While Aeneas away the Latins led by Turnus attack the Trojans.
Turnus dominates the book.
Turnus resembles the heroes of the Iliad.
The whole book is a book of battle resembling the Iliad.
Nisus-Euryalus resembles night patrol of Odysseus and Diomedes in Book X of Iliad.
Books IX, X, XI are almost exclusively battle books and since Virgil never experienced battle (as one can assume Homer did) he fails to endow these three books with all the excitement of some of the other books. He includes them since he is openly choosing the Homeric work as his model and therefore must include battles, but one can see that his pacifist heart isnt in them. They lack the spark and originality of Book IV or Book VI. ( He obviously DID know something about love, sex and death.)
Book X, p. 291.
The Battle Continues: "The Death of Princes"
Book X opens with a Council of the Gods (1)
Jupiter(Zeus) orders other Gods to stay out of the battle (141)
The Trojans besieged
Aeneas arrives at mouth of Tiber, Trojans cheered (360)
Aeneas joins the fight
Valiant fight of Pallas, son of Evander the Arcadian
Pallas killed by Turnus (671)
Aeneas battles and kills the old Italian leader Mezentius (1097)
Book XI, p. 329.
The Latins Debate War and Peace: "Debaters and a Warrior Girl"
Body of Pallas taken in solemn procession to palace of Evander
The old king mourns death of his son
Aeneas meets with Latin ambassadors (137)
Aeneas proposes one to one combat himself with Turnus
Dissension in Laurentum among Latin nobles
Trojans advancing (622)
exploits of brave Camilla (726)
death of Camilla (1110)
Book XII, p. 365.
The Duel Between Aeneas and Turnus: "The Fortunes of War"
Turnus sees the Latins are losing
announces war will be decided between him and Aeneas
the victor will marry Lavinia and proclaim peace
the two men meet, Aeneas wins