“The Greeks besieged the city of Troy for nearly ten years.”
So begins, The Aeneid for Boys and Girls by Alfred Church (and edited by Memoria Press). In the Omnibus class I taught for Chairis last year, we did the full Aeneid and it proved very difficult for 7th graders. I really enjoyed it, but we decided to try and tone the overall difficulty of the material down a notch this year and our director found this retelling by Church. I read it through before making our final decision (which was, by the way, to go with it for next year).
In brief, this is the story of…The Aeneid. If you’re not familiar with Virgil’s epic, it’s a fictitious account of the founding of Rome by Aeneas. Virgil wrote this shortly before the time of Christ as Rome was making the full transition from Republic to Empire and, as a friend of Caesar Augustus, Virgil uses the poem as a sort of apologetic for the greatness and inevitability of Rome as it was developing in his day. Building off of Homer’s works, Virgil picks up Aeneas, a survivor of the fall of Troy, and follows him as he travels to filfill his destiny (as given by the gods) in founding Troy’s successor: Rome. Along the way are sprinkled in all sorts of details that would have resonated with his contemporary Roman audience: the origin of the rivalry between Carthage and Rome, the glimpse at a famous “who’s who” of Roman history, geographical details tying Aeneas’ original settlement to modern Rome, and, of course, a positive wink or two at Caesar Augustus himself.
The Aeneid is truly a great story and this simplified version an acceptable introduction for those not yet ready for the full text. Though I think it is more appropriate to the level of students in my class, I confess that there are some significant omissions that detract from its value. The poetry of Virgil, for one thing, is gone. Gone too are the lengthy portions of the original that deal with Aeneus affair (of a sort) with Dido, the Queen of Carthage, and the foretelling of the history of Rome that Aeneus is privy to in the underworld. The gods role in the action, too, seems to be significantly downplayed.
My plan, as of now, is to supplement this text with some readings from the original (not in Latin, of course) in order to fill in some of these important thematic gaps and give my kids a flavor of the primary text.
All in all, if you’re looking for an introduction to The Aeneid without tackling the lengthy and difficult original, this is a good place to start…but not a good place to stop.
|Violence||3||There’s a lot of battle and killing here (though not as graphic as the original), and the final, bloody battle between Aeneas’ settlers and the Italians that oppose them lasts a significant portion of the end of the book.|
|Sex/Romantic Themes||1||It is hinted (vaguely) that Dido loved Aeneas, and Aeneas is fighting for a Latin princess’ hand in marriage at the end. Also it is noted in passing that an Amazon warrior woman dressed with a breast exposed.|
|Miscellaneous||Obviously, there are lots and lots of pagan gods present, though as noted earlier, their importance is diminished compared to the original.|
NOTE: As always, my content notes are for informational purposes, not judgmental ones. For a full explanation of my Content Notes and the scale, click here.