Short Essay 3: The Aeneid

Compose a short essay (2-3 double spaced pages) in response to one of the prompts below.

1. How does time function in the Aeneid? In the ordinary experience of our daily lives, time seems to be entirely one directional. We perceive a constant present, have some limited knowledge of the past, and essentially no definite knowledge of the future. How is time constructed differently in the Aeneid? Look closely at Book 6 especially. Also consider the knowledge of Time possessed by the Fates and Jupiter as well as the knowledge of history available to Virgil. Why do you think time is rendered this way? How does it serve Virgil’s purposes?

2. Is the Aeneid a bellicose celebration of war or a compassionate meditation on human dignity? How are Roman militarism and Classical Humanism present in the epic? What insights into Roman culture does this dialectic offer?

3. How are women presented in the Aeneid? What roles do women occupy? How are gender roles constructed in the text? Do you find any connections or contrasts between the women of Homer and those of Virgil?

4. Many critics suggest that Aeneas is an ideal Roman hero. Some even suggest that he may be an idealized version of Augustus himself. Explore exactly what makes him a Roman ideal and then to compare him to Odysseus.

First, write down two lists of adjectives, one list for each Aeneas and Odysseus. While you can notice similarities, try especially to focus on contrasts. Here are some questions that might help you: What does each character value? What does he disregard? What mistakes has each character made? What do these mistakes suggest about their character? Do these mistakes continue to haunt each character? How? Why? What hopes does each have? What strengths? What weaknesses? What about each do you like? What about each character do you dislike or distrust? Finally, which character do you admire or like better? Why? After you have finished this list, write a short essay that contrasts Odysseus and Aeneas. How and why are they different? What does this contrast suggest about the contrasting cultures of Classical Greece and Rome? 5. Select a work of Roman architecture discussed in Discovering the Humanities–the Pont du Gard aqueduct (pg. 92), the Colosseum (pg. 94), and the Pantheon (pg. 98) would all work well. Provide an overview of the major features of the work and discuss how those features are connected to the Roman way of life. Notes on structuring your essay (same as previous essays): Use an introduction (1 paragraph) Your introduction should announce the enduring human question/aspect(s) of worldview you will explore Your introduction should establish a thesis—this should be an arguable statement that encapsulates your response to the prompt. Use the body of your essay to support your thesis (about 2-4 paragraphs) You should have 2-4 more specific ideas in support of your overall thesis Use cited evidence from the text to illustrate your analysis and back up your interpretation Avoid simply summarizing plot—assume your primary audience is familiar with the text. Only bring up plot points to support your analysis. Use a conclusion to end your essay intentionally and close strongly (1 paragraph) To cite text for this assignment, use the following conventions: Integrate direct quotations into your sentences (no “floating” quotations) Set up quotations, paraphrases, or summaries with your own ideas/signal phrases Always discuss the importance of quotations, paraphrases, or summaries—explain how that evidence supports your interpretation Always provide in-text citation for quotations, paraphrases, or summarized material. Here’s an example: The Epic of Gilgamesh emphasizes the transient nature of life. As Utnapishtim succinctly tells Gilgamesh, “There is no permanence” (106). He reminds our protagonist that all of life, from human affairs to the greater patterns of nature, is characterized by change.

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