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Virgil: Aeneid

5. The Gods

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About this Lecture


It was characteristic of ancient epic to have gods intervene in the human action. While there is some scholarship on the extent to which the gods of epic reflect real beliefs of contemporary Romans, Llewelyn instead explores how the gods work as characters in a literary narrative - with focus on Mercury's wonderful journey from the heavens to Carthage (via Atlas), the powerful rhetoric goddess Alecto, and the utter helplessness of mere mortals when the gods decide what's going to happen.


In this course, Professor Llewelyn Morgan (University of Oxford) explores Virgil's Aeneid. In the first module, we think about the theme of the city in the poem, focusing in particular on the centrality of the city of Carthage, the use of both castra ('camp') and urbs ('city') to describe the Trojan camp in Italy, and the fact that the poem seems as interested in the destruction of cities as it is in their foundation. After that, in the second module, we think about the influence of Homer on the Iliad: why does Virgil draw so much on Homer? and what is the implication of Virgil's opening words – arma virumque cano? In the third module, we think about the importance of metre in the poem, looking at four points in the poem where metre reflects the meaning –– the galloping of hooves, the shapelessness of Polyphemus, the vastness of Latinus' palace, and so on. In the fourth module, we think about allusion in the Aeneid, focusing in particular on how Virgil engages not just with Homer and Apollonius, but also contemporary Roman history. In the fifth module, we consider some of the roles of the gods in the poem, focusing in particular on scenes featuring Hermes and Alecto, as well as the theme of fate in the poem, before moving on in the sixth module to think about the role of women, focusing in particular on Camilla in Book 11.


Llewelyn Morgan is a Classicist, a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford. The focus of most of his research is Roman literature and culture, and he is the author of the well-received study of Roman poetic form, Musa Pedestris: Metre and Meaning in Roman Verse (Oxford, 2010).

But he also has a longstanding fascination for Afghanistan, contemporary and historical, which he traces to his discovery, at an impressionable age, of a Russian samovar inscribed “Candahar 1881”. He has made several visits to Afghanistan in recent years, and his most recent book, The Buddhas of Bamiyan (Profile Books and Harvard University Press, 2012), traces the history of these remarkable monuments from their Buddhist origins 1,400 years ago, through their celebrity in Islamic wonder literature and European travel writing, up until their destruction in 2001.

Morgan is a regular public speaker, on many aspects of Classics and Afghanistan, appears occasionally on BBC Radio 4, and writes slightly less occasionally for the Times Literary Supplement.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Morgan, L. (2018, August 15). Virgil: Aeneid - The Gods [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Morgan, L. "Virgil: Aeneid – The Gods." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,