The Epic Distilled: Studies in the Composition of the Aeneid

ISBN : 9780198758877

Nicholas Horsfall
176 Pages
142 x 226 mm
Pub date
Feb 2016
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The Epic Distilled is a rich exploration of Virgil's use of sources in the Aeneid, considering elements of history, geography, mythology, and ethnography. Building on and developing the research involved in the author's monumental commentaries on the Aeneid, the volume investigates how the poem was written, what Virgil read, and why particular details are interwoven into the narrative. The volume looks beyond the Aeneid's poetry and plot to focus on the 'matter' of the epic: details of colour, material, arms, clothing, landscape, and physiology. Details which might seem trivial are revealed as carefully deliberate and highly significant. For instance, one Trojan's specifically oriental trousers are suggestive of the Trojans' non-Roman 'otherness' and fit solidly into a complex ethnographic argument. In this way, the meaning and implications of Virgil's heavily allusive style, including practices and techniques of composition, are unpicked meticulously. Particularly difficult and intricate passages are delved into and the significance of specific details, legends, arcane references, places, names, digressions, and inconsistencies are uncovered. By exposing new layers of illuminating material, The Epic Distilled offers readers a fresh approach to understanding the full intellectual texture of Virgil's epic poem.


1. To Peel the Artichoke
2. 'Ceaselessly Wrangling in the Bird-Cage of the Muses'
3. Doctus et lector
4. Erudition and Invention
5. The Invention of Myth
6. Inconsistencies
7. Signposts by the Wayside
8. So the Story Goes
9. The Poet as Jackdaw, and the Role of Anachronisms
10. An Epic of Many Voices

About the author: 

Nicholas Horsfall is Honorary Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Durham University.

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