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Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 13th We Discuss Virgil's Aeneid With Stephen Leading

The questions for this Thursday's C.S. Lewis Society of Harrisonburg's meeting are focused on Virgil's Aeneid and the discussion will be led by Stephen. 

Discussion Questions:
  1. Why do we still read the Aeneid?
  2. How does it reflect the human condition?
  3. What values does the Aeneid espouse?
  4. What is Virgil’s view of the divine?
  5. How does Virgil depict the underworld?
  6. Why might the Aeneid have appealed to an educated man born in the Victorian era, such as Lewis?
  7. How are the values expressed in the Aeneid complementary to Christian values?
  8. How are the values expressed in the Aeneid incompatible with Christian values?
  9. Does the Aeneid influence Lewis’ own storytelling?
  10. What have the first six books of the Aeneid taught us?

    I: Background:
    P. Vergilius Maro (70-19 BC) was perhaps the most famous of Roman poets in a great age for poetry.1 He lived during the violent and turbulent period of transition from the Roman Republic (an aristocratic oligarchy) to the Empire (a mostly absolutist monarchy). His family was of middling rank from Mantua in N. Italy. They may have lost lands to confiscation during the civil war of the 40s BC. He published the Eclogues (idealised, bucolic lyric poetry) in 39-38 BC and the Georgics (a poetic farming manual) in 29 BC before spending the rest of his life on his epic poem, the Aeneid. The work was unfinished at his death and tradition records that he desired the work to be destroyed. It was not. 
    Virgil became a protégé of Maecenas, the right-hand man and cultural adviser of the emperor, Augustus. As such, he received patronage in return for his part in advancing the regime’s literary and cultural agenda. Augustus, having won the last civil war against M. Antonius and Cleopatra VII at the battle of Actium in 31 BC, sought to cement his hold on the Roman state and to portray his rule as the return of a golden age of peace and prosperity. He affected to have restored the Republic in 27 BC while in fact arrogating considerable unconstitutional powers to himself under traditional sounding names. Augustus sought to legislate to tighten Roman morals and to revive traditional religious cults, some of which had fallen into abeyance during the late Republic.

    The background to the story of Virgil’s Aeneid was the mythical Trojan War (traditionally dated to the early 12th century BC) between the Greeks and the Trojans of NW Anatolia (Turkey). After an epic ten year war, Troy was destroyed. King Priam was slain and most of the population enslaved, but some escaped to found new settlements. Among these was Aeneas, the son of the goddess Venus (goddess of love) and founder of the Julian clan whose most famous descendants were Julius Caesar and his nephew, Augustus. Homer, the Greek epic poet who wrote the Iliad and Odyssey, was a strong influence on Virgil. Virgil himself had a profound literary influence from his own day through the Middle Ages (he was a sympathetic guide in Dante’s Inferno) and on to modern times. C.S. Lewis admired the work greatly, having been exposed to it early through his classical education.

    1 The Golden Age of Latin literature extended from the early first century BC to the early first century AD, essentially the late Republic and the reign of the first emperor, Augustus (30 BC – AD 14). Its leading poets were Lucretius, Catullus, Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid, Horace and Virgil. The leading prose writers were Cicero, Caesar and the historian, Livy.


    April 10th Dante The Inferno Iain our Discussion Leader
    May 8th
    C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters Jessica our Discussion Leader
    June 12th
    James Stewart Bell and Anthony P. Dawson From the Library of C.S. Lewis: Selections from Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey Ray our Discussion Leader
    July 10th
    J.R.R. Tolkien On Fairy Stories and Leaf by Niggle NEED Discussion Leader
    August 14th
    C.S. Lewis  On Stories and Other Essays On Literature NEED Discussion Leader
    September 11th
    Jane Austen Persuasion Stephen will be our Discussion Leader
    October 9th
    G.K. Chesterton The Everlasting Man NEED Discussion Leader
    November 13th
    C.S. Lewis Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold NEED Discussion Leader
    December 11th or some other date TBD Our Party to plan the New Year Stephen Has Volunteered to Host.

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