Aeneid - a traveller's tale

18th May 2017

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Fear, exhaustion, and occasional moments of relief that were inevitable ingredients of sea travel in the ancient world are explored in a new commentary on Vergil's Aeneid, Book 3, by Wadham Classicists Stephen Heyworth and James Morwood.

  • Stephen Heyworth and James Morwood

    Stephen Heyworth and James Morwood

Since he arrived in Wadham as Tutor in Classics in 1988, Stephen Heyworth has read a book of the Aeneid each year with the students reading Classical Mods.  In most years this has been Book 3, and the fruit of this experience has now been published by OUP in a commentary written in collaboration with Emeritus Fellow James Morwood.

The Aeneid is a story of migration, and Book 3 is the heart of this story.  It takes Aeneas from Troy to Italy, and begins the process of turning Trojans into Romans.  The journey sees them visit some of the most extraordinary places in the central Mediterranean, both real and imaginary: shrines and volcanoes, moving islands and monsters.  This is a traveller’s tale with a sublime goal, set in myth but headed towards Augustan Rome.  It expresses the fear, exhaustion, and occasional moments of relief or joy that were inevitable ingredients of sea travel in the ancient world, as well as the attractions of lingering on land even when there are destinations to be reached.  In writing this tale, Vergil drew on the breadth of the ancient literature, melding material from the Odyssey and the Argonautica, the classic tales of voyaging, with accounts, both in poetry and prose, of specific places and migrations.

The new commentary is designed as a sequel to Heyworth & Morwood on book 3 of Propertius (published by OUP in 2011), including a glossary of technical terms, and fundamental explication of language and metre.  The volume is dedicated to the memory of Ted Harrison (Steve’s colleague when he was teaching at the University of Leeds in the 1980s), who used the book for a final year special subject, as a way of exploring Vergil’s combination of his extraordinary range of sources.  Like the commentary on Propertius 3, this ends with an appendix of intertexts, adding passages from Euripides, Pindar, and Lucretius to the more obvious material such as Homer’s Polyphemus and Apollonius’ episode on Phineus and the Harpies.  The prominence of Callimachus will not surprise those who have studied with Steve over the years.

Even more than with Propertius the authors are aware of a large debt to Wadham students over the years, particularly those in recent years who have obligingly responded to drafts: James Oakley and Grace Hutchinson are two who helped bring details into focus — but so did many others.