Virgil’s Iliad

  • K. W. Gransden


The withdrawal of Achilles in wrath and pique from the fighting, and the run of Trojan victories consequent upon the successful plea of Thetis to Zeus on her son’s behalf, constitute the narrative core of the Iliad Homer’s ‘wrath-theme’. The structure of Virgil’s ‘Iliadic’ Aeneid incorporates the Homeric motif of the hero’s absence but it has been transformed completely. In Aeneid 9 Aeneas is absent from the fighting which breaks out in that book because he is away on a military mission. Virgil has assimilated the motif of the hero’s absence into a war story more Roman than Homeric; the intense diplomatic activity of Aeneid 7 and 8, the opening of the Virgilian Iliad is far removed from the spirit and conduct of heroic conflict. Not only has Aeneas sent Ilioneus to king Latinus and gone himself first to king Evander at Pallanteum and then to king Tarchon in Etruria, but the Italians, too, send an embassy to Greek hero Diomedes, now also settled in Italy: this embassy returns empty-handed in Book 11, Diomedes having declined to re-engage his ancient foe. All this activity Romanises Virgil’s Iliad and gives it a sense of exemplary historical purpose.


Direct Address Military Mission Modern Reader Divine Intervention Activity Romanise 
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Copyright information

© Tom Winnifrith, Penelope Murray and K. W. Gransden 1983

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  • K. W. Gransden

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