Finally, it is complete. I have read the Trojan cycle as translated by Robert Fagles. I read the Iliad first. If you don’t know the story, I bet Wikipedia can do a better job of recapping it for you then I can. Even if you don’t know the whole story, I would be surprised if you haven’t heard of Achilles and how his only vulnerable spot was his ankle. How Paris taking Helen launched a thousand ships to war. The Iliad really is a great story, with intrigue, gods and goddesses, and some pretty gory battles. If your only exposure to it is the awful movie Troy, I beg you to pick up this book. And if you don’t want do delve into the Iliad, then at least read David Gemmel’s amazing three volume interpretation of the Trojan War.
After the Iliad comes the Odyssey. The story follows the long voyage home of the Greek hero Odysseus. This book lacks the battles and excitement that the Iliad had, at least for me.
It was with a bit of trepidation that I picked up the Aeneid. It’s the work of the Roman Virgil, and not of Homer, or whatever group of poets composed the Iliad and Odyssey. And though it is written hundreds of years later, it purports to be the third book in the story of the Trojan war. I wasn’t sure how it would fit in or what the story was comprised of.
I don’t think I needed to be concerned. The first part of the book fills the reader in on how Aeneas escaped Troy. It is from this book that the fall of Troy is known, including how the Greeks hid inside of a large wooden horse in order to get inside the walls of Troy. I admit that I was wondering where that story came from when I read the Iliad, as it ends with Hector’s death, and not with the fall of Troy.
The middle portion of the book follows Aeneas as he tries to find a home for the people he brought out of Troy. He overcomes many obstacles in his quest to reach Italy, including crossing over into the realm of the dead to speak to his father Anchises.
The book ends with a war reminiscent of the battles seen in the Iliad. You won’t find any shirking of blood and gore in this story. It’s as detailed as you can imagine, and crescendos right to the end. Find out more about the story here.
Virgil does a masterful job of weaving the history of Rome into the story, including how Rome and Carthage became such bitter enemies. The story was, in part, a political statement to the strength and history of Rome while Rome suffered through a rather rough transition from Republic to Empire.
The book is definitely a classic and is enjoyable to read. For readers used to the style of our time, it will take a little perseverance to stay with the story, but it’s definitely worth the read. Fagles presents a very nice index of characters that was a great benefit. The biggest hurdle I had was figuring out how the Greek pantheon translated to the Roman. Jove was Zeus, and Juno was Hera, but after that I got lost. I’m just more used to the Greek names I guess.
Rating 3.5 out of 5 (Liked it a lot, probably won’t read again it anytime soon)