46 pages 1 hour read

Ursula K. Le Guin


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2008

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Literary Context: The Aeneid

Content Warning: This section discusses death by suicide.

The Aeneid is an epic poem by Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BCE-19 BCE), better known as Virgil (or, as spelled in Lavinia, Vergil). He was a Roman poet, and the Aeneid, which he composed during the final decade of his life, is widely considered his most famous and most accomplished work. The Aeneid is 9,896 lines long and was originally written in Latin, in dactylic hexameter. The purpose of the Aeneid was to create a mythical link between the Roman civilization and the slightly earlier Greek civilization. During Virgil’s lifetime, such nation-building was important for Roman leaders, particularly Augustus (also known as Octavian), who was in power during most of the time that Virgil was composing the Aeneid. Linking Roman history with Greek history allowed the ancient Romans to reify their power and legitimize their control over a large empire.

The Aeneid tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan warrior who fought in the decade-long war between the Greeks and the Trojans. The war occurred when Paris, a Trojan prince, kidnapped Helen of Sparta and took her to Troy. Helen’s husband, Menelaus, gathered a huge Greek fleet to retrieve her.