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The Function and Structure of Virgil's Catalogue in Aeneid 7

  • R. D. Williams (a1)

The list of Italian forces1 with which Virgil concluded Aeneid 7 was a piece of the ‘machinery’ of epic, that is to say an expected part of the content of an epic poem, established by Homer (Il. 2. 484 f., the catalogue of Greek ships followed by the list of Trojan forces) and expected of his successors; cf. Apollonius 1. 20–228, Silius 3. 222 f., Statius, Th. 4. 32 f., Milton, P.L. 1. 376 f. The straightforward enumeration of Homer (divina ilia simplicitas, Macrob. Sat. 5. 15. 16) was naturally appropriate in the Iliad both because oral technique sought this kind of directness and because of the immediate relationship of the subject-matter to a heroic community. But Virgil was well aware (as his predecessor Apollonius had not been) that the Homeric manner would not fit satisfactorily into the sophisticated and elaborate structure of literary and contemplative epic. Two essential requirements had to be met in the transplanting of such ‘machinery’ into a new milieu. The first was one of function: the piece should blend with the whole intricate pattern of theme and tone which a poem like the Aeneid possesses. The second was one of structure: it must possess within itself artistic symmetries and designs of a carefully organized kind.

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page 146 note 1 Bibliography: Fowler Warde, Virgil's Gathering of the Clans;Heinze R., Virgils Epische Technik 3, pp. 366, 403, 444;Brotherton B., T.A.Ph.A. lxii (1931), 192 f., and the reply by Hahn E. A., T.A.Ph.A. lxiii (1932), p. lxii;Rehm B., Philol. Supp. xxiv (1932);Fraenkel E., J.R.S. xxxv (1945), 1 f.

page 146 note 2 Cf. Le Bossu , Treatise of the Epick Poem, trans. W. J., ii. 251: ‘If in the middle of a great Action, any thing is describ'd, that seems to interrupt and distract the Reader's Mind; ‘tis requisite that the Effect of these Descriptions declare the Reason and Necessity of them, and that by this means they be embody'd, if I may so say, in the Action.’

page 146 note 3 Virgil's catalogue is not intended to be a register, and for this he is criticized in Macrobius (Sat. 5. 15. 7 f.) where attention is drawn to the fact that many of Virgil's warriors do not appear in the catalogue, and some who are in the catalogue do not appear again in the poem. Cf. also Servius on 7. 647, where he says ‘et scienda est poetae adfectatio, nam ablepsiam nefas est dicere’.

page 147 note 1 Descriptions of the physical appearance of the heroes and of their armour occur Fairly often in Homer's catalogue, but Virgil bas considerably developed the pictorial aspect. See Heinze , p. 403.

page 147 note 2 See Heyne , Fowler Warde, and Mackail , ad loc.

page 147 note 3 The list of allied Etruscan forces in Aen. 10. 163214 is less elaborate and less important to the poem as a whole. Thus Virgil has reversed the Homeric order of importance, where the catalogue of Greek ships is followed by a shorter list of the enemy Trojan forces.

page 148 note 1 The sonorous lists of the little Italian towns and villages from which the people marched to war had of course to the Roman reader far more warmth and immediacy than they can have to us now. Milton's use of geographical names in his catalogue also, depends for its effect on the reader's familiarity with them, but there the familiarity depends not on local knowledge but on scriptural associations.

page 148 note 2 On this see Constans L. A., L'Éntide de Virgile, pp. 264 f. (with some very good remarks on the dangers of overstating the point), and Anderson W. S., T.A.Ph.A lxxxviii (1957). 17 f.

page 148 note 3 Cf. my discussion in C.Q. N.s. x (1960), 145 f.

page 149 note 1 Cf. Heyne , ad loc,Heinze , p. 444.

page 149 note 2 See Cook A. M., C.R. xxxiii (1919), 103–4.

page 150 note 1 See Rehm , pp. 92 f.

page 150 note 2 From now on I shall speak of the twelve groups (Mezentius to Turnus), leaving aside the attached episode about Camilla.

page 150 note 3 The kind of symmetry at which Virgil normally aims is not absolute symmetry, but a balance made more piquant by its departures from the form of a symmetry already conveyed. This is often so even in the Eclogues, where the type of poetry is such that more complete symmetry may be ex pected.

page 150 note 4 Cf. Cato's Origines (Macrob. Sat. 3. 5. 10), Varro (Plin. N.H. 14. 88), Livy 1. 2. 3, Dion. Hal. 1. 64 f. The details of the tradition varied very considerably, and Virgil has adapted it to his own requirements. The exile of Mezentius seems to be original with Virgil.

page 150 note 5 There was a king of Alba called Aventinus (Varro , L.L. 5. 43, Livy 1. 3. 9, Dion. Hal. 1. 71, Servius on Aem. 7. 657). Servius also speaks of a king of the Aborigines called Aventinus, who was buried on the Aventine.

page 151 note 1 Cf. Solinus 2. 7. The family had Greek origins, being connected according to one version with Amphiaraus, and according to another with Evander and die Arcadians.

page 151 note 2 He was said to have been discovered near a fire by maidens going to fetch water. He was therefore considered to be a son of Vulcan, and as he had screwed-up eyes (because of die smoke) he was called Caeculus (me little blind boy). He was the founder of die gens Caecilia.

page 151 note 3 Messapus die eponymous hero of die Messapians was said to have come from Boeotia (Strabo 9. 405); anodier version made him an Illyrian.

page 152 note 1 Servius on 7. 695 reports the traditioi that Halaesus gave his name to the Falisci and explains the shift of h to. For the cul of Juno cf. Dion. Hal. 1. 21. 1 f., Ov. Am. 3. 13. 32 f., Fast. 4. 74.

page 152 note 2 Servius adds that Medea was callec Angitia (759) quod eius carminibus serpente angerent; cf. also Sil. 8. 495 f.

page 152 note 3 Servius justifies the identification by the etymology Virbius = vir bis. On the resurrection of Hippolytus by Aesculapius see Apollod. 3. 10. 3 with Frazer's note (Loeb edition); on Virbius see Ov. Fast. 3. 263 f., 6. 735 f., Met. 15. 497 f.

page 152 note 4 See Frazer J. G., The Golden Bough, and Myth or Legend, ed. Daniel G. E., chap. 12 by H. J. Rose.

page 153 note 1 On this see Small S. G. P., T.A.Ph.A. xc (1959), 243 f.

page 153 note 2 Her name has immediate associations with the Camilli (cf. Geo. 2. 169,Aen. 6. 825), and was evidently connected in Virgil's mind (for she was under Diana's special protection) with the words camillus, Camilla, cult-names of youths and maidens in certain Roman religious ceremonies (Macrob. Sat. 3. 8. 6 f., Servius auct. on Aen. 11. 543). Virgil has created Camilla's story (cf. Aen. 11. 498 f.) from popular Italian folk-lore mingled with mythological stories like that of Harpalyce (Aen. 1. 316 f.) and that of the Amazon princess Penthesilea.

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