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THE MAKING OF THE SHIELD:INSPIRATION AND REPRESSION IN THE AENEID

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 September 2006

SERGIO CASALI
Affiliation:
Università di Roma Tor Vergata

Extract

The shield of Aeneas at the end of Book 8 is the culmination of the poem's ‘propaganda', the political climax of the Aeneid. We can read the ecphrasis in optimistic mode, as Hardie and Binder did, for example; or like Gurval and Putnam we can try to cast a pessimistic light even on this passage that is so obviously encomiastic and ‘ideologically sound'. However, what I shall be concerned with in this paper is not so much the shield itself as what Vergil has to say on his own composition of the shield, on the motivation of the artist in writing this encomiastic passage, on his ‘inspiration', or (if you prefer) on the ‘constraints' which compel him to deliver the ecphrasis. In my view Vergil gives us not only the ‘propaganda' of the shield, its mannered distortion of history, its praise of those in power, together with the critical reactions to that ‘propaganda' made out by pessimistic critics; he gives us also some metapropagandistic reflections on his writing of the shield as a piece of ‘propaganda' and encomium, an illustration of the forces that drive an artist to write a piece of this sort (that is, his ‘inspiration'), and he gives us some thoughts on the nature of the distortion and repression that are in operation here.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Classical Association 2006

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