Virgil, Aeneid Book VI

        Having begun to turn readers toward the Italian/Roman future in Book V's funeral games for Anchises, Virgil is finally ready for Book VI, which takes on the "journey to the Underworld," formerly Odysseus' distinguishing achievement.  Notice that Anchises, visiting Aeneas in dreams as a shade, motivates the journey.  The way to the future lies in the past.  Note that I give you the entire weekend to read just this one book for Monday's class.  It deserves that concentrated attention.  Click here for Jim Marks' (U. Fla. Classics) map of Virgil's Underworld.  Click here for a map of Dante's Underworld (Divina comedia, 1308-21).  Click here for a Dante-influenced Renaissance engraving of Virgil's Underworld.  That's how reception of the classics by later writers changes what readers think of the predecessor poets.

Book VI‑‑

1)  How many heroes descended to the Underworld, according to the  Cumaean Sybil, and what were they after?  What other hero is not  mentioned although we know he went there in search of knowledge,  exactly as Aeneas goes?  Why doesn't Virgil mention him?

2)  How does Virgil's vision of the dead and the Underworld  differ from the way you might imagine an afterlife?

3)  When Aeneas talks to the shade of Deiphobus, the spirit  describes how Helen hid his arms on the night of the Greek  attack, and let Meneleus and Ulysses into the house to kill him  and mutilate his corpse.  Deiphobus calls Ulysses "una / hortator  scelerum"‑‑a fellow counselor of sin [Loeb translation].   Fitzgerald translates it as "that ringleader of atrocity" (178).  Why is Virgil so hard on Ulysses‑‑what did he do wrong? 

4)  What kinds of crimes does the Sybil describe as being  punished in the Underworld? 

5)  When Aeneas reaches out three times for his father's shade,  what theme is being referred to again, and why here?

6)  How does Anchises' description of the universe relate to  Christian ideals?  Can you see why, when Dante composes his trip  to the Underworld, Virgil will be his guide?  Also see (if you're  interested in this connection) Virgil's Eclogue III.

7)  When Anchises calls Aeneas a "Roman" and describes what  Romans are good at, what kinds of skills is he recommending to  the Roman populace?  Who might those "others" be, those who are  better than the Romans at the arts? 

8)  When the Sybil and Aeneas leave the Underworld, there are two  possible routes‑‑the Gates of Horn, through which true dreams  issue forth, and the Gates of Ivory, through which false dreams  escape.  Which route do they take, and how might you explain it?