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This Edition, being prepared for the use of those Students who are not far advanced in Latin, does not aim at doing more than supplying in a small compass such help to the thorough knowledge of this book as it is probable would be most useful to them. It is not intended to supply the place of a dictionary: for all students possess one, and derive much benefit from its careful use, both in becoming acquainted with the history of meanings of words, and also in the exercise of that judgment which is required to select the right meaning. On the other hand historical and mythical allusions are explained in the notes, as many students might find it difficult to make them out otherwise. Great care also has been taken to notice all the grammatical usages which might offer any difficulty, and to classify them clearly, and to enable the learner, by means of an Index, to compare similar usages and distinguish those that are different. Attention has been given, too, to Vergil's licences and peculiarities of expression, which help him so much in producing rhetorical and poetical effects. Further, in several of the harder passages and phrases, an attempt has been made to help the student in translation : for while few ancient writers are so difficult as Vergil to translate at all adequately, it is at the same time of the utmost importance, both to the literary appreciation of his poetry, and the advantage to be derived from reading it, that great pains should be given to translation and a high standard aimed at.
With the text there has not been much to do. Such differences as there are in the different copies, and they are not very many, are mostly unimportant, and there is not generally much difficulty in deciding which is the best reading.
Of the books which have been of use in the preparation of this little edition, it is scarcely necessary to say that the late Professor Conington's writings have been the most helpful. He did so much in many ways for the due understanding and appreciation of Vergil, that it is obvious that every student must be under great obligation to him.
Besides these, the books of which I have made most use are the following, to which my acknowledgments are due:
Ribbeck's Vergil, 1860.
Text (Pitt Press), 1876.
Lastly, I am glad to take this opportunity of expressing my obligations to Professor Sellar's most interesting work on Vergil (Oxford, 1877), which not only is full of information about the antecedents, aim, and character of the Aeneid, but also contains much suggestive thought, and delicate insight into the rare excellences of the poet.
*** It has been thought better, in deference to the unanimous opinion of scholars, to
employ the spelling Vergilius, Vergil, consistently all through.
For the sake of clearness, it has been thought better to divide what little there is to say by way of introduction into the following heads:
The form of the poem.
Outline of Vergil's life. At the end of the book will be found Appendices, with the parallel passages from Homer, and a scheme of the Latin subjunctives; also the necessary Index to the notes, to enable the book to be used for purposes of ready reference.
The form of the Poem. The Aeneid is what is called an epic poem, that is, it is a long narrative poem about heroic people and adventures. But there are two kinds of epic poems, quite distinct from each other: the primitive epics, which are produced by imaginative races at an early period of their development, and describe natyre and heroic adventure with a vivid simplicity, like Homer and the Nibelungenlied; and the literary epics, like Paradise Lost and Dante's Inferno, more or less similar in form, but belonging to a much later epoch of culture, less spontaneous and more artificial, presenting some great idea in a narrative shape, and not merely telling stories for love of the story.
The Aeneid is clearly in the second of these classes: it is a literary epic. The age of Augustus was a time of great literary activity, promoted by the emperor himself: but it is even more remarkable for the high standard of finished and artistic workmanship than for its productiveness. This high standard was owing to various causes, among which the chief was the general study of Greek. There had been Epic poets before, such as Naevius and Ennius: but Vergil, in point of execution, may be said to be centuries in advance of his predecessors.
The subject and purpose of the Poem. The main idea of the Aeneid is the national greatness of Rome. Several causes combined to make Vergil undertake this work. Augustus himself, who was a munificent patron of literary men, desired him to write a great poem, which should glorify the Empire and stimulate the patriotism of Romans in the new Era. Again, the new era itself excited a genuine enthusiasm, quite apart from Court influences. After the corruptions and incapacity of the later Republic, and a century of smouldering civil wars, when Augustus had given peace and stable government to the Roman world, everybody felt that “a good time was come.' And the poet himself was on every ground desirous of achieving the work. He had won himself by the Georgics a first-rate literary position, and he had given his whole life to developing his unrivalled poetic faculty. Thus every influence united to stimulate him to produce a Great National Poem. The people believed in their National Destiny, and imagined a future even greater than their past. The emperor promoted it, both from personal and patriotic grounds: and the poet himself, with his reverence for the Roman religion and antiquities, his matured powers and his strong national enthusiasm, was the man for the task.
The greatness of the destinies of Rome was then the main subject of the Aeneid. Vergil connected it with the story of