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Simile World

Denis Feeney: Virgil’s Progress, 4 January 2007

Virgil: Georgics 
translated by Peter Fallon, with notes by Elaine Fantham.
Oxford, 109 pp., £7.99, July 2006, 0 19 280679 3
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Virgil: The Aeneid 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Penguin, 486 pp., £25, November 2006, 0 7139 9968 3
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... Within a generation of Virgil’s death in 19 BC the trajectory of his poetic career had become iconic, with its apparently teleological progression from the slim one-volume collection of ten Eclogues to the more ambitious four-volume Georgics and finally to the 12 volumes of his imperial epic, the Aeneid. The progression could be seen as a poetic instantiation of rhetorical theory’s division of style into the low, middle and high; by the Middle Ages, Virgil’s path from pastoral through didactic to epic had become emblematic for theories of decorum and poetic style, and Milton’s career is the clearest example of the way Virgil’s successors could plot their poetic autobiographies into a hierarchy of genres ...

Mr Big & Co

Denis Feeney: Roman Victory!, 21 February 2008

The Roman Triumph 
by Mary Beard.
Harvard, 434 pp., November 2007, 978 0 674 02613 1
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... The triumph is a key element of the modern image of the Romans, embodying the characteristics we love to imagine as quintessentially Roman: militarism, arrogance, cruelty, spectacle. Because the triumph is central to the way we think of Roman culture, the BBC/HBO television series Rome showed not one but two: that of Julius Caesar over Vercingetorix the Gaul in Season 1, and that of his adopted son over Antony and Cleopatra at the climax of Season 2 ...

Between Troy and Rome

Denis Feeney: Trojan Glamour, 14 June 2017

Virgil’s Ascanius: Imagining the Future in the ‘Aeneid’ 
by Anne Rogerson.
Cambridge, 246 pp., £75, January 2017, 978 1 107 11539 2
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... Virgil’s​  Aeneid became the canonical myth of Rome’s origins as soon as it was published, following the poet’s death, in 19 BCE. When Troy fell to the Greeks, the story goes, Aeneas, the son of Venus and Anchises, survived and escaped from the burning city with his father and young son Ascanius (also called Iulus). After years of wandering, the Trojans reached Italy and settled in Latium, where Aeneas married the Latin princess Lavinia and founded a city named Lavinium after her ...

Caesar’s body shook

Denis Feeney: Cicero, 22 September 2011

Cicero in Letters: Epistolary Relations of the Late Republic 
by Peter White.
Oxford, 235 pp., £40, August 2010, 978 0 19 538851 0
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... In June 1345, in the Chapter Library at Verona, Petrarch discovered a manuscript containing the letters written by Cicero to his friend Atticus (‘Ad Atticum’), his brother Quintus (‘Ad Quintum Fratrem’) and Caesar’s assassin, Marcus Brutus (‘Ad M. Brutum’). Lost for centuries, the letters enraptured Petrarch, providing him with a moment of first contact not unlike that of Howard Carter peering through the hole into Tutankhamun’s tomb and murmuring that he could see ‘wonderful things ...

I shall be read

Denis Feeney: Ovid’s Revenge, 17 August 2006

Ovid: The Poems of Exile: ‘Tristia’ and the ‘Black Sea Letters’ 
translated by Peter Green.
California, 451 pp., £12.95, March 2005, 0 520 24260 2
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Ovid: Epistulae ex Ponto, Book I 
translated and edited by Jan Felix Gaertner.
Oxford, 606 pp., £90, October 2005, 0 19 927721 4
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... In the year 8 AD, at the age of 50, Publius Ovidius Naso stood at the height of poetic ambition. Fêted and continuously successful for almost thirty years, Ovid had been without a rival since the death of Horace 15 years before. Surrounded by second-raters and nonentities, he was unquestionably the most famous poet in the empire. Rome was his oyster, and his poetry took the metropolis as inspiration and subject ...

When Demigods Walked the Earth

T.P. Wiseman: Roman Myth, Roman History, 18 October 2007

Caesar’s Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History 
by Denis Feeney.
California, 372 pp., £18.95, June 2007, 978 0 520 25119 9
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... free-for-all is a thorough, properly nuanced account of the Romans’ concept of time – and in Denis Feeney’s excellent new book, that is very nearly what we have. Caesar’s Calendar consists of three pairs of chapters: ‘Synchronising Times’, ‘Transitions from Myth into History’ and ‘Years, Months, and Days’. The first is a superb ...

Was it really a translation?

T.P. Wiseman: Latin Literature, 21 September 2016

Beyond Greek: The Beginnings of Latin Literature 
by Denis Feeney.
Harvard, 382 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 674 05523 0
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... usual that year. But what was the discovery that Atticus made two centuries later? According to Denis Feeney’s new book, it was ‘an extraordinary phenomenon’, ‘one of the strangest and most unlikely events in Mediterranean history’, something we shall only be able to understand when he has ‘defamiliarise[d] the terms of comparison’ and ...

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