Poetry Underpinning Power: Vergil's Aeneid: The Epic for Emperor Augustus
by Hans-Peter Stahl
ISBN-9781910589045, hardback, 2016, ppxii + 488 ,GB £45.00
 

In recent decades, international research on Virgil has been marked, if not dominated, by the ideas of the 'Harvard school' and similar trends, according to which the poet was engaged in an elaborate work of subtle subversion, directed against the new ruler of the Roman world, Octavian-Augustus. Much of Virgil's oeuvre consists prima facie of eulogy of the ruler, and of emphatic prediction of his enduring success: this is explained by numerous modern critics as generic convention, or as studied ambiguity, or as irony.This paradoxical position, which runs against ancient - as well as much modern - interpretation of the poet, continues to create widespread unease. Stahl's new monograph is the most thorough study so far to question modern Virgilian criticism on philological grounds. He bases himself on the internal logic and rhetoric of the Aeneid, and considers also political, historical, archaeological and philosophical subjects addressed by the poem.

He finds that the poet has so presented the morality of his central figure, Augustus' supposed ancestor Aeneas, and of those who (eventually) clash with him, Turnus and Dido, as to make it certain that Roman readers and hearers of the poem were meant to conclude in Aeneas' favour. Virgil's intention emerges from Stahl's thorough, ingenious and original argumentation as decisively pro-Augustan. Stahl's work, in short, will not only enliven debate on current critical hypotheses but for many will enduringly affect their credibility.

The author
Hans-Peter Stahl is one of the most distinguished contemporary writers on classical literature. An authority on both Greece and Rome, his particular achievement is to reveal the internal logic of writers, imaginative and factual alike, in the political sphere. Stahl has written Propertius: `Love' and `War': Individual and State under Augustus (University of California Press, 1985) and Thucydides, Man's Place in History (Classical Press of Wales, 2003; original German edition, 1966).
Hans-Peter Stahl has been for many years Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Classics at the University of Pittsburgh.

 

CONTENTS

Part I:  Pious King Aeneas and his Ethically Flawed Opponents.
Chapter 1:    Augustan Virgil and the Political Rival.
Chapter 2:    The Death of King Turnus
Chapter 3:     Aeneas the Warrior.
Chapter 4:     Winning the Reader’s Assent through Subliminal Guidance.
Chapter 5:  Allocating Guilt and Innocence, I: Queen Dido,
the Liberated Widow                                     
Part II: Checks and Balances of a Literary Interpretation: Political Detours of Poetic Travel Routes.
Chapter 6:  Before Founding Lavinium, Aeneas Inspects the Site of Rome (Aeneid  8).
Part  III: Testing a Critical Method by Repeat Application: The Author Directs his Reader.
Chapter 7:  Allocating Guilt and Innocence, II: King Turnus, the Impious Opponent.
Chapter 8: Epilogue