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Transformations of literature: Augustine’s Confessions and Virgil’s Aeneid

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  1. Introduction
  2. The standard invocations of the epic
  3. Themes of destiny
  4. The Punic Wars
  5. The move from a pagan society
  6. Augustine's confessions
  7. Immortality as the central concern of Augustine's work
  8. Conclusion
  9. Bibliography

Both St. Augustine's Confessions and Virgil's epic The Aeneid marked a new direction in literature for the West. Each one was inspired by the works of previous authors, but was willing to forge a new literature for their times. In the Aeneid, Virgil established Rome as indebted to the Greek World, but at the same time worthy of its own glory and literature. He fashioned an epic to create and celebrate new heroes for a new empire. Rome was not simply a shadow of Greece, but part of a new era in history. St. Augustine's Confessions was written at the other end of the Empire's long lifespan, and heralded a new consciousness. It marked the beginning of literature exemplifying a new morality and new standards both personal and artistic.

[...] Virgil wanted his poetry to serve the function of tying the heroics of the Greeks and their literature, with the valor and bravery of the Trojans, to forge a Roman culture that would supposedly be an updated version of both. Augustine relies on quotations from the Bible, particularly the books of Psalms and Proverbs to reinforce his points. In the opening paragraphs of Confessions he quotes passages directly, creating a pastiche that runs coherently even though it is taken from different parts of the Bible. [...]


[...] By this time Rome was turning from a republic to an Empire and Virgil was using his epic to give authority to these changes, part of Rome's true nature since its founding. Virgil continues to invoke the muses and condemns Juno for ?vengeful sorrow,? and putting upon the hero of the epic ?dangers dark and endless for a man who was honorable and like a good Roman, wants to serve only heaven. However, Virgil assures the reader that Aeneas will eventually be successful, history requires it. [...]


[...] telling the poem from a distinctly Roman perspective is the names of the gods and goddesses that he uses. Although the pantheons of Rome and Greece overlap, they are given different names. In the beginning of the Aeneid, Virgil calls Kronos and the most powerful female deity instead of Even though they have the same mythology and power behind them, Virgil is trying to give Juno a distinct relationship with the Romans, albeit a bitter one. Virgil works with themes of destiny in order to fashion an epic that is not only a story, but an attempt to justify the rise of Rome and to present the Roman people as worthy heirs of the Greek heritage. [...]

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