Introducing Virgil’s Aeneid
Introducing Virgil’s Aeneid

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Introducing Virgil’s Aeneid

1.1 Epic poetry before Virgil

To an educated Roman, epic poetry was a Greek invention, and its most famous examples were Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, which told stories of the Greek heroes involved in the Trojan War. Although early Italians may well have had their own native traditions of heroic song, no traces of these survive, and the earliest attempt to write epic poetry in Latin was a translation of the Odyssey into the Latin language by Livius Andronicus in the mid third century bce. Although only fragments of this survive, the fact that Livius chose to translate a Greek epic poem shows the strong association between the genre and Greek culture. However, it wasn’t long before Roman poets began to tell the stories of their own society. The first to do so was Naevius, who wrote a poem on the Punic War with Carthage (also in the third century bce), followed by the second-century-bce poet Ennius, whose Annals told the history of Rome to his own day, though as with Livius, only fragments of these are preserved. However, Virgil’s masterpiece, the Aeneid, eclipsed both these poems, becoming the greatest example of Latin epic and a cornerstone of Roman identity, which has continued to inspire writers and artists for over two thousand years.

Described image
Figure 1 Virgil and the Muses, from Sousse, third century ce, mosaic, 122 ×122.5 cm. Musee National du Bardo, Le Bardo, Tunisia. Photo: Musee National du Bardo/Bridgeman Images.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371