Virgil’s ‘The Aeneid’ still looks strikingly contemporary

9780226450186Michael Dirda at the Washington Post:

Ours is a great age for classical translation. Just in the past dozen years, Virgil’s “Aeneid” has been tackled by Robert Fagles, Stanley Lombardo, Frederick Ahl, Sarah Ruden and, now, David Ferry, who previously gave us the best modern English version of Horace’s odes . Being the work of an award-winning poet, Ferry’s “Aeneid” can be read with excitement and pleasure — but so can all those other translations. What really matters is to read at least one of them.

Born in 70 BCE, Publius Vergilius Maro, commonly known as Virgil, was the greatest of all Roman poets. After a childhood spent in provincial Mantua, he was educated in Milan and Naples, as we would now call them, and finally arrived in Rome around the time Lucretius brought out his cosmological masterwork, “On the Nature of Things,” and Catullus published his overheated love poems. Virgil’s genius was quickly recognized and his later career, as well as that of his friend Horace, was partly fostered by the proverbially rich Maecenas, an ardent patron of the arts.

According to early biographies, the poet was tall, shy and of a philosophical temperament. The unreliable Suetonius adds that “he very often suffered from stomach and throat troubles, as well as with headache; and . . . ate and drank but little.

more here.