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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Virgil On The Fall of Troy

The people of the twenty-first century seem convinced that their way of life will survive forever—they don’t know that they have already been “cancelled” by history. I think of a line from Virgil’s Aeneid: “fuimus Troes, fuit Ilium et ingens gloria Teucrorum.” (We Trojans are no more, Ilium is no more, nor the great Glory of the Teucrians.) This line occurs in the tragic speech of Panthus, the priest at the temple of Apollo. On learning about the fall of Troy, Aeneas, the son of the Anchises and Aphrodite, and the lieutenant of Hector, picks up his arms and rushes to the battle—on his way, he encounters Panthus who is fleeing with his grandchild. When Aeneas asks why he was fleeing, Panthus delivers his tragic speech. Aeneas was one of the few Trojans to survive the war—he travelled to Italy and settled near Rome, where his descendants, Remus and Romulus, founded an empire; thus, according to this legend, the Romans are the descendants of the Trojans. The Britons too are descendants of the Trojans, since Britain was founded by another descendent of Aeneas, Brutus of Troy, who became Britain’s first king.

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