Introduction by Shelby CuomoEdit
Ralph Hexter's interpretation of Book III of the Aeneid emphasizes the misconceptions characters in this book hold, as well as misinterpretations readers create as a result of these misconceptions. R.O.A.M. Lynn and Georgia Nugent also closely examine misinterpretations in their analyses by readers concerning specific actions and roles of women in the books they examine. The analysis I looked at, Anthony Boyle's Images of Rome also concerns the misperception of readers, in this instance concerning Rome's true character. By looking at this misinterpretation, all these authors, including Hexter, point to reasons why these misconceptions may come about.
Hexter looks to the use of diction in the directions the Trojans were given as an explanation for the characters' misinterpretation of their journey. The importance of diction is seen throughout the analsyses, but in Hexter's examination it is the first instance we see characters within the epic misinterpreting the meaning of words. Aeneas and his men are given ambiguous instructions in how to find "their ancient mother[land]," which embarks them on a treacherous journey throughout the Mediterranean. It is in this section of the Book where the misinterpretation within the epic switches to misconceptions by the readers.
In Book III, the characterization of the Trojan men and their own misinterpretation of the diction used leads readers to feel sympathetic for their destructive journey. Hexter points out, however, that readers should remember the Aeneid in whole, specifically that these hardships faced now will lead to the greatest joy in the end: the foundation of the most superior city in the world. The allusions to Homer's Odyssey help to achieve this improved perception, but Hexter does not provide many other alternatives for interpretation. For instance, Gary Miles interprets the Aeneid as a foundation story, keeping in mind throughout the book the role of the fates in the characters' destinies. Thus, if readers keep in mind the broad themes of the epic, such as the importance of divinity, this could provide another means of interpreting Book III differently. Overall, Hexter displays the common problem of misinterpretation seen in Vergil's Aeneid, explaining why it occurs through another level of misinterpretation within the epic itself.
Critical report by Holly HavelEdit
Ralph Hexter, in his “Imitating Troy: A Reading of Aeneid 3”, examines the importance of misreading and misinterpreting the messages portrayed by Virgil throughout book three of the Aeneid. He summarizes that this book in particular illustrates the misconceptions that lead the Trojans to find their new city. Hexter explains that Aeneas and his comrades are given multiple prophecies towards the beginning of the Aeneid, and they become more specific as their journey progresses. Eventually, when Helenus vocalizes his version of the same prophecy to the weary Trojans, he specifies the exact location in Latium where Aeneas will know to find his new city. As Hexter points out, the Trojans fail to follow his detailed instructions and try to find their new city in locations that are not destined for their arrival. As the title suggests, they try to imitate and recreate Troy. Ralph Hexter also suggests that Aeneas is indirectly compared to Odysseus in book three, as Virgil is to Homer. Aeneas and Odysseus are both lost at sea in the same time period. While they are both trying to find their way home, Aeneas to his future home and Odysseus to Ithaca, the Aeneid clearly depicts Aeneas as a hero. Both Aeneas and Odysseus find themselves on the island with the Cyclops, however Odysseus leaves his companion behind and Aeneas saves the same man, who was once an enemy. Hexter indicates that this is a clear example of the common theme of a true renovation: an older poem (Odyssey) revised into a new and polished rendition (Aeneid), just as Rome will eventually be considered the new Troy.
As previously stated, throughout book three of the Aeneid, Ralph Hexter focuses on the significance of misreading and misinterpretation of the messages within the text. While this applies to the readers of the text of the Aeneid, it is also important for the readers to understand the misreading and misinterpretation present among the characters of the poem. In order to fully comprehend book three as a whole, we must keep this in mind while reading of the trials Aeneas endures throughout this particular book. Aeneas and his men are given detailed instructions on how they will find their new city. However, they misinterpret these instructions and attempt to find their new city despite what they were told. They try to recreate and imitate Troy, even though it clashes with their fate. They first set foot on Thrace, where Aeneas found the city of Aeneadae. Hexter explains that, “Thrace is a violently inhospitable land, a land of treachery and death”(71), forcing the Trojans to leave immediately and to travel to Delos to receive the advice of the oracle. The oracle told Apollo “to seek your ancient mother (antiquam exquirite matrem, 96), the land that first bore the Dardan line.”(72) Anchises believes this land to be Crete, which fully supports Ralph Hexter’s misinterpretation argument. As they arrive at Crete and Aeneas names his new city Pergamum, his fleet is inflicted with plague.
The fleet then arrives at many other lands and settlements, but they learn the hard way that none of those locations were destined for them. As Hexter explains in the beginning of his interpretation, this book follows the fleet around the Mediterranean as they try to find the city of Latium. It is very difficult to follow this book without understanding Hexter’s methods. Aeneas and his men do not fully understand their destiny and they must overcome obstacles in order to find their city in the future. After already overcoming many obstacles, the Trojans want to find a home to call their own. They also grow suspicious of the prophecies they are given because they have not found the city that everyone keeps telling them they will eventually find. Growing restless, the Trojans find themselves at hospitable Carthage. As Hexter signifies, we must read book three pleasantly with the understanding that we have to watch Aeneas find his way, and not restlessly as portrayed by the Trojans. To read this book and fully comprehend it, we must grasp that the goal of this book is for Aeneas to understand that the journey to find his new city will not be easy and that he must adhere to the prophecies told to him.
Thanks to Ralph Hexter, we learn of Aeneas’ failures in book three to renovate and recreate Troy on account of his misinterpretation of multiple prophecies. In the grander scheme of things, we should apply this understanding to the Aeneid as a whole. In order to surpass and succeed, the Trojans must conquer all of the obstacles they run into in order to find the city of Latium. In book one, for example, the men are scattered about the sea because of the ill powered Juno and her influence on Aeolus, the god of wind. After losing most of their men, the fleet arrives at Dido’s city of Carthage. Before finding the city, however, the men survive on their own. Aeneas takes control and kills seven stags and supplies his men with a nourishing feast. (180-197) Here, we see Aeneas’ understanding that he must take control of their situation, because in the end he knows that bigger and better things are to come to them when they least expect it. Then, soon enough, arrive at Dido’s hospitable city where he tells his story in books two and three. Aeneas finds the hospitality at Dido's kingdom that he was craving throughout book three. As Hexter noted in his interpretation, he disregards the prophecies and remains at Dido’s palace for far too long. Aeneas and his men found such consolation in the hospitable city that they forgot about their destiny to find Latium.
Aeneas’ misinterpretation of the prophecy does not end with book three, but as we see continues throughout the entire Aeneid until he finds the city of Latium. Throughout book four, Aeneas lives in a fantasy world and forgets about his duties. In the middle of the night, Mercury, the messenger of the gods, comes down to tell Aeneas to continue with his journey.(IV.206-218) Aeneas immediately comes to terms that he must move on, and has to decide how to leave his precious Dido. Aeneas finally leaves Carthage, and continues on his own odyssey. However, Aeneas still does not fully grasp the significance of his finding the city of Latium. In book six, Aeneas travels to the underworld to see his father, who reveals to him his prophecy in even greater detail. (760-853) In order to understand the Aeneid as a whole, we must use Hexter’s method to comprehend that Aeneas goes through his own to journey before he reaches his ultimate destination. Aeneas must surpass all of the obstacles put before him in order to reach his destiny.