Friday, December 27, 2002

I came across this interesting article on Anthony Barrett's biography of Livia and the benefits of biography as a classical tool as opposed to prosopography, "group portraits providing cross sections of whole tiers of the socio-economic structure during a historical period."

In my readings I also came across this marvelous post by a young student at Calhoun College. Having just studied the Oresteia in my audio course on Greek Tragedy, I understood the comparison immediately.

Apparently Spielberg plans to produce an HBO miniseries about King Arthur as a Roman blacksmith:

Each year, at a clinicopathological conference sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and VA Mayland Health Care System in conjunction with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a panel of physicans led by Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak analyze the medical history of a famous person of the past. Using modern forensic science, they propose modern diagnoses for the individual and speculate on the effectiveness of medical procedures used by physicians of the period. I contacted Dr. Mackowiak several months ago and he graciously provided five of these case studies for study by members of my ancient Rome discussion group. I scanned these studies into Adobe Acrobat and linked them to a new web page at:

I also created the first page of my photo essay on the U.S. Cavalry Museum at Fort Riley, Kansas:
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Thursday, December 19, 2002

Last night I watched a fascinating program on the History Channel where researchers were attempting to identify the one person who actually shot down the Red Baron during WWI. Apparently, the Red Baron was chasing a Canadian plane and flew over Allied lines. Another Canadian plane gave chase and machine gun crews and Australian infantry on the ground opened fire as well. The Baron was killed by a single .303 caliber bullet that passed through his right side and exited from his left chest. All guns used to shoot at him utilized .303 caliber ammunition. Officially, the second Canadian airman who gave chase was awarded the "kill". But, there were so many bullets flying around no one could be really sure who hit him.

The researchers began by locating the exact location that the Baron's plane landed. This was difficult because, although the general area was known, the specific spot was not really marked on any map. A historian checked the archives and found a description of the plane crash landing near a small "mound". Amazingly, a study of aerial photographs revealed a mound that could then be precisely identified and the crash assumed to be within a few meters.

Then they had to establish the flight path of the Baron's plane. This was done with more archives and, surprisingly enough, obtaining an eyewitness account from a surviving British soldier. (I thought all WWI veterans were now dead). The eyewitness also testified that the Baron was still alive when the eyewitness and some companions reached the plane but died after uttering only one word, "kaput".

Then two commerical flight simulation software developers were hired to develop a simulation of the flight and a military ballistics expert helped to provide information about the spread pattern from the pursuit plane's guns and the vibration of the Sopwith Camel's engine and its effect on the bullets' trajectories. The completed program proved (as far as possible) that based on the flight reports of the Canadian pursuit plane, that source could not have hit the Baron in the cockpit area at the correct angle to produce a right-to-left fatal wound described by forensic pathologists in the Baron's autopsy report. Furthermore, the forensic pathologist stated that the shock wave created by the bullet would have damaged the lungs, liver, and heart to the extent that the Baron could have only lived a couple of minutes after being struck.

So the investigative team began assessing the ground marksmen. First, to establish the range at which the Baron was shot, the team hired a ballistics expert. He used a .303 caliber weapon and a gelatinous mass equivalent to the mass of a human body the approximate thickness of the Baron to ascertain that the Baron was struck from a range of about 800 yards. (A closer shot would produce more damage than indicated by the autopsy report and would have had such force that the bullet would not have been found in the Baron's flight jacket.

Based on this information, the ground marksmen were reduced down to two possibilities. A man in the allied machine gun nest and Snowy Evans, an Australian infrantryman that had reported firing at the plane. The researchers devised a kind of laser cannon that could "shoot" infrared beams at an aircraft flying by in the Baron's flight path and a computer could record any possible hits to the aircraft and their trajectories. Using this method the researchers established that the British machine gunner could have hit the plane. They also established that the Australian infantryman could have hit the plane but it would have been a miraculous shot. However, the research historian dove into the archives once more and found a report by the British machine gunner himself with his own map of where he had fired on the plane. Based on this drawing it was determined that the gunner would not have been firing at the point he would have needed to to strike the Baron in the right side. Therefore, it was concluded that the Australian infantryman must have managed that one miraculous shot that brought the Red Baron down.

I just thought that it was a fascinating series of investigations. I would highly recommend the program to anyone that may have an opportunity to view it.
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Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Sunday night I saw a program on the Travel Channel about New Zealand and it is truly as beautiful as my father-in-law always said it was. He spent some time there during WWII and has always said it was the most beautiful country he has ever seen. Although it is popular among extreme sports enthusiasts, even I would be willing to tackle most of the activities depicted in the program - hiking, whitewater boating, kayaking, etc. I do think I would pass on the 250-ft bungee jumping though. Even the 350 ft repelling didn't turn me off because it is done with such modern equipment - a harness and what looks like a small come-a-long to regulate your descent. I tried the real thing with only a rope at a special college program when I was young and I found the whole experience absolutely terrifying and not at all something I would want to repeat. I envied the Prime Minister's ability to play with seals on the kayaking excursion. Here, sea lions grow much larger and can be quite dangerous, especially the bulls.

The program highlighting all the beauty of New Zealand was followed by a program detailing all the disasters that have occurred on New Zealand because of its volcanic structure. I don't know why the Travel Channel aired it because it was done like a "reality" show with all the somber overtones and warnings. I doubt if the New Zealand travel industry would have been pleased about it.

I finally finished reading "The Etruscan" by Mika Waltari. Unfortunately, it had just too much mysticism in it for my taste. I also didn't like the bible quotes used as dialogue between characters either. Waltari was at one time a theology major and I guess he just never did get it out of his system. I prefer historical novels that either contain real historical personalities or persons that exhibit the traits of real historical people in the culture of the region. I learned very little about the Etruscans from Waltari's novel. He also seems to have a problem with women. The primary female protagonist was beautiful but a lying, conceited, self-serving harlot, very similar to the main female character of one of his other novels "The Egyptian". I found the main male character difficult to appreciate because he seemed rather spineless and always willing to overlook the female's flagrant transgressions simply because of her physical attractiveness. How shallow!

I received a 19th century two-volume set of "Plutarch's Lives" and its in wonderful condition. I'll have to read it very carefully though since it is a bit fragile after over 100 years.
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Friday, December 13, 2002

I was excited this weekend when I found a near mint (still in the box) copy of "Empire Earth" at the local flea market for only $5. It is still selling in retail stores for over $40. My daughter asked me what I would like for Christmas and I suggested one of the following games - "Civilization III", "Medieval Total War", "Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood", or "Age of Mythology". I forgot
about "Gladiators of Rome" and "Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom" (a game set in ancient China made by the same people as "Caesar III").

"Gladiators of Rome" is currently available from for only $17.99(US) However, upon reviewing the system requirements I guess its getting time to upgrade. The game requires a 500 Mhz processor and I still have only a 300 Mhz (Well, it does everything else I need to at present!)

Another interesting game, "Praetorians", is not due to be released until February 2003. I notice that Interact PC is now offering a CD with Zeus, Poseidon, Caesar III, Pharaoh, and Cleopatra all on one disk for $24.95 (US) - a terrific deal!
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On my ancient Rome discussion group we have been talking about changes in women's roles in the Roman Empire. The role of women in Rome had evolved significantly beyond the role of women in Greek society. Women were included in banquets and social gatherings and even engaged in business. Gaius Julius Caesar's mother Aurelia was a landlord in the Suburra. Women were even allowed to attend public entertainments, although they were seated in a remote section up by the seats reserved for slaves in the amphitheater.

Women of the upper classes in ancient Greece were so sequestered that they were not even allowed to go to the market. Scholars are still unsure if women were allowed to attend theatrical performances except those staged during specific festivals held for women. In my current audio course on Greek tragedy, Professor Vandiver mentioned that one of the few clues scholars have to indicate women may have attended general performances was an ancient source remarking that the first appearance of the Furies in Aeschylus' play "The Eumenides" caused women to faint and pregnant women to miscarry. However, she pointed out that the source of this report was written decades after the first performance of "The Eumenides" and may have been written to emphasize the spectacular nature of Aeschylus' stagecraft not as a valid reference to a change in women's activities.
I found a very good site on Aeschylus and his plays:

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I bought a beautifully illustrated book published by Barnes and Noble called "A Treasury of Classical Mythology". The text is an abridgment of A. R. Hope Moncrieff's "Classic Myths and Legends". In it is a wonderful color plate of Gustave Moreau's 1865 oil on canvas "Diomedes Devoured by his Horses". I was surprised to read that Alexander The Great's horse Bucephalus was said to be a member of this carnivorous breed.
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RiverDeep and The Learning Company have come out with a very interesting sounding software title for kids based on the new PBS television program "Liberty Kids".

"LIBERTY'S KIDS (Riverdeep/The Learning Company; Windows and Macintosh; $25; ages 8 to 12.) This American history program is a refreshing addition to the software market. Based on a PBS series, it follows two young reporters as they gather facts about important events of the American Revolution. The reporters interview townspeople, loyalists, statesmen, soldiers and even spies to produce a newspaper article. Many of the people they encounter demand items from the community before answering questions, and the journalists must search for these items to complete their interviews. This is a must-have program for upper elementary and early middle school students with an interest in American history."
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Simon Scarrow, a high school history teacher from Norfolk, England and author of "Under The Eagle" has produced a second novel, "The Eagle's Conquest". Unfortunately, the critics of Publishers Weekly weren't too impressed:

From Publishers Weekly
"British writer Scarrow (Under the Eagle) offers a second action novel set in ancient Rome, focusing on a key battle in Britain during the Roman invasion led by Claudius in 43 A.D., then turning to an attempt to assassinate Claudius. The first half of the book follows the adventures of Centurion Macro and his eager young subordinate, Optio Cato (both of whom played prominent roles in the first book), as the Romans try to outmaneuver the forces of Caratacus, king of the Celtic tribes of Britain, in a series of skirmishes along the Thames. The battle scenes are lifeless and generic despite the nonstop action, mostly because Scarrow offers little in the way of character development (most of the combatants are military stereotypes) or period detail (the contemporary colloquialisms offer some unintentional levity: "Just make sure you get some proper bloody swimming lessons," Macro chides Cato). The assassination conspiracy that takes up the second half of the book is far more interesting. Macro and Cato must get to the bottom of a plot involving fellow soldier Vitellius, a Carthaginian surgeon and Flavia Lavinia, a former romantic interest of Cato's. Scarrow deftly negotiates this tricky, labyrinthian story line, but his writing style remains pedestrian. Cato and Marco are one-dimensional, albeit fitfully amusing, protagonists. Scarrow will need to elaborate their personalities considerably if they're to carry the sequel that Scarrow foreshadows in this book's rather predictable conclusion. "
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

However, a new Roman novel, Centurion: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Peter W. Mitsopoulos garnered respectable reviews. The story recalls the Varan disaster in the Teutoburg Forest. One critic remarks:

"[The author] He provides a good sense of the metropolitan nature of the roman empire. We meet italians, greeks, gauls, germans, egyptians, etc. He gives an accurate description of the weapons, equipment, politics, prevading beliefs, etc. common to the legions in the 1st century without being forced. These historical facts flow naturally in the course of his characters' actions and conversation, so the story is as much educational as it is entertaining."

You have to dig deep for this one though. Even the paperback edition is listed for nearly $30 (US) up on Amazon. have copies for about $20.
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Friday, December 06, 2002

I subscribe to Research Buzz which is a mailing list analyzing new web offerings and this week editor Tara Calishain mentioned a new image database:

"National Geographic has unveiled a collection of
thousands of digital images at .
There's a log-in box on the front page but you can search
and view images without registration of any sort. "

"The search box is on the front page allows for a simple
keyword search; an advanced search link underneath allows
you to search by image orientation (portrait, landscape,
etc.) category (including animals, adventure, concept,
natural history, and world culture), media type (color,
black and white, or duotone), and license status. You can
also specify the number of results you want per page (the
default is nine.)" - Tara Calishain, Research Buzz (

I searched for Caesar and got 0 hits. I searched for gladiator and got 0 hits. I searched for chariot and got 0 hits. I even searched for Pompeii and got 0 hits. Finally I searched for Roman and got five pages of results - mostly the typical Colosseum, aqueducts, and forum ruins type shots although there was an interesting shot of an ancient Roman wall carving, probably from Leptis Magna, in the Castello courtyard of Tripoli, Libya. I would have preferred a closeup however. Keywords seem to be mostly geographic location rather than specific subject although I saw some of the Egyptian shots referred to sarcophagus, etc.

Pricing seems pretty steep from my inexperienced perspective. I priced out a 1/2 page size high resolution image for a textbook cover with expected sales of 10,000 and it cost over $800 (US).

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A student called me all the way from Missouri yesterday to see if I could help him with a Filemaker Pro issue. He is working on a project for a medical center and is attempting to insert .jpg images into a container field and have the image, rather than an icon for an embedded file, display in browse mode. The Insert Picture process displays an image but he wants users to be able to double click the image to be able to edit the image in its associated application. I experienced the same problem he reports and after testing multiple machines with different hardware and different OSs, I obtained the same result repeatedly. So, I called Filemaker technical support and tried everything they suggested without any improvement.

So far I have tried:
Gateway computer with Windows 98 & Filemaker Pro 5.5v2 with default install - icon only
2 different Dell computers with Windows 2000 & Filemaker Pro 5.5v2 with default install - icon only
Gateway computer with Windows XP & Filemaker Pro 5.5v2 with default install - icon only
Sony computer with Windows 98 & Filemaker Pro 5.5v2 customized install (multiple Oazium plugins - icon only.

I tried both .jpg and .gif images. I tried different application associations (Paint, Microsoft PhotoDraw, and Adobe Photoshop) without any improvement.

I have deselected my file association DDE setting, rebooted and attempted the insert again with the same result. I have booted into safe mode (to eliminate possible conflict with network drivers), launched Filemaker and attempted an insert with the same results.

I have had the Filemaker technician use the very same image file and he has successfully inserted it. I have reset my application and document preferences to be identical to his without improvement. I have tested my DDE functionality and it works perfectly for inserting spreadsheets and .bmp files but stubbornly displays only an icon for .jpg and .gif files even though the proper application is launched when the embedded icon is double clicked.

The student in Missouri reports the same behavior that I observe on a Windows 98 machine running a new installation of Filemaker Pro 6. I am also still mystified why the Filemaker technician's workstation does not appear to be using the Microsoft Object Packager in the insert process. This appears to be a standard Windows behavior for all machines I have tested. If anyone has any other ideas I would appreciate hearing from them at:

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Tuesday, December 03, 2002

A member of my ancient Rome discussion group posted a rather unflattering assessment of Alexander the Great today, citing his megalomaniac behavior evidenced by his trying to imitate eastern despots. After reading Mary Renault's trilogy of novels about Alexander (Fire From Heaven, The Persian Boy, Funeral Games) as well as her biography, The Nature of Alexander, research articles, and even Judith Tarr's novel "Lord of the Two Lands", I found myself admiring this Macedonian warrior king more an more. Therefore, I could not help but defend him with the following observations:

Prostration was a recognized social practice in Persia to demonstrate deference to a member of a higher social class. It was not viewed as "groveling" any more than a priest would view prostrating himself before the Pope, groveling, or a samurai bowing before his master, groveling. Alexander had to demonstrate his newly assumed position to his new Persian subjects in a social manner they would understand. The problem arose when his Persian subjects were offended by what they viewed was a lack of respect by his countrymen for the man that was now their Great King. He attempted to resolve the problem by offering to kiss his Persian subjects, a custom used by Macedonians, in response to their prostration and asked his Macedonians to respond both ways as well. However, the Macedonians, with their conceptions of superiority, would not agree to this either.

The Macedonians were further outraged that Alexander had actually recruited young Persians to form a new group of Companions trained in Macedonian tactics. They simply could not give up their centuries-old concept of the behavior of conquerors and conquered. This is further demonstrated by the behavior of Alexander's successor generals in ruling their respective satrapies after his death.

As for the Kleitos the Black affair, Alexander realized he had made a terrible moral mistake by killing Kleitos but Kleitos did provide serious provocation. Using a quote from Euripedes, Kleitos essentially accused Alexander of having no regard for his men at all but being consumed with his own ambition. Alexander was ambitious. He could not have achieved all that he did without it. But he always led from the front and expected no more of his men than he did of himself - something modern generals can never claim. This was a slander of Alexander's honor and leadership. Both men had been drinking heavily (another Macedonian custom) and inhibitions were severely impaired by that time. Kleitos would have survived if he had left after the two men were initially separated but he wouldn't let it rest. He returned to the banquet with more epithets and Alexander, by then in a rage, snatched up the spear before anyone could stop him. We are talking about two very physical and aggressive warriors here still stained with the blood and sweat of a fresh battle. We're not talking about two accountants arguing over a tax return.

As for the "commonsensical" court from which he came, the Macedonian court was hardly a model of liberal political values unless you call the liberty to assassinate your fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, etc. something to be emulated. In fact, your venerable Philip eliminated his rivals with brutal efficiency, those he couldn't bribe with the gold of Mt. Pangaeus. Philip was a very talented war leader and astute diplomat but I would avoid viewing his career with rose-colored glasses. In addition, even though Olympias claimed Alexander was the son of Apollo and he was proclaimed son of Amun in Egypt, efforts to formalize his deification were not unheard of in Greek society and was probably only intended to be a political maneuver at the time. Alexander admired Philip and actively sought Philip's approval as most young men would. But Philip's refusal to rebut his new wife's father's drunken slur inferring Alexander was not a legitimate heir at one of Philip's innumerable wedding feasts was a far more direct disgrace to Alexander than any assumed disrespect from acceptance of claims of immortal origins.

I would also be hesitant to grant the term "venerable" to the old captains that served at Philip's side. If you are referring to Parmenion, I think you should at least consider the consequences of Parmenion's son's involvement in a plot to assassinate Alexander (or his willingness to allow it to occur without warning Alexander of the threat). Even if Parmenion had not indicated his complicity by smiling slightly upon receiving the forged letter notifying him of the assassination, Alexander would not have had much choice but to have the "old captain" executed because of the Macedonian cultural policy of blood vengence.

Alexander was very respectful to his culture's gods, insisting upon personally offering the morning libation just a few days before his death. He sponsored games and classical Greek theatrical performances and shared his wealth generously. He valued loyalty and friendship and actively sought the love of his men.

PBS recommends the following texts:

"Alexander the Great"
Fox, Robin Lane. Reissue edition.
Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1994.
ISBN: 0140088784
Cost: $12.75
Additional texts:

Arrian. "The Campaigns of Alexander" (England: Penguin Classics, 1958).

Curtius, Rufus. "The History of Alexander" (London: Penguin Classics, 1984).

Diodorus. "Library of History" (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,1963).

Justin. "Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, Vol. 1: Alexander the Great" (Clarendon Press, 1996).

Plutarch. "The Age of Alexander" (New York: Penguin Classics, 1995).

To this list I would add "The Nature of Alexander" by Mary Renault (Random House, 1979)

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Monday, December 02, 2002

I saw an interesting program on The Learning Channel last night called Chariot Race 2002. It included some interesting historical tidbits as well as a documentary about the preparation for an actual chariot race at the conclusion of the program.

It mentioned that Roman boys as young as 9 began racing two-horse chariots in preparation to become professional charioteers. As their skills developed they eventually advanced to four-horse chariots.

The program also mentioned that the Emperor Nero so admired charioteers that he even drank a mixture of wine and boar's dung(!) that charioteers considered a healing concoction. Nero was also responsible for the tradition of beginning a race by dropping a napkin. "Once, when Nero had taken too long at lunch and the crowd grew restive, he threw out his napkin from the royal box to signify that he had finished and the games could begin. The tossing of the napkin thereafter signaled the official start of the races. "

I also wasn't aware that most racing horses came from Iberia. The program's race actually took place in the ancient capital of Antequera in Spain which contains one of the best preserved hippodrome ruins.

I found myself, like my ancient Roman counterparts, cheering wildly for the blue team. My husband only rolled his eyes and shook his head! My blue team won but I was also impressed by the older lady driving the white team. She seemed so small and fragile that I thought she was a bit mismatched to be a charioteer but she put up an admirable challenge. Her team actually cornered better than the blue team and she fought off a challenge by the red team twice before she was finally passed. The racing chariots seems awfully small but I guess they were designed based on a bronze figurine of a two-horse chariot excavated from the Tiber River.

The program,, repeats on Thursday, December 5 and again on Sunday, December 8.

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One of the members of my ancient Rome discussion group nominated Vergil as the greatest Roman that ever lived even if his Aeneid was basically a restatement of exisiting myth. About his "restatement of existing myth" though, I would like to share some distinct differences between The Aeneid and the Homeric epics explained by Professor Vandiver in my audio course on the Aeneid.

Professor Vandiver pointed out that The Aeneid was obviously modeled after the Homeric epics with the first six books modeled after The Odyssey and the last six books modeled after The Illiad. However, The Aeneid's goal was to stress the importance of service to the society (a very Roman concept) as opposed to the actions of an individual. In fact, the role of fate is stressed as a key theme in The Aeneid in contrast to the Homeric epics. This concept seems to have been common in Roman society as many leaders (including Julius Caesar) considered their successes a result of favor by the goddess Fortuna.

Another key difference was the character of Aeneas himself. Aeneas is characterized as a "man noted for pietas", a laudable Roman ideal, unlike the Greeks of Homer's Illiad who were guilty of the most despicable violations of social morality (rape of Cassandra in the temple of Athena, the murder of Priam at the household altar, the human sacrifice of the 12 Trojan youths at the funeral of Patroklos, the sacrifice of one of Priam's daughters at their departure).

In Books II and III, Professor Vandiver points out that Odysseus' narrative in the Odyssey focuses on his own cleverness and skill in avoiding death while Aeneas' focuses on the sorrows he has endured and the responsiblity imposed on him by fate. Although, in some ways, Aeneas retraces Odysseus' steps, "this [The Aeneid] is not simply a Roman Odyssey; the focus in on Aeneas' destiny as the ancestor of the Roman people, not on his adventures as an individual hero."

In Book IV, Vergil relates the events surrounding the Trojans in Carthage. Vandiver explains that the relationship with the Carthaginian queen Dido is the first example of the cost of Rome for those Aeneas meets and provides a background to explain the historical enmity between Rome and Carthage.

In Book V, the funeral games held to celebrate the anniversary of Aeneas' father's death are modeled on the funeral games of Patroklos but they are also meant to provide a background to the Roman tradition of the lusus Troiae (Trojan games) that were reinstituted by Augustus, Vergil's patron.

Aeneas' "nequia" or journey to the underworld in Book VI is far more descriptive than Odysseus' visit. Furthermore, Odysseus does not actually descend into the Underworld. The ghosts he encounters come out to speak to him. Aeneas actually enters the underworld guided by the Cumaean Sibyl, who actively assists him. Here the Roman audience are given very detailed descriptions of the Fields of Mourning, the region for spirits renowned in war, examples of the punishments in Tartaros and beautiful descriptions of the "Blessed Groves" or Elysium. The "Pageant of Heros" gives the Roman audience a recounting of the great Romans and their deeds and includes a statement about Roman skills and virtues - stressed as social values of the Roman people rather than emphasized as individual achievements.

Books VII and VIII bring Aeneas to the future site of Rome and introduces him to Pallas, a friend that will become as dear as Patroklos was to Achilles. Here Aeneas receives his shield from Vulcan but the scenes depicted on it are not generic like Achilles but specific, including a depiction of the Battle of Actium.

Books IX and X are considered the most "Illiadic" section of the Aeneid but here the Trojans are inverted to parallel Greek characters and the Latin Turnus takes on the role of Hector.

Books XI and XII conclude the Aeneid with the famous battle scene between Aeneas and Turnus. However, it is Turnus who has violated the truce. Aeneas actively attempts to prevent further hostilities unlike Achilles who will not be satisfied until he has slain Hector.

Vergil truly gave us a treasure in the Aeneid and to think that on his death bed he asked that it be burned because it wasn't finished!
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