Readers of all ages and backgrounds are invited to participate in this unique opportunity to bring alive this thrilling myth of Aeneas’ journeys after the Trojan War and to enjoy the experience of reading poetry aloud.


Death of Dido Statue
              Death of Dido                           Augustin Cayot (1667-1722)


Dido and Aeneas
   Dido and Aeneas, Mosaic: 4th Century CE, Villa in Britain













In honor of World Poetry Day, Friday, March 21, 2014, the IWU Program in Greek & Roman Studies has organized IWU’s first marathon reading of Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid, books 1-9!

The event is FREE. Anyone may participate, and no special training is required.

The Opening Ceremony is at 8:50 am, with the reading beginning at 9:00 am on the first floor of The Ames Library, on Illinois Wesleyan campus, and continues non-stop until about 6:00 pm. Refreshments, legos and drawing, and more will also be provided during the reading.

 Readers must sign up in advance for a 15 min. time slot to read one quarter of one of the 12 books of The Aeneid. 9:00-9:15am will be the first quarter of Book 1, 9:15-9:30 will be the second quarter of Book 1, etc. (Multiple slots are available for those with more stamina!) You may sign yourself up using our Google calendar feature. You must have a Google account to access this calendar:

You can also email your requested time(s) to read or volunteer to (If you send

 an email request, be sure to give several choices. You will be informed of your slot(s) within 24 hours). Send any queries to

We will provide plenty of copies of the epic in English and in several other languages. Students of ancient Latin can choose to read in the original.

About the Aeneid: This epic poem of 9,896 lines of hexameter chronicles the loves, losses, and battles of the Trojan hero Aeneas after the fall of Troy. The first seven lines of the poem tell it all:

I sing of arms and of the man, fated to be an exile,
Who long since left the land of Troy and came to Italy to the shores of Lavinium;
And a pounding he took by land and sea at the hands of the heavenly gods
Because of the fierce and unforgetting anger of Juno.
Great, too, were his sufferings in war before he could found his city and carry his gods into Latium.
This was the beginning of the Latin race, the Alban fathers, and the high walls of Rome. (trans. West)                              

Aeneas Flight from Troy
              Aeneas' Flight from Troy                   Oil Painting by Federico Barocci (1598) (located in the Galleria Borghese, Rome)

Writing the epic between 29 and 19 BCE, Virgil relates the legends about the arrival in Italy of the Trojan hero Aeneas, his son Ascanius (also known as Iulus, the ancestor of the gens Julia) and the weary remnants of his followers after the fall of Troy (traditionally c. 1200 BCE).  He concludes his poem when the settlement that will lead eventually to the foundation of Rome is no more than a camp. Thus the poet conceives of his narrative as symbolic, with no more than implications for the rule of Augustus, who had won the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE. Even so Augustus eagerly awaited its completion, and in 23 BCE had the poet read books 2, 4, and 6 to the imperial family. 

The first line of the Aeneid, ‘Arms and the man I sing’, establishes the conception of the poem as Homeric: in books 1–6, exotic travels as in the Odyssey, and in books 7–12, glorious battles as in the Iliad.  As in Homer, the narrator, inspired by the Muse, is omniscient, but remote from the events he describes. A striking aspect of Virgil's narrative is the constant foreshadowing of the future heroism and glory of Rome.

Key episodes of the Aeneid include: the help of Venus (Aeneas’ mother), an account of the Trojan War, a love affair with Dido queen of Carthage, the voyage through the underworld to discuss the glorious Romans-to-be, and an epic battle against Turnus, king of the Rutulians in Latium.  (excerpted from the Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, 3rd ed. s.v. ‘Aeneid’)


About the author:

Virgil Reads to Octavia
Virgil Reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia Jean-Joseph Taillasson (1787)

 Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro; 70-19 BCE)

A Roman poet, born on 15 October at Andes near Mantua (Mantova) in Cisalpine Gaul… He was educated at Cremona and Mediolanum (Milan), and later studied philosophy and rhetoric at Rome; at some time he was a pupil of the Epicurean philosopher Siro at Naples…  With the publication of his first work, the Eclogues, Virgil moved to the patronage of Maecenas and Octavian, who became Rome’s first Emperor, Augustus. Around 29 BCE, he began working on theAeneid, which was to occupy him for the remaining ten years of his life. In his last year he undertook a voyage to the East to visit some of the places he had described; he fell ill at Megara in Greece and returned to Italy, dying at Brundisium. His body was brought to Naples and buried outside the city, where his tomb was soon honoured as a shrine. He is said to have dictated the inscription for it on his deathbed: “Mantua brought me life, Calabria death; now Naples holds me: I sang of pastures and farms and heroes.”

The Aeneid was incomplete at the author's death, and Virgil is said to have madeVariuspromise to burn it if he died before his return, but on the orders of Augustus it was published after the literary executors Varius and Tucca had ‘lightly corrected’ it.

Virgil’s fame was based primarily on his position as the epic poet who revealed the greatness of the Roman Empire, but his poetic eminence rests also on the technical perfection of his verse, with its sustained beauty and melodiousness, on the poet's tenderness and melancholy, and on his love of nature. He is the poet not only of the destiny of Rome but of the beauty and fertility of Italy, its morality and its religion. (excerpted from the Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, 3rd ed. s.v. ‘Virgil’)