My friend Adam has hit upon a quite nice little idea in his translating of the Aeneid. The general idea is that Vergil is a cynic who ends all his most epic scenes by throwing shade on them. I’ll let Adam speak for himself on the details, but I was pleased to play a small auxiliary role in the hashing out of the idea.
Initially I resisted his take on the pictura inani, or empty picture, that Aeneas used to feed his soul. Why not instead stay local and contrast Aeneas feeding his soul (animus) with a soulless (inane) picture? But once we got talking, his cynical read started to grow really nicely.
While Adam ran off to do some real work (prep for a class), I played the role of research assistant gunning down every use of the adjective inanis in the Aeneid. Again, God bless the internet. And indeed, it is quite remarkable how often inanis shows up just in an amateur little word search, and what it ends up modifying (hope, rage, tears, etc.).
It was also fun because our discussion of Vergil’s agenda–pro Augustan or not?–sparked an idea about another field full of expert scholarship: the writings of St. Augustine. Continue reading Vergil to Augustine: Inanitas