Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Aeneas and the Temples: Ecphrasis and the Two Voices of the Poet

Dr Joseph P Wilson.

Matching ecphrases flank Aeneas' travels in Books 1-6 of the *Aeneid*, the former in the temple of Juno at Carthage, the latter on the doors of the temple of Apollo at Cumae. Juxtaposing the two ecphrases in light of the contents of the art represented as well as consideration of the surrounding narrative in which the ecphrases are embedded augments the arguments in favor of a mixed, two-voice reading of the text, one in which the negative voice may be even stronger than it appears. Aeneas sees himself, among others, represented in Juno's temple, and the wording reminds us that in some traditions, Aeneas had in fact cooperated, if not collaborated, in the fall of Troy. The subsequent account of the gifts given to Dido, the events during Troy's last night, and other details, heightens that suspicion. When we connect this to the ecphrasis in Book 6, a description of temple doors wrought by Daedalus' own hand, we are invited to consider similarities between the two men: both are architects of betrayal and flight and both abet a lethal passion, (Daedalus that of Pasiphae, Aeneas, according to some, that of Paris). The fact that Daedalus leaves his work unfinished, and, by extension, failed, may suggest that Aeneas will do the same.


Dr Joseph P Wilson  (United States)
Professor of Classical Studies
Department of Foreign Languages
University of Scranton

Professor of Classical Studies, University of Scranton, specializing in Greek literature, Latin literature, and Ancient History.

  • Roman Literature
  • Aeneas
  • Poetry
Person as Subject
  • Vergil Aeneas

(Virtual Presentation, English)