Achilles and Hector in the Time of Nero

Project code: ART045

Disciplinary Area

Classics and Ancient History


Few today take any interest in the version of the Iliad in Latin (the Ilias Latina), dated to the time of Nero, because classical scholars prefer to study the Greek original and most others are unaware of the Latin version's existence, since there is no available English translation. Yet, for centuries the Latin version was the only Iliad known in Medieval Europe, when it served as a standard text in education and was taken as the authoritative account of the myths of the Trojan War. Much shorter than the original, the Latin poem is not accurately defined as a translation, nor as an epitome, since it covers the action of the Iliad in an impressionistic and idiosyncratic manner. It is full of verbal echoes of Virgil's Aeneid and Ovid's Metamorphoses.

The object of this project is to review the omissions, inclusions and techniques of compression of Iliadic material in the Latin version so as to re-assess the poem's situation within the epic genre and within the Neronian cultural environment which also produced in visual art the Tabulae Iliacae (a translation of the same material into miniature relief sculpture) and the emperor's own notorious poetic composition on the burning of Troy.

Scholar’s Work

The Summer Scholar will use on line digital resources like Tesserae to identify in the Latin Iliad echoes of earlier Roman literature in the poem's vocabulary and phrasing. Another task will be to review the  similarities and differences between the details of specific episodes in the original and the Latin versions. A third major task will be to read recent scholarship on the use of Homeric scenes in visual art of the Roman period, especially Pompeian painting and the Tabulae Iliacae and to chart correlations between the episodes and the treatment found in the visual art of the time and the version of events given in the Ilias Latina.

Required Skills/Pre-requisites

It is necessary for this project that the Scholar have some advanced training in Latin. A basic knowledge of Greek would also be most advantageous. Also useful would be a general familiarity with the conventions of epic poetic narrative, with the myths of the Trojan War, and with Roman art.