As my first year went on, I felt the need to throw in something ancient, something grandiose. The Iliad and The Odyssey seemed terrifying to teach, as the language would be a struggle for my students. I settled on The Aeneid, instead; predominantly because I was familiar enough with the original Latin to know a decent translation when I saw it. So I went with that.
- I) Discuss Greek and Roman mythology
- A) The Gods
1) Who they are
- a) The major gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon
2) What they represent
- B) The Trojan War
1) The Apple of Discord
2) The Most Beautiful Goddess in Heaven
3) Helen of Troy
4) The Fall of Troy
- II) Watch Troy.
(As there is no movie for The Aeneid, and the story is long and dry, it is crucial to show the movie of the Trojan War and the destruction of Troy before reading the book.) Do not watch the Director’s Cut, as there is a greater deal more nudity and violence, and some schools may consider it pushing a limit to watch an R-rated movie in class at all.
There is a bonus at the end, when Paris looks to one of the people escaping the city and asks for his name–this youth is Aeneas, and it makes for a great visual reference for the actual story!
III) Background Information on The Aeneid
- A) Propaganda
1) Explain the idea of propaganda
- a) My class tends to read this late in the year, so propaganda is more of a review concept
2) Explain the Roman war machine and their conquest of the ancient world
- a) Having just wiped Carthage from existence, Augustus Caesar wanted a national epic that proclaimed Rome’s glory as predestined in ages past
- B) The Epic Hero Cycle
1) Outline the points of the Epic Hero Cycle
- a) See Epic Hero Cycle handout (separate post)
- b) This is a great discussion for the class, and you can incorporate assignments such as finding each criterion in the text, as well as having students find examples in their favorite shows, movies, books, or video games
- IV) Read The Aeneid
- Chapter by Chapter is best
- There are 12 chapters to the story, so this can take anywhere between 2-4 weeks to read
- I wrote Chapter Reviews for each chapter, adapted from Spark Notes, and included Themes, Vocabulary, and Characters
- Discuss the Events
- Certain things are more relevant than others, but the bulk of the story connects Rome’s mythological roots with much of the ancient world
- Some of the text references Homer’s The Odyssey, making this a sequel to The Iliad and a companion to the former.
- It would not hurt to ask students about fan fiction and have them debate/decide if this constitutes such
- Discuss the Characters
- The gods have more personality than the mortals. Why?
- Is Aeneas a good main character? Why or Why not?
- This is a great way to discuss heroes in popular culture, as well. For example, who is the better superhero: Superman or Batman? Why?
- If you start the Superman/Batman discussion, the students should very quickly engage-—this is their chance to shine on what makes a hero interesting. Let them take the whole class, if possible, and have them explain their opinions. Then have them connect those points to the characters in the story.
- Discuss the Themes
- What is fate?
- Are people bound by an unseen, predetermined path?
- Refugees and Suffering
- There is so much of this in the modern world, with all our modern amenities. How much better/worse could it have been in antiquity?
- Have students imagine being the very last of their civilization. What would they do? How would they preserve what’s left of their culture?
- V) Assessment
- Nightly homework summaries
- Writing assignments carrying over from in-class discussions
- Gods and their primal representations
- Modern heroic formulae
- What makes a hero likable?
- Fate and Suffering
- Determined by the teacher as needed
- Test- See related post