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The Aeneid of Virgil (Bantam Classics)
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65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
With Robert Fagles's version of 'The Aeneid' just released, I thought that would be the version I would be reading. I tried Robert Fitzgerald's version some years ago, but I gave up after the 5th or 6th "book".

After reading the numerous glowing reviews for Allen Mandelbaum's translation, I thought I would give it a shot.... plus it cost a lot less than Fagles's! I was not disappointed.

Mr. Mandelbaum's take on Virgil's epic is eminently accessible, very easy to understand (but not dumbed down at all). The glossary at the end is a huge help in identifying characters and places (as many of them go by more than one name).

This is a thrilling tale full of adventure, romance, war, friendship and loyalty. If you buy only one version, this is the one to get.
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59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a very good English verse rendering of Virgil's classic. If you like epic poetry but can't read classical languages this translation is probably the next best thing. Though nothing compares to the original this is a faithful translation, and the verse makes for a more interesting presentation than prose.
This is a "no frills" volume (hence the price), so it is best for readers who already know the basic premise of The Aeneid and the main characters. It has a basic glossary that may be a useful refresher for knowledge already acquired, but it lacks the translator's introduction that typically sets the stage (both for the plot and the poem's place in history) and triples the price in other volumes.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Roman society was enamoured of Greek culture -- many of the best 'Roman' things were Greek; the major gods were derivative of the Greek pantheon; philosophy, literature, science, political ideals, architecture -- all this was adopted from the Greeks. It makes sense that, at the point of their ascendancy in the world, they would long for an epic history similar to the Homeric legends; the Iliad and the Odyssey, written some 500 years after the actual events they depict, tell of the heroism of the Greeks in their battle against Troy (Ilium). The Aeneid, written by Vergil 700 years after Homer, at the commission of Augustus (himself in the process of consolidating his authority over Rome), turns the heroic victory of the much-admired Greeks on its head by postulating a survivor from Troy, Aeneas, who undergoes as journey akin to the Odyssey, even further afield.

Vergil constructs Aeneas, a very minor character in the Iliad, as the princely survivor and pilgrim from Troy, on a journey through the Mediterranean in search of a new home. According to Fitzgerald, who wrote a brief postscript to the poem, Vergil created a Homeric hero set in a Homeric age, purposefully following the Iliad and Odyssey as if they were formula, in the way that many a Hollywood director follows the formulaic pattern of past successful films. Vergil did not create the Trojan legend of Roman origins, but his poem solidified the notion in popular and scholarly sentiment.

Vergil sets the seeds for future animosity between Carthage and Rome in the Aeneid, too -- the curse of queen Dido on the descendants of Aeneas of never-ending strife played into then-recent recollections of war in the Roman mind. Books I through VI are much more studied than VII through XII, but the whole of the Aeneid is a spectacular tale.

Mandelbaum's translation is poetic and stately, giving grace and life to the epic poem. Sometimes long-form poetry can become overblown in self-indulgence; Mandelbaum's translation avoids this by writing in free verse for the most part. There are no forced rhymes and schemes that detract from the story line. Word choice is contemporary and engaging.

Vergil died before he could complete the story. He wished it to be burned; fortunately, Augustus had other ideas. Still, there are incomplete lines and thoughts, and occasional conflicts in the storyline that one assumes might have been worked out in the end, had more editing time been available. Despite these, the Aeneid remains a masterpiece, and Mandelbaum's translation will likely be a companion for students and other readers for a long time to come.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Allen Mandelbaum has given us the greatest English verse translation of the greatest Latin epic, the Aeneid. Mandelbaum manages to tune the Latin lyre to the beats of English verse without befouling it with the tediousness of the rhyming couplet. One truly hears the ancient voice of Virgil resounding in the contemporary pages of Mandelbaum's work. Aeneas on quest for homeland, Juno's savage rage, the burning passion of Dido, the two hero's struggle for the hand of Lavinia--all these themes and more will be realized almost fully in the original light upon which the master Virgil cast them.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read 4 different translations of the Aeneid. This is the best by far. It is not a literal, line for line translation, which often comes off the wrong way. It is a more free translation, to convey the meaning, not the same structure as the original latin work. Allen Mandelbaum does an amazing job and his writing is very beautiful. Even from the very first page this book jumps out at you.
The reason why Virgil wanted this book destroyed after his death was because he felt it was unfinished. But there is very little that should be added. There are a couple of very minor plot holes (such as how did the Trojans built their fortress in Italy so quickly?) that Virgil had not fully polished yet, but who cares? The story is amazing, and unlike the Iliad or the Odyssey, the gods don't interfere in each and every small thing that happens, which was annoying in those books.
If you liked the Iliad and Odyssey, you will love the Aeneid. Consider it like a sequel. You find out what happened to certain characters like Andromache, Helenus or Diomedes after the Trojan war. I just can't recommend this book enough, and it's impossible to put its greatness into a few words. Why a movie version has never been made, I will never know, but maybe that's a blessing, because I shudder to think of the damage a Hollywood version would do to the image of the book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2009
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
I purchased this particular translation of the Aeneid to help me read the original Latin text, and it has done a good job of helping me understand complicated grammatical phrases filled with patronymics and Greek constructions.

Mandlebaum's translation, however, is not the most enjoyable to read. He translates literally many of the Latin verb tenses, which make more sense in the original language, making the reader feel slightly disoriented.

Furthermore, part of the beauty of the Aeneid is its mood of antiquity. Mandlebaum modernizes the language, creating such ridiculous lines as, "It was so hard to found the race of Rome" (I.50). A translation that stays closer to the original Latin, and sounds less colloquial in English, would be something like "What a burden it was to found the Roman race."

There are several annoying but simple typos, such as "though" for "through" which make the reader feel that the text was not thoroughly edited.

Although it is to be expected with Bantam Classics books, the margins leave very little space for notes, and the text runs to the middle of the page, meaning that you can't easily hold the book open with just one hand.

So, all things considered, this is a great book for Latin students looking for a literal translation of the Aeneid, but those looking for an enjoyable English read should look elsewhere (try The Aeneid (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition), for instance).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
First, I'm not qualified to opine on whether Mandelbaum's translation is true to the Latin. I struggled with Virgil's complex poetry as a 4th year Latin student and have no idea if Mandelbaum gets it right. But this translation is eminently readable, retaining the feel of epic poetry. I have the feeling that any flaws in Mandelbaum's rendering reflect shortcomings in Virgil's original text.

Second, this is a very handy edition, especially for the price. Even if you already own the Aeneid in other form, you might want to pick this one up. It is a pocket-sized paperback, yet the print is not tiny and is very readable. This is a better edition to bring with you on the plane than one of the bulkier versions. Plus, this edition provides an excellent glossary, which is an absolute must given the torrent of names that flow through this work.

Finally, the Aeneid itself: Virgil is a literary titan, if only for his Georgics. The Aeneid is also a towering work, but troubling and flawed. Virgil himself was troubled by this work, which he left unfinished with instructions for it to be destroyed. In his effort to give Rome its own epic, combining features of both the Odyssey and Iliad to create the Aeneid, Virgil adopted some of the less interesting mannerisms of those older works. In particular, the battle scenes are violent, soaked in blood, long on smashed brains and decapitations and dripping entrails, short on exploring the pathos of life cut short for the sake of pointless conflict. It reads much like the Iliad, with seemingly endless lines of "A slew B and C slew D and E slew F." Maybe this was good stuff to an ancient Roman but to a modern reader it is boring in the same way as all the "begats" in some books of the Bible. Even more disturbing than the over-the-top, repetitive violence of the work is the sense of underlying pessimism, as every time reason and peace seem about to prevail, some god or goddess shakes things up and -- all too easily -- the killing starts anew. Maybe this reflected Virgil's own disgust with the times that he had lived through, with civil war erupting every few years until Octavian had finally killed off every other rival. But the rivers of blood that are spilled in the second half of the Aeneid do not make for as ennobling a foundation myth as perhaps Virgil was looking for. While Rome is destined for greatness, it is so because Jupiter has said so, has decided to favor Aeneas above his enemies, not because of anything inherently great about the proto-Romans. Maybe, had Virgil lived longer, he might have found a way to tweak this work to have Aeneas end up as more than just an executioner for Fate.

And it is in the first half of the epic that Aeneas indeed is more than just a slayer. His romance with Dido is perhaps the most famous story within the poem and, although it is also marred by too much Olympian meddling, portrays Aeneas as possessing humanity and a capacity to love that is missing at the end. His descent into Hades, so that he can have one last conversation with his father, is also a compelling episode. In short, the Aeneid stands as a great work, a classic, for these beautiful passages, even if the last few books of the poem read a little like someone trying to narrate the events in a violent video game.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Aeneid by Virgil is the story of Rome's founding, written over two thousand years ago, with the intention of being a sequel to Homer's Iliad. The story was not a creation of the author's imagination, but derived from oral folk tales that were already hundreds of years old. This is the greatest and probably the oldest of the survivor tales. It tells how a little band of refugees who fled the fall of Troy founded western civilization. Perhaps the most important thing you will come away with after reading this story is how much like us these people were. Their dreams for the future are locked in with their will to succeed and it is interesting that the story plays out like a modern day international thriller.
When I read this book I was living in a very small town. I was dismayed that so many of the teenagers, especially the boys, did not read. They hung around my house, (my nubile niece was staying with me) like young Knights hungering for some quest or other on which to spend their energies. I took to telling little bits and pieces of whatever I was reading and boys who had never read a whole book, started borrowing my books. Some of the books were returned, but the Aeneid, the Iliad and The Monkey wrench Gang were passed on to other friends and never found their way home.
That The Iliad and The Aeneid are no longer assigned reading in middle school is probably one of the reasons so few teenage boys ever learn the joy of reading. If you want to get a video game junkie to read just give him this book and suggest he skim through it and look for ancient winning strategies, he'll be hooked in no time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2011
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
I took AP Latin: Vergil Junior year and had to read this book before I got to class. I thought that it was going to be extremely boring and dry. I was surprised. Mandelbaum makes the book more than tolerable, dare I say somewhat enjoyable. He's probably more colloquial than most of the other translations, which helps when you're trying to remember precise details of the plot from how Troy's Priam and his family die, to the treacherous journey of Aeneas across foreign lands. It's not going to be good for translating since it's not exactly direct word for word, but if you want to understand the book, this is the translation to get.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
I consider the primary difficulty in studying The Aeneid to be the introduction of more than 250 proper names in the first three books. This Bantam Classic includes the best glossary I have found in any translation or commentary. The Mandelbaum translation is also the one quoted by Professor Elizabeth Vandiver in her lectures "The Aeneid of Virgil" published by The Teaching Company.
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