Scholia Reviews ns 14 (2005) 2.

Keith Maclennan (ed.), Virgil: Aeneid VI. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2003. Pp. 231, incl. 2 figures, appendix, 3 indexes, and vocabulary. ISBN 1-85399-653-X. UKú9.99.

John Whitehorne,
Classics, The University of Queensland

Aeneid VI is one of the longest books of the poem. It is also one of the most important, and not only in its own right and on account of the inspiration it has provided for so many later writers, artists, and composers in the western tradition. It also functions as a necessary hinge between the Odyssean and Iliadic halves of Virgil's epic, showing us an Aeneas who can at last put the past behind him and glimpse the glory of his Roman descendants' great future. This new edition and commentary by Keith Maclennan, who was until recently Head of Classics at Rugby School, is therefore extremely welcome.

Although the texts in this Bristol Classical Press series are described as editions, in this case, as in most of the other volumes in this series, the editing involves only a few departures in reading from Mynors' standard Oxford text. Five in total, they are listed in the preface (p. 8) but are not discussed in the commentary. Two (de more for ex more at line 39; vidit for at line 495) are non-controversial. Nonetheless I would have liked to have seen some discussion by Maclennan of his preference for lumina over limina at line 255, which R. G. Austin defended in a long note in his 1977 Oxford edition; for ducta over the more unusual and striking educta at line 630; and the retention of the older manuscripts' ugly and repetitious litore rather than limite at line 900. This latter is of course bound up with the question whether line 901, which is a doublet of Aeneid 3.277, is accepted as genuine. Bentley and Norden did not like it but most modern commentators seem to keep it in on the grounds that it balances the landing at Cumae with which Aeneid VI begins and thus rounds off the book in a satisfying way.

The primary purpose of Maclennan's edition and commentary however is not to discuss variant readings (although for some reason he does discuss the possibility of reading concilium for consilium at 433) but to provide a replacement for H. Gould and J. Whiteley's school edition of Aeneid VI.[[1]] This is a task which Maclennan has carried out extremely well. He begins with an introduction (pp. 9-42) which covers a number of topics with admirable clarity and succinctness. An initial section on the historical background (pp. 9-11), covers the context in which Virgil lived and wrote ('a period of huge expansion . . . and terrifying political disturbance', pp. 9f.). There follow sections on Virgil's life and writings (pp. 11f.), Virgil and his predecessors (pp. 12f.), The Aeneid as a poem (pp. 13f.), a fairly extended summary of the Aeneid (pp. 14-20, much more useful than the exceedingly brief synopsis given by R. D. Williams, pp. xvi-xix, in his 1972 edition of Aeneid I-VI). The longest section ('The Sixth Book', pp. 20-30) discusses the content of Aeneid VI itself, rightly emphasizing the living reality for Virgil and his contemporaries of the book's setting at Cumae and around the Bay of Naples, which contrasts so strikingly with his highly imaginative account of the underworld.

The final sections (pp. 30-39) deal with matters of metre, again with admirable clarity. Scansion (pp. 32-34) is thankfully made as simple as possible rather than as complicated as possible, which is so often the case. I am pleased to see someone else with so much experience as Maclennan telling students the same thing as I do -- first lock in the last five syllables of the line and the initial long syllable, and then start worrying about elision and the other longs after that.

The text (pp. 43-70) is clear and well set out in a good sized font and the proofing has been well done.[[2]] It is also good for the target readership to have the text broken up into more manageable bite-sized chunks, based for the most part on the paragraphing of the Oxford text. Each of them is headed by its own short summary of contents. Some sections however seem rather long at more than fifty lines, especially when we get down into the underworld where the syntax and vocabulary are as confusing and slow going as the topography of the place, and they could perhaps have been subdivided further; for example, the description of Tartarus at lines 547ff. could have been sectioned at 562 after the end of the initial ecphrasis, while the lengthy description of Aeneas' unborn descendants at 756ff. could have been split further into lines 788-807 (the gens Iulia and Augustus), lines 808-35 (early kings and Republican heroes, Caesar and Pompey), and lines 836-53 (other famous Romans and Rome's destiny).

The notes (pp. 71-185), as one might expect, are more extensive than those of R. D. Williams in his edition of Aeneid I-VI, but less comprehensive than those of R. G. Austin's edition. As one would also expect, they also give more help on points of grammar and syntax than these other editors and are also fuller than those of the older school editions such as Gould and Whiteley, who could assume that their students had had a longer and deeper acquaintance with Latin. I think that Maclennan's expected readership of school and university students should find his approach very useful, particularly if they follow up the links to the explanations of literary, grammatical and metrical terms given in Index 1 (pp. 191-4). While the notes contain plenty of information on mythological allusions, the relative paucity of any cross references to earlier books of the Aeneid or to other classical authors to whom Virgil is indebted, or vice versa, is perhaps noticeable. A rare exception is the discussion of Virgil's borrowing from Catullus' Coma Berenices (Catullus 66.39) at line 460, although in the Appendix Maclennan does quote and give extended comparisons of Ennius, Annals 187-91 with lines 179-82, and Lucretius 2.1048-66 with lines 724-51. Nonetheless the implicit assumption (quite a valid one) is that this is an edition primarily aimed at those who may be reading one book of Virgil in a Latin course rather than those who are reading Aeneid VI in the course of reading the whole epic as a literary work. Anyone who intends to do that would be better advised to have R. D. Williams' two volume edition (1972, reissued by Bristol Classical Press in 1996 and still available) of the Aeneid beside them.

Following the first index on literary and other terms, Maclennan gives indexes of names in the text, other names, and vocabulary. It is difficult to believe that those with enough Latin and interest in the ancient world to read Aeneid VI in the original could also need an index telling them who Cicero or Socrates was, but the index of names in the text will be most useful given that many of the names are Greek in origin and/or are declined irregularly. So too will the vocabulary, allowing this edition to be used as a stand-alone text.

In conclusion, Maclennan can be well pleased with what he has produced here. May his text have as long a life as its predecessor Gould and Whiteley has done.


[[1]] H.E. Gould and J.L. Whiteley (edd.), Vergil: Aeneid Book Six (London 1946).

[[2]] I noted only a few typographical errors (line 17, read astitit for asitit, line 23 read Cnosia for Gnosia, lines 116 and 868 read gnati and gnate (the old forms) for nati and nate, line 447 read Euadnenque for Euadnen).