In recent decades, international research
on Virgil has been marked, if not dominated, by the ideas of the
'Harvard school' and similar trends, according to which the poet
was engaged in an elaborate work of subtle subversion, directed
against the new ruler of the Roman world, Octavian-Augustus. Much
of Virgil's oeuvre consists prima facie of eulogy of the ruler,
and of emphatic prediction of his enduring success: this is explained
by numerous modern critics as generic convention, or as studied
ambiguity, or as irony.This paradoxical position, which runs against
ancient - as well as much modern - interpretation of the poet,
continues to create widespread unease. Stahl's new monograph is
the most thorough study so far to question modern Virgilian criticism
on philological grounds. He bases himself on the internal logic
and rhetoric of the Aeneid, and considers also political, historical,
archaeological and philosophical subjects addressed by the poem.
He finds that the poet has so presented the morality of his central
figure, Augustus' supposed ancestor Aeneas, and of those who (eventually)
clash with him, Turnus and Dido, as to make it certain that Roman
readers and hearers of the poem were meant to conclude in Aeneas'
favour. Virgil's intention emerges from Stahl's thorough, ingenious
and original argumentation as decisively pro-Augustan. Stahl's
work, in short, will not only enliven debate on current critical
hypotheses but for many will enduringly affect their credibility.
Hans-Peter Stahl is one of the most distinguished contemporary
writers on classical literature. An authority on both Greece
and Rome, his particular achievement is to reveal the internal
logic of writers, imaginative and factual alike, in the political
sphere. Stahl has written
Propertius: `Love' and `War': Individual and State under
Augustus (University of California Press, 1985) and Thucydides,
Man's Place in History (Classical Press of Wales, 2003; original German edition,
Hans-Peter Stahl has been for many years Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Classics
at the University of Pittsburgh.