Vergil's Aeneid and the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius
ARCA 39. ISBN 978-0-905205-97-7. xii+519 pp. Cloth. May 2001.
In his introduction, Damien Nelis pays generous tribute to an earlier scholar: "all I had to do was follow in the footsteps of G.N. Knauer and the pathways set out in his monumental study of Homeric influence on Vergil, Die Aeneis und Homer (1964)."
But this modest assessment of the task leaves out of account Nelis's mastery of the extra levels of complexity involved in studying the Aeneid’s indebtedness to the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius. For Apollonius himself was engaged in thorough-going imitation of Homer, and one of the strengths of this book is to demonstrate, and in considerable detail, first, what Apollonius was doing with his epic predecessor, and, second, what Vergil, fully aware of Apollonius' uses of and insights into Homer, did with Apollonius. Vergil also, as Nelis shows, pondered deeply on the structure of Apollonius' poem, and the Aeneid comments on and reworks not only the broad outline of the Iliad and of the Odyssey, but also and simultaneously that of the Argonautica. A study of the Aeneid in its relation to the Argonautica therefore necessarily involves a study of the Argonautica in relation to the Homeric poems; and our understanding of Vergil's imitation of Homer is profoundly affected by the Apollonian dimension.
Professor Nelis thus provides perhaps the most exhaustive treatment to date of the technique of multi-tier allusion. Nobody with an interest in Homer, Apollonius or Vergil, or in ancient techniques of literary imitation, can possibly afford to ignore his work.
Damien Nelis is currently Professor at the Université of Genève, having previously held the Chair of Latin at Trinity College, Dublin.
Anzeiger für die Altertumswissenschaft 55 (2002) coll. 170-77 (Paul Dräger)
Journal of Roman Studies 93 (2003) pp.368-70 (reviewed together with Wendell Clausen, Virgil’s Aeneid: Decorum, Allusion and Ideology (2002) (Sergio Casale). “I have not even tried to give a complete picture of N[elis]’s complexity and richness in detailed analysis. The importance of this book lies not only in its masterful and very stimulating, sometimes even provocative, treatment of Apollonian influence on the Aeneid. For its clarity, its completeness, its great critical acumen, its amazing mastery of Virgilian bibliography, I recommend it, together with C[lausen]’s, as one of the best guides to the reading of Virgil’s poem available today.”
L’Antiquité Classique 72 (2003) p.392 (Pol Tordeur). “… nous avons affaire ici à une recherche précise, passionante même, qui s’inscrit dans la fameuse thématique de l’imitatio au sens large, de la fidélité à une grande tradition.”
Classical World 97.4 (2004) pp.450-51 (C.B. Beye). “Nelis offers stimulating interpretations from which future dissertation writers will benefit. Most important, Nelis has created a book of facts. This book will be the standard reference work for decades to come, providing the basis for dozens of research topics.”
Latomus 73 (2004) 739-40 (Godefroid de Callataÿ)