No arms and the man? Virgil's Aeneid in modern popular culture

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Perhaps more than any other text, Virgil's Aeneid has had an impact on Western literature and society. The reasons for this popularity seem obvious, for it contains all the elements one would want in an enduring tale: a brave hero, an arduous yet eventually successful journey and quest, a tragic love plot, a people searching for a homeland. Taken on such a level, it would appear to be perfect material for a Hollywood blockbuster and multiple spin-offs. Yet to date, there have been remarkably few receptions of the work in modern popular culture, although Troy and the Trojan War continue to thrive, with receptions multiplying across genres and for all age groups. If Greece was, until recently, in the words of Gideon Nesbit, the neglected 'dog in the nighttime' in terms of classical reception and popular culture, Aeneas is the invisible hero, rarely glimpsed at all. This paper provides a brief overview of the reception of Virgil's Aeneid in modern popular culture, considering popular fiction, children's literature, poetry, screen and stage, before making some suggestions about why Virgil's epic poem has failed to take hold in this culture in the way that Homer's have, and what this suggests about both the Aeneid and contemporary society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-127
Number of pages17
JournalScripta Classica Israelica
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Israel Society for the Promotion of Classical Studies. All rights reserved.


  • Aeneas
  • Aeneid
  • Ancient world on film
  • Children's literature
  • Classical reception
  • Dido
  • Drama
  • Epic
  • Hero
  • Heroine
  • Hollywood
  • Lavinia
  • Opera
  • Popular culture
  • Popular fiction
  • Stage
  • Television
  • Trojan war
  • Virgil
  • Warfare
  • Women poets


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