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As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, before you can recommend potential pharmacotherapeutics to address a patient’s condition or disorder, you must understand the basic function and structure of the neuron and central nervous system. For this Assignment, you will review and apply your understanding of neuroanatomy by addressing a set of short answer prompts.


To Prepare:

· Review the Learning Resources for this week in preparation to complete this Assignment.

· Reflect on the basic function and structure of the neuron in relation to the central nervous system.

· Reflect on the inter-connectedness between neurons and the central nervous system, including the pathway and distribution of electrical impulses.

· Reflect on how neurons communicate with each other and review the concept of neuroplasticity.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

To complete:

Address the following Short Answer prompts for your Assignment. Be sure to include references to the Learning Resources for this week.

1. In 4 or 5 sentences, describe the anatomy of the basic unit of the nervous system, the neuron. Include each part of the neuron and a general overview of electrical impulse conduction, the pathway it travels, and the net result at the termination of the impulse. Be specific and provide examples.

2. Answer the following (listing is acceptable for these questions):

· What are the major components that make up the subcortical structures?

· Which component plays a role in learning, memory, and addiction?

· What are the two key neurotransmitters located in the nigra striatal region of the brain that play a major role in motor control?

3. In 3 or 4 sentences, explain how glia cells function in the central nervous system. Be specific and provide examples.

4. The synapse is an area between two neurons that allows for chemical communication. In 3 or 4 sentences, explain what part of the neurons are communicating with each other and in which direction does this communication occur? Be specific.

5. In 3–5 sentences, explain the concept of “neuroplasticity.” Be specific and provide examples.

Task 6. Activities for Greek Drama.



Read through all the Greek Drama Activities listed below under the title, Task 6. Then, select one of these questions to answer for Activity 4 and upload it here.



Task Six:  Activities for Greek Drama


Please read through all of these Activities before making your selection. Make a copy of the Activity question to begin your response. Upload your Activity here.  These Activity entries must be thoughtful; 
each one should be the equivalent of at least a full typed page or more in length (e.g. not less than


50 words).  They may be longer if you need to say more on your topic. You will not be able to do these Activity entries properly unless you have carefully read the assigned literature.



· The House of Atreus is one of the world’s most famous dysfunctional families. Look up each of the family members, write a brief biography of each, and then explain what the family’s main problems were. Support your ideas with specific examples from your reading. Bulfinch’s Mythology is a good place to start.


· Consider the scene where Clytemnestra persuades Agamemnon to walk into the palace on valuable tapestries. She is treacherous; he is arrogant. He has sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia; she has taken his cousin as her lover. So who is to blame for what happens next? Do you think her killing of Agamemnon is righteous vengeance or criminal murder? Support your position with specific examples from the play.


· What could be more dangerous than going off to war while a treacherous, adulterous woman stays at home? This is the threat of Clytemnestra. No matter how successful Agamemnon might be, he could not defend himself against his wife. She is one of the most feared and loathed women in Greek literature. List some of her interesting behavior patterns and explain why they make her seem so dangerous to Agamemnon and other Greek men of the time. You might want to look for background information using Diotima, which links to materials for the study of women and gender in the ancient world


· Discuss Agamemnon’s character as a king and as a husband in the play Agamemnon. Do you think he deserved to die? Why or why not? Support your comments with specific examples from the play.


· Lysistrata is about women seizing power and withholding sex in order to stop a war. However, it was written by a man during a period of history when Athenian women couldn’t even go to the marketplace on their own. Do you think a woman would have written this play differently? Why? How? Be specific in your answer and use examples from the play to support your ideas.


· Medea is betrayed by her mortal husband Jason. She responds by killing his father in law and new wife AND by murdering her own children who were fathered by Jason. Why do you think Medea kills her children? Use specific examples from the play to support your points.

· Medea is a woman, a foreigner, a witch, a scary, powerful creature. Do you think Euripides was sympathetic to her strangeness, or did he use it to show what a horrid being she was? Discuss and support your comments with examples from the play.


· Oedipus the King. The fate of the infant Oedipus was predicted at birth. No matter what he did in life, he would end up killing his father and marrying his mother. Contrast this to the conditional futures that Tiresias predicts for Odysseus when he visits Hades in Book XI of the Odyssey. If Odysseus does one thing, “A” will happen, and if he does something else, then “B” will happen. Compare the fixed fate of Oedipus with the fluid fate of Odysseus. Use examples from both texts to support your points.


· Oedipus the King. Discuss the relationship of Oedipus and Jocasta in Oedipus the King. Are there any indications that she is much older than Oedipus? That she might be his mother? Should Oedipus have been concerned about who she was when he married her? Do you suspect Oedipus of practicing DENIAL? Support your comments with specific examples from the play.


· Oedipus the King and Antigone. Both Oedipus in Oedipus the King, and Creon in Antigone rule Thebes with arrogance and bad temper. Yet as rulers, they exhibit some very important differences. How are Oedipus and Creon different? Which king is the better leader? Why? Support your answer with examples from the plays.


· There are a number of excellent films of Greek Dramas, including Agamemnon, Oedipus and Medea. If you can locate one of these films, watch it and write a critical review, describing how the film interprets the drama and comparing it to the text of the play (which you, of course, have read).


· Woody Allen’s film, Mighty Aphrodite, uses a Greek chorus which gradually moves from Greece to Manhattan over the course of the film. Compare his use of the Greek chorus to its use in a Greek drama that you have read. Be sure to support your ideas using specific details from both the Woody Allen film and the Greek drama.


· Both Oedipus and Job from the Hebrew Bible struggle with the question of the inscrutable nature of God’s will. Although the answers are quite different, each is disturbing, because there does not seem to be much room for human understanding, action, and freedom in relation to God and/or fate. Compare/contrast these two ancient heroes who struggle with divine power and support your ideas with specific examples from both texts.


· Consider two stories where a father is asked by a god to sacrifice his child: Abraham in the Hebrew Bible and Agamemnon in Iphigenia at Aulis (by Euripides). Discuss what the two stories have in common and important ways in which they are different, using specific details from both texts.


· Make up an interesting question of your own about a Greek Drama and answer it using relevant examples from the text(s).

· Week 6 Discussion Question


· Identify the play you chose to study.  Did you know the play before you chose it?  What stands out for you as you read it for class?  What message(s) does the play hold for someone reading or watching it in 2021?

· Module 2: Reading Quiz 2

· After reading The Odyssey and the Greek play you chose, compare and contrast the two works. 

· Use the following guidelines to help you compose your answer:

· – What are at least three similarities between the two readings?

· – What are at least three differences between the two readings?

· – These two stories come from the same culture and close in time period. How do you think the two works are shaped by the time they are written in?  Why do they still speak to us today in 2021?


– Good answers will be at least 200 words (feel free to write more!)

· Plagiarism Reminder


Answers should be in your own words. Do not copy answers from online sources. I am interested in what 
you think. If you use words from the texts, use quotations marks (Example: “Noah was a righteous man.”)

Task 9. Virgil’s Aeneid/Indian Epic Activities.

TASK 9. 
Read through the Activities for Virgil’s Aeneid  and Virgil’s Aeneid/Indian Epic Activities. Then select one of these questions to answer for this Activity, and upload here.  
These activities are listed below under the title, Task 9.  The readings from Task 8 are linked here:  the selections from the Aeneid:  Book VI ( and the selections from the Bhagavad-Gita ( (Links to an external site.)

) or the Ramayana :  CANTO CXXX.: THE CONSECRATION ( (Links to an external site.)


After completing Task 9, go on to Unit 3.



Activities for The Aeneid, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Ramayana (Task Nine) (Links to an external site.)

(Course created by Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI)


Please read through all of these Activities before making your selection. Make a copy of the Activity question to begin your response. . Upload your Activity here.


· Read the entire Book VI of the Aeneid. (The section in the text cuts out most of this important book.) There is a section in this Book that deals with the cycle of souls, from death to purification to rebirth. Compare this to the concept of rebirth in the Gita. What similarities do you find? What interesting differences? And, so what? Use examples from both texts to support your ideas. (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· Read the entire Book VI of the Aeneid and read the Gita.  Aeneas discovers the purpose of his actions and destiny in this Book. Compare what he discovers to what Arjuna learns about the purpose of his actions and his destiny. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done. Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· In the Ramayana, Rama is presented as the ideal king and hero of Indian literature. Like Aeneas, he is descended from a god; like Aeneas, he suffers adversity and travels through the wilderness. Rama always does what he is supposed to do, promptly, cheerfully and with kindness for others. Compare/ contrast Rama’s calm acceptance of adversity with Aeneas’ moans and groans about the “tears of things.” Which hero seems more “real” to you? Why? Develop your ideas using specific supporting examples from both texts. (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· In the Ramayana, the forest is presented as “a place of pain,” where people go into exile to live as ascetics. This forest is contrasted with the pleasures and safety of life in the city. Think back to Gilgamesh and Enkidu and the complex relationship between city and wilderness in that story. Compare/contrast these two visions of wilderness and civilization and make some interesting point about them. Use examples from both texts to support your ideas.   (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· In the Ramayana, Rama’s wife Sita is the perfect woman. She loves and obeys her husband, follows him cheerfully into the wilderness, and never questions her role. There is no perfect woman in the Aeneid, but there are quite a few imperfect ones, both human and divine, who stir up a lot of trouble. There are also some imperfect women who make trouble in the Ramayana, including the hunchback who provokes Kaikeyi to demand Rama’s exile. Compare/contrast some of the women in these two epics and come to some interesting conclusion. Support your ideas with specific examples from both epics. (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· In the Ramayana, Rama insists that right action is obedience to his father. Right action for Sita, Rama’s wife, is to obey her husband. Compare/contrast this clarity of knowing what is right with the fog Aeneas seems to wander in, never quite knowing what he is supposed to do, except in brief moments when a god intervenes, such as Mercury telling him to leave Dido. Support your ideas with specific examples from both texts. (Be sure to post the Activity question  at the top of your essay.)


· Read the entire Book VI of the Aeneid. Aeneas  has lost his homeland and must trudge onward to fulfill a destiny that is not of his choosing. He is somewhat consoled in the underworld (Book VI) by a vision of the future destiny of Rome and his descendents. In the Gita, Arjuna grieves because the coming battle will pit friends and relatives against one another, but Krishna teaches him that it does not matter, because every soul is eternal. Duty must be done, but with a pure, detached attitude. Compare/contrast these two very different notions of destiny and why a hero must act as he does. Support your comments with examples from both texts. (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· Read the Book of Job (71-82) online –use link to Hebrew Bible) and compare/contrast Job’s vision of the unknowable God with Arjuna’s vision of Krishna’s totality. Do you see interesting similarities? Differences? And, so what? Use specific examples from both texts to support your ideas. (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)

· If you are interested in reading the entire Gita (there is only an excerpt in the textbook), it is on the www at The Bhagavad-Gita. Explore the character of Arjuna and compare/contrast him in some depth to the character of Aeneas. Support your ideas with examples from both texts. (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· Consider all that Aeneas has to give up, including his wife, Creusa and his lover, Dido. Can you see similarities between the many losses that Aeneas suffers on the way to founding Rome and the Gita’s doctrine of discipline? Can you see interesting differences? So what? Support your ideas with examples from both texts. (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· The ending of the Aeneid is very bitter–Aeneas kills Turnus, his violent enemy and the poem ends abruptly. Clearly there is no hopeful future for Aeneas, although Rome is promised to his descendents. Some people have commented that Roman paganism offered no “solutions,” to the problems of loss and death, which paved the way for the solutions offered by Christianity. Do you see any “solutions” for these problems in the Gita? If so, what, exactly, are they? Develop and support your ideas with examples from both texts. (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· Read the Sermon on the Mount and compare/contrast its message with that of the Gita. Each offers a “solution” to the loss and pain of human experience, but in very different ways. Develop and support your ideas with examples from both texts.  (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· Aeneas (Aeneid), Rama (Ramayana), and Arjuna (Gita) all learn what their heroic duty is, and all finally accept it. However, the “duty” each learns is different in interesting ways. Compare/contrast the different kinds of duty two of these heroes learn, and support your ideas with examples from the texts. (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)


· Arjuna (Gita) and Isaiah (Hebrew Bible): Encounters with God. Read Isaiah 6 and compare/contrast his vision of the unknowable God with Arjuna’s vision of Krishna’s totality. Do you see interesting similarities? Differences? And, so what? Use specific examples from both texts to support your ideas. (Thanks to Sandra Del Cid for this question.) If you want to expand this question to include other examples from the Hebrew Bible, you can. (Be sure to post the Activity question at the top of your essay.)

· Week 7 Discussion Question

This week you were asked to read 
the selections from the Aeneid:  Book VI (
) and the selections from the Bhagavad-Gita ( (Links to an external site.)

the Ramayana :  CANTO CXXX.: THE CONSECRATION ( (Links to an external site.)

).  Had you ever read any of those selections before this class?  What stands out the most to you about this week’s readings?  What message(s) do these selections hold for a reader today?

Module 2: Reading Quiz 3

This Unit introduced you to material ranging from amazing adventures to philosophical questioning of good and evil, divinity and destiny. You learned about the different ways that mythic, “epic” material can be handled in different civilizations.  You 
read selections from two first century BCE epics, Roman Virgil’s Aeneid and one of two Indian epics: The Bhagavad-Gita or The Ramayana. These epics all deal with important religious and ethical questions about love, war, destiny, the nature of divinity and the nature of the universe.

Based on your readings, what did you come away with in regards to these epics all dealing with important religious and ethical questions about love, war, destiny, the nature of divinity and the nature of the universe?  Please explain your thinking.

– Good answers will be at least 200 words (feel free to write more!)

Plagiarism Reminder

Answers should be in your own words. Do not copy answers from online sources. I am interested in what 
you think. If you use words from the texts, use quotations marks (Example: “Noah was a righteous man.”)

Module 2 Research

Choose a video or an article that focuses on one of the selections we studied in Module 2.  Please introduce the video or article to the class.  Remember to post the link to your video or article.

Task 4. Greek Drama Study Guide.




Read through the Greek Drama Study Guide listed below in this document under the title, Task 4.  This will guide you as you select and read a Greek Drama. .


You may choose to watch the Greek Drama Video instead. It contains the same information. Home Page. (Links to an external site.)


If you decide to read this play, here is a link to its text under the Read tab: (Links to an external site.)


Task Four:  Greek Drama Study Guide





Greek theatre was something new in its time; it developed out of a mixture of ancient myths, stories and religious rituals, contemporary lyric poetry, the genius of a remarkably few men, and the Greek love of theatrical spectacle.


This theatre developed in some relation to the god Dionysus. Although scholars disagree about just how classical Greek theatre was involved with the religion of Dionysus, they generally agree that the early forms of Greek theatre stem from poems and dances performed for Dionysus, a rather disorderly god of mixed blessings.


Whether we see the fully matured Greek theatre as Dionysian or not, we can certainly look for and see the elements of Dionysus in Greek tragedy and comedy: insanity, violence, intoxication, wildness–these are properties of Dionysus as well as of the theatre that developed in Greece. And we do know that performances of dithyrambs (poems celebrating Dionysus), as well as satyr plays, tragedies and comedies, took place at the festivals of Dionysus in Athens.





Dionysus         god of wine and madness

Dithyramb       (“twice-born”) – dance/poems in honor of Dionysus

Satyrs male worshippers of Dionysus – wore animal skins, horses tails and ears

Maenads          female worshippers of Dionysus – nursed infant male animals; also hunted and ate them raw

Goat  (“tragos”)          the sacred animal of Dionysus


Dionysus was “the god who gave man wine. However, he was known also as the raving god whose presence makes man mad and incites him to savagery and even to lust for blood…he was also the persecuted god, the suffering and dying god, and all whom he loved, all who attended him, had to share his tragic fate.” (W. Otto)


Dionysus had a difficult birth; he was snatched from his mother’s womb and secreted in the thigh of his father, Zeus, until he was ready to be born. Because of this, he was called “Dithyramb” or twice-born. His sacred animal was the goat whose Greek name, “tragos” is included in the word tragedy.




The satyrs joined the maenads in wild dances in honor of Dionysus.


Many scholars, although not all, trace the development of tragedy back to such wild dance rituals worshipping the god Dionysus.


Bieber suggests that “The worshippers of Dionysus danced around the goat, singing the dithyramb; they then sacrificed it, devoured its flesh and made themselves a dress…out of its skin, or they threw it around their shoulders like the maenads. Then they felt themselves to be goats….the maenads and satyrs….were endowed with goat nature through a change of dress, by taking the goatskin as a costume.”


This ecstatic changing into someone else was supposedly the beginning of acting, of playing a character other than oneself.


Not everyone agrees with her and Brian Vickers thinks that whatever was Dionysian in early Greek theatre was gone by the classical period of the fifth century. He also comments that probably the “tragos” goat was the prize for the winning play, not the disguise of the dancers. Whatever the case, these elements were related in some way in the early development of Greek drama.



1. Ecstatic dancing and singing in honor of Dionysus (men dressed as satyrs wearing animal skins, horse’s ears and tails and animal-like masks).

2. Satyr play–the leader of the chorus represented someone other than himself, usually a character from heroic saga, but still wore a satyr mask.

3. The leader of the satyr chorus wore the mask of a god or hero.

4. The leader of the satyr chorus was entirely separated from the chorus as an actor.


Following Bieber, The History of the Greek and Roman Theater



1. Thespis placed a separate actor opposite the leader of the chorus.

2. Spoken dialogue developed between this actor and the leader of the chorus.

3. The subject-matter was taken from heroic saga.

4. The chorus changed into various citizens of the heroic age according to the story of the play.

5. Thespis brought this form of drama, probably by wagon, to Athens in 534 B.C.

Following Bieber, The History of the Greek and Roman Theater


Aeschylus       the second actor (more dialogue); 524-456 BC: a definite actor’s costume; large, dignified masks; magnificently decorated theater

Sophocles        the third actor (still more dialogue); 496-406 BC: scene painting

Euripides         a prologue explaining preceding events; 480-406 BC: the deus ex machina ending

Following Bieber, The History of the Greek and Roman Theater

The theatres themselves were out of doors, with seating built around the slopes surrounding a circular arena. Behind this arena was a skene or backdrop building, which gradually became more elaborate over the years.


A day of theatre would begin in the early morning and include a series of three tragedies, three separate comedies, and perhaps a satyr play.


Greek tragedies are intensely emotional and focus on the horror of murder and violent death, often within the family. The characters are noble, often kings and queens, not ordinary folk. The chorus, representing the society as onlookers, worries and bewails events, but is helpless in the face of the disasters befalling the main characters.


According to Aristotle, such intense emotions on stage make us experience pity and fear, and hence purge us of those emotions. This process of purgation is called catharsis.


There has been enormous controversy over the centuries as to exactly what Aristotle meant by this term, catharsis, but the only issue we need to think about in this context is: do we feel somehow calmer, if not wiser, after experiencing one of these tragedies? If so, that calmness may be called the effect of catharsis. Or does witnessing one of these tragedies in fact upset us and leave us in a more disturbed frame of mind than before we experienced it?


Today we ask whether or not violence in the media is making people more violent, or in fact allowing them to release their tensions vicariously, so that their actual daily lives are calmer. People seem to be inclining to the position that watching violence in fact makes people more violent.


However, it is important to recognize that while Greek drama dealt with emotional violence, it never showed physical violence on stage. Further, the violence it dealt with was witnessed by a sorrowing society in the form of the chorus, and the plays ended with some form of resolution.


These differences are worth thinking about when asking whether the emotional violence of Greek tragedy is in any way like the emotional and physical violence of modern film and television.


Greek tragedies are often family tragedies: Agamemnon, for example, harks back to the sacrifice of a child (Iphigenia), enacts the murder of a spouse (Agamemnon), and looks forward to the murder of a parent (Clytemnestra). This stress on violence within the family is typical of Greek tragedy and stems from the great importance of the family in Greek life. Brian Vickers points out that since “The Greek expected to live on not in an afterworld so much as in this world, in the memory and continuous homage of his descendants….the most serious crimes for the Greeks were those which struck against the very basis of family existence: parricide, matricide, all `shedding of kindred blood’, and incest” because such crimes interfered with the continuity of the family.(110-14)




After Homer, Greek attitudes towards the Trojan War and its heroes changed. The individualistic behavior and violence of Homeric heroes such as Achilles and Odysseus became less acceptable in civilized fifth century Athens. The wild violence of heroic age women such as Clytemnestra, already a problem in Homer, became even more unacceptable. Yet, the stories remained popular. A number of plays surviving from fifth century Athens are based on Trojan War material. They include:

Aeschylus       Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides

Sophocles        Ajax, Electra, Philoctetes

Euripides         Hecuba, Andromache, The Trojan Women, Iphigenia in Tauris, Helen, Electra, Orestes, Iphigenia at Aulis


Most of these plays are concerned with events before and after the war, rather than with the war itself, and a surprising number center on women, many suffering, some evil, rather than on the ancient heroes.


Greek legends about the heroes and heroines of the Trojan Cycle were plentiful and varied; different stories about the same event or character might even contradict one another, especially in the details. For example, in one version of the legend of Iphigenia, she is sacrificed by her father Agamemnon at Aulis so that Artemis will allow favorable winds for the Greek fleet to sail to Troy. This sacrifice is used in the Agamemnon as a motive for Clytemnestra’s murder of her husband.


In an alternate version of the legend, Iphigenia is saved at the moment of sacrifice by Artemis, who snatches Iphigenia away to Tauris and replaces her on the altar with a sacrificial deer. Euripides wrote two melodramatic plays about this happier variant, Iphigenia at Aulis and Iphigenia in Tauris. Consequently, although the stories used for Greek dramas were often based on stories about the Trojan War, the treatment of the stories was up to the individual dramatist. The legends of Troy were there for the taking, available to be made into plays that met the needs and interests of Athen’s rapidly changing civilization.




The Oresteia by Aeschylus consists of three plays:

Agamemnon   Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus, kill Agamemnon when he returns home from the Trojan War.

The Libation Bearers Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, kills Clytemnestra, his own mother, to avenge her murder of Agamemnon.

The Avenging Furies OR Kindly Spirits        Orestes now must deal with the consequences of his murder of his mother and, with divine help, appease the furies who exact vengeance for matricide.



Agamemnon   King of Mycenae; husband of Clytemnestra; father of Electra, Iphigenia and Orestes; sacrificed Iphigenia; murdered by Clytemnestra

Aegisthus        lover of Clytemnestra; cousin of Agamemnon

Apollo             god of purification

Athena            patron of Athens; established Court of Aeropagus which voted to set Orestes free from blood guilt for killing his mother

Cassandra        daughter of Priam; war-prize of Agamemnon; speaks truth and is not believed; murdered by Clytemnestra

Clytemnestra   wife of Agamemnon; sister of Helen; mother of Electra, Iphigenia and Orestes; lover of Aegisthus; murders Agamemnon and Cassandra

Furies ancient demonic goddesses that uphold blood rights, especially those of motherhood

Iphigenia         daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra; sacrificed by Agamemnon to receive favorable winds to sail to Troy

Orestes            son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra; brother of Iphigenia; murders Clytemnestra; driven mad by Furies; cleansed by Apollo; set free by Court of Aeropagus





The Oresteia tells the story of the resolution of an ancient myth-family tragedy, the blood guilt of the House of Atreus. This conflict started with the two sons of Pelops, Atreus and Thyestes, quarreling over the kingship of Mycenae. Atreus became king and banished his brother Thyestes. However, when Atreus discovered that Thyestes had secretly committed adultery with Atreus’ wife Aerope, he hid his rage, inviting Thyestes to return home for a banquet. Atreus murdered two of Thyestes’ children and then served their bodies as meat to Thyestes at the banquet. After Thyestes had eaten, Atreus displayed their bloody heads, hands and feet on another dish. Thyestes vomited and cursed the seed of Atreus. Agamemnon and Menelaus are the sons of Atreus.


The curse worked itself out through:


    Agamemnon, who sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia

    Clytemnestra, who murdered her husband Agamemnon

    Orestes, Agamemnon’s son, who murdered his mother, Clytemnestra.


The Furies pursue and torment Orestes because he avenged one crime with another more forbidden crime. The Furies are the mythic enforcerers of ancient blood vengeance law, for whom the greatest crime is matricide, since the closest blood tie was between mother and child.


Orestes, seeking purification from his guilt, petitions Apollo, who advises Orestes to seek help from Athena. She sympathizes with Orestes, because she was not born of a woman herself, but sprang from her father Zeus’ head. Athena arranges a trial, using Athenian citizens as jurors to weigh the claims of mother blood guilt versus Clytemnestra’s crime killing her husband. The Furies agree to abide by the decision of the jury. They put forth their claims of the primary right of the mother.


However, Apollo asserts that the mother is simply a passive vessel, so that the child is really connected by blood to the father alone. This would mean that matricide is not a blood guilt crime at all! His arguments only persuade half the jury, which gives a tie vote. However, the tie frees Orestes, ending his blood guilt. Athena then placates the Furies, persuading them to become the Kindly Ladies, benevolent powerful spirits of the city of Athens, tucked underground, safely out of sight.




Early Greek tragedy can be difficult for a modern audience to appreciate. Practically nothing happens in Agamemnon except an offstage murder of a man we have just met by a woman we don’t like.


Because Greek dramas developed originally out of the lyric satyr choruses, they have large sections of lyric poetry (the choruses) interspersed with sections of dialogue. Agamemnon’s lyric sections are especially long. They are supposed to be especially beautiful in the original Greek; unfortunately, the translations I’ve read have not been particularly attractive. Frankly, as a modern reader, I wish the choruses of this play were shorter and the dialogue longer. If you have a chance to see a film or play of Agamemnon, do so; It can be more accessible with real actors than as a text.




Agamemnon is the first of three plays which display the unending and terrible consequences of a private blood feud which continues from one generation to the next until it is finally stopped by instituting a public legal process to replace private revenge.


Agamemnon focuses on Clytemnestra’s murder of Agamemnon. She wants vengeance because Agamemnon sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia at Aulis ten years earlier in order to placate the goddess Artemis. This goddess had been sending contrary winds to prevent the Greek Armies from sailing to Troy. It is easy for us to be horrified at what Agamemnon did and want to excuse Clytemnestra, but the play offers no excuses for her–she is presented as thoroughly dislikeable, wicked, and dangerous.


The play starts at night with a watchman awaiting a fire signal passed from hill top to hill top to indicate that the Trojan War has ended. Clytemnestra has arranged for these fires which cross many miles between Troy and Greece. She is a clever woman as well as a dangerous one, and even worse, she has the heart of a man in her woman’s breast, as the watchman tells us at the very start.


There is not much action in Agamemnon; the first half of the play is spent anxiously awaiting the arrival of Agamemnon. Here, the real action begins, centered on an argument between Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra which displays Agamemnon’s conceited pride and Clytemnestra’s treachery. She wants him to walk into the palace on a valuable blood-red tapestry; he objects that this would be an act of excessive pride. Their argument, which is the only time we see them together in the play, reveals each of their characters.


Philip Harsh remarks that “the essential weakness of [Agamemnon’s]…character is only too apparent in this clash with the strong-willed Clytemnestra…. In attempting to make Agamemnon accept her base flattery and walk upon the blood-red tapestry, Clytemnestra is attempting to cause him to commit an act of insolence …which will evoke the disgust and hatred of men and the vengeance of the gods.” (69)


Agamemnon surrenders to his wife and, walking on the blood-red tapestry, enters the palace, shortly to die. Now the most intense scene of the play occurs, the raving prophecy of the prophetess Cassandra outside the palace, predicting murder most foul, while Clytemnestra, with help from her lover Aegisthus prepares to murder Agamemnon within. Agamemnon’s death cries follow and the play is essentially over. Agamemnon has been murdered, but there will be more murder to avenge his death. Murder is not able to solve the problems of this cursed household; indeed that is the whole point of the trilogy. Murder only begets murder; setting up a court of law is the only way to stop the series of bloody feuds. This is a message about the need for civilization, but it is not yet made in Agamemnon, so we are left with only darkness and death. For this reason, the three plays of this trilogy should be read as a set; Agamemnon is really only the first act of a three act play.




Modern audiences appreciate this play, but the more we think about it, the more troublesome it becomes. Oedipus Rex is difficult for us to cope with, because we believe so deeply today in the idea of freewill and the potential for both human and divine justice. But these concepts are not particularly relevant to Sophocles’ play about a man who was born fated to kill his father and marry his mother. Everything that matters has already happened before the play begins.




Before Oedipus was even conceived, the oracle of Apollo prophesied that Oedipus would kill his father Laius and marry his mother Jocasta, who were the king and queen of Thebes.


This dire warning led Jocasta to give the infant Oedipus to a shepherd to expose to wild animals in the hills. The shepherd felt pity and gave the infant to another shepherd who took him to a distant city where Oedipus was adopted by the childless king and queen and raised as their son.


Growing to adulthood, Oedipus heard a prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Horrified, he left the city to prevent these awful events from occurring.


On his travels, he met a carriage and several men at a crossroad. The man in charge was rude and threatening and Oedipus killed him, not knowing the man was his real father, Laius.


Oedipus then encountered the Sphinx and answered her riddle; this won him the reward of marrying Jocasta, Queen of Thebes.


The play opens many years after these events. Thebes is being devastated by plague, sent by Apollo because there is pollution in the city. King Oedipus is determined to find out the source of the pollution and drive it out of the city in order to stop the plague. The play focuses on Oedipus’ urgent drive to know the truth. Being an impetuous man as well as a powerful king, Oedipus is rude and hostile toward anyone who seems to interfere with his search, especially the seer Tiresias who knows the truth but does not want to tell it to Oedipus.


The terrible irony of this play is that Oedipus himself turns out to be the source of pollution, the cause of the plague, the murderer of his father and the husband of his mother. He finally discovers the truth, and knowing it destroys his life as king of Thebes.


Oedipus responds to this terrible knowledge by blinding himself and at the end of the play he is prepared to leave Thebes and wander in the wilderness, knowing himself and knowing that his entire life was spent fulfilling his fated destiny.




We must be careful not to blame Oedipus for what he did, nor to think of his final exile as punishment. As Rohde points out, the stain of pollution “is not `within the heart of man’. It clings to a man as something hostile, and from without, and that can be spread from him to others like an infectious disease. Hence, the purification is effected by religious processes directed to the external removal of the evil thing.” Oedipus must leave Thebes, but that does not mean he is guilty, merely that he is polluted and a source of disease for the city.


Pollution is a fascinating index of a true difference between our contemporary culture and that of classical Greece. Our system of morality and justice is based firmly on the idea that each sane person is or can be responsible for his or her own actions, and that those actions can be “paid” for. E.g., a robber can pay for his crime by going to jail. We simply cannot accept the notion that a person could carry a moral disease like a virus without being personally responsible for it, and that this moral disease could sicken others just as physical viruses carry the flu from one “innocent” person to the next. The only exception we generally make is for insanity, which is why some people tried for crimes plead “insanity” to explain that they were NOT responsible. However, Oedipus is absolutely sane; there is no question here of insanity. It is useful to notice where other times and places are genuinely different from ours and pollution is a good example of such a genuine difference.




Medea is a revenge tragedy about a woman who murders her own children to punish her ex-husband. This is a difficult situation for us to identify with, yet Medea is an easy play to read and relate to because of the powerful psychological presentation of the mad, murderous, yet grieving mother.


Medea is a powerful, dangerous witch. After committing various criminal acts including several murders to help her lover, Jason, Medea has fled into exile with him to Corinth. Here Jason deserts her and marries the daughter of Creon, king of Corinth.




The actual play starts at this time. It begins with the Nurse worried about Medea’s children; she evidently knows Medea well and fears for their lives. Creon, the King of Corinth and father of Jason’s new bride intends to drive Medea and her children by Jason out of the city into exile. Medea pleads with Creon for one day’s time before she leaves.


Next comes a really disgusting scene in which Jason, an unbelievably smooth and egotistical rat, says that if Medea had only behaved nicely, she could have stayed in Corinth. He further claims to have married the princess in order to consolidate the position of his and Medea’s children. Medea doesn’t buy that lame excuse.


Medea schemes to prepare her revenge on Jason. First, she arranges for her own safety by promising the childless King Aegeus of Athens that if he gives her refuge she will enable him to have children.


Next, Medea sends her own children to Jason’s new bride, carrying rich gifts of a robe and tiara, supposedly to soften the princess’ heart so that she and her father will let Medea’s children stay in Corinth, even though Medea must leave. But the gifts are in fact poisoned, and when the princess puts them on, not only does she die, but her father embraces her and he too dies from the poison.


Finally, Medea leaves Corinth in a dragon wagon, taking the bodies of the two dead children so that Jason won’t even have the satisfaction of burying them. Not only is this her ultimate touch of revenge, but it is a good example of a deus ex machina ending. Medea’s actions had made so much trouble that there was no way she could escape by natural means, so Euripides provided her a wagon pulled by a dragon.


Euripides makes Medea strangely sympathetic in her murderous sufferings. She loves her children and yet she is finally willing to kill them in order to complete her total revenge against their father.


The most disturbing aspect of this play to modern readers is that Medea gets away with murdering her own children as well as Jason’s new wife and her father. This was certainly disturbing to  playgoers of Euripides’ time, too, but they would have been more able to understand the outcome, because Medea was related to the sun god and such creatures did not have to operate strictly in terms of human morality. Niobe is an example of what the Greek gods did to human beings when offended. Niobe was a proud mother of many children and she bragged that she had more children than the goddess Leto, whose only two children were Apollo and Artemis. Leto was offended. To soothe their mother, Apollo and Artemis killed all of Niobe’s children.


Morality is for human beings; the gods are always potentially dangerous to impious, unwary, and even totally innocent humans (e.g. the unborn Oedipus). Although the gods, at times, seem to have ideas of right and wrong, these ideas may be quite different from human ideas of right and wrong.




Old Comedy was the form of comedy written and presented in the fifth century B.C. in Greece. It is quite different from later kinds of Greek Comedy.



1. Main character conceives an absurd happy idea (e.g. no sex in Lysistrata)

2. Violent opposition to happy idea

3. Happy idea conquers opposition in a debate

4. Test of happy idea in practice

5. A series of scenes between the main character and various figures who have been affected

6. A satisfactory climax including a party


Following Harsh, A Handbook of Classical Drama, 258-259




Lysistrata is set in contemporary Athens during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. This war eventually destroyed the Athenian democracy. The title character, Lysistrata reveals her happy idea of a sex strike to force the men to stop fighting and make peace. She convinces the other women that this is a good idea and the women seize the Acropolis, where the money for the war effort was kept.


Then two half-choruses enter, one of old women and one of old men. Their clash represents the dramatic clash of the entire play.


Next, the Magistrate tries to get the women to behave. He is a typical pompous Athenian male. After he is thoroughly humiliated, Lysistrata chastises the Athenians for their destructive warlike behavior which is destroying both Athens and Sparta. Then the two choruses clash again providing low comic contrast to Lysistrata’s serious advice.


A few days pass and then Lysistrata announces that the women are undermining her revolt. The two half-choruses express their hatred of one another. The men are getting pretty horny by now, and we have the wonderful scene of Cinesias begging his wife Myrrhina for sex, while she teases and refuses him and he finally leaves.


The Spartan Herald arrives and announces that the Spartan men are in the same fix as the Athenian men, and finally a meeting and truce is arranged. Lysistrata makes a moving appeal for pan-hellenism, reminding each side of the debt they owe to the other. Naturally, all ends with a banquet, singing and dancing.




Lysistrata: organizes a revolt of women against men

Clytemnestra: takes a lover while her husband is at Troy; murders her husband when he returns home


Medea: a witch; murders many people, including her own children; gets away with it all

Jocasta: tries to have her infant son killed; marries her unrecognized adult son; kills herself


The plays Lysistrata and Agamemnon both make much of role reversal: in both plays women seizing power act as men. In the case of Lysistrata, it is all very amusing, but in the case of Clytemnestra it is the deadliest of dangers, as we saw earlier in the Odyssey, where Clytemnestra’s murder of Agamemnon was a constant warning to Odysseus of what can happen to a homecoming soldier if he can’t trust his wife.


The actual role of women in classical Greece was extremely limited, especially in Athens where women were not even allowed out of the house to go marketing. They were tightly controlled to insure that the male head of the family had male heirs which were truly his own. Beyond this, women were not much valued. Certainly they did not behave like the women in these plays. It is fascinating to wonder why a culture that so-controlled its women would write plays about such powerful and disturbing women…was it memories of being an infant dependent upon a woman, or was it memories of an earlier time when women had had a more active role in the society?


At any rate, Medea is a powerful, dangerous witch woman. And one cannot feel good about Jocasta although her troubles were largely beyond her control. One gets the feeling that classical Greek playwrights were not comfortable with powerful women. None of these women are in any way normal, and are as much monsters as female in the way they are presented. Lysistrata is an amusing monster; Jocasta a disturbing one; Clytemnestra and Medea intensely dangerous.




This play is wonderfully controversial. Oedipus Rex is probably the single best document we have for thinking and arguing about ideas of fate and freedom in classical Greece. I have selected just a few comments by contemporary scholars to give a sense of the ideas this play stirs up.


“There is no suggestion in the Oedipus Rex that Laius sinned or that Oedipus was the victim of an hereditary curse, and the critic must not assume what the poet has abstained from suggesting….we think of two clear-cut alternative views–either we believe in free will or else we are determinists. But fifth-century Greeks did not think in these terms….” (Dodds 40)


“From Homer to Aristotle both poets and philosophers tended to ask not `was he free?’ as we might do, but `is he responsible …?’…the ancient question, is answered in the affirmative if it can be shown that the men involved acted according to their characters…” (Gould 52)


“Sophocles has provided a conclusive answer to those who suggest that Oedipus could, and therefore should, have avoided his fate. The oracle was unconditional (l. 790): it did not say “If you do so-and-so you will kill your father”; it simply said “You will kill your father, you will sleep with your mother.” And what an oracle predicts is bound to happen.” (Dodds 39)


Oedipus’ “lack of freedom in the past needs to be emphasized since it is the assurance of his innocence in the present. Had he had the faintest suspicion of his true identity and relationship to Laius and Jocasta then he would indeed be an `inhuman monster'”. (Vickers 499)




        Agamemnon in Agamemnon



in Oedipus Rex


        Jason in Medea


Greek kings were pretty arrogant by modern standards and this was ok under most circumstances. Be careful not to impose our ideas of a nice guy on them. However, Agamemnon was perhaps a little too haughty for his own good, and gets in trouble in the Iliad because of his hot temper and pride which incite him to quarrel with Achilles. This pride is important in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon too. As Philip Harsh points out:


    “The pride of Agamemnon…is…spectacularly symbolized by Agamemnon’s triumphant entrance in his chariot with followers and fanfare. He is …too proud of his utter destruction of Troy. His conceit entirely prevents him from properly understanding the veiled warnings of the chorus. From his haughty and contemptuous response to Clytemnestra’s hypocrisy, it is obvious that he despises her; but…he pathetically underestimates his adversary. ” (69)


Oedipus too is arrogant, but there is no doubt in the play that he has been a good king and is sincere in his attempts to root out the source of plague that is harming his country. And once Oedipus discovers the terrible truth about his life, his arrogance totally disappears. It would be interesting to compare the characters of Oedipus and Agamemnon to distinguish between two kinds of kingly pride, one excessive even in fifth century Greece.


As for Jason, he is a self-seeking, egocentric rat and deserves to die, but of course it is not Jason, but his children, who are killed. His smarmy speeches to Medea explaining why he “had” to marry the king’s daughter to protect his and Medea’s children are masterpieces of disgusting rationalization that would be perfectly at home in a modern context. Jason could be a villain on a daytime TV show.










Cassandra and Medea are both female, foreign, monstrous, and closely connected to things sacred. Cassandra has troubles because she deceived Apollo; her punishment is to prophesy truly while no one believes her, which she does while Agamemnon is about to be murdered. She uses her supernatural gift “to draw again and again the connection between crime and retribution, linking past, present and future in the house of Atreus.” (Vickers 374) The chorus just listens to her and goes oh woe and such but nobody takes a step to help Agamemnon or to keep Cassandra from going into the palace to be herself murdered.


Medea, on the other hand, gets away with everything, because she is descended from the sun god. Indeed, “one of the chief difficulties which Euripides faced in writing this play was in the humanization of Medea, for the Medea of popular legend was both the most famous witch of antiquity and the cold perpetrator of barbaric murders.” (Harsh 177) For all this, Euripides transforms the mythical witch into a passionate woman who can weep bitterly while she murders her own children.


Oedipus is also foreign and monstrous. He becomes a sacred monster, especially after he blinds himself and prepares to leave the city as a wanderer. In a later play by Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, we are told that Oedipus’ final death was a sacred event bringing blessings on the place where he died.


Tiresias is an interesting character; he is the seer who gives Odysseus good advice in the underworld about how to get home safely. Tiresias lived part of his life as a man; part as a woman. He was ancient, wise, a sacred monster. In Oedipus Rex, Tiresias is still alive, blind, yet able to see the truth, something Oedipus cannot do until after he loses his physical eyes. Much of the irony of the play lies in the contrast between the physically blind who can see and the mentally blind who cannot see even though their eyes function perfectly.


Indeed, the development of Greek drama out of the rituals of Dionysus suggests much of the foreign and monstrous inherent in the very fabric of the early dramatic ritual. Dionysus was known as the god who came from elsewhere, forcing his way into Greece, overcoming resistance, driving people mad who refused to worship him. This is described at length in The Bacchae by Euripides. Dionysus’ powerful ritual mixture of ecstasy and suffering, dance, song, wine and death, is eminently suitable for the god of Greek tragedy, a theatre of intense, complex emotion, great suffering and final calm.




Margarete Bieber. The History of the Greek and Roman Theater.


E.R. Dodds. “On Misunderstanding the Oedipus Rex.” In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Ed. by Harold Bloom.


Thomas Gould. “The Innocence of Oedipus: The Philosophers on Oedipus the King.” In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Ed. by Harold Bloom.


Philip Whaley Harsh. A Handbook of Classical Drama.


Walter F. Otto. Dionysus: Myth and Cult.


Erwin Rohde. Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality among the Greeks.


Brian Vickers. Towards Greek Tragedy: Drama, Myth, Society.

Task 5. Select and read a Greek Drama.

TASK 5. Select and read a Greek Drama. The choices are: Agamemnon by Aeschylus, Oedipus the King by Sophocles, Antigone by Sophocles, Medea by Euripedes or Lysistrata by Aristophanes.


Option: You may access free etexts of these epics: Agamemnon, Oedipus the King, Antigone, and Medea at The Internet Classics Archive:
 (Links to an external site.)

You will have to select the name of the author, choose the play title, and then the script will come up.


Lysistrata by Aristophanes will be found at the Gutenberg Press:
 (Links to an external site.)


Task 7. Virgil Study Guide.

TASK 7. Read through the Virgil’s Aeneid Study Guide located below in this document under the title Task 7. This will give you background information on Virgil’s Roman civilization and his epic poetry.

You may choose to watch the Virgil’s Aeneid Video instead. It contains the same information.
 (Links to an external site.)


Virgil Study Guide (Task Seven)
 (Links to an external site.)

(Course created by Dr.  Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI)


VIRGIL’S LIFE — (70-19 BC) — A First Century Roman Citizen


Not much is known about Virgil’s life. He was born in 70 BC and raised in a rural area near Mantua, Italy; he was well educated; his family farm was seized as a political spoil. From his thirty-first year on, Virgil lived either in Rome or near Naples, associated with his patron, Maecenas, Octavian’s minister of internal affairs. Virgil was a court poet, whose well-being depended on pleasing powerful members of the ruling class. He evidently did this quite well, since Maecenas and other wealthy patrons supported him financially, allowing him to spend his life writing poetry.




A brief example of Virgil’s Latin from the opening sentence of the Aeneid shows how the words are arranged more like a mosaic than in the linear fashion we are used to nowadays:


    Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris




    Italiam fato profugus Laviniaque venit








Or, in normal English word order:


    Arms I sing and the man who first from the coasts of Troy, exiled by fate, came to Italy and Lavinian shores.


In the Latin original, each word has a meaning that may not become clear until several more words have been read. This is an elegant, complex, literary language that does not end itself to translation.


The Main Characters in the Aeneid are grouped below into five categories: Roman Deities; Greeks; Trojans; Tyrians; and Others

ROMAN DEITIES IN THE AENEID (and their Greek parallels, if any)

Allecto            a Fury who instills the poison of irrational rage into her victims, especially Amata and Turnus

Apollo             (same name in Greek) sun god; son of Jupiter and Latona; the god of prophecy; brother of Diana

Cupid (Eros) son of Venus

Diana (Artemis) goddess of the moon, the hunt and the woods; daughter of Jupiter and Latona; sister of Apollo

Iris       rainbow goddess; Juno’s messenger

Juno    (Hera) wife and sister of Jupiter; daughter of Saturn; god of marriage; chief goddess of Carthage; hates Trojans because of Judgment of Paris

Jupiter (Zeus) chief deity; husband and brother of Juno; son of Saturn

Lares   household, hearth-centered, ancestral gods, which Aeneas brings along with the Penates from Troy to Italy; these, along with the Penates, are small enough for Anchises to carry while Aeneas carries him

Penates            household gods or gods of the state; Aeneas brings the Trojan state gods with him from Troy to Italy

Mars    (Ares) god of war; son of Jupiter

Mercury          (Hermes) messenger

Minerva          (Athena)-goddess of wisdom, battle and household arts such as weaving

Neptune          (Poseidon) god of the sea; brother of Jupiter; helped build the walls of Troy, but King Laomedon, Priam’s father, refused to pay him, so he became an enemy of Troy

Saturn (Chronos) previous chief god; father of Jupiter, who deposed him

Venus (Aphrodite) mother of Aeneas and of Cupid; goddess of love; she constantly worries about her son Aeneas, despite Jupiter’s assurances that he will be fine

Vulcan            (Hephaestus) husband of Venus, god of the forge and fire



Pyrrhus            son of Achilles, also named Neoptolemus; during the destruction of Troy, he killed a son of Priam and Hecuba in front of their eyes, and then killed Priam at his own altar; he also captured their daughter Andromache, Hector’s widow, as his concubine

Sinon   a deceitful Greek who pretended to flee from the Greeks to the Trojans, told lying tales about the Trojan Horse and how, if it were taken into Troy, Troy could not be taken; he then released the soldiers from inside the Trojan Horse to destroy Troy

Ulysses            (Odysseus)- the treacherous fellow who devised the Trojan Horse that destroyed Troy; a brilliant, cruel, self-seeking manipulator



Aeneas            Trojan prince, son of Venus and Anchises, father of Ascanius, lover of Dido, ancestor of the Roman people

Anchises         Aeneas’ father; carried by Aeneas from fallen Troy

Andromache   widow of Hector, captured at fall of Troy by Pyrrhus; eventually married Helenus

Ascanius         (also Iulus) son of Aeneas and Creusa

Camilla           female warrior, ally of Turnus in Latium

Creusa             Aeneas’ wife who dies during the flight out of Troy

Euryalus          Trojan warrior; friend of Nisus; killed during a brave sortie with Nisus after killing many Latin enemies; Nisus and Euryalus became a model of loyal, brave friendship

Hecuba            queen of Troy, wife of Priam

Helenus           a son of Priam; a prophet; eventually married the widowed Andromache and became king in Epirus

Laocoon          Trojan priest; tried to warn the Trojans about the Trojan horse by thrusting a spear against it; killed by serpents

Nisus   Trojan warrior; friend of Euryalus; killed during a brave sortie with Euryalus after killing many Latin enemies

Priam king of Troy; killed by Pyrrhus

Polydorus        Trojan who was treacherously killed by the king of Thrace; buried under a bush which bled when Aeneas tried to tear off a branch; his ghost warns Aeneas to flee from Thrace



Anna   Dido’s sister; encouraged Dido in her affair with Aeneas

Dido    queen and founder of Carthage, widow of Sychaeus; falls in love with Aeneas; kills herself when he leaves; also called Elissa

Sychaeus         Dido’s dead first husband; they are reunited in the Underworld



Amata queen of Latium; wife of Latinus; mother of Lavinia; wanted Turnus to marry Lavinia

Evander           a good Greek; Aeneas’ ally; founder of Pallanteum; father of Pallas

Latinus            king of Latium, husband of Amata, father of Lavinia

Lavinia            daughter of Amata and Latinus; loved by Turnus; destined to be Aeneas’ wife to join the two warring peoples (Trojans and Latins) in peace

Pallas young warrior, son of Evander, ally of Aeneas, killed by Turnus

Sibyl    Apollo’s priestess; guides Aeneas into the Underworld where he meets his dead father and learns the future of the Roman race

Turnus             king of the Rutulians; heads opposition to Aeneas in Italy; wants to marry Lavinia; kills Pallas; killed by Aeneas


Virgil deliberately patterned the Aeneid on the Odyssey and the Iliad. The first half of the Aeneid (books 1-6) adapts the plot of the Odyssey: the fall of Troy, hostile gods, lengthy wandering, woman troubles, the underworld, seeking home. The second half (books 7-12) mirrors the wrath and warfare of the Iliad.


    Book 1: Aeneas, a prince of Troy is struggling to find his ancestral homeland, but Juno opposes him. She hates the Trojans because of the Judgment of Paris, which insulted her beauty, the theft of Helen, which violated Juno’s position as the goddess of marriage, and the future fall of Carthage, her favorite city. After seven years of confused wandering, Aeneas has gotten near his goal of Italy, but Juno interferes. She arranges for a storm to drive him toward North Africa and Carthage. Dido, founder and queen of Carthage welcomes Aeneas and his companions. Although Jupiter assures Venus that her son Aeneas will prevail and found the Latin race in Italy, Venus is a worrier, so she sends Cupid to poison Dido with love for Aeneas, so she will not harm him.


    Book 2: Dido is gracious to Aeneas and his companions and interested in the story of the fall of Troy. Aeneas tells her how the Greeks created the deception of the Trojan Horse and how the gods confused the Trojans when a priest, Laocoon, struck the Trojan Horse with his staff and was promptly devoured by serpents. A treacherous Greek, Sinon, released the Greeks from the Horse, now inside the city of Troy, and the slaughter began. Aeneas relates the final battle, and his furious fighting until his mother Venus revealed to him that the gods themselves were destroying Troy and instructed him to leave Troy with his father (Anchises), son (Ascanius) and the household gods of his family and of Troy. While fleeing Troy, Creusa, Aeneas’ wife was parted from them and killed.


    Book 3: Aeneas tells Dido how his band of Trojans searched for a new Troy. First they went to Thrace where they encountered the Trojan Polydorus in the form of a bleeding bush that warns them of treachery. They perform funeral rites for Polydorus and quickly leave Thrace. Next they travel to an island where a prophetic voice advises them to “seek out your ancient mother.” However, they don’t know for sure where that is. Anchises thinks it’s Crete, where they try to found a city, but soon they start dying of pestilence.


    The household gods appear to Aeneas to tell him that Italy is their true ancient mother. Then they encounter the horrid Harpies in the Strophades. Caelano, a Harpy prophetess of sorts, warns them that when they get to Italy, they’ll be so hungry they’ll eat their plates. Next they land at Actium in N.W. Greece, where they hold Trojan Games. After this, they sail to Buthrotrum, where the Trojan Helenus, Apollo’s priest, directs them to Italy, but first Aeneas must go to the Cumaean Sybil and the Underworld. They safely pass through the Sicilian Ulyssesland: Cyclop’s island, Skylla and Charybdis. But before they can reach their goal of Italy, Anchises dies and then the storm, concocted by Juno, drives them to Africa. So here they are in Carthage.


    Book 4: The Dido Affair. Dido had been married to a Tyrian, Sychaeus, who was treacherously killed by her brother. Dido fled Tyre with a band of followers and came to North Africa, where she acquired land to found the city of Carthage. Poisoned by Cupid, Dido fell madly in love with Aeneas, which conflicted with her vow to her dead husband Sychaeus to remain faithful to him. Juno and Venus cooperate, each thinking to further her own cause. Juno wants to keep Aeneas from founding Rome, which will eventually conquer Carthage; Venus wants to keep her son safe from Dido’s potential treachery. So, Juno and Venus set up the “marriage.” Dido and Aeneas are out hunting, there is a storm, they seek refuge in a cave. Here they mate, while Juno sets off lightning and nymphs cry out. Dido calls it marriage; Aeneas does not.


    The lovers are negligent of their duties; Dido ceases working on her city; Aeneas forgets his destiny. Finally, Jupiter sends Mercury to chide Aeneas about his neglected duty to his son and their future descendants in Italy. Immediately dutiful to the will of the gods and Destiny, Aeneas secretly arranges his departure. When Dido discovers that he is leaving, she begs him to stay. He cannot, will not, so she raves and rages, curses the Trojans and kills herself on a pyre heaped with Aeneas’ belongings and items of witchcraft. Meanwhile, Aeneas and the other Trojans are in their boats sailing away.


    Book 5: This book is the prelude to the world of the dead. First, Aeneas goes back to Sicily where he arranges Memorial Games for Anchises, who has been dead for a year. Here, Aeneas displays his skills as a leader, carrying out rituals, presiding at the games, encouraging his men, restraining anger, preventing injuries. Meanwhile, Juno has been biding her time. She sends her messenger, Iris, to inflame the Trojan women with fury, encouraging them to burn the Trojan ships so they will not have to travel any further. A torrential rain saves all but four of the ships. Aeneas leaves the reluctant behind; the remaining Trojans continue on toward Italy and the underworld


    Book 6: The Cumaean Sibyl gives prophecies about Aeneas’ future in Italy and leads Aeneas into the underworld. Unlike Homer’s dim and wretched Hades, Virgil’s Hades is a place of remediation and rebirth, where the lifetime deeds of the dead are examined and judged. They are chastised, as need be, punished and purged until they are purified. Then these cleansed souls can wander happily in Elysium, the groves of blessedness, until after a thousand years it is time to be reborn. Aeneas meets the shade of his father Anchises in Elysium, where Anchises tells him about the World Soul and rebirth, and shows Aeneas a procession of his descendants over twelve centuries, culminating in Augustus. Aeneas now knows his Destiny–to found the Roman people.


The second half of the Aeneid, Books 7-12, tells the story of the escalating wrath inspired by Juno that forces Aeneas to go to war in Italy.


    Book 7: Aeneas finally arrives in Latium, where he is welcomed by King Latinus, whose only child is Lavinia. A powerful neighbor, Turnus, King of the Rutulians, wants to marry Lavinia, but omens and oracles have foretold that a stranger would become her husband, so Latinus is willing to marry his daughter Lavinia to Aeneas. Juno is not ready to give up her struggle against Destiny, although she knows she cannot win. She fetches the Fury Allecto from the underworld and urges her to stir the Latins into frenzy. Allecto instills poisonous rage into Amata, Lavinia’s mother and into Turnus, Lavinia’s suitor. Then she sets up Ascanius (Iulus) to shoot a pet deer belonging to Sylvia, a local peasant girl; Allecto blows her hellish horn, stimulating the local farmers to attack the Trojans. Latinus tries to avoid the conflict, but Juno opens gates of war. Lines of alliance are drawn and the troops start to gather.


    Book 8: Aeneas travels to the king of the Arcadians, Evander, seeking alliance. Evander welcomes him, introduces him to the ancient rural piety of the region, and offers Aeneas troops led by his own son Pallas. Meanwhile, Venus persuades her husband Vulcan to make new armor for Aeneas. The shield portrays critical moments when Rome was saved. At the center of the shield is the Battle of Actium. As in the underworld, where the procession of descendants leads from Aeneas to Octavian, the shield connects the beginning of Roman history in Aeneas to its culmination in Octavian’s decisive battle at Actium that finalized the Augustan peace.


    Book 9: Here, the battle goes on at Trojan Camp; Aeneas has not yet returned from seeking alliances. Two best friends, Nisus and Euryalus, foray into the sleeping enemy camp and slaughter many before being killed themselves. Ascanius gets his first real taste of battle and kills his first man, Numanus. Turnus gets into the Trojan stockade and rages furiously, slaughtering men. Finally the Trojans rally and Turnus, exhausted, jumps into the river and escapes.


    Book 10: Jupiter wants peace, but Juno and Venus are still bickering, so he lets the battle continue, since “the Fates will find their way.” Finally Aeneas returns with numerous allies. Turnus and Aeneas both rage in battle. Pallas fights bravely, but is finally killed by Turnus, who strips off Pallas’ heavy decorated belt as a trophy. Juno recognizes by now that it’s about over, but begs Jupiter to let her spare Turnus’ life for a little while. He agrees and Juno fashions a phantom resembling Aeneas which lures Turnus out of the battle onto a ship which then drifts away carrying the bewildered Turnus to safety while the battle continues without him.


    Book 11: Aeneas learns that Pallas has died, and he prepares to send him back to his father for his funeral. Both sides bury their dead. The Latins hold a quarrelsome council over whether or not to sue for peace. King Latinus wants to make peace and share his land and rule with the Trojans. Turnus is in favor of continuing the war, which resumes. Camilla, a woman warrior ally of Turnus, enters the fray, fights bravely, and is killed.


    Book 12: Turnus challenges Aeneas to a duel that will settle the war. Meanwhile, Juno tells the nymph Juturna, Turnus’ sister, to help him if she can, because Turnus is no match for Aeneas in single combat. Juturna provokes the Latins into general battle. Aeneas seeks Turnus, but Juturna, disguised as Turnus’ charioteer, races around, not letting Turnus stop and fight. Aeneas is now furious. He starts to burn down King Latinus’ city, to root out the resistance once and for all. Queen Amata hangs herself. Turnus tells his sister to stop interfering, because fate has won, and he wants to fight Aeneas honorably before he dies.


    Turnus and Aeneas begin to duel, and Jupiter holds up his scales to confirm their fates. Turnus’ sword breaks; he panics and runs away, Aeneas pursuing. However, gods are still interfering. Juturna hands the fleeing Turnus a sword, while Venus pulls Aeneas’ spear free from a tree it had lodged in. Jupiter is fed up by now and confronts Juno, who finally gives up, asking only that the ensuing people be called Latins and the Trojans lose their identity. Jupiter agrees to create a single Latin race from the two warring peoples. Jupiter sends two Furies to chase Juturna away from Turnus, and Aeneas throws his spear, wounding Turnus. Turnus begs for his life, but Aeneas sees the belt of dead Pallas on Turnus and, enraged, kills Turnus. End of story.




Aeneas’ dominant trait is piety. Piety for Aeneas did not mean faith so much as obedience and careful attention to the will of the gods, especially Jupiter, so that he could do the right thing in the right way. This piety expressed itself in right relations to the gods, to ones family, and to the state, as well as in carrying out rituals in a correct, thoughtful manner. Aeneas is:


Pious   Aeneas carries his household gods from Troy to Italy; he holds Memorial Games for Anchises; he immediately obeys Mercury’s message to leave Dido.

Steadfast          He feels Dido’s grief, but is unmoved in his actions.

Compassionate            He stops the boxing match when Entellus is overwhelming Dares; he grieves for his dead soldiers.

Fair      He awards the prizes fairly during the memorial games.

Brave He fights bravely at Troy, only stopping because Venus tells him to leave; he is equally brave combating Turnus in Latium.

Willing to cooperate with Destiny     He learns the future in the Underworld and acts willingly to bring it about.

Paternal           It is Aeneas’ fatherly duty to Ascanius to leave Dido and found a new nation for his descendants.

A Leader         Aeneas soothes his weary followers after the storm, “our god will give an end to this as well”; he is concerned with feeding and comforting them; in Italy he forms alliances and leads the fighting.

Sensitive         When Dido asks him to tell about the fall of Troy, he tells her “O Queen–too terrible for tongues the pain/you ask me to renew”(II 4-5); he is exquisitely aware of the “tears of things,” the pain of human life.

Emotional        Aeneas narrates the fall of Troy with great feeling, such as, “the first time savage horror took me” (II 751).


THE DIDO PROBLEM:: Passion and Politics


Dido is not just a nice lady who has hard luck with love. Not only does Virgil explain that Cupid poisons Dido with love, but he also gives us plenty of hints about Dido’s potential for danger to Aeneas, such as her fury when she is about to kill herself:


        And could I not have dragged his body off, and scattered him

        piecemeal upon the waters, limb by limb?

        Or butchered all his comrades, even served

        Ascanius himself as banquet dish

        upon his father’s table? [IV 826]


This sinister echo of how Atreus fed Thyestes’ children to him does not suggest that poor Dido is merely upset over her disappearing lover. Indeed, Dido’s funeral pyre itself is chock full of elements of witchcraft, not approved practice in Roman court circles.


However, Virgil also portrays Dido’s love for Aeneas with such sympathy that readers appreciate her love, hate Aeneas for leaving her, and mostly ignore the negative undertone. Dido is largely modelled on two ancient, very bad women–Cleopatra and Medea in the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius.


Cleopatra was the Egyptian queen who fought alongside Roman Mark Antony against Octavian at the Battle of Actium. Virgil presents her as the epitome of the decadent, treacherous Orient (as opposed to the noble Roman West). She and Antony are part of the center of the shield of Aeneas, with their barbarian troops and barbaric gods, opposing the true leaders of Rome and the household gods brought to Italy by Aeneas. At one level, Aeneas’ affair with Dido is the crossing point–he has left the Orient (Troy), and is delayed by one last Oriental experience (decadent passion), before going forth to become the Latin ancestor of the Roman people.


Medea, in the Argonautica, fell quickly and madly in love with Jason and betrayed her father to please Jason, helping him through trickery and witchcraft to acquire the Golden Fleece. Afraid of her father’s anger, Medea ran off with Jason; she also lured her half-brother Apsyrtus to Jason who killed him. This was just part of her notorious career as a passionate woman and a witch. A Roman reader would have recognized unpleasant echoes of Medea in Virgil’s Dido.




The other passionate characters in the Aeneid are mostly deplorable. The list is headed by the raging goddess Juno and the raging warrior Turnus. It includes the Harpies, Allecto, Amata, the Trojan Women burning their ships, and the Latins in general when in battle frenzy. Even Aeneas is touched by passionate fury twice: during the sack of Troy and during the battle in Latium, especially at the final moment when he kills Turnus. Passion spreads like a virus. Venus uses Cupid to infect Dido with the passion of love. Juno uses Allecto to infect Amata, Turnus and the Latin masses with the passion for war. In every case except for, perhaps, Aeneas’ final passionate killing of Turnus, passion opposes the will of Jupiter, Destiny and Fate. This alone shows us how little Virgil approved of such intense emotion.




Jupiter knows and affirms fate. But there is also Destiny, the notion that there is a necessary future to strive towards. This is the fate that Jupiter upholds, a pattern that is not a simple working out of conflicts.


Juno and Venus act in opposition to the necessary path of the fates. They know perfectly well what must come to pass, because Jupiter tells them, but each has her own passionate agenda, one the irrational, intense love of a mother for her son, the other raw frenzied hatred of the Trojans whose descendants will destroy Carthage. They must both lose, but gracefully, as goddesses lose, finally accepting the will of Jupiter. Similarly, on a human level, Dido, Amata and Turnus resist the fates, acting counter to the will of Jupiter. They must be destroyed, just as Octavian destroyed Antony and Cleopatra.


Aeneas, who spends his life trying to do what he should, not only has many painfully confusing experiences as he misinterprets omens and follows wrong leads, but his final cooperation with fate leads him to relinquish every shred of personal happiness. He lost his beloved wife, his city, almost everything he cared about at Troy. He left his comfortable liaison with Dido. He will marry a woman he does not choose, whose people he has slaughtered; he will create the foundation for the next twelve hundred years of Roman history, but die still outside the promised land of Rome.


Task 8. Aenid, Bhagavad-Gita, and the Ramayana Reading Selections.

TASK 8. 
Read the selections from the Aeneid:  Book VI (
) and the selections from the Bhagavad-Gita ( (Links to an external site.)

the Ramayana :  CANTO CXXX.: THE CONSECRATION ( (Links to an external site.)




Activities for Virgil’s Aeneid (Task Eight)


Read through the Virgil Study Guide and all of the listed Activities before making your selection. Make a copy of the Activity question to begin your response. Post your Activity to the Forum in Unit 2 in JICS. These Activity entries must be thoughtful; 
each one should be the equivalent of at least a full typed page or more in length (e.g. not less than 250 words).  They may be longer if you need to say more on your topic. You will not be able to do these Activity entries properly unless you have carefully read the assigned literature.


· In Book I of the Aeneid, Aeneas is presented as a new kind of hero, who wills to do what he has to do. Compare/contrast Aeneas to Odysseus or Gilgamesh, who do what they please and even get the gods to cooperate at times. Do you have any ideas about why they are such different sorts of heroes? Use specific examples from the Odyssey, Gilgamesh and/or the Aeneid to support your ideas.


· Compare Kalypso and Kirke in the Odyssey (Books V and X) to Dido in the Aeneid (Book IV). Concentrate on how they delay the hero’s journey. Do you see any similarities? Differences? Explain and support your ideas using examples from both texts.


· Being beloved by a deity has advantages, but can also create problems. Compare the relationship of Odysseus with his patron goddess Athena to Aeneas’ relationship with his goddess mother Venus. Do you see any interesting similarities? Differences? What do these relationships tell you about the nature of the Greek and Roman gods? Explain your ideas using supporting examples from both texts.


· Irrational, “anti-fate” behavior in the Aeneid is mostly concentrated in the females, human and divine. Select several of these females to consider. List each one with a brief explanation of her irrational actions and attributes. Do you think Virgil is saying something about women’s behavior in general? What? Be specific and support your ideas with examples from the text. You may want to explore the website Diotima for background information about women in the Aeneid.


· Book VI of the Aeneid presents the Underworld as a place for purification, punishment, prophetic information, rest and recreation between lifetimes. The Odyssey presents Hades as a vague and boring place where everyone goes after death and no one leaves. However, the dead have some kinds of knowledge that the living do not. Compare/contrast these two visions of the underworld and try to make some interesting point about their differences. Support your ideas with specific examples from Book VI of the Aeneid and Books XI and XXIV of the Odyssey. Note: the textbook does not include all of book VI of the Aeneid, so if you choose this Activity, go to the Course Materials Table on the Course Home Page to get the electronic text of the full book VI.

· Virgil was cherished throughout the Christian Middle Ages as a most virtuous poet, even though he died in 19 BCE., a few years before Jesus was born. Virgil was concerned with issues of divine will and how a good man could align himself with that divine will, and these were issues that medieval Christians also were interested in, although their answers were quite different.


· Read the Sermon on the Mount (Volume 2, 1209-1213) OR online (see Course Materials table on Course Home Page) and compare the ideas of how to be a good human being presented there with the ideas about how to be a good human being that you find in the Aeneid. Note that these ideas are VERY different from Virgil’s, yet both are deeply serious thoughts on how a good person ought to act. Support your ideas with plentiful examples from both readings.


· Compare Aeneas’ journey to the underworld with that of either Gilgamesh or Odysseus. In what ways are they similar? How are they different. So what? Support your ideas with plenty of specific examples from the two stories you choose to write about.


· The Aeneid ends abruptly when Aeneas kills Turnus in Book 12. Why do you think Virgil ended his epic like this? What point was he making? Or do you think he would have changed the ending if he had lived to complete his revisions of the Aeneid? Develop your ideas using specific examples from the Aeneid to support them.


· What about poor Dido? Do you think she was to blame for what happened to her? Was Juno? Venus? Aeneas? Explain your answer with examples from the story. If you choose this Activity you should read at least Books 1-4 of the Aeneid before writing about it.


· Reread the scene of Dido’s suicide carefully. Notice all the witchcraft involved. Do you think that Virgil uses this to make us less sympathetic to Dido? If so, why? Is Dido dangerous? Can you find echos of Circe or other negative women or goddesses in her? Support your ideas using specific examples from the story.


· Fate is a crucial concept in the Aeneid. Start by getting a good definition of fate from a dictionary. Be sure to copy it in quote marks and cite the source. Then look in the Aeneid for several places where fate is mentioned and discuss each example, explaining what you think Virgil meant by “Fate.” Do you think his concept of fate is like the dictionary definition? How? Be specific and support your ideas with plenty of examples from the Aeneid. Is either the dictionary concept of fate or Virgil’s like yours? How or how not? Give specific examples to support your insights here.


· Aeneas developed a tainted reputation among some medieval writers. Among other things, he was reputed to be homosexual and reputed to have collaborated with the Greeks to betray Troy, so that he could escape from the conquered city. Can you see any aspects of Aeneas in the Aeneid that might have led to such a degrading of his character? Do you think Virgil meant to include any negative traits? If so, what do you think they were? Be very specific, supporting your ideas with examples from the Aeneid.


· Go to Roman Power and Roman Imperial Sculpture. Read through the text and think about how the Aeneid was a product of this world. Augustus was, in a sense, the real world hero of the Aeneid, as well as the ultimate patron for whom Virgil wrote. Look through the images and select a few that seem to you especially relevant to the world of the Aeneid. Identify and describe them and explain in specific detail how these images affect your understanding of the Aeneid.


· Virgil’s Aeneid and Exodus from the Hebrew Bible both tell about a somewhat reluctant, god-selected hero who leads his people out of disaster through many dangers and difficulties to the ultimate goal of a promised country (which must be fought for) and a great heritage. Compare the characters and experiences of Moses and Aeneas to see what they have in common and see if you can identify any profound ways in which they are different. This is a complex topic and you must use specific examples from both the Aeneid and Exodus to support your ideas. Use a version of Exodus from the Hebrew Bible. Use the link to the Hebrew Bible in Module One.


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