Erich Poppe


?... not so much a translation from one language to another but from one culture to another.?  (Slotkin 1978-79: 447)


Some time during the Middle Ages, perhaps in the twelfth century or slightly earlier, an Irish scholar set out to translate Virgil?s Aeneid into his native tongue ? according to Stanford (1970: 37) this is the earliest vernacular translation in existence. The Irish redactor was probably motivated by the Aeneid?s importance as a text book of the medieval schools and by a desire to integrate the Roman origin legend ? a popular genre in medieval Irish textual culture ? into a growing body of texts in Irish about significant events in classical antiquity, such as Togail Troí, the Irish version of De Excidio Troiae Historia attributed to Dares, or the compilation about the life and deeds of Alexander. The Latin Aeneid was well-known in Ireland from the early Middle Ages onwards, probably in a combination of text and commentary (Hofman 1988).

The project of the Irish translator of the Aeneid was strikingly different from that of a modern translator, of Virgil or of any other author: Whereas the modern translator will strive to convey in a different language both the substance and the form of his source (although there are always problems with metrical texts), the medieval translator, particularly of secular narratives, was primarily interested in ?acceptability (to the recipients) rather than adequacy (to the original)? (Djordjevi? 2000: 9). Therefore he was prepared to change his source quite thoroughly in narrative style, strategy, and presentation, and even in meaning and intention, if this was necessary to achieve his overall objective, namely acceptability to the new recipients. In a previous article on Imtheachta Aeniasa (Poppe 1995), I concentrated on two aspects of the stylistic and semantic transformation of the source in this process of literary and intellectual appropriation ? whose result, in view of its dramatic effects, is probably better described as an adaptation, rather than as a translation.

Stylistically, the Irish Aeneid is firmly integrated into the dominant mode of native narrative conventions. This becomes immediately evident in the generous use of alliterating phrases and of doublets or triplets of synonyms which permeate the text. This device reflects a stylistic fashion popular in Irish literature from the eleventh century onwards, and gives the adaptation a distinct Irish flavour. It is mainly employed in descriptions and other passages in which narrative speed is retarded, perhaps for the purpose of highlighting the events. In the following example from book 8, selected more or less randomly, various alliterating and synonymous nouns and adjectives are used; it has no analogue in the Aeneid and can be considered to be fairly representative, without being in any way extreme:

?... 7 rothoghait asin tinol sin forgla curad 7 caithmiled, anle 7 anraidh na hArcaide do dhul ar æn re Pallas mac Euaindir a sochraidi Ænias. Rohordaiged agaibside marcshluagh cæm cumdachta. Batar and dono eachrada ana urrluma, as iat luatha ledmeacha, fo ogbaid alaind allata isin marcshluag sin. Ba hurgna in congaib airm 7 edigh batar acu iar n-uaisle 7 iar n-oirechus gach æn robai and.? (IA 1906-12)

?and there was selected from this gathering the pick of heroes and battle-soldiers, of warriors and champions of the Arcadians to go together with Pallas, son of Evander, in Aeneas? host. A fine and well-protected cavalry was mustered by them. There were then fine, swift horses, and they quick and active under beautiful, renowned youths there in this cavalry. The equipment of arms and clothes they had, was conspicuous, according to the rank and the status of each one who was there.?[1]

This passage also shows another significant difference between source and adaptation on the level of macro-form, the transformation of Virgil?s metrical text into prose, since verse was not the typical medium for narrative in the Irish literary tradition.

Although the redactor generally reproduces quite faithfully the sequence of the events of Virgil?s Aeneid, he also makes a superficially slight, but conceptually very important change, which affects the text?s narrative meaning, by framing Virgil?s story with a short prologue and an even shorter epilogue. The prologue, in the form of Nestor?s advice to the Greek assembly which will decide the fate of Aeneas and Antenor after the destruction of Troy, summarizes the previous history of Troy. Its details, however, are not based on Virgil, but on the pseudo-historical account of De Excidio Troiae Historia attributed to Dares, who enjoyed high status in the Middle Ages as an alleged eye-witness of the destruction of Troy, and they contradict Aeneas? own later account of the sack of Troy and his travels at Dido?s court. The prologue thus sets the events of the Aeneid into their wider context of Greek history. It is certainly significant that Imtheachta Aeniasa is transmitted in all extant manuscript witnesses together with Togail Troí, the Irish version of De Excidio Troiae Historia. The epilogue, which has no parallel in the Aeneid, places the account of Aeneas? travels into the context of subsequent Roman and world history and introduces a specific view of historical linearity and dynastic continuity by asserting that not only the Romans but all rulers of the world until its end descend from the ?seed of Aeneas, Ascanius, and Lavinia? (IA 3213-5, is do shil Æniasa 7 Asgain 7 Lauina rogenetar flaithi 7 rigraidh Roman 7 oirigh in domuin o sin riam co ti in brath). I have argued in 1995 that by providing his text with this explicit historical frame of reference, the redactor transcends Virgil?s specific focus on Roman history and insists on dealing with significant aspects of European history and the origin of the later Western states.

In this article I will look at some further characteristics of Imtheachta Aeniasa. Taking book 8 of the Aeneid as my example,[2] I will analyse in some detail the process of transcultural adaptation reflected in the redactor?s treatment of Virgil?s similes and his subjectivity, thought by many critics to be the essential feature of his style, of his teleological vision of Roman history, a central theme of book 8, and of his presentation of what later christian redactors would consider to be pagan themes, which may affect their reception of his work. Because of my concentration on a single book of Virgil?s epic my discussion will be inevitably selective and not fully representative, but I still hope to provide useful insights into the working methods, narrative strategies, and intellectual interests of the Irish redactor of the Aeneid.

Some further background on the Irish text may be appropriate here. It is now known from three manuscripts:

(1) Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 23 P 12 (= B), the so-called Book of Ballymote, compiled in the last decade of the fourteenth century; our text is found in the last section of the manuscript which contains four texts on events in classical antiquity.

(2) Dublin, University College Dublin, formerly Killiney, Franciscan House of Studies, MS A 11 (= K), a perhaps fifteenth-century manuscript, which also contains a version of Togail Troí; our text is incomplete.

(3) Dublin, King?s Inns Library, MS 13 (= D), written in 1491/92, the original first part of the manuscript, now separate as King?s Inns Library, MS 12, also contains a version of Togail Troí and other classical adaptations; our text is again incomplete.

The relationship of these three texts is not yet fully understood. There appears to be a tendency for the texts in K and D to agree against B; B has some alliterative or synonymous phrases not found in K or D, as well as a number of mistakes not shared by them. All this would indicate that B was not their source and that a lost common original must be posited from which the surviving texts are descended.

The only edition of Imtheachta Aeniasa was prepared in 1907 by George Calder (1859-1941) for the Irish Texts Society.  It also contains an English translation which on the whole is accurate and reliable. Calder only knew the text in B and therefore could not make use of the variants in K and D; these two texts are still unpublished. The text in B is also available in Robert Atkinson?s facsimile of the Book of Ballymote, published by the Royal Irish Academy in 1887.

Irish literary criticism has always been more interested in native original literature than in translations; but Imtheachta Aeniasa is discussed in a number of insightful publications, the most important of which are Williams (1899), Calder (1907), Meyer (1966), Rowland (1970), Stanford (1970: 36), Slotkin (1978-79), Poli (1981), Harris (1988-91), Poppe (1995), Kobus (1995), and Harris (1998: 81-117).

One point need to be stressed again: The redactor of Imtheachta Aeniasa did not attempt a translation of his source in the modern sense, but its thorough literary acculturation, to meet the expectations of its new Irish audience. This has important methodological repercussions. Paradoxical as it may sound, a comparison between the foreign source and its Irish adaptation can teach a modern historian of medieval Irish literature a great deal about the mentality and concerns behind this whole body of texts, and about their authors? ideas of what constitutes a successful text, often more than the analysis of native texts can. The analysis of the characteristic divergences between adaptation and source will bring the essentials of the Irish perception of literature into a sharper focus. The often underestimated genre ?translation literature? therefore should be taken seriously as a productive object of literary history and criticism.


It has already been observed that the Irish redactor of the Aeneid did not care to render accurately Virgil?s metaphors and similes (e.g. Stanford 1970: 36). At least three major relevant examples can be identified in book 8. The first concerns Aeneas? confused state of mind when faced with initial opposition in Latium:

?quae Laomedontius heros / cuncta videns magno curarum fluctuat aestu / atque animum nunc huc celerem, nunc dividit illuc / in partisque rapit varias perque omnia versat: / sicut aquae tremulum labris ubi lumen aënis / sole repercussum aut radiantis imagine lunae / omnia pervolitat late loca iamque sub auras / erigitur summique ferit laquearia tecti.? (Aeneid 8.18-25)

?In tan tra rochuala Ænias in tinol sin na n-Edalta ina dochum 7 ba snimach, uireaglach, il-imraitech he, 7 ni fitir cid comairle dogenadh.? (IA 1795-7)

?And the hero of Laomedon?s line, seeing it all, tosses on a mighty sea of troubles; and now hither, now thither he swiftly throws his mind, casting it in diverse ways, and turning it to every shift; as when in brazen bowls a flickering light from water, flung back by the sun or the moon?s glittering form, flits far and wide o?er all things, and now mounts high and smites the fretted ceiling of the roof aloft.? (Aeneid 2.61)

?When Aeneas then heard of that gathering of the Italians approaching him, he was worried, very fearsome, and full of many thoughts, and he did not know what counsel he should follow?.

The second occurs in the description of the lorica ?corslet/breastplate? which Aeneas receives from Venus:

?loricam ex aere rigentem, / sanguineam, ingentem, qualis cum caerula nubes / solis inardescit radiis longeque refulget? (Aeneid 8.621-3)

?luirech treabraid tredualach cona cathbarr feta fororda fuirri, cona cir d?or orloiscthi fair? (IA 1957-8)

?the stiff brazen corslet, blood-red and huge even as when a dark-blue cloud kindles with the sun?s rays and gleams afar? (Aeneid 2.103)

?a plaited and thrice-woven corslet, with its fine, gilded head-dress on it, surmounted by its crest of burnished gold?.

In both these examples, a description is substituted for Virgil?s simile. The Irish narrator?s voice is less intrusive and conforms more closely to the demands of objective, detached narrative description, which is typical for Irish narrative.

The phrase lúirech trebraid tredúalach appears to be a favourite one with the redactor to describe the corslets of heroes and occurs at least six times in Imtheachta Aeniasa. One is tempted to wonder about the extent to which the collocation lúirech tredúalach may have been motivated in the first place by Virgil?s own auroque trilicem loricam (Aeneid v.259-60) ?and a corslet of three-leashed gold?, which is rendered luirigh tredhualaigh ?a thrice-woven corslet? (, IA 1030). Lorica trilix appears to be a specifically Virgilian combination; and the Dictionary of the Irish Language describes tredúalach as an epithet typically used for lúirecha, also found in three other texts.[3] The questions of the intertextual relationship of these descriptions and of how exactly Irish scholars envisaged the lúirecha require further research. If lúirech tredúalach is indeed originally motivated by Virgil?s lorica trilix, then the occurrence of the Irish phrase in different texts may have instructive repercussions for our understanding of their relative chronology.

The third extended simile in book 8 characterises Evander?s son Pallas when he sets out together with Aeneas:[4]

?ipse agmine Pallas / in medio, chlamyde et pictis conspectus in armis, / qualis ubi Oceani perfusus Lucifer unda, / quem Venus ante alios astrorum diligit ignis, / extulit os sacrum caelo tenebrasque resolvit.? (Aeneid 8.587-91)

?Pallas himself at the column?s centre, conspicuous in scarf and blazoned armour even as the Morning Star, whom Venus loves above all the stellar fires, when, bathed in Ocean?s wave, he uplifts in heaven his sacred head and melts the darkness.? (Aeneid 2.101)

In this instance, the Irish redactor has dramatically transformed and also expanded Virgil, by giving a long and rhetorically refined description of the appearance of Pallas and of his sword (IA 1924-37). I only quote the first few lines to give a general impression of its flavour:

?Ba cruthach an maccæm robai etarru. Mong fhochos orbhuidhi fair, rosc gorm glainidi ina chind. Ba cosmail ri forcleithi cailli cetemuin no fri sian slebi cechtar a dha gruadh. Anddar lat ba fras do nemandaib rolad ina ceand. Anddar lat ba dual partlaingi a beoil. Ba gilithir ri sneachta n-æn aidchi a braigi 7 a cneas ar cheana? (IA 1924-9)

?The youth who was in their middle was shapely. Somewhat curly, golden hair on him, a deep blue, bright eye in his head. His two cheeks were like the crown of the wood of May[5] or like the purple foxglove. It seemed that it was a row of gems that was put into his head.[6] It seemed that his lips were a leash of scarlet. As white as the [fresh] snow of a single night were his neck and the rest of his skin.?

What is particularly interesting here is that the new passage has close analogues in other Irish texts, the description of Pallas in the description of Cormac in Scél na Fír Flatha (a legal fable of the eleventh or twelfth century also preserved in the Book of Ballymote) as well as, though less closely, in the description of Maine in Tochmarc Feirbe (one of the fore-tales to Táin Bó Cúailnge), and the description of Pallas?s sword in the description of Socht?s sword in Scél na Fír Flatha (compare Poppe 1995: 24-5 with further references). The question of the intertextual relationship of these passages and its implications for their transmission and date again deserve further scrutiny.

What has come to be called Virgil?s ?subjective style? has played an important role in the discussions of Virgil?s specific achievement in the Aeneid. According to Otis (1963: 88) the characteristic feature of the subjective, or in his words ?more accurately, empathetic-sympathetic?, style is that ?Virgil not only reads the minds of his characters; he constantly communicates to us his own reactions to them and to their behaviour?. His comparison between Virgil?s subjectivity and Homer?s objectivity is unintentionally also instructive for my purposes here:[7]

?So far we have uncovered certain characteristics of the Virgilian epic style: the empathy and sympathy revealed in sentence structure, tense differentiation, metric, and choice of words and similes; the ?editorial? intrusion of the author by ?finger-pointing? epithet, explicit declaration of parti pris and the implicit bias of his language; the relative absence of objective characters, speaking their own words and with emotions distinct from those of their author. This is a subjective style: Homer?s in contrast is objective. Virgil concentrates on an object or purpose which dominates his characters and, to some extent, his readers; Homer, though he actually tells his story with great art, always gives the illusion that he is letting his characters speak and act for themselves in a narrative big enough and leisurely enough to give them the scope and independence they need.? (Otis 1963: 61-62)

This description of Homer?s style would also agree quite well with the over-all impression one gets from a close reading of Imtheachta Aeniasa. The following two passages from the beginning of book 8, which have much reduced parallels in the Irish text, exemplify on a very small scale the differences between the subjectivity of Virgil and the greater objectivity, or detachment, of the Irish redactor:

?Nox erat et terras animalia fessa per omnis / alituum pecudumque genus sopor altus habebat, / cum pater in ripa gelidique sub aetheris axe / Aeneas, tristi turbatus pectora bello, / procubuit seramque dedit per membra quietem. / huic deus ipse loci fluvio Tiberinus amoeno / populeas inter senior se attollere frondes / visus (eum tenuis glauco velabat amictu / carbasus et crinis umbrosa tegebat harundo), / tum sic adfari et curas his demere dictis? (Aeneid 8.26-35)

?Rola immorro Ænias d?aithli in tshnima sin a suan codulta, 7 tainic dono Tiberinus, dia srotha Tibir, ?na dochum 7 is ed roraid ris? (IA 1797-9)








?It was night, and over all lands deep sleep held wearied creatures, birds and beasts alike, when father Aeneas, his heart troubled by woeful war, stretched him on the bank under the sky?s chill cope, and let late sleep steal over his limbs. Before him the very god of the place, Tiberinus of the pleasant stream, seemed to raise his aged head amid the poplar leaves; thin lawn draped him in mantle of grey, and shady reeds crowned his hair. Then thus he spake to him, and with these words took away his cares.? (Aeneid 2.63)

?It put Aeneas into a deep sleep after that worry, and Tiberinus, the god of the river Tiber, then came towards him, and this is what he said to him.?

?Thybris ea fluvium, quam longa est, nocte tumentem / leniit et tacita refluens ita substitit unda, / mitis ut in morem stagni placidaeque paludis / sterneret aequor aquis, remo ut luctamen abesset. / ergo iter inceptum celerant rumore secundo: / labitur uncta vadis abies; mirantur et undae, / miratur nemus insuetum fulgentia longe / scuta virum fluvio pictasque innare carinas. / olli remigio noctemque diemque fatigant / et longos superant flexus, variisque teguntur / arboribus viridisque secant placido aequore silvas. sol medium caeli conscenderat igneus orbem, / cum muros arcemque procul ac rara domorum / tecta vident? (Aeneid 8.86-99)

?Tiaghait iarsin for seit a conaire co n-acatar cathair Euaindir.? (IA 1829-30)

?All that night long Tiber calmed his swelling flood, and flowing back with silent wave stayed thus, so that like a gentle pool or quiet mere he smoothed his watery plain, that the oars might know no struggle. Therefore with cheering cries they speed the voyage begun: over the waters glides the well-pitched pine; in wonder the waves, in wonder the unwonted woods view the far gleaming shields of warriors and the painted hulls floating on the stream. They with their rowing give night and day no rest, pass the long bends, are shaded with diverse trees, and cleave the green woods in the peaceful water. The fiery sun had scaled the mid arch of heaven, when afar they see walls and a citadel, and scattered house-roofs.? (Aeneid 2. 67)

?They set off then on their way until they saw Evander?s city.?

The reduction in the Irish version to stark, unemotional, and detached descriptions of actions and events is obvious. The second passage is particularly instructive since it was discussed by Heinze (1928: 363) as an example of Virgil subjectivizing nature, ?Beseelung der Natur?,[8] in the context of his now classic definition of Virgil?s narrative presentation as completely soaked with emotion ? ?durch und durch mit Empfindung getränkt? (Heinze 1928: 362). The differences between the Latin and the Irish modes of presentation are not simply a stylistic surface phenomenon, but mean a dramatic change in narrative presentation. They are conditioned by the dominant mode of medieval Irish narration which looks at the events from outside and is distanced, detached, and unemotional, very much without an intrusive narrator?s voice or presence.[9]


When Aeneas approaches Arcadia, the future site of Rome, Virgil states one central aspect of his program for book 8 in the remark about the buildings of Arcadia, ?which today Rome?s empire has exalted to heaven? (Aeneid 2.67, quae nunc Romana potentia caelo / aequavit, Aeneid 8.99-100). Into the sequence of events of book 8, Virgil integrated two retarding digressions which concern his vision of Rome and of Roman history: the visualisation of the future site of Rome by Evander, the king of Arcadia who settled there (Aeneid 8.314-59), and the description of scenes from Roman history on the shield given to Aeneas by Venus, which culminate in the glorious reign of Augustus Caesar (Aeneid 8.626-728). The Irish redactor omitted the first and curtailed the second to the following simple account:

?Rorindad isin sciath delb 7 ainm gach rig 7 gach ruirigh 7 gach flatha rogebadh flaithus na hEtaili 7 ardflaithus in domain do sil Ænias, 7 dorindad and dono a catha 7 a comruma 7 na buada doberat leo a hechtarcenelaib in domain amuigh isin sgiath.? (IA 1960-4)

?In the shield were engraved the form and the name of every king, every ruler, and every lord of the seed of Aeneas who would obtain the lordship of Italy and the overlordship of the world, and there were engraved as well in the shield their battles and their conflicts, and the victories which they would win over the foreign peoples of the world.?

It is obvious that he did not share Virgil?s enthusiasm and concern for the details of Roman history and glory, nor his ideas for the political program of book 8 of the Aeneid.[10] What he was interested in was a lively account of the history of Rome?s foundation. His narrative intention is thus completely different from Virgil?s. In a similar vein, Anchises?s prophecy of Aeneas? descendant?s in book vi (756-886) is drastically shortened (IA 1435-49), but some of the names are given ? perhaps because similar prophecies of an ancestor?s named descendants had a tradition in medieval Irish literature, Baile Chuind ?Conn?s Vision? and Baile in Scáil ?The Phantom?s Vision? being examples of this genre.


Gods constantly intervene in the events of the Aeneid, and Greek and Roman legends and rituals also play an important role. From the perspective of the later christian redactor these are pagan, and their massive presence in the text may have confronted him with problems. However, my reading of book 8 of Imtheachta Aeniasa indicates that the Irish redactor generally was not suspicious of pagan themes.

The comforting prophecy of Tiberinus, god of the river Tiber, that Aeneas will be victorious in the end, is retained (Aeneid 8.36-65; IA 1799-1815), and it is at least interesting to note that the Irish redactor added to it an admonition that Aeneas should offer sacrifices to Jove and to Apollo, as well as to  Juno and Tiberinus himself, whereas in Virgil Tiberinus advises Aeneas to sacrifice to Juno now and to himself later, after victory. Aeneas? subsequent prayer (Aeneid 8.71-8; IA 1821-3) is also reproduced, but without Virgil?s rhetorical refinement, and with a slightly wider range of addressees: A deo nime 7 talman 7 na n-usce 7 na srothand 7 na n-aband (IA 1821-2) ?Gods of heaven and earth, of the waters, the streams, and the rivers?, whereas in Vergil Aeneas addresses the nymphs and the river Tiber. There is probably some detachment in the Irish redactor?s explanation that it is addressed to na dei adartha (IA 1820) ?the gods of worship?, rather than ad aethera ?to heaven? as in Virgil. This Irish phrase is widely used in the adaptations of classical sources to refer to the Graeco-Roman gods, and in native contexts for pre-christian gods; it is more or less equivalent to ?pagan gods?.[11] Aeneas then sacrifices to Juno the white sow which Tiberinus had prophesised he will find on the banks of the river at the future site of Alba Longa (Aeneid 8.81-5; IA 1827-9) ? the etymological derivation of place-names also being a favourite device of medieval Irish scholars. When he arrives in Arcadia, Evander is sacrificing to the gods (Aeneid 8.102-4; IA 1832-4). In Virgil, these sacrifices are interrupted by the arrival of Aeneas, and when resumed later, Evander gives a long explanation of their origin, by relating how Hercules killed Cacus, and the narrator adds a brief account of the deeds of Hercules (Aeneid 8.184-305).[12] This passage is omitted in Imtheachta Aeniasa; here the narrative centres on the arrangements between Evander and Aeneas to join forces in war against Turnus. I would suggest that this omission is not due to this being pagan legend ? the deeds of Hercules, including the killing of Cacus, are, for example, recounted in some detail in Togail Troí ? but because in the Irish redactor?s view it did not contribute to the linear progression of the events and therefore did not fit his narrative intention. I believe that for similar reasons the long retarding digression narrating the dialogue between Venus and Vulcan, Venus?s request for arms for Aeneas, and their actual production (Aeneid 8.370-453), is not reproduced in the Irish text. On the other hand, Venus?s comforting signs for Aeneas from heaven (Aeneid 8.523-40; IA 1942-8) are reproduced, as well as her gift of arms (Aeneid 8.608-25; IA 1952-9), because they contribute to the progress of the events. In the Irish text a short explanation is inserted that the arms were made for Aeneas by ?Ulcan, a smith? (Ulcan gaba, IA 1953), to account for their origin.

Ireland?s pagan prehistory played a central role in the medieval Irish scholars? creative construction of their own country?s past, and references to native pre-christian supernatural beings and rituals were not avoided. In Táin Bó Cúailnge, for example, Cú Chulainn is repeatedly confronted with the war-goddess Mórrígan, and his wounds are healed by his supernatural father ?from the fairy mounds?, Lug mac Ethlend (do athair a ssídib .i. Lug mac Ethlend, TBC 2109). Examples could easily be multiplied from other texts, and I think there can be no doubt that medieval Irish scholars were neither particularly suspicious nor afraid of what they chose to depict as their own pagan past, nor of the pagan past of classical antiquity, and that this is reflected in the treatment of pagan themes in Imtheachta Aeniasa.


My preliminary analysis of some themes in book 8 of the Irish adaptation of Virgil?s Aeneid has shown that its redactor substituted detached but often stylistically refined descriptions for Virgil?s extended similes, and an objective style for Virgil?s subjective one. He had no interest in the Latin poet?s political program for the glorification of Rome, and did not avoid pagan themes, as long as they were necessary for the development of the plot. These features are supplemented by a formal switch from verse to prose as the medium of narrative and the employment of a specific form of stylistic ornamentation which retards narrative speed and which is characterised by alliterating phrases and doublets or triplets of synonyms. By omitting the discussion of the Herculean rites and the legends connected with them, as well as the detailed description of the scenes of Roman history on Aeneas? shield, the Irish redactor upsets Virgil?s compositional strategy for book 8 and thus subverts its meaning. The differences between source and adaptation arising in the process of literary acculturation can be explained either with regard to the Irish redactor?s specific narrative concerns, which are different from Virgil?s, or with regard to the pressure of dominant Irish modes of narrative presentation. The Irish redactor?s narrative intention was, in my view, to give a lively and artistic account of a vital chapter in early Roman history, as part of medieval Irish scholars? wider interest in world history, which is also reflected in other adaptations of classical texts with historical themes, and also in works such as the tract about the six ages of the world. Within this different Irish context, some specifically Virgilian themes were understandably not of prime concern and were therefore curtailed in the interest of the text?s acceptability to its new audience. Whereas Virgil?s book 8 highlights the future site of Rome and its glories, the Irish redactor concentrates on the events connected with Aeneas? preparations for war against Turnus, his negotiations with Evander, the resulting alliance between them, and Evander?s suggestion to seek the additional support of the Etruscans. He was also interested in the genealogical and political reasons for these alliances which are given in detail. Although his version is much shorter, with 178 lines of printed Irish prose against 731 lines of printed Latin verse (it must be noted, however, that the Irish book 8 is not representative in this particular respect), he did not produce an artless summary of the events in his source. He clearly intended to produce a narrative with all the stylistic and rhetorical qualities expected by his audience, and followed dominant literary conventions. He adds his own flourishes, most clearly seen in the description of the Trojan and Arcadian envoys setting out together, with the ecphrasis of Pallas as its polished centrepiece. In this way the Irish redactor successfully achieved the transformation of Virgil?s epic, with its specific Roman concerns, into a more general portrayal of an outstanding hero of classical antiquity, of his achievements, and of his place in the history of the world. His new version of the Aeneid is an outstanding example of the interaction of Latin learning and Irish literature possible in medieval Ireland and an accomplished piece of writing in its own right.[13]


Aeneid = Virgil, with an English Translation by H. Rushton Fairclough, 2 vols, Cambridge & London, 1986, vol. 1, 240-571, vol. 2, 2-365 (= The Loeb Classical Library, 63, 64).

Binder, Gerhard (1971), Aeneas und Augustus. Interpretationen zum 8. Buch der Aeneis, Meisenheim (= Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie, 38).

Calder, George (1907), ?Introduction?, in IA, xi-xx.

Djordevi?, Ivana (2000), ?Mapping Medieval Translation?, in Medieval Insular Romance: Translation and Innovation, ed. Judith Weiss et al., Cambridge, 7-23.

Harris, John R. (1988-91), ?Aeneas?s Treason and Narrative Consistency in the Mediaeval Irish Imtheachta Aeniasa?, Florilegium, 10, 25-48.

Harris, John R. (1998), Adaptations of Roman Epic in Medieval Ireland. Three Studies in the Interplay of Erudition and Oral Tradition, Lewiston, Queenston, Lampeter.

Heinze, Richard (1928), Virgils epische Technik, Leipzig & Berlin.

Hofman, Rijcklof (1988), ?Some New Facts Concerning the Knowledge of Vergil in Early Medieval Ireland?, Études Celtiques, 25, 189-212.

IA = Imtheachta Aeniasa, ed. George Calder, London, 1907 (= Irish Texts Society, 6) [reprinted 1995, together with Poppe (1995)].

Kobus, Isabel (1995), ?Imtheachta Aeniasa: Aeneis-Rezeption im irischen Mittelalter?, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, 47, 76-86.

LU = Lebor na Huidre. Book of the Dun Cow, ed. R.I. Best & Osborn Bergin, Dublin, 1929.

Lyne, R.O.A.M. (1989), Words and the Poet. Characteristic Techniques of Style in Vergil?s Aeneid, Oxford.

Mac Eoin, Gearóid (1960/61), ?Das Verbalsystem von Togail Troí (H.2.17)?, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie, 28, 73-136, 149-223.

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[1] The translations of the Irish passages are my own, but indebted to Calder?s.

[2] For a helpful introduction to the compositional concerns of the Aeneid?s book 8 compare, for example, Otis (1963: 330-42) and Binder (1971).

[3] The three texts in question are: Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib (composed between 1103 and 113, according to Ní Mhaonaigh 1995), the first recension of Togail Troí (the version on which the extant manuscript texts depend is dated to the thirteenth century, according to Mac Eoin 1960/61), and The Chase of Síd na mBan and the Death of Finn (dated to the thirteenth or fourteenth century by Meyer 1910). A phrase such as lúirech tredúalach can easily be inserted in the process of a text?s transmission; it would therefore be premature to suggest that Imtheachta Aeniasa necessarily predates Cogad Gáedel. According to the Dictionary, the only attestation of tredúalach with a noun other than lúirech, namely with slabrad ?chain?, occurs in Togail Bruidne Da Derga.

[4] For one interpretation of the simile?s complexities as intended by Virgil compare Lyne (1989: 85-7).

[5] This is perhaps the name of a bright-red (?) plant or flower.

[6] This describes his teeth; the same phrase occurs in the description of Cú Chulainn in Siaburcharpat Con Culaind (LU 9272) and variants also occur in other texts.

[7] Compare O?Nolan (1968) and (1969) for some thoughts on similarities between Homer and Irish heroic narratives with regard to narrative presentation, style, and particularly formulaic diction.

[8] Compare Heinze?s (1928: 365) for a full comment on this passage. All the complex emotions and subjective reactions identified by Heinze are completely absent from the Irish version.

[9] I am aware that this is a tentative generalization, but I think it would be accepted by most (modern) readers of medieval Irish narrative; more analytic work is required on this question.

[10] Compare, for example, Binder (1971: 5).

[11] I wish to thank Dr Barbara Hillers for this observation.

[12] On the structural and semantic importance of this passage compare, for example, Otis (1963: 330): ?[Book 8] has one major theme: Aeneas is the divine man (theios-aner) of Roman destiny whose mission is to defeat impious furor, the furor represented by Allecto and the Latin war. He stands in a present that is framed by a past and a future: the Arcadian Rome whose theios-aner was Hercules and the future Rome whose theios-aner is to be Augustus.?

[13] I wish to thank PD Dr Gyburg Radke for supplying me with a helpful selection of relevant literature on Virgil?s style and on book 8 of the Aeneid, and Dr Máire Ní Mhaonaigh for her advice.

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