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The Future’s not Bright: Rereading Aeneid 6.725-51 1)

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image of Mnemosyne

Abstract The juxtaposition of the Catalogue of Heroes and Anchises’ presentation of the fate of souls immediately preceding it in Book 6 of the Aeneid is a meaningful one. Building on Feeney’s ‘paradox’ regarding the juxtaposition, this paper reinterprets the Catalogue by way of extrapolating from Anchises’ speech possibly profound implications regarding Rome’s future heroes. The problem is that that speech is ambiguous. Drawing on different Greek eschatological models for help in discerning the metaphysical interpretive possibilities of Anchises’ portrait, I show that the Greek rubrics do not in fact solve but contribute to the ambiguity of the passage. But they contribute in a meaningful way by rerouting the line of inquiry away from attempting either to pinpoint a singular philosophical influence or to determine once and for all what a soul’s fate is. Rather we are invited to reflect on how the very vagueness functions. This paper posits that reading Anchises’ speech through each of the philosophical models leads us to question whether Rome’s future heroes were so bright after all.

Affiliations: 1: San Francisco State University, Department of Classics 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco CA 94132 USA


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