For more than 2,500 years, classical epic has been the province of men: written by, for, and about them, and passed down through the centuries by male translators. One could certainly describe Virgil's Aeneid as a manly poem. From its arms-and-the-man opening to its climactic blood bath on the battlefield, the Latin epic tells a tale of exile, combat, and slaughter, with a body count rivaling that of Homer's Iliad. Women figure mostly as collateral damage. In what appears to be a first, however, a woman has finally tried her hand at bringing Virgil's dactylic hexameters to a modern, English-speaking public. This month Yale University Press publishes a blank-verse translation by the poet and classicist Sarah Ruden. . . . Bringing a sense of personal passion to the task, modern translators are reminding readers that for all the fierceness and grandeur of the events it describes, the Aeneid is also intimate, at times even tender. It raises an urgent question — What price empire? — even as it creates a foundational myth of how a great empire came to be. In an age that has had its fill of war and foreign adventures, Virgil's epic, written 2,000 years ago, still speaks volumes. . . .
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