It's well known that Virgil died before fully editing the Aeneid and that he wanted the manuscript to be burned. What isn't immediately clear to me, though, is whether this was a result of misguided fastidiousness or there are well-founded reasons for regarding it as unfinished.

My question is whether there is a full list of known issues or errors (metrical, narrative, poetic, etc.) in the current text of the Aeneid.

Specific citations of problematic verses would be especially helpful.


4 Answers 4


I compiled this list of mistakes with the help of the commentary accompanying the Finnish translation by Alpo Rönty. I do not claim that the list is complete, but I hope it gives something concrete enough.

First, the epic contains anacronisms. For example, theaters (I.427) were not around at the time. These are probably partly intentional and partly due to incomplete historical knowledge.

There are also incomplete lines. The only one where the line terminates in the middle of a clause or thought is III.340.

I will focus on plot inconsistencies instead. Here are some:

  • II.255 and II.340 mention moon, but otherwise the night is told to be dark.
  • V.37 describes Acestes' appeareance very differently from the otherwise civilized and wealthy character. Perhaps this was a first draft of the character.
  • In VI.338 Libyco cursu implies that the trip began in Africa. Perhaps the stop in Sicily was added after writing this passage.
  • In VII.123 the prophecy is said to be given by Anchises, but in III.245– it was given by Celaeno.
  • In VII.46-49 the ancestry of Latinus is Latinus–Faunus–Picus–Saturnus, but in VII.178 Italus and Sabinus are mentioned. In XII.164 Sol is mentioned as a forefather.
  • Either the ships sent in VIII.550 had not yet arrived by the time of IX.193, or the author had forgotten them.
  • Numa is killed in IX.454 and again in X.562.
  • Camers dies in X.562 and Iuturna takes disguises as him in XII.224. This is not impossible, though.
  • Amycus dies in IX.772 and again in XII.509.
  • Diores is the brother of Amycus in XII.509. In V.297 he is a son of Priamos, but Amycuys is not thought to be his son.
  • Cretheus dies in IX.774 and again in XII.538.
  • 3
    This is excellent--many thanks
    – brianpck
    Oct 3, 2016 at 19:50

There is much evidence on the composition of the Aeneid to support the tradition that it was left incomplete and unedited at the poet’s death and, further, that his will required it to be destroyed for that reason. It was preserved and published through the direct intervention of Augustus, who instructed the contemporary poet Varius Rufus (a friend of Virgil, Horace and Maecenas) to revise and edit the whole work; even after this, there remain obvious gaps and there are presumable attempts to supply bridging structures. The whole subject is treated quite clearly in the Oxford Classical Dictionary. My copy is of the second edition by Hammond & Scullard: a third edition appeared a few years ago.

I know of no such full list as you ask for, and without knowing precisely what you are looking for it is not easy to give examples - though they are plentiful in their various kinds. However, there have been plenty of critical editions over the last 250 years, which usually give copious notes and explanations. The one that I used (many years ago!) in studying the Aeneid was published at Quedlinburg in 1846, with the critical apparatus not in German but in Latin: it has a long preface on the history of such criticism, a 22 page excursus on Virgilian hexameters and four useful genealogical tables of the characters.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer! I guess I was looking for more concrete details: you mention "obvious gaps" and "bridging structures", but that's precisely what I'm curious about: can you provide examples? I mentioned a few examples of what I'm looking for in my question, but feel free to comment if you think it's unclear what I'm asking for.
    – brianpck
    Sep 11, 2016 at 18:17
  • Offhand, there's a gap in XII, which I've just looked at and is after 218. Looking at some ancient notes (in pencil, so nearly illegible now), I see that there seems to be a 'bridge' at X 727-8.
    – Tom Cotton
    Sep 11, 2016 at 19:11

By chance I came across this passage on teaching Virgil, and other Classics in
p. 32 [on-line 47/171]The Seven Liberal Arts, Paul Abelson, 1909.

Bernard of Chartres, for instance, who taught John of Salisbury, in the twelfth century, not only read the authors with his pupils but also explained constructions, pointed out mistakes and beauties of the text. elucidated matters of antiquity, asked pupils to judge and criticise, make them memorise passages and write original passages in prose and verse.

The source can be found in Metalogicus I. ch 9, 14, accessible in Migne CXCIX col 838,853 et seq.

  • Thanks for the extra info! Although this doesn't answer the concrete aspect of my question, it's definitely a great supplement to have here.
    – brianpck
    Sep 15, 2016 at 23:59
  • @brianpck Specifics:The epic style is relentless:Page, on I.702:"...when a poet attempts to describe getting a dinner ready in heroic verse, he is apt to become obscure." Secondly Augustus When Virgil started the project, the new Aeneas was heroic and faultless. But no individual can stand that sort of adulation and the Aeneid turns into sycophancy.
    – Hugh
    Sep 16, 2016 at 11:04

(I will add more details later)

James O'Hara (O'Hara 2010) summarizes it very eloquently in the following passage:

"To imagine an Aeneid without any of these discrepancies is an irresponsible fantasy, broadly comparable to the practice of idealizing unpainted classical statues, or even removing bits of surviving paint from statues, since we now know that most classical statues were brightly if not even gaudily painted. Viewed in isolation or in small groups, these inconsistencies may look like problems the poet was “planning to fix, had not death intervened.” But the sheer number of them and the way that they are woven into the text suggest either that they were deliberate, or that Vergil spent a great deal of time accidentally creating complications for himself to resolve later" (pp. 101-102).

  • Interesting. Please let me know when you add the comments so I don't miss them.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 3, 2016 at 19:52

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