Ancient Versus Modern Ways of Making Comparison: Comparatio in Vergil’s aeneid

Author: O’Neal, William Joseph
Of the 9,896 lines of poetry in Vergil’s Aeneid, some four hundred of them fall under the heading of comparatio or, loosely translated, simile. In order to define this figure of speech, this work reviews the classical authors Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian. It also reviews modern scholarship on Vergilian similes. The primary focus of this work deals with the forms Vergil used in the Aeneid when he employed this rhetorical symbol. This work should appeal to all scholars and students of epic poetry – to see the mind of Vergil at work – one who has imitated Homer but one who has made the “comparisons” his own in content, in emphasis, and in form.


“Written a little more than two thousand years ago by Publius Vergilius Maro, better known simply as Vergil, the Aeneid remains as one of the most celebrated works of Latin literature among scholars and students alike. Indeed, the Latin epic poem has often been compared with the Iliad and Odyssey of the great Greek poet Homer ... Throughout his epic poem Vergil scattered some four hundred lines of similes. While other scholars’ works have examined, interpreted and devised new meanings of the similes in the Aeneid or compared them with the examples in the poems of other classical poets, Dr. O’Neal’s study is quite unique because it differs significantly in its approach by focusing on the format or grammatical structure of similes ... It should therefore become a welcome addition to Vergilian scholarship for both professors and students alike.” – Richard M. Krill, Professor of Classics and Humanities, The University of Toledo

“This book is a very carefully argued and documented contribution to the study of a key element in Vergil’s poetic technique ... Reading this study, one is also struck by Vergil’s use of deliberate ambiguity and the richness and darkness of his imagery. The book should be welcomed both by those who are familiar with the scholarly discussion of Vergilian similes and those who are just being introduced to it. Thus, the study should become a staple of scholarship for many years to come.” – Charles Terbille, Retired Associate Professor, The University of Toledo

“This book focuses on the prominent role that figurative language, specifically the simile, plays in the interpretation and appreciation of the Aeneid. This work achieves its goal of demonstrating how a methodical study of similes in the Aeneid can be of tremendous help in interpreting this great epic poem and appreciating Vergil’s craftsmanship ... It is a book that no serious student of the classics can ignore.” – Samir Abu-Absi, Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, The University of Toledo

Table of Contents

1. The Simile Phrase
2. The SA Form of the Simile
3. The AS Form of the Simile
4. Multiple Images in the Similes
5. Vergil’s Similes in content, Emphasis, and Form
Appendix A – Passages in which Similes Appear in the Aeneid
Appendix B - Translations