3 Reasons Christians Need to be Fasting
Wes McAdams, Radically Christian
10 Things to Remember When Reading the Bible
Vern Poythress, Crossway
The Bible Cause at 200
Timothy George, First Things
Held by the Bible
John Piper, Crossway
Life Up Your Soul (in Prayer)
Kevin W. Rhodes, Convictions of Honor
Reading the Psalms with the Reformers
Timothy George, First Things
Teaching the Beatitudes
James F. Keenan, Commonweal Magazine
Among the various undercurrents in The House of Fame, time is probably not the first that comes to mind. Fame is, of course, the poem’s major theme, but without time perennial praise becomes a mere passing trend. But there is a much more subtle function that time performs in Chaucer’s work by informing the narrator’s ideal of the poet’s role.
Of the three phases of time (past, present, and future) “Geffrey” (729) only explicitly mentions the last. When asked by a bystander whether he, too, has come to Fame’s house as a suppliant of her favor, he replies:
‘Nay, forsooth, frend,’ quod I.
Taken alone, the narrator here appears somewhere between apathy and arrogance; on the one hand, listless concerning his future reputation and on the other, with a sense of self-possession that borders on the blasphemous (since he is after all denying divine aid). But when we consider this passage in the context of time, could Chaucer be trying to tell us something about the future? Could Geffrey’s words reflect less his confidence in his own poesy and more his ambivalence toward an unseen fate?
Consider also the form of the poem, a dream vision. Writing in fourteenth-century England, in the midst of the plague, Chaucer’s daily life is anything but hopeful. The only other living person he even alludes to in “The House” is his wife, and even then, not positively (see 562, 652-660). When he writes, there is no clear sense of the present. Instead, his dream is more real and valuable to him than his concrete earthly experience. The vision (either literal or literary) affords the poet an escape from the nightmarish existence of everyday life. Escape, however, does not necessarily provide meaning. While taken as a guest to Fame’s abode, Geffrey witnesses a goddess as capricious as she is influential. Just as he cannot see meaning in the suffering around him, he cannot trust his fate to the arbitrary power of Fame. Neither the future nor the present therefore provide any sense of purpose for the poet.
It would be easy to point out the degree of skepticism inherent to Chaucer’s views thus far. Geffrey, however, neither stops writing nor ceases to find enjoyment in doing so. Though he finds no comfort in the present and no hope in the future, he develops a greater sense of understanding and meaning by drawing on the writers and thinkers of the past. Consider Chaucer’s sources. He draws extensively on Dante, Ovid, Virgil and the various Trojan myths while also alluding to the writings of Macrobius, Ptolemy, Horace, Statius, medieval French romances, the Bible. For both the poet and the reader, these influences are clear and as intimately familiar to him as old friends. The past is closer and more accessible to us than we think.
The House of Fame, then, does not present the poet as a prophet of the future, a reformer of the present, or a skeptical humanist, but as a conservator of our collective memory. Life is difficult, the future is uncertain, but the past is immutable. By learning from it, we gain a glimpse of human existence that is, in a way, more true than what we see here and now. Time therefore teaches us that the role of the poet is to convey a view of the human condition that is both timeless and timely, by bringing the wisdom of the ages to bear upon the strains of our earthly endeavors.
The Bad Faith of the White Working Class
J.D. Vance, The New York Times
Our Divisions Aren't Caused by Global Elites
Peter Spiliakos, First Things
Our Economy is Cartelized, Corrupt & Closed
David P. Goldman, First Things
The Myth of Cosmopolitanism
Ross Douthat, The New York Times
The Paradox of Plenty: Oil & the Third World
What Would a Reform Agenda Look Like?
Robert P. George, First Things
Room to Grow: A Conservative Reform Agenda
The Conservative Reform Network
Will Raising the Minimum Wage Kill Jobs?
Kate Gibson, CBS News
The loss of a child is the most difficult experience any parent can suffer. Whatever the cause, no parent should have to mourn their own child. The question we often struggle with, then, is Why? Why him? Why me? Why, God? Six hundred years ago, one English father recounted his own struggle in perhaps the only way he knew: in meter. The Pearl is therefore a poem about the very real questions one father asked when confronted with the loss of his little girl.
In his grief, he quite naturally wondered what kind of sick justice is served by her death. Why should “that pearl, mine own, without a spot” be thus paid “the wages of sin” in death (line 12; Rom 6:23)? In sorrow, he turns his anger toward the very dirt packed within her grave: “O mould! Thou marrest a lovely thing” (23). In life, his daughter was a precious pearl unstained by sin, yet the Grave had robbed her of her beauty, sullying her glaze with the filth of a loamy burial.
Yet as he slips into a sorrowful sleep at her grave, the Pearl herself comes in a dream to calm her father’s doubts, well aware of what has become of her since her departure. She exhorts him to forsake the fleeting comfort of lament, and instead to behold the bliss in which she now finds herself (340). But rather than comfort, his grief gives way to scoffing. Just as he had strained at the injustice of his loss, he struggles even more with his daughter’s exaltation as the bride of Christ. So many before her had lived so much longer, and suffered so much more; what was her faithfulness compared to theirs (409-420)? The maiden, however, replies that she has merely inherited the promise given to every faithful child of God: “That each who may thereto obtain / Of all the realm is queen or king” (446-447; see Rom 8:16-17, 2Ti 2:12).
To illustrate the veracity of her claim, she then recounts the parable spoken by Jesus himself, in which he compares the kingdom of Heaven to a master and his laborers (lines 493-575; see Mat 20:1-16). One morning, the master goes and hires workers from those standing idle in the agora and returns at times throughout the day to hire additional hands. But at dusk, when the workers are each paid a denarius for their labor, those who had worked longer are outraged. Their master’s response, however, quickly quiets their grumblings: “am I not allowed in gift / To dispose of mine as I please to do? / Or your eye to evil, maybe, you lift, / For I none betray and I am true?” (565-568). Christ is therefore just, and the Pearl has received her due.
But as she also knows there is yet a deeper justice that illuminates her father’s sorrow. He is not the first to have lost an innocent child, nor will he be the last. Thus, the story he must understand is not his own, but that of another Father:
Of Jerusalem my tale doth tell,
The Pearl thus reminds her father of God’s own great loss, one neither deserved nor desired, where God’s own “Sorrow and love flow mingled down.” God would not return the Pearl to her father’s embrace, but he would stand with her father in the pain, and greet him with open arms in the hereafter. Because like her, he would be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus (Acts 15:11; see 2Sa 12:15-23).
Many things have changed in the world since the Pearl, but our world is still imperfect, striving still in the throes of redemption through him who died to save it (John 3:16; Rom 8:19-25; Col 1:15-17). A world where parents mourn their children, and where we’re still asking, Why?. And yet as the poet reminds us, God provides for us even in our suffering—looking back to the blood of the cross and looking forward to the world to come. For what Paul knew by faith, the poet’s Pearl knew by sight (2Co 5:7). He therefore closes, giving his pain to God and his peace to us. Because Justice had indeed come, and his name was Jesus:
To please that Prince, or pardon shown,
10 Things You Should Know About Apologetics
Mitch Stokes, Crossway
Divine Action: Naturalism & Incarnation
Christopher C. Knight, BioLogos
More on Divine Action: Uncontrolling Love
Thomas Jay Oord, BioLogos
Failure is Moving Science Forward
Christie Aschwanden, FiveThirtyEight
How Not to Critique Evolution: An Intelligent Design Perspective
Vincent Torley, Uncommon Descent
I Am More than My Genes: Faith, Identity & DNA
Praveen Sethupathy, The Veritas Forum
The Joy of Science
Adam D. Hincks, America Magazine
Laboratory Limits That Are Not Limits
Chuck Donovan, First Things
Changes compiled August 3, 2016
Originally posted August 8, 2016
Updated August 13, 2016 based on Crossway’s official list of changes (see the two paragraphs added/changed below and the attached PDF)
The English Standard Version (ESV) has been one of my primary translations since about 2003. But like every translation, after being on the market for a few years Crossway (its publisher) incorporated some additional revisions, first in 2007, then again in 2011. But a few weeks ago, while looking around our local Family Christian Store, I came across a new Classic Reference Edition of the ESV with a note on the copyright page: “ESV Permanent Text Edition 2016.”
I was excited by this for several reasons. First, I hadn’t heard a thing about it, and as a translation nerd there’s always a sense of discovery surrounding a new find. Secondly, though some past revisions had seemed unnecessary, others tended to move the text further from the textual blunders of the 1972 Revised Standard Version (its original textual basis), and a few steps closer to the NKJV.
And finally, the revisions were claimed to be done. When the ESV first came out, I remember reading about how people were so excited about the NASB fifty years ago. Until, among other things, the text simply kept changing, making people wonder when enough was enough. Besides, who really wants to cite this business (thanks Lockman…):
New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition. Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.
But for awhile, at least (contrary to the said ESV endorsement), the ESV seemed to be heading down this same path. Perhaps a bit more concerning, however, were claims that the Translation Oversight Committee was considering additional changes to make the translation more gender neutral. Since the ESV was intended in part to counter these tendencies, I found the claim surprising, but not entirely outside the realm of possibility. So if the changes hadn’t been made in this 2016 update, they would almost certainly not be made, except in a possible reboot 25 to 50 years down the road.
Unfortunately, when I contacted Crossway two weeks ago about what exactly had changed in the 2016 update, they said they wouldn’t be putting out a list of the changes. Thankfully, Accordance Bible Software has a neat (but completely unintentional) work-around. Here’s how it works: when Accordance released the 2016 updates for the ESV text a week later (one with Strong’s numbers, one without), I updated my Strong’s text to the 2016 edition, but didn’t update my basic ESV 2011. This allowed me to open the two versions side by side, select “Compare Text,” and then “List Text Differences.” Doing so identified 41 passages affected by the changes.
This paragraph added August 13, 2016: Fortunately, you don’t just have to take my word for it. Since writing this initial post, Crossway has released a public statement on the Permanent Text Edition, with a complete list of changes (and have also updated their About page on the ESV). The only difference between my list and theirs, is that when I initially ran Compare Texts in Accordance, my Ignore Upper Case feature was checked, which means I didn’t pick up the shift in Numbers 14:42 from “Lord” (which usually translates the Hebrew Adonai) to LORD (Hebrew YHWH, or Yahweh/Jehovah). So both my Accordance settings and the attached PDF below have been updated!
As with previous editions, most of the changes were simply matters of punctuation and a few in versification (especially in the Old Testament), prepositions (especially in the New Testament), as well as a handful of substantial changes. What follows, then, is a quick look at the passages with more substantial changes (which have been underlined), along with a complete list of the changes with sparser comments.
1) Genesis 3:16; 4:7
Genesis 3:16: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
Genesis 4:7: “Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
The traditional rendering of Genesis 3:16 has always thrown me for a loop: “Your desire shall be for your husband” (NKJV). I’ve often wondered, “How is this a punishment? Isn’t part of marriage wanting to be with the other person?” And again, “Why would the wife’s desire merit the draconian response: ‘And he shall rule over you’ (NKJV)? Why would a husband respond to his wife’s affection with an overbearing dominance?” And further, “Does this mean male leadership in the home and the church is a consequence of the Fall, rather than the created ideal which other biblical writers make of it (1Co 11:3, 7-9; 1Ti 2:13-14)?”
The ESV aids our understanding by highlighting the similar construction in Genesis 4:7 and how the usage in chapter 4 affects our reading in chapter 3. Starting with verse 6 the passage reads, “The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.’” Here Sin’s personified desire is clearly not a good thing. She (the Hebrew for sin, chatta’t, is a feminine noun) wants Cain as a conquest, not out of any desire for him personally. Cain’s charge, then, is simple: “but you must rule over it.”
The passages thus form a grammatical parallel: Just as sin doesn’t love Cain, but instead seeks to exploit his desires to gain the mastery, Eve would struggle with submitting to Adam and instead (if left unchecked) seek to subvert her husband’s leadership. And even worse, Adam would overcompensate, demanding respect while doing little to earn it. The ESV’s update therefore corrects the false connotation of the traditional rendering, while also showing us that problems of the home were never part of God’s original and “very good” creation (Gen 1:31).
2) 2 Kings 20:18
“And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
The RSV was the first in this translation stream (KJV > ASV > RSV) to omit “who will come from you,” and the NRSV and the ESV followed this precedent. This update, however, restores the phrase while also correctly shifting from “born” to “father” (or beget) in the second phrase.
3) Psalm 18
Heading: “To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. …”
Psalm 18:46-48: “The LORD lives … who rescued me from my enemies; yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from the man of violence.”
As with any other good translation, the ESV at times struggles with consistently translating synonyms, and Psalm 18 serves as a good case study. In this psalm, the ESV consistently renders the various forms of the Hebrew words natzal (“to deliver”; heading, vv. 17, 48c) and yesha (“to save”; vv. 2b, 3, 27, 35, 41 [“there was no one to save them,” NRSV], 46, 50), but also shows some difficulty in translating palat (“to rescue”; v. 2a, 43, 48a) and chalatz (“to free by force”?; v. 19). The changes in the heading and verse 48 were therefore made to improve accuracy and consistency.
4) Hosea 13:14
“I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol;
I shall redeem them from Death.
O Death, where are your plagues?
O Sheol, where is your sting?
Compassion is hidden from my eyes.”
The NKJV closely corresponds to the Hebrew here:
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
O Death, I will be your plagues!
O Grave, I will be your destruction!
Pity is hidden from My eyes.” (emphasis added)
The RSV and NASB, however—probably influenced by Paul’s usage in 1 Corinthians 15:55 and the Greek Septuagint (LXX)—adopted an emendation in lines 3 and 4 and rendered the first four statements as questions:
“Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?
Shall I redeem them from Death?
O Death, where are your plagues?
O Sheol, where is your destruction?
Compassion is hid from my eyes.” (emphasis added)
The ESV has thus restored the Hebrew of the first two lines (with the NKJV), but rightly follows the LXX in the next two. You can see this same trend in the attached comments on Ezekiel 40:14.
5) Luke 24:47 (this section revised on August 13, 2016)
Luke 24:46-47: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
This is a relatively simple change to improve the ESV’s correspondence to the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text. For those who prefer the Byzantine or Majority Text (like myself) the text actually reads “and” here, as rendered in both the old ESV and the NKJV.
But notice what the translators did not do: they rendered the Greek word here (eis, usually pronounced “ace” or “ice”) as “for” (that is, “unto, toward, leading to”) not “because of” or “as the result of.” In context, then, repentance of one’s sins precedes and leads to the forgiveness of one’s sins in Christ. Most would not find this at all confusing, but some have claimed that eis also at times means “because of” or “as the result of,” and should therefore be translated that way, usually in passages about baptism, such as Acts 2:38.
So for more information on why “for” makes more sense here and elsewhere, as well as a response to at least one objection to this view, you may also want to check out Wayne Jackson’s article, “The Use of the Preposition ‘Eis’ in Matthew 12:41.”
So, these are my top five. What are your thoughts on these? Which would you rather they had not changed? Which other passages do you wish they had?
For further information on the how we got the Bible and how to study it, check out some of my previous Bible class material on Knowing Your Bible.
Please click below for the complete comparison of the ESV 2011 to the ESV 2016.
Christ: The One Really Interesting Story
Timothy George, First Things
Britain's Atlantis Found at Bottom of North Sea
The Vintage News
Remembering Europe's Christian Roots
Tom Holland, First Things
The Reformation: A Tragic Necessity
Timothy George, First Things
The Restoration: A Work in Progress
Wes McAdams, Radically Christian
The Armenian Genocide: Then and Now
Timothy George, First Things
The Librarian Who Saved Timbuktu's Treasures
Joshua Hammer, The Wall Street Journal
Ascent, Descent, and Human Destiny
Peter J. Leithart, First Things
Scholars have long recognized the civic nature of much of Virgil’s work, and such is seen throughout the pages of The Aeneid. The most commonly cited passages, of course, are those scenes in which later Roman figures predominate the account, such as Aeneas’ conversation with his father in Hades (Book 6) and the description of his shield (Book 8). Yet dozens of lesser references are also scattered throughout the text, demonstrating the political motivations of his work. So, for example, Carthage is described as “drafting laws, electing judges, a senate held in awe” (Aeneid 1), while even in Hades, the dead are put on trial, “But not without jury picked by lot, not without judge” (6). Even more central to Virgil’s work, however, is the dynamic relationship between identity, memory and self-image. The purpose of this study will be to examine the significance of these themes in The Aeneid, and particularly how Virgil participates in the broader Augustan program of recasting Roman history and religion in light of the principate.
Virgil was no mere political pundit, and stuck to no party line. Instead, there was a certain tension to his work. On one hand, he sought to express his own hopes and fears for the new order ushered in by Augustus. As Freeman points out, “He was preoccupied, like so many Italians, with the need for peace” (460). On the other hand, he had an acute understanding of the “brutal realities involved in the struggle for power” (Freeman 461). Virgil the Patriot, then, wanted nothing more than to praise the accomplishments of Augustus and celebrate the Pax Romana the Emperor ushered in. Virgil the Poet, however, simply could not overlook the moral and political lessons learned over the previous fifty years of civil war, and therefore could not help but speak out concerning what he saw as a victory too hard-won.
Because of this tension between truth and context, Virgil was presented with a further conundrum: How does one praise the princeps, while subtly exhorting the senatorial class? Both Roman memory and Roman identity stood against him. “The Romans had never shown any hesitation in declaring that their wars of conquest were justified and they showed a similar confidence in their right to rule others” (Freeman 497). But Virgil understood his audience well, and therefore praises Rome’s role in the world: not to forge bronze, carve marble, plead cases or chart the skies (such menial tasks were for the Greeks), but to “rule with all your power the peoples of the earth—these will be your arts: to put your stamp on the works and ways of peace, to spare the defeated, break the proud in war” (Aeneid 6).
The poet therefore juxtaposes art and might, thus inviting the reader to participate in his very personal struggle. He reinforces this ambiguity by narrating scenes in which art depicts violence rather than demonstrate it (such as Aeneas’ shield), while also pointing out that these scenes spurred violence of their own (see Bartsch 323, 325). Thus, as Aeneas observes “the workmanship of the shield . . . . He fills with wonder—he knows nothing of these events but takes delight in their likeness, lifting onto his shoulders now,” and doing so again later in battle (Aeneid 8; see too 12).
For Virgil, then, he could not merely recount the historical founding of Rome, but needed instead to redefine what it meant to be Roman, while also developing the implications of this self-image for an imperial context. As Bartsch posits, “We could even say that the control of self and control over others are the twin goals of the poem’s ideological trajectory towards the foundation of Rome” (322). This, in part, explains Virgil’s choice of Aeneas as his prototypical Roman. A work written in his day on the rise of Caesar or Augustus would have been viewed as an overt political statement rather than art, thereby incurring either public animosity or regal wrath. By setting his epic many centuries prior, however, Virgil was afforded the opportunity to freely discuss Rome’s recent course of events, while placing any criticisms in the mouths of others.
Thus in The Aeneid’s sole passage addressing Julius directly, Aeneas’ father, Anchises admonishes, “never inure yourselves to civil war, never turn your sturdy power against your country’s heart. You, Caesar, you be first in mercy—you trace your line from Olympus—born of my blood, throw down your weapons now” (Aeneid 6; see Taylor 179)! Though the Aeneas-Julian connection may seem tenuous, the poet’s choice was not merely a matter of artistic license or self-preservation; it also allowed him to operate within the well-known Roman norms of collective memory, particularly among the senatorial nobles. “The dominant figures in Roman party politics and party organization were usually members of the hereditary noble or consular houses. By their traditions these houses kept alive the hallowed customs of old Rome, the mos maiorun” (Taylor 25). Virgil therefore found a balance between the requirements of art and power, truth and prudence, by creating a “glorious tradition for the Julian House” and critiquing the new order from within this new milieu (Taylor 27).
While Virgil, however, struggled with this tension personally and artistically, he also participated in the greatest re-imagining of Roman identity that ever took place. Virgil was not alone in observing the ambiguous grounds of the regime, however beneficial that regime might be. Augustus himself understood this better than most: his only predecessor in the principate was Caesar, who had been murdered by his closest confidantes. So after decades of internal strife, “One of the critical problems facing Augustus . . . was to reestablish a sense of unity amongst the Romans” (Orlin 74). Though in one sense, Octavian was the penultimate tyrant—hijacking the Roman Republic in its time of need, and through the sheer force of arms—once in power, Augustus was essentially the first enlightened despot.
He achieved this coup d'état by, “maintaining a proper balance between change and continuity, and . . . regularly presented his innovations as a return to older traditions rather than as revolutionary re-conceptions” (Orlin 88). Caesar had, of course, charted much of this course for him, but Augustus’ longevity and success establish him as the greater politician. “Caesar as he had been in life was forgotten. Augustus, the restorer of the republic, was the architect of the new order. Caesarism was not the frank monarchy of Julius. It was still monarchy, but it was veiled now in republicanism—in Catonism, if you like” (Taylor 180).
Aside from this emphasis on moderation, Augustus also recognized the powerful influence of Roman culture (and especially religion) as opposed to relying on mere political power—or worse, the loyalty of the army. Religion in Rome had been connected with the power of the state long before the Edict of Milan. As Taylor states, “The Roman state religion, inseparably bound up with politics, was in the hands of the governing nobles and could be manipulated by them in the interests of the entire body or for the benefit of one group in rivalry with another” (76).
Even before Augustus, Romans understood this integral connection between faith and power: “Both founder-figures of Rome, Aeneas and Romulus, were born of a divinity, both received special attention from the divine during their lifetimes, and both were divinized upon their deaths” (Orlin 75). Augustus, however, took this association to new levels by displacing the Senate as the primary embodiment of religious piety. “Although Augustus would not assume the office of pontifex maximus until 12 B.C.E., the close inter-relationship between religion and politics at Rome ensured that he became the dominant figure in the religious sphere at the same time as he became the dominant political figure” (Orlin 78, emphasis added).
Virgil appears to share this view of the principate by recasting Roman religion on pre-Roman grounds: “Never forget the Latins are Saturn’s people, fair and just, and not because we are bound by curbs or laws, but kept in check of our own accord: the way of our ancient god” (Aeneid 7). For the poet, then, religion becomes at once more ancient and therefore more universal than most Romans of his day conceived it. For this reason, Aeneas is not merely a man of war, but a man of the gods. Sacrificing at his father’s funeral games, he is “bound by custom” and “true to custom,” although the customs here referred to are clearly Greek, rather than Roman (Aeneid 5).
Later, in Book 12, we begin to see why. As Juno withdraws from the battle, she implores her brother-husband, Jupiter, for the sake of Latium, “never command the Latins, on their native soil, to exchange their age-old name, to . . . alter their language, change their style of dress. Let Latium endure. Let Alban kings hold sway for all time. Let Roman stock grow strong with Italian strength” (Aeneid 12). Virgil, as effortless as he is subtle, sheds his ambivalence concerning Caesar and unites the new Rome on the uniquely Augustan pillars of a shared language (Latin), a shared place (Italy), a shared state (monarchy), and a shared descent.
Jupiter’s response is even more telling; he will not only fulfill his sister’s request, he “will add the rites and the forms of worship . . . you will see them outstrip all men, outstrip all gods in reverence. No nation on earth will match the honors” (Aeneid 12). The significance of this statement is almost entirely lost on modern readers. To a Greek, such a statement would seem a mere truism, their religion being centered on the prophecies of oracles and semi-inspired poets such as Homer and Hesiod. To a Roman, however, religion was primarily an act of collective memory, not one of a shared future. And yet, Virgil’s work is nothing if not a contemporaneous history of the Roman civil wars posited as an ancient prophecy. “Virgil thus offers a profoundly different conception of Roman religion in this passage, one that is at sharp odds with the actual history of Roman practice,” which was known for its syncretism (Orlin 74).
The extension of the rites to other Italians is particularly important: Virgil not only ties these rites to the Julian House (and therefore to Augustus), he also widens its appeal and, therefore, Augustus’ religious and political base. “The reader need not assume that the process of amalgamation will be easy, but the poet’s suggestion offers an avenue towards creating unity between Roman and Italian” (Orlin 81). This explains the unqualified acceptance of Aeneas’ Greek rites earlier in the work: “because such practices are not specifically Roman; Greek culture is as much a part of the Italian heritage as the Roman, and more so for some areas of Italy” (Orlin 80).
The success of such an approach could be seen around the city within a generation, as Augustus rebuilt and rededicated all eighty-four of Rome’s existing temples, while also building one for Caesar, thus, both literally and figuratively re-shaping “Roman memory and, in the process,” thereby redefining “what it meant to be Roman” (Orlin 84; see too 85).
In the first century BC, Italians of all stripes had seen their fair share of violence and intrigue as Rome worked out its less than perfect republic. In Augustus, they saw a glimmer of hope, one that would finally end the unceasing strivings of lesser men and unite the peninsula under his leadership. Though Virgil’s comments toward Caesar reveal the poet’s ambivalence toward the statesman, Virgil appears to have no such shortcomings concerning the blessings of Rome’s new Golden Age. For such to be possible, though, Rome had to forget, or at least redefine for herself, who she was. Augustus achieved this feat by reworking Rome’s identity, memory, and self-image—politically, religiously, and historically. And he succeeded in no small part through the aid of Virgil’s pen, and for that reason we and he might both be grateful that after Virgil’s death, Rome’s first prince saved her greatest myth from the ash heaps of history.