Monthly ArchiveApril 2016

Analysing the Data Visualisation of The Aeneid by Virgil

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For my final assignment for DH1002, I wish to analyse the ancient Epic, The Aeneid, by Virgil.

In 30 B.C. the final civil war of the Roman Republic ended, and with it the Republic herself. Octavian became Emperor Augusts, and ended a century of civil war. Aside from securing the future of the Roman Empire for years to come, the end of the civil war created a revitalisation in roman culture and literature. The period became late known as the Augustin age. Many poets of the time owed direct patronage to Octavian, such as Ovid and Horace. However the most prolific and most influential work of this time was ‘The Aeneid’ by Virgil. This epic poem was commissioned directly by the Emperor himself. Virgil set out firstly, to glorify the ancient and noble heritage of Rome. Secondly and more importantly, the main objective of the piece was to unite the peoples of the Roman Empire. This was necessary in order to achieve stability in the Roman provinces and to prevent another Civil War. According in part to the poem, one need not be from Roman to be a Roman. One needs only to live their life under Roman ideals. While writing his mythological historical epic, Virgil took a lot pf information from the more ancient Greek texts of Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey. The protagonist of the Aeneid is Aeneas, a Trojan prince mentioned in the Iliad, who proceeds to go on a similar voyage to Odysseus in search of a new home for his peoples. He eventually arrives in modern day Italy and is, allegedly, the direct ancestor of Romulus, the founder of Rome. In this sense Virgil sees Rome as the successors to the ancient city of Ilium of Trojan Empire. Most importantly, Aeneas is seen as a Roman, despite not being born in Italy.  While the piece does take information from the aforementioned Homeric texts, the character of Aeneas is different to that of Odysseus, due to the fact that the Romans disliked Odysseus and his wittiness.

The Aeneid is a way to discover what the key aspects of Roman culture, and cultural attitude were at this time.

By using the digital tool, Voyant-tools, I was able to quickly see which key words were repeated throughout the text. Due to the fact that I used an English translation, the translator naturally used different words in order to maintain the poetic form of the piece. In this regard, some words may not appear as often as in the original version, but certain words will remain more prominent like the original.

Putting aside the word, “shall”, the most prominent words in the piece are “arms” and “war”. It is through these words we see that violence is an integral part of Roman Values.

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We can see here how these words are related to each other and complement each other.

Other key word include words that are more centred on religious wording, such as fate, gods and Heaven. This is another key aspect of the Roman way of life, honouring the gods. It can be interpreted from the piece of the overall significance of religion in the state of Rome. Especially when backed up with these visual aids.

The third most common word in the piece is Trojan. Give the context of the piece it is not farfetched to supplement this word with Rome. While there are separate mentions of Rome in the piece, given Virgil interpretation that Rome is Troy’s successor, when the word Trojan appears in contexts such as loyalty to Troy and Trojan brothers, it is clearly meant to reflect Rome, as well as when but in context with the previous mentioned prominent words to do with violence and religious worship, it is evident that Virgil is referring to honouring the gods, by fighting for Rome.

The rest of the prominent words all follow a similar trend of violence or that of religion.

In the lectures for the course, often we covered several data visualisation tools and techniques. A lot of them appear to be superfluous, such as a poster of the text of the novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. The poster itself only revolution was that the lines of the texts left a large space which had an image of a man and a woman fending off zombies. The point of these new tool is to find a new way to read, to add a new layer to the texts that we see. Voyant-tools, in some ways, offers a summary of the piece of literature. You can quickly pick up the key words and themes of the piece.  Unfortunately however, these more beneficial tools only work in conjunction with having read the full text, in order for the reader to fully appreciate the texts for what they are. They more as a mean to analyse a text, not as a substitute way of reading and appreciating a text.

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