Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Peter Knox

Second Advisor

Jacqueline Elliott

Third Advisor

John Gibert


This dissertation closely examines direct-speech prayers in Vergil’s Aeneid and how they reflect their source material, and argues that a careful look at their context, intertext and language shows that prayers are a highly allusive dialogue that point to Roman cultural identity. Moreover, the mobilization of this large body of religious language is linked to the ideological function of the Aeneid so that prayers illuminate the complicated nature of the poem’s link to the Augustan regime. This dissertation counters the claim that the poem’s prayers are simply Homeric in their phrasing and instead shows that, although it is clear that Vergil has intentionally entwined Homer’s epic into his own and that the prayers of the Aeneid do, in fact, occasionally resemble Greek models, there is ubiquitous Roman material placed beside the Greek and several to draw from Roman religious precedent that connect specific authors, time periods, Roman rituals and cultural norms. Chapter 1 shows that through allusion to Ennius’ Annales, Vergil self-consciously asserts authority over the material and reworks Ennian subject matter. The next chapter argues that use of Homeric motif and allusion to prayers in the Homeric epics elicit comparisons with corresponding Homeric characters and situations while the incorporation of Roman and Italic ritual in these same prayers brings out the underlying focus of the epic: Rome and Roman traditions. In Chapter 3, I have shown that the combination of language drawn from historical prayer formula and ritual action frame each of these speeches in Roman terms often germane to Augustan ideology. In prayers that are accompanied by ritual action speakers often prefigure Roman practice and therefore assume a position of power through their privileged access to technical religious language and action. Finally, in Chapter 4 I show that prayers to local and familial gods metaphorically put the struggle between the Trojans and the Latins in terms of a shift from one religious system to another, the Saturnian to Jovian, and a transformation from the prehistoric version of the native Italian gods to their later role in Roman civic cult.