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Post Longa et Tristia Dyaboli Bella: Allegory and the End of the Aeneid

Luca D'Anselmi

Bryn Mawr College

Recent scholarly work on Maffeo Vegio’s Supplementum to the Aeneid (1428) argues against the importance (or existence) of Christian allegory that was once thought to suffuse the poem. Building on arguments made by Hijmans (1971) and Ross (1981), Putnam (2004) claims that Vegio “avoids any step that would lead the reader toward any medieval, anagogical interpretation of the hero’s life … Vegio is inexorably classicizing.” (xviii). He adds the sweeping interpretive dictum that “it is in the classical literary background that [Vegio’s] interest lay and that should be the focus of attention for his contemporary readers as well.” (xviii). While this approach adds to our understanding of Vegio’s relationship with Virgil on a linguistic and thematic level, it largely ignores Vegio’s own writing on allegory in his De Perseverantia Religionis (1448). Vegio clearly advances allegorical interpretations of Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, even allegorizing his own Supplementum at the end of his analysis of the Aeneid (DPR 1.5): Nam post multas mundi vexationes, post longa et tristia dyaboli bella, proculcatur mundus, vincitur dyabolus, animae bene consulitur, vita ducitur tuta et tranquilla, immortalisque demum et eterna beatitudo acquiritur. (DPR 1.5). Simply put, I argue that Vegio intended his Supplementum as a Christian allegory, and that attempts to discourage this allegorical reading should be reconsidered. Following Brinton (1930) and Fichter (1982), I will contextualize Vegio’s Supplementum within the tradition of “medieval” allegorical readings of Virgil and Ovid, examining several of Vegio’s striking departures from his Virgilian and Ovidian models that demonstrate his allegorical intention in the Supplementum (e.g. 617-19). Finally, I will briefly contrast Vegio’s allegorical ending to the Aeneid with other approaches taken by Renaissance continuators of Vergil, exploring the uniqueness and importance of Vegio’s allegorical reading and writing in the history of Virgilian reception.

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16.1

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