Book XIII - A Tale of Fortune

13th Book
Page 478 of the 1610 edition of the Aeneid, showing part of the 13th Book. Acc# 214.13.11, James Logie Memorial Collection.

A remarkable feature of this edition of the Aeneid is that is includes a 13th book, despite the fact that Virgil’s original text finishes at the end of the 12th book. Gawin Douglas translated the extra passage from the Latin version of Maffeo Vegio’s 1428 supplement to Virgil’s epic poem, perhaps in an effort to complete the work that Virgil did not get the chance to do before he died.

As the Archbishop of Dunkeld, Douglas had a responsibility to inspire righteous moral behaviour among men. The original ending of the Aeneid depicts flaws in the hero Aeneas’ character. He gives in to merciless revenge as he kills the Rutulian Prince Turnus, even though Turnus had pleaded to be spared. Perhaps Douglas felt this was not appropriate behavior to encourage.

This additional Book XIII chooses to present a much more congenial climax than the original Virgilian Book XII. Instead, the 13th book describes long wedding celebrations, immense wealth in the Trojans new home of Italy, and promises of fame and immortality for Aeneas. This is prophesied to Aeneas by his divine mother, Venus, and so re-establishes a strong trust in the goodwill of the gods that Aeneas may have otherwise lost through the suffering and toil of his epic journey. It is a tale of future good fortune earned as a reward for hardwork and sacrifice.

Next: The Georgics