Moving Labyrinths: Virgil’s Art of Multiple Narrative

Frederick Ahl


In the Aeneid Virgil creates a complex semantic labyrinth where multiple traditions, each belonging to a separate historical or mythic context, are drawn into what appears to be a single new narrative. That new narrative is in constant dialogue with its constituent elements and so exists in a paradoxically unstable Einsteinian geography of space and time. Neither readers nor the hero Aeneas can ever be sure how to position themselves to understand what is seen or experienced. Further, as Virgil’s narrative of Daedalus shows, he not only becomes, like Daedalus, a maker of, and prisoner within, labyrinths of his own design but also pressures the reader to collaborate in creating (and escaping) them.


Aeneas; Daedalus; Dido; Herodotus; Labyrinth; Minotaur; Octavian; Sextus Pompey; Rome; Virgil.

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