THE PRESENT TENSE IN VIRGIL’S AENEID HARM PINKSTER The overwhelming frequency of the use of the present tense in Virgil as a narrative tense for past events is a well-known fact that has been discussed by several critics such as Koller (1951), Quinn (1968) and Von Albrecht (1970; 1999). The use of the historic present is normal in stories in comedy, in the fragments of pre- classical historians such as Claudius Quadrigarius and in the pseudo- caesarian works (see Militerni della Morte 1996, 11-33 on the Bellum Africum ). In longer narrative sections in Caesar and Cicero (see Pinkster 1998a) it is the most frequent narrative tense. However, whereas in Caesar, Cicero, and others the historic present is mainly used in clauses in which a perfect might be appropriate, that is for successive events constituting the main story line, Virgil uses it freely in clauses where the imperfect could have been used instead, for example for background information and for simultaneous events and states, as in the beginning of book four (cf. Kravar 1971). The same thing is re ﬂ ected in the fact that Virgil uses the present with all sorts of verbs (including durative ones),
Mnemosyne – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1999
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