To offer a survey of modern receptions of Virgil in this chapter would be to follow, with unequal footsteps and all too close behind, Theodore Ziolkowski's magisterial account in his Virgil and the Moderns, which appeared as recently as 1993. Ziolkowski suggests that Virgil's presence in the twentieth century is particularly apparent as a cultural icon and avatar appropriated by poets, novelists, historians and politicians to configure their aspirations and anxieties in the period between the two world wars:
[T]he response, including the preference for particular works, varied from country to country and from individual to individual, depending upon political, social and even religious orientation. Virgil's texts, almost like the sortes Virgilianae of the Middle Ages, became a mirror in which every reader found what he wished: populism or elitism, fascism or democracy, commitment or escapism.
The status accorded to the text of Virgil in this period was almost scriptural, explicitly so for Theodor Haecker, the passionate anti-Nazi whose Vergil. Vater des Abendlands of 1931 was one of the most popular works of the period on the poet, and was translated into English in 1934 (as Virgil. Father of the West), French and Italian in 1935, Dutch in 1942 and Spanish in 1945. Haecker proclaims:
Virgil is the only pagan who takes rank with the Jewish and Christian prophets; the Aeneid is the only book, apart from Holy Scriptures, to contain sayings that are valid beyond the particular hour and circumstance of their day, prophecies that re-echo from the doors of eternity, whence they first draw their breath . . . For whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not, we are all still members of that Imperium Romanum, which finally and after terrible errors accepted Christianity sua sponte, of its own free will - a Christianity which it could not abandon now without abandoning itself and humanism too.