The Info List - Virgil

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PUBLIUS VERGILIUS MARO (Classical Latin: ; traditional dates October 15, 70 BC – September 21, 19 BC ), usually called VIRGIL or VERGIL /ˈvɜːrdʒᵻl/ in English, was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period . He wrote three of the most famous poems in Latin literature , the _ Eclogues _ (or _Bucolics_), the _ Georgics _, and the epic _ Aeneid _. A number of minor poems, collected in the _Appendix Vergiliana _, are sometimes attributed to him.

Virgil is traditionally ranked as one of Rome's greatest poets. His _Aeneid_ has been considered the national epic of ancient Rome since the time of its composition. Modeled after Homer 's _ Iliad _ and _ Odyssey _, the _Aeneid_ follows the Trojan refugee Aeneas as he struggles to fulfill his destiny and reach Italy; where his descendants Romulus and Remus were to found the city of Rome. Virgil's work has had wide and deep influence on Western literature , most notably Dante 's _ Divine Comedy _, in which Virgil appears as Dante's guide through Hell and Purgatory .


* 1 Life and works

* 1.1 Birth and biographical tradition * 1.2 Early works * 1.3 The _Eclogues_ * 1.4 The _Georgics_ * 1.5 The _Aeneid_ * 1.6 Reception of the _Aeneid_ * 1.7 Virgil\'s death and editing of the _Aeneid_

* 2 Later views and reception

* 2.1 In antiquity * 2.2 Late antiquity and Middle Ages * 2.3 Legends * 2.4 Virgil\'s tomb

* 3 Spelling * 4 References * 5 Further reading * 6 External links



A bust of Virgil in Naples

Virgil's biographical tradition is thought to depend on a lost biography by Varius , Virgil's editor, which was incorporated into the biography by Suetonius and the commentaries of Servius and Donatus , the two great commentators on Virgil's poetry. Although the commentaries no doubt record much factual information about Virgil, some of their evidence can be shown to rely on inferences made from his poetry and allegorizing; thus, Virgil's biographical tradition remains problematic.

The tradition holds that Virgil was born in the village of Andes , near Mantua in Cisalpine Gaul . Analysis of his name has led to beliefs that he descended from earlier Roman colonists. Modern speculation ultimately is not supported by narrative evidence either from his own writings or his later biographers. Macrobius says that Virgil's father was of a humble background; however, scholars generally believe that Virgil was from an equestrian landowning family which could afford to give him an education. He attended schools in Cremona , Mediolanum , Rome and Naples . After considering briefly a career in rhetoric and law, the young Virgil turned his talents to poetry.


Main article: Appendix Vergiliana

According to the commentators, Virgil received his first education when he was five years old and he later went to Cremona , Milan , and finally Rome to study rhetoric , medicine , and astronomy , which he soon abandoned for philosophy . From Virgil's admiring references to the neoteric writers Pollio and Cinna , it has been inferred that he was, for a time, associated with Catullus ' neoteric circle. According to Servius, schoolmates considered Virgil extremely shy and reserved, and he was nicknamed "Parthenias" or "maiden" because of his social aloofness. Virgil also seems to have suffered bad health throughout his life and in some ways lived the life of an invalid. According to the _Catalepton _, he began to write poetry while in the Epicurean school of Siro the Epicurean at Naples. A group of small works attributed to the youthful Virgil by the commentators survive collected under the title _ Appendix Vergiliana _, but are largely considered spurious by scholars. One, the _Catalepton_, consists of fourteen short poems, some of which may be Virgil's, and another, a short narrative poem titled the _Culex _ ("The Gnat"), was attributed to Virgil as early as the 1st century AD.


Main article: Eclogues _ Page from the beginning of the Eclogues_ in the 5th-century _Vergilius Romanus_

The biographical tradition asserts that Virgil began the hexameter _ Eclogues _ (or _Bucolics_) in 42 BC and it is thought that the collection was published around 39–38 BC, although this is controversial. The _Eclogues_ (from the Greek for "selections") are a group of ten poems roughly modeled on the bucolic hexameter poetry ("pastoral poetry") of the Hellenistic poet Theocritus . After his victory in the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC, fought against the army led by the assassins of Julius Caesar , Octavian tried to pay off his veterans with land expropriated from towns in northern Italy , supposedly including, according to the tradition, an estate near Mantua belonging to Virgil. The loss of his family farm and the attempt through poetic petitions to regain his property have traditionally been seen as Virgil's motives in the composition of the _Eclogues_. This is now thought to be an unsupported inference from interpretations of the _Eclogues_. In _Eclogues_ 1 and 9, Virgil indeed dramatizes the contrasting feelings caused by the brutality of the land expropriations through pastoral idiom, but offers no indisputable evidence of the supposed biographic incident. While some readers have identified the poet himself with various characters and their vicissitudes, whether gratitude by an old rustic to a new god (_Ecl_. 1), frustrated love by a rustic singer for a distant boy (his master's pet, _Ecl_. 2), or a master singer's claim to have composed several eclogues (_Ecl_. 5), modern scholars largely reject such efforts to garner biographical details from works of fiction, preferring to interpret an author's characters and themes as illustrations of contemporary life and thought. The ten _Eclogues_ present traditional pastoral themes with a fresh perspective. Eclogues 1 and 9 address the land confiscations and their effects on the Italian countryside. 2 and 3 are pastoral and erotic, discussing both homosexual love (_Ecl_. 2) and attraction toward people of any gender (_Ecl_. 3). _Eclogue_ 4 , addressed to Asinius Pollio , the so-called "Messianic Eclogue" uses the imagery of the golden age in connection with the birth of a child (who the child was meant to be has been subject to debate). 5 and 8 describe the myth of Daphnis in a song contest, 6, the cosmic and mythological song of Silenus ; 7, a heated poetic contest, and 10 the sufferings of the contemporary elegiac poet Cornelius Gallus . Virgil is credited in the _Eclogues_ with establishing Arcadia as a poetic ideal that still resonates in Western literature and visual arts and setting the stage for the development of Latin pastoral by Calpurnius Siculus , Nemesianus , and later writers.


Main article: Georgics

Sometime after the publication of the _Eclogues_ (probably before 37 BC), Virgil became part of the circle of Maecenas , Octavian's capable _agent d'affaires_ who sought to counter sympathy for Antony among the leading families by rallying Roman literary figures to Octavian's side. Virgil came to know many of the other leading literary figures of the time, including Horace , in whose poetry he is often mentioned, and Varius Rufus , who later helped finish the _Aeneid_. _ Late 17th-century illustration of a passage from the Georgics_ by Jerzy Siemiginowski-Eleuter

At Maecenas' insistence (according to the tradition) Virgil spent the ensuing years (perhaps 37–29 BC) on the long didactic hexameter poem called the _ Georgics _ (from Greek, "On Working the Earth") which he dedicated to Maecenas. The ostensible theme of the _Georgics_ is instruction in the methods of running a farm. In handling this theme, Virgil follows in the didactic ("how to") tradition of the Greek poet Hesiod 's _ Works and Days _ and several works of the later Hellenistic poets. The four books of the _Georgics_ focus respectively on raising crops and trees (1 and 2), livestock and horses (3), and beekeeping and the qualities of bees (4). Well-known passages include the beloved _Laus Italiae_ of Book 2, the prologue description of the temple in Book 3, and the description of the plague at the end of Book 3. Book 4 concludes with a long mythological narrative, in the form of an _epyllion _ which describes vividly the discovery of beekeeping by Aristaeus and the story of Orpheus ' journey to the underworld. Ancient scholars, such as Servius, conjectured that the Aristaeus episode replaced, at the emperor's request, a long section in praise of Virgil's friend, the poet Gallus, who was disgraced by Augustus, and who committed suicide in 26 BC.

The _Georgics'_ tone wavers between optimism and pessimism, sparking critical debate on the poet's intentions, but the work lays the foundations for later didactic poetry. Virgil and Maecenas are said to have taken turns reading the _Georgics_ to Octavian upon his return from defeating Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.


Main article: Aeneid _ A 1st-century terracotta expressing the pietas _ of Aeneas, who carries his aged father and leads his young son

The _Aeneid_ is widely considered Virgil's finest work and one of the most important poems in the history of western literature. Virgil worked on the _Aeneid_ during the last eleven years of his life (29–19 BC), commissioned, according to Propertius , by Augustus. The epic poem consists of 12 books in dactylic hexameter verse which describe the journey of Aeneas , a warrior fleeing the sack of Troy, to Italy, his battle with the Italian prince Turnus, and the foundation of a city from which Rome would emerge. The _Aeneid_'s first six books describe the journey of Aeneas from Troy to Rome. Virgil made use of several models in the composition of his epic; Homer, the preeminent author of classical epic, is everywhere present, but Virgil also makes special use of the Latin poet Ennius and the Hellenistic poet Apollonius of Rhodes among the various other writers to which he alludes. Although the _Aeneid_ casts itself firmly into the epic mode, it often seeks to expand the genre by including elements of other genres such as tragedy and aetiological poetry. Ancient commentators noted that Virgil seems to divide the _Aeneid_ into two sections based on the poetry of Homer; the first six books were viewed as employing the _Odyssey_ as a model while the last six were connected to the _Iliad_.

Book 1 (at the head of the Odyssean section) opens with a storm which Juno , Aeneas' enemy throughout the poem, stirs up against the fleet. The storm drives the hero to the coast of Carthage , which historically was Rome's deadliest foe. The queen, Dido , welcomes the ancestor of the Romans, and under the influence of the gods falls deeply in love with him. At a banquet in Book 2, Aeneas tells the story of the sack of Troy, the death of his wife, and his escape, to the enthralled Carthaginians, while in Book 3 he recounts to them his wanderings over the Mediterranean in search of a suitable new home. Jupiter in Book 4 recalls the lingering Aeneas to his duty to found a new city, and he slips away from Carthage, leaving Dido to commit suicide , cursing Aeneas and calling down revenge in a symbolic anticipation of the fierce wars between Carthage and Rome. In Book 5, funeral games are celebrated for Aeneas' father Anchises , who had died a year before. On reaching Cumae , in Italy in Book 6, Aeneas consults the Cumaean Sibyl , who conducts him through the Underworld where Aeneas meets the dead Anchises who reveals Rome's destiny to his son.

Book 7 (beginning the Iliadic half) opens with an address to the muse and recounts Aeneas' arrival in Italy and betrothal to Lavinia , daughter of King Latinus . Lavinia had already been promised to Turnus , the king of the Rutulians, who is roused to war by the Fury Allecto , and Amata Lavinia's mother. In Book 8, Aeneas allies with King Evander , who occupies the future site of Rome, and is given new armor and a shield depicting Roman history. Book 9 records an assault by Nisus and Euryalus on the Rutulians, Book 10, the death of Evander's young son Pallas , and 11 the death of the Volscian warrior princess Camilla and the decision to settle the war with a duel between Aeneas and Turnus. The _Aeneid_ ends in Book 12 with the taking of Latinus' city, the death of Amata, and Aeneas' defeat and killing of Turnus, whose pleas for mercy are spurned. The final book ends with the image of Turnus' soul lamenting as it flees to the underworld.


_ Virgil Reading the_ Aeneid to _Augustus, Octavia, and Livia_ by Jean-Baptiste Wicar , Art Institute of Chicago

Critics of the _Aeneid_ focus on a variety of issues. The tone of the poem as a whole is a particular matter of debate; some see the poem as ultimately pessimistic and politically subversive to the Augustan regime, while others view it as a celebration of the new imperial dynasty. Virgil makes use of the symbolism of the Augustan regime, and some scholars see strong associations between Augustus and Aeneas, the one as founder and the other as re-founder of Rome. A strong teleology , or drive towards a climax, has been detected in the poem. The _Aeneid_ is full of prophecies about the future of Rome, the deeds of Augustus, his ancestors, and famous Romans, and the Carthaginian Wars ; the shield of Aeneas even depicts Augustus' victory at Actium against Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII in 31 BC. A further focus of study is the character of Aeneas. As the protagonist of the poem, Aeneas seems to waver constantly between his emotions and commitment to his prophetic duty to found Rome; critics note the breakdown of Aeneas' emotional control in the last sections of the poem where the "pious" and "righteous" Aeneas mercilessly slaughters Turnus.

The _Aeneid_ appears to have been a great success. Virgil is said to have recited Books 2, 4, and 6 to Augustus; and Book 6 apparently caused Augustus' sister Octavia to faint. Although the truth of this claim is subject to scholarly scepticism, it has served as a basis for later art, such as Jean-Baptiste Wicar 's _ Virgil Reading the Aeneid_.

Unfortunately, some lines of the poem were left unfinished, and the whole was unedited, at Virgil's death in 19 BC.


According to the tradition, Virgil traveled to Greece in about 19 BC to revise the _Aeneid_. After meeting Augustus in Athens and deciding to return home, Virgil caught a fever while visiting a town near Megara . After crossing to Italy by ship, weakened with disease, Virgil died in Brundisium harbor on September 21, 19 BC. Augustus ordered Virgil's literary executors, Lucius Varius Rufus and Plotius Tucca , to disregard Virgil's own wish that the poem be burned , instead ordering it published with as few editorial changes as possible. As a result, the text of the _Aeneid_ that exists may contain faults which Virgil was planning to correct before publication. However, the only obvious imperfections are a few lines of verse that are metrically unfinished (i.e. not a complete line of dactylic hexameter ). Some scholars have argued that Virgil deliberately left these metrically incomplete lines for dramatic effect. Other alleged imperfections are subject to scholarly debate.



A 3rd-century Tunisian mosaic of Virgil seated between Clio and Melpomene (from Hadrumetum )

The works of Virgil almost from the moment of their publication revolutionized Latin poetry. The _Eclogues_, _Georgics_, and above all the _Aeneid_ became standard texts in school curricula with which all educated Romans were familiar. Poets following Virgil often refer intertextually to his works to generate meaning in their own poetry. The Augustan poet Ovid parodies the opening lines of the _Aeneid_ in _Amores _ 1.1.1–2, and his summary of the Aeneas story in Book 14 of the _ Metamorphoses _, the so-called "mini-Aeneid", has been viewed as a particularly important example of post-Virgilian response to the epic genre. Lucan 's epic, the _Bellum Civile _ has been considered an anti-Virgilian epic, disposing with the divine mechanism, treating historical events, and diverging drastically from Virgilian epic practice. The Flavian poet Statius in his 12-book epic _Thebaid_ engages closely with the poetry of Virgil; in his epilogue he advises his poem not to "rival the divine _Aeneid_, but follow afar and ever venerate its footsteps." In Silius Italicus , Virgil finds one of his most ardent admirers. With almost every line of his epic _ Punica _ Silius references Virgil. Indeed, Silius is known to have bought Virgil's tomb and worshipped the poet. Partially as a result of his so-called "Messianic" Fourth Eclogue —widely interpreted later to have predicted the birth of Jesus Christ — Virgil was in later antiquity imputed to have the magical abilities of a seer; the _Sortes Vergilianae _, the process of using Virgil's poetry as a tool of divination, is found in the time of Hadrian , and continued into the Middle Ages. In a similar vein Macrobius in the _Saturnalia _ credits the work of Virgil as the embodiment of human knowledge and experience, mirroring the Greek conception of Homer. Virgil also found commentators in antiquity. Servius , a commentator of the 4th century AD, based his work on the commentary of Donatus . Servius' commentary provides us with a great deal of information about Virgil's life, sources, and references; however, many modern scholars find the variable quality of his work and the often simplistic interpretations frustrating.


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A 5th-century portrait of Virgil from the Vergilius Romanus

Even as the Western Roman empire collapsed, literate men acknowledged that Virgil was a master poet. Gregory of Tours read Virgil, whom he quotes in several places, along with some other Latin poets, though he cautions that "we ought not to relate their lying fables, lest we fall under sentence of eternal death."

Dante made Virgil his guide in Hell and the greater part of Purgatory in _The Divine Comedy _. Dante also mentions Virgil in _De vulgari eloquentia _, along with Ovid , Lucan and Statius , as one of the four _regulati poetae_ (ii, vi, 7).

The best-known surviving manuscripts of Virgil's works include the _ Vergilius Augusteus ,_ the _ Vergilius Vaticanus _ and the _Vergilius Romanus ._


_ Virgil in his Basket_, Lucas van Leyden , 1525

In the Middle Ages, Virgil's reputation was such that it inspired legends associating him with magic and prophecy. From at least the 3rd century, Christian thinkers interpreted _Eclogues_ 4 , which describes the birth of a boy ushering in a golden age, as a prediction of Jesus\' birth . In consequence, Virgil came to be seen on a similar level to the Hebrew prophets of the Bible as one who had heralded Christianity.

Possibly as early as the second century AD, Virgil's works were seen as having magical properties and were used for divination . In what became known as the _ Sortes Vergilianae _ (Virgilian Lots), passages would be selected at random and interpreted to answer questions. In the 12th century, starting around Naples but eventually spreading widely throughout Europe, a tradition developed in which Virgil was regarded as a great magician . Legends about Virgil and his magical powers remained popular for over two hundred years, arguably becoming as prominent as his writings themselves. Virgil's legacy in medieval Wales was such that the Welsh version of his name, _Fferyllt_ or _Pheryllt_, became a generic term for magic-worker, and survives in the modern Welsh word for pharmacist , _fferyllydd_.

The legend of " Virgil in his basket" arose in the Middle Ages, and is often seen in art and mentioned in literature as part of the Power of Women literary topos , demonstrating the disruptive force of female attractiveness on men. In this story Virgil became enamoured of a beautiful woman, sometimes described as the emperor's daughter or mistress and called Lucretia. She played him along and agreed to an assignation at her house, which he was to sneak into at night by climbing into a large basket let down from a window. When he did so he was only hoisted halfway up the wall and then left him trapped there into the next day, exposed to public ridicule. The story paralleled that of Phyllis riding Aristotle . Among other artists depicting the scene, Lucas van Leyden made a woodcut and later an engraving .


_ The verse inscription at Virgil's tomb was supposedly composed by the poet himself: Mantua me genuit, Calabri rapuere, tenet nunc Parthenope. Cecini pascua, rura, duces._ (" Mantua gave me life, the Calabrians took it away, Naples holds me now; I sang of pastures, farms, and commanders." )

The structure known as "Virgil\'s tomb " is found at the entrance of an ancient Roman tunnel (also known as "grotta vecchia") in Piedigrotta , a district 3 kilometres (2 mi) from the centre of Naples, near the Mergellina harbor, on the road heading north along the coast to Pozzuoli . While Virgil was already the object of literary admiration and veneration before his death, in the Middle Ages his name became associated with miraculous powers, and for a couple of centuries his tomb was the destination of pilgrimages and veneration.


By the fourth or fifth century A.D. the original spelling _Vergilius_ had been corrupted to _Virgilius_, and then the latter spelling spread to the modern European languages. The error probably originated with scribes reproducing manuscripts by dictation. The error persisted even though, as early as the 15th century, the classical scholar Poliziano had shown _Vergilius_ to be the original spelling. Today, the anglicisations _Vergil_ and _Virgil_ are both acceptable.


* ^ Jones, Peter. _Reading Virgil: AeneidI and II_. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1, 4. ISBN 9780521768665 . Retrieved 23 November 2016. * ^ Bunson, Matthew. _Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire_. Infobase Publishing. p. 584. ISBN 9781438110271 . Retrieved 23 November 2016. * ^ Roberts, John. _The Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World_. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192801463 . Retrieved 23 November 2016. * ^ Ruud, Jay. _Critical Companion to Dante_. Infobase Publishing. p. 376. ISBN 9781438108414 . Retrieved 23 November 2016. * ^ Don Fowler " Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro)" in _The Oxford Classical Dictionary_, (3.ed. 1996, Oxford), pg.1602 * ^ The epitaph on his tomb in Posilipo near Naples was _ Mantua me genuit; Calabri rapuere; tenet nunc Parthenope. Cecini pascua, rura, duces_ (" Mantua gave birth to me, the Calabrians took me, now Naples holds me; I sang of pastures , country and leaders "). * ^ Map of Cisalpine Gaul * ^ http://www.usu.edu/markdamen/1320AncLit/chapters/11verg.htm * ^ _A_ _B_ Fowler, pg.1602 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Fowler , pg.1603 * ^ Horace, _Satires_ 1.5, 1.6, and Odes 1.3 * ^ Fowler, pg.1605 * ^ Avery, W. T. (1957). "Augustus and the "Aeneid"". _The Classical Journal_. 52 (5): 225–229. * ^ Jenkyns, p. 53 * ^ For a succinct summary, see Globalnet.co.uk * ^ For a bibliography and summary see Fowler, pg.1605–6 * ^ Sellar, William Young ; Glover, Terrot Reaveley (1911). "Virgil". _Encyclopædia Britannica_. 28 (11th ed.). p. 112. Retrieved 2012-06-07. * ^ Miller, F. J. (1909). "Evidences of Incompleteness in the "Aeneid" of Vergil". _The Classical Journal_. 4 (11th ed.). p. 343. Retrieved 2015-11-01. * ^ Theb.12.816–7 * ^ Pliny _Ep_. 3.7.8 * ^ Fowler, pg.1603 * ^ Ziolkowski, Jan M.; Putnam, Michael C. J. (2008). _The Virgilian Tradition: The First Fifteen Hundred Years_. Yale University Press. pp. xxxiv–xxxv. ISBN 0300108222 . Retrieved November 11, 2013. * ^ Ziolkowski & Putnam, pp. xxxiv,