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    Virgil

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    Virgil

    Roman epic poet
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    Biography

    Virgil (70 B.C-19 B.C) born on October 15, 70 B.C.E., in Northern Italy in a small village near Mantua - probably but not certainly the modern Pietole. Virgil was no Roman but a Gaul - the village was situated in what was then called Gallia Cisalpina - Gaul this side of the Alps. Publius Vergilius Maro, or Virgil, grew up to be hailed as the greatest Roman poet. And although his work has influenced Western literature for two millennia, little is known about the man himself.  More ...

    Books by Virgil

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    Quotes by Virgil

    • As a twig is bent the tree inclines.
    • In quarrels such as these not ours to intervene.
    • Look with favour upon a bold beginning.
    • O tyrant love, to what do you not drive the hearts of men.
    • Practice and thought might gradually forge many an art.
    If we're missing any Virgil books or quotes, do email us.

    Biography of Virgil

    Virgil (70 B.C-19 B.C) born on October 15, 70 B.C.E., in Northern Italy in a small village near Mantua - probably but not certainly the modern Pietole. Virgil was no Roman but a Gaul - the village was situated in what was then called Gallia Cisalpina - Gaul this side of the Alps. Publius Vergilius Maro, or Virgil, grew up to be hailed as the greatest Roman poet. And although his work has influenced Western literature for two millennia, little is known about the man himself. His father was a prosperous landowner, described variously as a "potter" and a "courier", who could afford a thorough education for the future poet. This Virgil received. He attended school at Cremona and Mediolanum (Milan), then went to Rome, where he studied mathematics, medicine and rhetoric, and finally completed his studies in Naples. He entered literary circles as an "Alexandrian," the name given to a group of poets who sought inspiration in the sophisticated work of third-century Greek poets, also known as Alexandrians. In 49 BC Virgil became a Roman citizen. Lucretius influenced his way of thinking, but his early poems were written in the tradition of Theocritus.

    After the battle of Philippi in 42 B.C.E. Virgil’s property in Cisalpine Gaul, or else his father's, was confiscated for veterans. According to some sources it was afterwards restored at the command of Octavian (later styled Augustus). In the following years Virgil spent most of his time in Campania and Sicily, but he also had a house in Rome. During the reign of emperor Augustus, Virgil became a member of his court circle and was advanced by a minister, Maecenas, patron of the arts and close friend to the poet Horace. Maecenas was twice left in virtual control of Rome when the emperor was away. He gave Virgil a house near Naples.

    Between 42 and 37 B.C.E. Virgil composed pastoral poems known as BUCOLIC or ECLOGUES ('rustic poems' and 'selections'), spent years on the GEORGICS (literally, 'pertaining to agriculture'), a didactic work on agriculture, and the cultivation of the olive and vine, the rearing of livestock, and beekeeping. The work took as its model Works and Days by the Greek writer Hesiod, who had composed it around 700 BC. Eclogues was a huge success, and in its famous 'Messianic Eclogue' he prophesied the new Golden Age. "The great cycle of the ages is renewed. Now Justice returns, returns the Golden Age; a new generation now descends from on high." (this was interpreted in the Middle Ages as a prophecy of the birth of Christ. Dante cites the lines in The Divine Comedy). In the poem, according to some interpretations, the shepherd lad who dies is probably Julius Caesar.

    In 31 B.C.E. Octavian won the Battle of Actium against his former ally Mark Anthony, who had a liaison with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, and by 29 the way to power was open to him. In 27 BC he was given the title of Augustus ('venerable'). He pressed his poet to write of the glory of Rome under his rule. "I found Rome brick and I left it marble," he said according to Suetonius. Thus the rest of his life, from 30 to 19 B.C., Virgil devoted to The Aeneid, the national epic of Rome, and the glory of the Empire. Although ambitious, Virgil was never really happy about the task. Moreover, he was a perfectionist, who knew the importance of his work, and did not want to hurry with his lines. A contemporary poet, Propertius, acknowledged this - perhaps ironically - with the lines: "Make way, Greek and Roman writers! Something greater than the Iliad is being born."

    In the famous lines of Book VI, the spirit of Anchises shows to his son the future of Rome: "Romans, these are your arts: to bear dominion over the nations, to impose peace, to spare the conquered and subdue the proud." In 23 Virgil read the second and the fourth books to Augustus personally - the emperor had complained a few years earlier that he had not seen any of the text. When Augustus was returning from Samos after the winter of 20, he met the poet in Athens. Virgil accompanied the emperor to Megara and then to Italy. "Fortune assists the bold," Virgil once said. However, the journey turned out to be fatal and Virgil died of a fever contracted on his visit to Greece. He had instructed his executor Varius to destroy the manuscript of The Aeneid, but Augustus ordered Varius to ignore this request, and the poem was published. Virgil was buried near Naples but there are doubts that the so-called Tomb of Virgil in the area is authentic. However, it soon became a place of pilgrimage.

    Aeneid is a historical epic, depicting one of the great heroes of the Trojan war, recounts Aeneas' wanderings and adventures from the fall of Troy to the establishment of his destined rule in Latium. It was well understood in Virgil's own time that The Aeneid was in its first half an Odyssey and in its second an Iliad. The poem was written about 29-19 B.C.E. and composed in hexameters, about 60 lines of which were left unfinished at Virgil's death. The work is organized in 12 books, and starts when Aeneas is forced to land his fleet on the Libyan coast. He is welcomed by Dido, queen of Carthage, to whom he tells his adventures. Dido falls in love with Aeneas, but her guest is forced to sail again and Dido prepares to kill herself. The Trojans sail to Sicily, then Aeneas journeys to the underworld where he meets Dido and his father Anchises. "Thrice would I have thrown my arms about her neck, and thrice the ghost embraced fled from my grasp; like a fluttering breeze, like a fleeting dream." Virgil reveals the destiny of Rome in book VI. The Trojans reach Tiber and are received by King Latinus. War breaks out, but the Trojans win with the help of Etruscans the local tribe known as Rutuli. Aeneas marries Latinus' daughter Lavinia and founds Lavinium.
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