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Vergil and the Classical Tradition

The Legacy of 'The Aeneid'





The Study of Vergil (Virgil)

Back in the days when a minimum of 8 years study of Latin was expected for graduation with a B.A., according to Middlebury Emeritus Professor William Harris, it might have been reasonable to assume familiarity with

  1. the entire 12 books of Vergil's (or Virgil's) masterpiece, Aeneid,
  2. the 10 books of Vergil's (Virgil's) Pastoral poems, known as Eclogues or Bucolics, and
  3. Vergil's (Virgil's) treatise on the 4 aspects of farm-life (tillage, horticulture, cattle-breeding, and bee-keeping), known as the Georgics.
Unfortunately, we no longer have enough time to devote to the entire corpus of Vergil (Virgil). Still, those who study Latin will have read much, if not all, of the Aeneid.

The Legendary Vergil (Virgil)

Vergil's (Virgil's) influence on the world's literature has been immeasurable. Not only was his writing -- along with Seneca's, Cicero's, Ovid's, Aristotle's and Plato's -- continuously read throughout the Middle Ages, but even today he exerts an influence on poets and the college-bound.

Despite, or possibly because of Vergil's immense popularity, his life is surrounded with legend. Some have called his father a magician, and it is suggested that one reason his name is often spelled Virgil is because a virga meant a magic wand. Vergil has been referred to as a pre-Christian saint because his so-called prophecy about the birth of Augustus was taken to be a prophecy about the birth of Christ.

... Vergil produces a "prophecy" poem about the birth of Augustus as a savior of the world, bringing peace and law. Since Vergil lived so close to the birth of Christ, the Christians of medieval Europe would interpret the poem as a prophecy about the birth of Christ and give Vergil, a pagan, a kind of honorary status as a Christian poet.
www.wsu.edu/~dee/ROME/ROME.HTM The Age of Augustus

The Life of Vergil

Publius Vergilius Maro was born October 15, 70 B.C. at Andes, near Mantua, in Cisalpine Gaul. Vergil (Virgil) died 51 years later on September 21, 19 B.C. at Brundisium, possibly as the result of sunstroke. He was thought to have been sickly, slow of speech, and of a countrified appearance. His writing was sometimes criticized for its rusticity, too. But Vergil (Virgil) wasn't ill-educated. He studied law, medicine, mathematics, and probably some Epicurean philosophy.

Patrons of Vergil (Virgil)

Wealth and power were not part of Vergil's (Virgil's) inheritance, but he had the good fortune to win the friendship and patronage of influential men. When, in 41 B.C., his estate was appropriated as part of a distribution of land to war veterans (or [URL=http://www.edenpr.k12.mn.us/ephs/ArcadiaWeb/Virgil/Vergil.Poetry.html] "in order to pay and satisfy his army for their defeat of the assassins of G. Julius Caesar"), Vergil (Virgil) was able to recover it, through the assistance of two influential men, Pollio and Cornelius Gallus. Maecenas and even the first Roman emperor, Augustus, came to support Vergil's (Virgil's) poetic endeavors.

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