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Virgilii Vita: Life and Times
Publius Vergilius Maro
Vergilius is probably of Etruscan origin.
birth of Gaius Asinius Pollio
birth (October 15th) near Mantua (Cisalpine Gaul)
consulship of Pompey and Crassus
birth of Gallus
birth of Horace
consulship of Cicero
birth of Octavian/Augustus
1st Triumvirate: Crassus, Pompey & Caesar
poetry of Catullus
proconsulship of Caesar in Gaul
publication of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura
birth of Tibullus
death of Crassus
Rubicon: Beginning of Civil War (Caesar & Pompey)
Caesar grants citizenship to Cisalpine Gaul
Pompey's defeat at Pharsalus
Battle of Munda: end of civil war
Dictatorship for life of Julius Caesar
Caesar given the title of Divus Julius
assassination of Casesar = Ides of March
Octavian as heir to Caesar arrives in Rome
3rd Triumvirate: Antony, Lepidus & Octavian
proscriptions and death of Cicero (December 7th)
birth of Ovid
Battle of Philippi
confiscations of Cisalpine Gaul
pact of Brundisium: Pollio & Maecenas
consulship of Pollio
Pollio builds the first public library in Rome
publication of the collection of Eclogues
Satires bk. 1 Horace
battle of Actium: defeat of Antony and Cleopatra
Satires bk. 2 Horace
publication of the 4 Georgics
Gallus becomes Prefect of Egypt
Epodes Horace
publication of Propertius' Monobiblos
publication of the elegies of Tibullus
Octavian becomes Augustus
suicide of Gallus
Odes Horace
Dante: nacqui sub Julio
Epistles bk. 1 Horace
20-17 Epistles bk. 2 Horace
Ars Poetica Horace
journey to Greece to polish Aeneid
returned ill from Megara to Brundisium and died (Sept. 20)
Varius and Tuca his literary executors were ordered by Augustus not to burn the Aeneid but
publish it.
death of Tibullus
death of Propertius
18-16 postumous publication of Propertius bk. 4
Carmen Saeculare Horace
13-8 Odes bk. 4 Horace
death of Horace
death of Maecenas
After the death of Caesar there was also much prose produced: Sallust, Varro and Nepos.
Suetonius (early second century biographer) wrote a De Poetis which included a life of Virgil. This vita
survives in an expanded form of Donatus, in an abbreviated form of Servius and Phocas (grammarian
5th century: his life is written in hexameters), and another expanded form of "Donatus auctus". Varius,
post_mortem Vergili, wrote on his life (see Quintilian10.3.8 and Aullus Gellius NA 17.10.2).
Servius was a late 4th century early 5th century grammarian and commentator. The most important
commentator on Virgil in antiquity, he wrote a commentary on Aeneid, Eclogues, and Georgics. Much
of his material was based on earlier commentators, especially Aelius Donatus. His commentary existed
in two forms, a short version and a long version. Until 1600 only the short version was published when
an editor called Daniel published the longer version which today we call Servius Danielis. The added
parts of this commentary probably come from Aelius Donatus which was not originally incorporated by
Aelius Donatus was a grammarian and commentator who wrote among others a commentary on Terence
and Virgil. Only the life of Virgil and the Preface (with the introduction to the Eclogues) survive. (His
most famous pupil was St. Jerome).
His father belonged to the Equestrian rank and thus was quite able to afford a higher education for Vergil
which occurred at Cremona (near Mantua), Milan and later Rome. He studied for a while with the
Epicurean Siro. After expropriation of land for Caesar's veterans and for the soldiers of the triumvirate
(41) Vergil and his father settled near Naples (see Catalepton 8). For the autobiography of this story see
Ecl. 1. Most likely, Pollio, Varus and Gallus whom Servius states to have been the executors of the land
distribution in Cisalpine Gaul were not responsible for the redistribution. Appian, Bellum Civile 5.14,
indicates that Octavian was in charge and not friends of Antony. Tall, dark, broad; not married, and
Scholastic tradition states that Virgil worked on the Eclogues from 42-39. But these dates have been
extended in both directions and the complete publication may be as late as 35. It seems his literary
patron for the Eclogues, at least the earliest of them, was Asinius Pollio, but soon he was taken over by
Maecenas for his circle of poets who wrote on behalf of the future Augustus. The scholastic tradition
indicates that Virgil worked for 7 years on the Georgics for which is suggested 37-30. Earliest date is 37
(Portus Iulius) and the latest is the battle of Actium (31). The scholastic tradition states that Virgil
worked 11 years on the Aeneid from 29-19.
Traditional epitaph:
Mantua me genuit, Calabri rapuere, tenet nunc
Parthenope; cecini pascua rura duces.
Early poetry:
Culex, Ciris, Copa, Moretum and Aetna. Generally rejected by modern students of Virgil.
Traditional works:
Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid.
Eclogues = aiglog- (?) = goat song. Bucolics = boukolika = songs of cowherds.
Theocritus (Alexandrian = mid 3rd century BC. Idylls.
Servius informs us that Virgil had before him a collection of 10 bucolic poems by Theocritus, and it is
not unreasonable to suppose that this is why Virgil wrote neither more nor less than 10 eclogues. The
poems concerned were pretty certainly Idylls 1 and 3-11. It is quite likely that this is the edition alluded
to in tthe extant epigram by Artemidorus, an approximate contemporary of Virgil; but the evidence is
inconclusive. To the source of Suidas' life of Theocritus, there were the only Theocritean poems of
undisputed authenticity.
Georgics = Georgika = poem on the working of the earth.
1 = cultivation of crops, 2 = cultivation of fruit trees,
3 = rearing of animals, 4 = bees.
Hesiod, Works and Days (. Didactic.
Aeneid 12 books (1-6 odyssean and 7-12 iliadic).
Homer, Iliad and Odyssey.
Dante: "My master and my authority."
Vergil, Eclogue 6
Georgics 3.41-51
My Muse first deigned to sport in Sicilian
strains, and blushed not to dwell in the woods.
When I was fain to sing of kings and battles, the
Cynthian plucked my ear and warned me: “A
shepherd, Tityrus, should feed sheep that are fat,
but sing a lay fine-spun.” And now – bards in
plenty will you find eager to sing your praises.
Varus, and build the story of grim war – now
will I woo the rustic Muse on slender reed.
Unbidden strains I sing not; still if any there be
to read even these my lays – any whom love of
the theme has won – ‘tis of you, Varus, our
tamarisks shall sing, of you all our groves. To
Phoebus no page is more welcome than that
which bears on its front the name of Varus.
You, Maecenas, only spur my mind to high
Up, then and break the bonds of sluggishness!
Cithaeron calls me with its mighty clamor,
Taygetus’ baying hounds and Epidaurus Tamer
of horses,
and the roaring forests reverberate to reinforce
the cry.
Yet soon I will gird myself to celebrate the fiery
fights of Caesar,
make his name live in the future for as many
years as stretch from old Tithonus down to
Propertius bk. 2
Gods of our fathers, Heroes of our land,
And Romulus, and mother Vesta, guardian
Of Tuscan Tiber and Roman Palatine,
Do not prevent at least this youthful prince
From saving a world in ruins: long ago
Our blood has paid enough for the perjury
of Troy’s Laomedon. The courts of heaven,
Caesar, have long begrudged your presence
Complaining that you care for mortal triumphs;
For right and wrong change places; everywhere
So many wars, so many shapes of crime
Confront us; no due honor attends the plough,
The fields, bereft of tillers, are all unkempt,
And in the forge the curving pruning-hook
Is made a straight hard sword. Euphrates here,
There Germany is in arms, and neighbor cities
Break covenants and fight; throughout the world
Impious War is raging. As on a racecourse,
The barriers down, out pour the chariots,
Gathering speed from lap to lap, and a driver
tugging in vain at the reins is swept along
By his horses and heedless uncontrollable car.
I leave to Vergil such fields as Actium’s coast
Watched over by the sun and that big fleet
Of Caesar’s—Vergil, who lifts up the Trojan
Sword again and recasts walls on the Lavinian
Coasts. Make way, you Roman writers, and you
Greek writers, for the Iliad lies forgotten
And a greater work sees the light of day.
Horace, Odes 4.15.31-2
….we will sing of Troy and Anchises and the
offspring of mother Venus.