P. Virgi'liusor VERGI'LIUS MARO, was born on the 15th of October, B. C. 70 in the first consulship of Cn. Pompeius Magnus and M. Licinius Crassus, at Andes, a small village near Mantua in Cisalpine Gaul. The tradition, though an old one, which identifies Andes with the modern village of Pietola, may be accepted as a tradition, without being accepted as a truth. The poet Horace, afterwards one of his friends, was born B. C. 65; and Octavianus Caesar, afterwards the emperor Augustus, and his patron, in B. C. 63, in the consulship of M. Tullius Cicero. Virgil's father probably had a small estate which he cultivated : his mother's name was Maia. The son was educated at Cremona and Mediolanum (Milan), and he took the toga virilis at Cremona on the day on which he commenced his sixteenth year in B. C. 55, which was the second consulship of Cn. Pompeius Magnus and M. Licinius Crassus. On the same day, according to Donatus, the poet Lucretius died, in his forty-first year. It is said that Virgil subsequently studied at Neapolis (Naples) under Parthenius, a native of Bithynia, from whom he learned Greek (Macr. 5.17); and the minute industry of the grammarians has pointed out the following line (Georg. 1.437) as borrowed from his master : Glauco et Panopeae et Inoo Melicertae. (Compare Gellius 13.26; and PARTHENIUS). He was also instructed by Syron an Epicurean, and probably at Rome. Virgil's writings prove that he received a learned education, and traces of Epicurean opinions are apparent in them. The health of Virgilius was always feeble, and there is no evidence of his attempting to rise by those means by which a Roman gained distinction, oratory and the practice of arms. Indeed at the time when he was born, Cisalpine Gaul was not included within the term " Italy," and it was not till B. C. 89 that a Lex Pompeia gave even the Jus Latii to the inhabitants of Gallia Transpadana, and the privilege of obtaining the Roman civitas by filling a magistratus in their own cities. The Roman civitas was not given to the Transpadani till B. C. 49. Virgil therefore was not a Roman citizen by birth, and he was above twenty years of age before the civitas was extended to Gallia Transpadana. It is merely a conjecture, though it is probable that Virgilius retired to his paternal farm, and here he may have written some of the small pieces, which are attributed to him. the Culex, Ciris, Moretum, and others. The defeat of Brutus and Cassius by M. Antonius and Octavianus Caesar at Philippi B. C. 42, gave the supreme power to the two victorious generals, and when Octavianus returned to Italy, he began to assign to his soldiers lands which had been promised them for their services (D. C. 48.5, &c.). But the soldiers could only be provided with land by turning out many of the occupiers, and the neighbourhood of Cremona and Mantua was one of the districts in which the soldiers were planted, and front which the former possessors were dislodged. (Appian, App. BC 5.12, &c.) There is little evidence as to the circumstances under which Virgil was deprived of his property. It is said that it was seized by a veteran named Claudius or Clodius, and that Asinius Pollio, who was then governor of Gallia Transpadana, advised Virgil to apply to Octavianus at Rome for the restitution of his land, and that Octavianus granted his request. It is supposed that Virgilius wrote the Eclogue which stands first in our editions, to commemorate his gratitude to Octavianus Caesar. Whether the poet was subsequently disturbed in his possession and again restored, and whether he was not firmly secured in his patrimonial farm till after the peace of Brundusium B. C. 40 between Octavianus Caesar and M. Antonius, is a matter which no extant authority is sufficient to determine. Virgil became acquainted with Maecenas before Horace was, and Horace (Sat. 1.5, and 6. 55, &c.) was introduced to Maecenas by Virgil. Whether this introduction was in the year B. C. 41 or a little later is uncertain; but we may perhaps conclude from the name of Maecenas not being mentioned in the Eclogues of Virgil, that he himself was not on those intimate terms with Maecenas which ripened into friendship, until after they were written. Horace, in one of his Satires (Sat. 1.5), in which he describes the journey from Rome to Brundusium, mentions Virgil as one of the party, and in language which shows that they were then in the closest intimacy. The time to which this journey relates is a matter of some difficulty, but there are perhaps only two times to which it can be referred, either the events recorded in Appian (App. BC 5.64), which preceded the peace of Brundusium B. C. 40, or to the events recorded by Appian (App. BC 5.78), which belong to the year B. C. 38. But it is not easy to decide to which of these two years, B. C. 40 or B. C. 38, the journey of Horace refers. It can hardly refer to the events mentioned in Appian (App. BC 5.93, &c.) which belong to the year B. C. 37, though even this opinion has been maintained. [HORATIUS FLACCUS.] The most finished work of Virgil, his Georgica, an agricultural poem, was undertaken at the suggestion of Maecenas (Georg. 3.41), and it was probably not commenced earlier than B. C. 37. The supposition that it was written to revive the languishing condition of agriculture in Italy after the civil war, and to point out the best method, may take its place with other exploded notions. The idea of reviving the industry of a country by an elaborate poem, which few farmers would read and still fewer would understand, requires no refutation. Agriculture is not quickened by a book, still less by a poem. It requires security of property, light taxation, and freedom of commerce. Maecenas may have wished Virgil to try his strength on something better than his Eclogues; and though the subject does not appear inviting, the poet has contrived to give it such embellishment that his fame rests in a great degree on this work. The concluding lines of the Georgica were written at Naples (Georg. 4.559), but we can hardly infer that the whole poem was written there, though this is the literal meaning of the words, Georg. 4.560, and 2.171, and the remarks of the critics.) His Eclogues had all been completed, and probably before the Georgica were begun (Georg. 4.565). The epic poem of Virgil, the Aeneid, was probably long contemplated by the poet. While Augustus was in Spain B. C. 27, he wrote to Virgil to express his wish to have some monument of his poetical talent; perhaps he desired that the poet should dedicate his labours to his glory as he had done to that of Maecenas. A short reply of Virgil is preserved (Macr. 1.24), in which he says, " with respect to my Aeneas, if it were in a fit shape for your reading, I would gladly send the poem; but the thing is only just begun; and indeed it seems something like folly to have undertaken so great a work, especially when, as you know, I am applying to it other studies, and those of much greater importance." The inference that may be derived from a passage of Propertius (Eleg. 2.34, 5.61), in which he speaks of the Iliad as begun and in progress, and from the recent death of Gallus, also mentioned in the same elegy, is that Virgil was engaged on his work in B. C. 24 (Clinton, Fast. B. C. 24). An allusion to the victory of Actium in the same elegy, compared with the passage in Virgil (Aeneid, 8.675 and 704) seems to show that Propertius was acquainted with the poem of Virgil in its progress; and he may have heard parts of it read. III B. C. 23 died Marcellus, the son of Octavia, Caesar's sister, by her first husband; and as Virgil lost no opportunity of gratifying his patron, he introduced into his sixth book of the Aeneid (5.883) the well-known allusion to the virtues of this youth, who was cut off by a premature death. D. C. 54.8); and if the passage of Virgil refers to it, the poet must have been working at his seventh book in B. C. 20. When Augustus was returning from Samos, where he had spent the winter of B. C. 20, he met Virgil at Athens. The poet it is said had intended to make a tour of Greece, but he accompanied the emperor to Megara and thence to Italy. His health, which had been long declining, was now completely broken, and he died soon after his arrival at Brundusium on the 22d of September B. C. 19, not having quite completed his fifty-first year. His remains were transferred to Naples, which had been his favourite residence, and placed on the road (Via Puteolana) from Naples to Puteoli (Pozzuoli) between the first and second milestone from Naples. The monument, now called the tomb of Virgil, is not on the road which passes through the tunnel of Posilipo; but if the Via Puteolana ascended the hill of Posilipo, as it may have done, the situation of the monument would agree very well with the description of Donatus. The inscription said to have been placed on the tomb,
The ten short poems called Bucolica were the earliest works of Virgil, and probably all written between B. C. 41 and B. C. 37. These Bucolica are not Bucolica in the same sense as the poems of Theocritus, which have the same title. They have all a Bucolic form and colouring, but some of them have nothing snore. They are also called Eelogae or Selections, but this same may not have originated with the poet. Their merit consists in their versification, which was smoother and more polished than the hexameters which the Romans had yet seen, and in many natural and simple touches. But as an attempt to transfer the Syracusan muse into Italy, they are certainly a failure, and we read the pastorals of Theocritus and of Virgil with a very different decree of pleasure. The fourth Eclogue, entitled Pollio, which may have been written in B. C. 40 after the peace of Brundusium, has nothing of the pastoral character about it, as the poet himself admits in the first lines,
Sicelides Musae paulo majora canamus,Virgil was aware that he was not following his professed model, and that the poem was Bucolic only in name. It is allegorical, mystical, half historical and prophetical, aenigmatical, anything in fact but Bucolic. Pope's Messiah, a kind of imitation of Virgil, is also not an Eclogue. The first Eclogue is Bucolic in form and in treatment, with an historical basis. The second Eclogue, the Alexis, which the critics suppose to have been written before the first, is an amatory poem, with a Bucolic colouring, which indeed is the characteristic of all Virgil's Eclogues, whatever they may be in substance. The third, the fifth, the seventh, and the ninth are more clearly modelled on the form of the poems of his Sicilian prototype : and the eighth, the Pharmaceutria, is a direct imitation of the original Greek. The tenth, entitled Gallus, perhaps written the last of all, is a love poem, which, if written in elegiac verse, would be more appropriately called an elegy than a Bucolic. All the Eclogues of Virgil abound in allusions to the circumstances and persons of the time; but these allusions are often obscure. Though the Eclogues contain many pleasing lines, they present very great difficulties arising both from the construction of the poems, and the language. Those who find them easy are not persons who are much alive to the perception of difficulties ; and those who bestow upon them very liberal praise, have the merit at least of being easily satisfied. Virgil borrowed many lines from Theocritus; but the adaptation of a few lines does not give to his poems the genuine rustic cast of some of the best pieces of Theocritus. We do not feel that the Eclogues of Virgil represent rural life or rural manners in Italy; and such a representation, even if Virgil could have given it, is incompatible with the leading idea that pervades some of the Eclogues. Julius Caesar Scaliger preferred Virgil's Eclogues to those of Theocritus, a curious instance of perverted judgment.
Non omnes arbusta juvant humilesque myricae,
Si canimus sylvas, silvae sunt console dignae.
Aeneid, 1.254), and the transfer of empire from Alba to Rome; from the line of Aeneas will descend the " Trojan Caesar," whose empire will only be limited by the ocean, and whose glory by the heavens. The future rivalry between Rome and Carthage, and the ultimate triumphs of Rome are predicted. The poem abounds in allusions to the history of Rome ; and the aim of the poet to confirm and embellish the popular tradition of the Trojan origin of the Roman state, and the descent of the Julii from Venus, is apparent all through the poem. It is objected to the Aeneid that it has not the unity of construction either of the Iliad or of the Odyssey, and that it is deficient in that antique simplicity which characterises these two poems. Aeneas, the hero, is an insipid kind of personage, and a much superior interest is excited by the savage Mezentius, and also by Turnus, the unfortunate rival of Aeneas. Virgil imitated other poets besides Homer, and he has occasionally borrowed from them, especially from Apollonius of Rhodes. If Virgil's subject was difficult to invest with interest, that is his apology; but it cannot be denied that many parts of his poem are successfully elaborated, and that particular scenes and incidents are treated with true poetic spirit. The historical colouring which pervades it, and the great amount of antiquarian learning which he has scattered through it, make the Aeneid a study for the historian of Rome. Virgil's good sense and taste are always conspicuous, and make up for the defect of originality. As a whole, the Aeneid leaves no strong impression, which arises from the fact that it is not really a national poem, like the Iliad or the Odyssey, the monument of an age of which we have no other literary monument; it is a learned poem, the production of an age in which it does not appear as an embodiment of the national feeling, but as a monument of the talent and industry of an individual. The Aeneid contains many obscure passages, which a long series of commentators have laboured to elucidate. Virgil has the merit of being the best of the Roman epic poets, superior both to Ennius who preceded him, and on whom he levied contributions, and to Lucan, Silius Italicus, and Valerius Flaccus, who belong to a later age. The passion for rhetorical display, which characterises all the literature of Rome, is much less offensive in Virgil than in those who followed him in the line of epic poetry.
The larger editions of Virgil contain some short poems, which are attributed to him, and may have been among his earlier works.
The Culex or Gnat is a kind of Bucolic poem in 413 hexameters, often very obscure; the Ciris, or the mythus of Scylla the daughter of Nisus, king of Megara, in 541 hexameters, has been attributed to Cornelius Gallus and others, but Scaliger maintains that it is by Virgil.
The Moretum, in 123 verses, the name of a compound mess, is a poem in hexameters, on the daily labour of a cultivator, but it contains only the description of the labours of the first part of the day, which consist in preparing the Moretum : the female servant of the rustic Simulus is a negress; none was ever better described,
Afra genus, tota patriam testante figura,
Torta comam, labroque tumens et fusca colorem,
Pectore lata, jacens mammis, compressior alvo,
Cruribus exilis, spatiosa prodiga planta.