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“The Gnat.” A poem often ascribed to Vergil, who is, in fact, known to have composed in his youth a poem with that title (Silvae, ii. 7, 73; Vit. Lucani. p. 50, Reiff.). The internal evidence is, however, against the view that the one now extant is the original, though some scholars (as Heyne and Hildebrandt) have supposed it to be the same with later interpolations. The Culex is a short epic of 414 hexameter lines, whose subject may be considered as partly pastoral and partly mock-heroic. A goatherd leads out his flocks to feed upon the pastures near Mount Cithaeron. Having fallen asleep, he is suddenly roused from his slumbers by the bite of a gnat; and, while awakening, he crushes to death the insect which had inflicted the wound. He then perceives a huge serpent approaching, which, if his sleep had not been broken, would inevitably have destroyed him. The shade of the gnat appears to the goatherd on the following night, and reproaches him with having occasioned its death at the moment when it had saved his life. The insect describes all that it had seen in the infernal regions during its wanderings, having as yet obtained no fixed habitation. Next day the goatherd prepares a tomb, in order to procure repose for the ghost of his benefactor, and celebrates in due form its obsequies. See Birt, Hist. Hexam. Lat. (Bonn, 1876); R. Ellis, in the Jour. of Philology, vol. xvi. p. 153; and Hildebrandt, Studien auf d. Geb. d. röm. Poesie und Metrik (Leipzig, 1887). The text is included in Ribbeck's edition of the works of Vergil, and edited by Leo (Berlin, 1891).

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