Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A little about Virgil

So who was the man who had me doing research for much longer than I'd planned yesterday?

Publius Vergilius Maro, known as Virgil or Vergil, was the Roman’s best known poet, most famous for his epic The Aeneid.


Born in 70 B.C. in Andes, near Mantua, he was the son of a provincial farmer who had sufficient funds to educate him first at home in northern Italy, Cremona/ Milan/and then later in Rome. Virgil had a thorough education in the work of the great poets, Greek and Roman and became skilled at philosophy and rhetoric.

His first work, the Eclogues were pastoral and were written approximately 38 B.C. Set in an idyllic and Arcadian setting, they were heavily influenced by the Greek poet Theocritus though the eclogues are more stylized and much less realistic. These first works allowed him to express his love of the countryside and nature around him, yet through them he was able to give allusions to the political unrest around at the time of writing. The Roman Republic was nearing its end during his formative years and the fifth poem of the eclogue, about the death of Daphnis, king of the shepherds, has parallels with the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.

Other poems, notably the first and ninth, show the deep regret and grief felt by many of the northern farmers whose lands were appropriated by Anthony and Octavian to give to the veterans of the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. Though not definite, it’s thought Virgil family farm was almost for a while till some influence was brought to bear to retain it.

The second works by Virgil, the Georgics are largely about farming but were claimed to be less of a farming manual and more of a delight to read by the poet Seneca.

Virgil’s most famous epic poem, the Aeneid, was begun shortly before Augustus (Octavian) became the first Emperor but were written during the last 11 years of his life. Aiming to maintain all the great qualities of the Republic, Augustus wanted his new Rome and new Empire to be filled with men who had a renewed national pride and followed traditional, simple moral values. These qualities are emphasised throughout the Aeneid and it’s imbued with the peace and stability established by Augustus during his reign.

The epic poem wasn’t yet completed when Virgil caught a fever and died in 19 B.C. since he had expected to spend around another three years on it.

Highly influential during his life, Virgil became the national poet. His work was lauded; used as an example in contemporary textbooks; considered the ultimate of perfection in his art.

There are plenty of sites with more information about him but for now I’m off to do some reading of the Aeneid during my grandson’s ‘quiet time’ since I’m grandchild minding today. My main problem with that is that he rarely naps for longer than 20 minutes across the whole, long day. It might be a while before I complete my reading of the work of Virgil.       


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