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Title: Vergil - A Biography
Author: Frank, Tenney, 1876-1939
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_A Biography_



_Professor of Latin
in the
Johns Hopkins University_






Modern literary criticism has accustomed us to interpret our masterpieces
in the light of the author's daily experiences and the conditions of the
society in which he lived. The personalities of very few ancient poets,
however, can be realized, and this is perhaps the chief reason why their
works seem to the average man so cold and remote. Vergil's age, with its
terribly intense struggles, lies hidden behind the opaque mists of twenty
centuries: by his very theory of art the poet has conscientiously drawn a
veil between himself and his reader, and the scraps of information about
him given us by the fourth century grammarian, Donatus, are inconsistent,
at best unauthenticated, and generally irrelevant.

Indeed criticism has dealt hard with Donatus' life of Vergil. It has
shown that the meager _Vita_ is a conglomeration of a few chance facts
set into a mass of later conjecture derived from a literal-minded
interpretation of the _Eclogues_, to which there gathered during the
credulous and neurotic decades of the second and third centuries an
accretion of irresponsible gossip.

However, though we have had to reject many of the statements of Donatus,
criticism has procured for us more than a fair compensation from another
source. A series of detailed studies of the numerous minor poems
attributed to Vergil by ancient authors and mediaeval manuscripts--till
recently pronounced unauthentic by modern scholars--has compelled most
of us to accept the _Appendix Vergiliana_ at face value. These poems,
written in Vergil's formative years before he had adopted the reserved
manner of the classical style, are full of personal reminiscences. They
reveal many important facts about his daily life, his occupations, his
ambitions and his ideals, and best of all they disclose the processes by
which the poet during an apprenticeship of ten years developed the mature
art of the _Georgics_ and the _Aeneid_. They have made it possible for us
to visualize him with a vividness that is granted us in the case of no
other Latin poet.

The reason for attempting a new biography of Vergil at the present time
is therefore obvious. This essay, conceived with the purpose of centering
attention upon the poet's actual life, has eschewed the larger task of
literary criticism and has also avoided the subject of Vergil's literary
sources--a theme to which scholars have generally devoted too much
acumen. The book is therefore of brief compass, but it has been kept
to its single theme in the conviction that the reader who will study
Vergil's works as in some measure an outgrowth of the poet's own
experiences will find a new meaning in not a few of their lines.






















Among biographical commonplaces one frequently finds the generalization
that it is the provincial who acquires the perspective requisite for
a true estimate of a nation, and that it is the country-boy reared in
lonely communion with himself who attains the deepest knowledge of human
nature. If there be some degree of truth in this reflection, Publius
Vergilius Maro, the farmer's boy from the Mantuan plain, was in so far
favored at birth. It is the fifteenth of October, 70 B.C., that the
Mantuans still hold in pious memory: in 1930 they will doubtless invite
Italy and the devout of all nations to celebrate the twentieth centenary
of the poet's birth.

Ancient biographers, little concerned with Mendelian speculation, have
not reported from what stock his family sprang. Scientific curiosity
and nationalistic egotism have compelled modern biographers to become
anthropologists. Vergil has accordingly been referred, by some critic
or other, to each of the several peoples that settled the Po Valley in
ancient times: the Umbrians, the Etruscans, the Celts, the Latins. The
evidence cannot be mustered into a compelling conclusion, but it may be
worth while to reject the improbable suppositions.

The name tells little. _Vergilius_ is a good Italic _nomen_ found in all
parts of the peninsula,[1] but Latin names came as a matter of course
with the gift of citizenship or of the Latin status, and Mantua with
the rest of Cisalpine Gaul had received the Latin status nineteen years
before Vergil's birth. The cognomen _Maro_ is in origin a magistrate's
title used by Etruscans and Umbrians, but _cognomina_ were a recent
fashion in the first century B.C. and were selected by parents of the
middle classes largely by accident.

[Footnote 1: Braunholz, _The Nationality of Vergil_, _Classical Review_,
1915, 104 ff.]

Vergil himself, a good antiquarian, assures us that in the _heroic_
age Mantua was chiefly Etruscan with enclaves of two other peoples
(presumably Umbrians and Venetians). In this he is doubtless following a
fairly reliable tradition, accepted all the more willingly because of his
intimacy with Maecenas, who was of course Etruscan:[2]

  Mantua dives avis, sed non genus omnibus unum,
  Gens illis triplex, populi sub gente quaterni,
  Ipsa caput populis; Tusco de sanguine vires.

[Footnote 2: Aeneid, X, 201-3.]

Pliny seems to have supposed this passage a description of Mantua in
Vergil's own day: Mantua Tuscorum trans Padum sola reliqua (III. 130).
That could hardly have been Vergil's meaning, however; for the Celts who
flooded the Po Valley four centuries before drove all before them except
in the Venetian marshes and the Ligurian hills. They could not have left
an Etruscan stronghold in the center of their path. Vergil was probably
not Etruscan.

The case for a Celtic origin is equally improbable. From the time when
the Senones burned Rome in 390 B.C. till Caesar conquered Gaul, the fear
of invasions from this dread race never slumbered. During the weary
years of the Punic war when Hannibal drew his fresh recruits from the Po
Valley, the determination grew ever stronger that the Alps should become
Rome's barrier line on the North. Accordingly the pacification of the
Transpadane region continued with little intermission until Polybius[3]
could say two generations before Vergil's birth that the Gauls had
practically been driven out of the Po Valley, and that they then held but
a few villages in the foothills of the Alps. If this be true, the open
country of Mantua must have had but few survivors. And the few that
remained were not often likely to have the privilege of intermarrying
with the Roman settlers who filled the vacuum. Romans were too proud of
their citizenship to intermarry with _peregrini_ and raise children who
must by Roman laws forego the dignities of citizenship.[4]

[Footnote 3: Polybius, II. 35, 4 (written about 140 B.C.).]

[Footnote 4: Ulpian, _Dig_. V. 8, ex peregrino et cive Romano, peregrinus

A Celtic strain of romance has been from time to time claimed for
Vergil's poetry, though those who employ such terms seldom agree in their
definition of them. His romanticism may be more easily explained by
his early devotion to the Catullan group of poets, and the Celtic
traits--whatever they may be--by the close racial affiliations between
Celts and Italians, vouched for by anthropologists. But the difficulty of
applying the test of the "Celtic temperament" lies in the fact that there
are apparently now no true representatives of the Celtic race from
whom to establish a criterion. The peoples that have longest preserved
dialects of the Celtic languages appear from anthropometric researches
to contain a dominant strain of a different race, perhaps that of the
pre-Indo-European inhabitants of Western Europe. It may be, therefore,
that what Arnoldians now refer to the "Celts" is after all not Celtic. At
best it is unsafe to search for racial traits in the work of genius; in
this instance it would but betray loose thinking.

The assumption of Celtic origin is, therefore, hazardous.[5] There is,
however, a strong likelihood that Vergil's forbears were among the Roman
and Latin colonists who went north in search of new homes during the
second century B.C. Vergil's father was certainly a Roman citizen, for
none but a citizen could have sent his son to Rome to prepare for a
political career. Mantua indeed, a "Latin" town after 89 B.C., did not
become a Roman municipality until after Vergil had left it, but Vergil's
father, according to the eighth _Catalepton_, had earlier in his life
lived in Cremona. That city was colonized by Roman citizens in 218 B.C.
and recolonized in 190, and though the colonists were reduced to the
"Latin status," the magistrates of the town and their descendants secured
citizenship from the beginning, and finally in 89 B.C. the whole colony
received full citizenship. But quite apart from this, all of Cisalpine
Gaul, as the region was called, was receiving immigrants from all parts
of Italy throughout the second century, when the fields farther south
were being exhausted by long tilling, and were falling into the hands
of capitalistic landlords and grazers. Since Roman citizenship was a
personal rather than a territorial right, such immigrants could
preserve their political status despite their change of habitation. The
probabilities are, therefore, that in any case Vergil, though born in the
province, was of the old Latin stock.

[Footnote 5: Vergil we know was tall and dark. The Gauls were as a rule
fair with light hair. The Etruscans on the other hand, while dark,
were generally short of stature. Such data are however not of great

About the child appropriate stories gathered in time, but what the
biographers chose to repeat in the credulous days of Donatus, when Rome
was almost an Oriental city, need not detain us long. To Donatus, no
doubt, _Magia_ seemed a suitable name for the mother of a poet who knew
the mysteries of the lower world; that she dreamed prophetically of the
coming greatness of her son, we may grant as a matter of course. Sober
judgment, however, can hardly accept the miraculous poplar tree which
shot up at the place of nativity, or the birth-stories deriving
"Vergilus" from _virga_, contrary to early Latin nomenclature and
phonology. It is well to mention these things merely so that we may keep
in mind how little faith the late biographers really deserve.

Donatus is also inclined to accept the tradition that Vergil's father was
a potter and a man of very humble circumstances. That Vergil's father
made pottery may be true; a father's occupation was apt to be recorded in
Augustan biography--but it requires some knowledge of Roman society to
comprehend what these words meant at the end of the Republic. In Donatus'
day a "potter" was a day-laborer in loin-cloth and leather apron, earning
about twenty cents for a long day of fourteen hours. Needless to say,
Vergil's leisured competence during many years did not draw from such a
trickling source. Donatus had forgotten that in Vergil's day the economic
system of Rome was entirely different. At the end of the Republic, the
potters of Northern Italy conducted factories of enormous output, for
they had with their artistic red-figured ware captured the markets of the
whole Mediterranean basin. The actual workmen were not Roman citizens by
any means, but slaves. And we should add that while industrial producers,
like traders, were in general held in low esteem, because most of them
were foreigners and freedmen, the producers of earthenware had by
accident escaped from the general odium. The reason was simply that
earthenware production began as a legitimate extension of agriculture--it
was one form of turning the products of the villa-soil to the best
use--and agriculture as we remember (including horticulture and
stock-raising) continued into Cicero's day the only respectable
income-bringing occupation in which a Roman senator could engage without
apology. That is the reason why even the names of Cicero, Asinius Pollio,
and Marcus Aurelius are to be found on brick stamps when it would have
been socially impossible for such men to own, shall we say, hardware or
clothing factories. Donatus was already so far away from that day that
he had no feeling for its social tabus. The property of Vergil's
father--possibly a farm with a pottery on some part of it--could hardly
have been small when it supported the young student for many years in his
leisured existence at Rome and Naples under the masters that attracted
the aristocracy of the capital. The story of Probus, otherwise not very
reliable, may, therefore, be true--that sixty soldiers received their
allotments from the estates taken from Vergil's father.

Of no little significance is the fact that Vergil first prepared himself
for public life,[6] and progressed so far as to accept one case in court.
In order to enter public life in those days it was customary to train
one's self as widely as possible in literature, history, rhetoric,
dialectic, and court procedure, and to attract public notice for election
purposes by taking a few cases. It was not every citizen who dared enter
such a career. This was the one occupation that the nobility guarded most
jealously. While any foreigner or freedman might become a doctor, banker,
architect or merchant prince, he could not presume to stand up before a
praetor to discuss the rights and wrongs of Roman citizens; and since the
advocate's work was furthermore considered the legitimate preliminary to
magisterial offices it must the more carefully be protected. It would
have been quite useless for Vergil to prepare for this career had it been
obviously closed. We have no sure record in Cicero's epoch of any young
man rising successfully from the business or industrial classes to a
career in public life except through the abnormal accidents provided by
the civil wars. Presumably, therefore, Vergil's father belonged to a
landholding family with some honors of municipal service to his credit.

[Footnote 6: Donatus, 15; _Ciris_, l.2; _Catal_. V.; Seneca, _Controv_.
III. praef. 8.]

Of the poet's physical traits we have no very satisfactory description
or likeness. He was tall, dark and rawboned, retaining through life the
appearance of a countryman, according to Donatus. He also suffered,
says the same writer, the symptoms that accompany tuberculosis. The
reliability of this rather inadequate description is supported by a
second-century portrait of the poet done in a crude pavement mosaic which
has been found in northern Africa.[7] To be sure the technique is so
faulty that we cannot possibly consider this a faithful likeness. But
we may at least say that the person represented--a man of perhaps
forty-five--was tall and loose-jointed, and that his countenance, with
its broad brow, penetrating eye, firm nose and generous mouth and chin,
is distinctly represented as drawn and emaciated.

[Footnote 7: See _Monuments Piot_. 1897, pl. xx; _Atene e Roma_, 1913,
opp. p. 191.]

There is also an unidentified portrait in a half dozen mediocre
replicas representing a man of twenty-five or thirty years which some
archaeologists are inclined to consider a possible representation of
Vergil.[8] It is the so-called "Brutus." The argument for its attribution
deserves serious consideration. The bust, while it shows a far younger
man than the African mosaic, reveals the same contour of countenance, of
brow, nose, cheeks and chin. Furthermore it is difficult to think of any
other Roman in private life who attained to such fame that six marble
replicas of his portrait should have survived the omnivorous lime-kilns
of the dark ages. The Barrocco museum of Rome has a very lifelike
replica[9] of this type in half-relief. Though its firm, dry workmanship
seems to be of a few decades later than Vergil's youth it may well be a
fairly faithful copy of one of the first busts of Vergil made at the time
when the _Eclogues_ had spread his fame through Rome.

[Footnote 8: See British School _Cat. of the Mus. Capitolino_, p. 355;
Bernoulli, _Röm. Ikonographie_, I, 187, Helbig,'3 I, no. 872.]

[Footnote 9: Mrs. Strong, _Roman Sculpture_ plate, CIX; Hekler, _Greek
and Roman Portraits_, 188 a. The antiquity of this marble has been

A land of sound constitutions, mentally and physically, was the frontier
region in which Vergil grew to manhood; and had it not later been drained
of its sturdy citizenry by the civil wars and recolonized by the wreckage
of those wars it would have become Italy's mainstay through the Empire.
The earlier Romans and Latins who had first accepted colonial allotments
or had migrated severally there for over a century were of sterner stuff
than the indolent remnants that had drifted to the city's corn cribs.
These frontiersmen had come while the Italic stock was still sound, not
yet contaminated by the freedmen of Eastern extraction. Cities like
Cremona and Mantua were truer guardians of the puritanic ideals of Cato's
day than Rome itself. The clear expressive diction of Catullus' lyrics,
full of old-fashioned turns, the sound social ideals of Vergil's
_Georgics_, the buoyant idealism of the _Aeneid_ and of Livy's annals
speak the true language of these people. It is not surprising then that
in Vergil's youth it is a group of fellow-provincials--returning sons
of Rome's former emigrants--that take the lead in the new literary
movements. They are vigorous, clever young men, excellently educated,
free from the city's binding traditionalism, well provided also, many
of them, with worldly goods acquired in the new rich country. Such were
Catullus of Verona, Varius Rufus, Quintilius Varus, Furius, and Alfenus
of Cremona, Caecilius of Comum, Helvius Cinna apparently of Brescia, and
Valerius Cato who somehow managed to inspire in so many of them a love
for poetry.



To Cremona, Vergil was sent to school. Caesar, the governor of the
province, was now conquering Gaul, and as Cremona was the foremost
provincial colony from which Caesar could recruit legionaries, the school
boys must have seen many a maniple march off to the battle-fields of
Belgium. Those boys read their _Bellum Gallicum_ in the first edition,
serial publication. When we remember the devotion of Caesar's soldiers to
their leader, we can hardly be surprised at the poet's lasting reverence
for the great _imperator_. He must have seen the man himself, also, for
Cremona was the principal point in the court circuit that Caesar traveled
during the winters between his campaigns--whenever the Gauls gave him

The _toga virilis_ Vergil assumed at fifteen, the year that Pompey and
Crassus entered upon their second consulship--a notice to all the world
that the triumvirate had been continued upon terms that made Julius the
arbiter of Rome's destinies.

That same year the boy left Cremona to finish his literary studies in
Milan, a city which was now threatening to outstrip Cremona in importance
and size. The continuation of his studies in the province instead of at
Rome seems to have been fortunate: the spirit of the schools of the north
was healthier. At Rome the undue insistence upon a practical education,
despite Cicero's protests, was hurrying boys into classrooms of
rhetoricians who were supposed to turn them into finished public men
at an early age; it was assumed that a political career was every
gentleman's business and that every young man of any pretensions must
acquire the art of speaking effectively and of "thinking on his feet."
The claims of pure literature, of philosophy, and of history were
accorded too little attention, and the chief drill centered about the
technique of declamatory prose. Not that the rhetorical study was itself
made absolutely practical. The teachers unfortunately would spin the
technical details thin and long to hold profitable students over several
years. But their claims that they attained practical ends imposed on the
parents, and the system of education suffered.

In the northern province, on the other hand, there was less demand
for studies leading directly to the forum. Moreover, some of the best
teachers were active there.[1] They were men of catholic tastes, who in
their lectures on literature ranged widely over the centuries of Greek
masters from Homer to the latest popular poets of the Hellenistic period
and over the Latin poets from Livius to Lucilius. Indeed, the young men
trained at Cremona and Milan between the days of Sulla and Caesar were
those who in due time passed on the torch of literary art at Rome,
while the Roman youths were being enticed away into rhetoric. Vergil's
remarkable catholicity of taste and his aversion to the cramping
technique of the rhetorical course are probably to be explained in large
measure, therefore, by his contact with the teachers of the provinces.
Vergil did not scorn Apollonius because Homer was revered as the supreme
master, and though the easy charm of Catullus taught him early to love
the "new poetry," he appreciated none the less the rugged force of
Ennius. Had his early training been received at Rome, where pedant was
pitted against pedant, where every teacher was forced by rivalry into a
partizan attitude, and all were compelled by material demands to provide
a "practical education," even Vergil's poetic spirit might have been

[Footnote 1: Suetonius, _De Gram_. 3.]

How long Vergil remained at Milan we are not told; Donatus' _paulo post_
is a relative term that might mean a few months or a few years. However,
at the age of sixteen Vergil was doubtless ready for the rhetorical
course, and it is possible that he went to the great city as early as
54 B.C., the very year of Catullus' death and of the publication of
Lucretius' _De Rerum Natura_. The brief biography of Vergil contained in
the Berne MS.--a document of doubtful value--mentions Epidius as Vergil's
teacher in rhetoric, and adds that Octavius, the future emperor, was a
fellow pupil. This is by no means unreasonable despite a difference
of seven years in the ages of the two pupils. Vergil coming from the
provinces entered rhetoric rather late in years, whereas Octavius must
have required the aid of a master of declamation early, since at the age
of twelve he prepared to deliver the _laudatio funebris_ at the grave of
his grandmother. Thus the two may have met in Epidius' lecture room in
the year 50 B.C. Vergil could doubtless have afforded tuition under such
a master since he presently engaged the no less distinguished Siro. We
have the independent testimony of Suetonius that Epidius was Octavius'
and Mark Antony's teacher.

If Antony's style be a criterion, this new master of Vergil's was a
rhetorician of the elaborate Asianistic style,[2] then still orthodox at
Rome. This school--except in so far as Cicero had criticized it for
going to extremes--had not yet been effectively challenged by the rising
generation of the chaster Atticists. Hortensius was still alive, and
highly revered, and Cicero had recently written his elaborate _De
Oratore_ in which, with the apparent calmness of a still unquestioned
authority, he laid down the program of the writer of ornate prose who
conceived it as his chief duty to heed the claims of art. While not an
out and out Asianist he advocates the claims of the "grand-style,"
so pleasing to senatorial audiences, with its well-balanced periods,
carefully modulated, nobly phrased, precisely cadenced, and pronounced
with dignity. To be sure, Calvus had already raised the banner of
Atticism and had in several biting attacks shown what a simple, frugal
and direct style could accomplish; Calidius, one of the first Roman
pupils of the great Apollodorus, had already begun making campaign
speeches in his neatly polished orations which painfully eschewed all
show of ornament or passion; and Caesar himself, efficiency personified,
had demonstrated that the leader of a democratic rabble must be a master
of blunt phrases. But Calvus did not threaten to become a political
force, Calidius was too even-tempered, and Caesar was now in the north,
fighting with other weapons. Cicero's prestige still seemed unbroken. It
was not till Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49, after Hortensius had died,
and Cicero had been pushed aside as a futile statesman, that Atticism
gained predominance in the schools. Later, in 46, Cicero in several
remarkable essays again took up the cudgels for an elaborate prose, but
then his cause was already lost. Caesar's victory had demonstrated that
Rome desired deeds, not words.

[Footnote 2: Octavius was drawn to the Atticistic principles by the great
master Apollodorus.]

When Virgil, therefore, turned to rhetoric, probably under Epidius,
he received the training which was still considered orthodox. His
farewell[3] to rhetoric--written probably in 48--shows unmistakably the
nature of the stuff on which he had been fed. It is the bombast and the
futile rules of the Asianic creed against which he flings his unsparing

[Footnote 3: _Catalepton_ V (Edition, Vollmer). Birt, _Jugendverse und
Heimatpoesie Vergils_, 1910, has provided a useful commentary on the

  Begone ye useless paint-pots of the school;
  Your phrases reek, but not with Attic scent,
  Tarquitius' and Selius' and Varro's drool:
  A witless crew, with learning temulent.
  And ye begone, ye tinkling cymbals vain,
  That call the youths to drivelings insane.

Epidius, to be sure, is not mentioned, but we happen to know that
Varro--if this be the erudite friend of Cicero--was devoted to the
Asianic principles. And Epidius, the teacher of the flowery Mark Antony,
may well be concealed in Vergil's list of names even if mention of him
was omitted for reasons of propriety.

This poem reveals the fact that Vergil did not, like the young men of
Cicero's youth, enjoy the privilege of studying law, court procedure, and
oratory by entering the law office, as it were, of some distinguished
senator and thus acquiring his craft through observation, guided
practice, and personal instruction. That method, so charmingly described
by Cicero as in vogue in his youth, had almost passed away. The school
had taken its place with its mock courts, contests in oratory, set themes
in fictitious controversies. The analytical rules of rhetoric were
growing ever more intricate and time-wasting, and how pedantic they were
even before Vergil's childhood may be seen by a glance into the anonymous
_Auctor ad Herennium_. The student had to know the differences between
the various kinds of cases, demonstrativum, deliberativum and judiciale;
he must know the proportionate value to the orator of inventio,
dispositio, elocutio, memoria, and pronuntiatio, and how to manage each;
he must know how to apply inventio in each of the six divisions of the
speech: exordium, narratio, divisio, confirmatio, confutatio, conclusio.
On the subject of adornment of style a relatively small task lay in
memorizing illustrations of some sixty figures of speech--and so on ad
infinitum. _Inane cymbalon juventutis_ is indeed a fitting commentary on
such memory tasks. The end of the poem cited betrays the fact that the
poet had not been able to keep his attention upon his task. He had been
writing verses; who would not?

Quite apart, however, from the unattractive content of the course, the
gradual change in political life must have disclosed to the observant
that the free exercise of talents in a public career could not continue
long. The triumvirate was rapidly suppressing the free republic. Even in
52, when Pompey became sole consul, the trial of Milo was conducted under
military guard, and no advocate dared speak freely. During the next two
years every one saw that Caesar and Pompey must come to blows and that
the resulting war could only lead to autocracy.

The crisis came in January of 49 B.C. when Vergil was twenty years old.
Pompey with the consuls and most of the senators fled southward in
dismay, and in sixty days, hotly pursued by Caesar, was forced to
evacuate Italy. Caesar, eager to make short work of the war, to attack
Spain and Africa while holding the Alpine passes and pressing in pursuit
of Pompey, began to levy new recruits throughout Italy.[4] Vergil also
seems to have been drawn in this draft, since this is apparently the
circumstance mentioned in his thirteenth _Catalepton_. "Draft," however,
may not be the right word, for we do not know whether Caesar at this time
claimed the right to enforce the rules of conscription. In any case, it
is clear from all of Vergil's references to Caesar that the great general
always retained a strong hold upon his imagination. Like most youths who
had beheld Caesar's work in the province close at hand, he was probably
ready to respond to a general appeal for troops, and Labienus' words to
Pompey on the battlefield of Pharsalia make it clear that Caesar's
army was largely composed of Cisalpines. The accounting they gave of
themselves at that battle is evidence enough of the spirit which pervaded
Vergil's fellow provincials. Nor is it unlikely that Vergil himself
took part, for one of the most poignant passages in all his work is the
picture of the dead who lay strewn over the battlefield of Pharsalia.

[Footnote 4: Cic. _Ad Att_. IX. 19, in March.]

It is also probable that Vergil had had some share in the cruises on the
Adriatic conducted by Antony the summer and winter before Pharsalia.
Not only does this poem speak of service on the seas, but his poems
throughout reveal a remarkable acquaintance with Adriatic geography. If
he took part in the work of that stormy winter's campaigns, when more
than one fleet was wrecked, we can comprehend the intimate touches in the
description of Aeneas' encounters with the storms.

The thirteenth _Catalepton_, which mentions the poet's military service,
is not pleasant reading. Written perhaps in 48 or 47 B.C., directed
against some hated martinet of an officer, it bears various disagreeable
traces of camp life, which was then not well-guarded by charitable
organizations of every kind as now. We need quote only the first few

  You call me caitiff, say I cannot sail
  The seas again, and that I seem to quail
  Before the storms and summer's heat, nor dare
  The speeding victor's arms again to bear.

We know how frail Vergil's health was in later years. His constitution
may well have been wrecked during the winter of 49 which Caesar himself,
inured though he was to the storms of the North, found unusually severe.
Vergil, it would seem from these lines, was given sick-leave and
permitted to go back to his studies, though apparently taunted for not
later returning to the army.

[Footnote 5:
  Jacere me, quod alta non possim, putas
      Ut ante, vectari freta,
  Nec ferre durum frigus aut aestum pati
      Neque arma victoris sequi.
The verses were written before 46 B.C. when the _collegia compitalicia_
were disbanded; Birt, _Rhein. Mus_. 1910, 348.]

There is another brief epigram which--if we are right in thinking Pompey
the subject of the lines--seems to date from Vergil's soldier days, the
third _Catalepton_:

  Aspice quem valido subnixum Gloria regno
    Altius et caeli sedibus extulerat.
  Terrarum hic bello magnum concusserat orbem,
    Hic reges Asiae fregerat, hic populos,
  Hic grave servitium tibi iam, tibi, Roma, ferebat
    (Cetera namque viri cuspide conciderant),
  Cum subito in medio rerum certamine praeceps
    Corruit, e patria pulsus in exilium.
  Tale deae numen, tali mortalia nutu
    Fallax momento temporis hora dedit.[6]

[Footnote 6: Behold one whom, upborne by mighty authority, Glory had
exalted even above the abodes of heaven. Earth's great orb had he shaken
in war, the kings and peoples of Asia had he broken, grievous slavery was
he bringing even to thee, O Rome,--for all else had fallen before that
man's sword,--when suddenly, in the midst of his struggle for mastery,
headlong he fell, driven from fatherland into exile. Such is the will of
Nemesis; at a mere nod, in a moment of time, the faithless hour tricks
mortal endeavor.]

Whether or not Pompey aspired to become autocrat at Rome, many of his
supporters not only believed but desired that he should. Cicero, who did
not desire it, did, despite his devotion to his friend, fear that Pompey
would, if victorious, establish practically or virtually a monarchy.[7]
Vergil, therefore, if he wrote this when Pompey fled to Greece in 49, or
after the rout at Pharsalia, was only giving expression to a conviction
generally held among Caesar's officers. Quite Vergilian is the repression
of the shout of victory. The poem recalls the words of Anchises on
beholding the spirits of Julius and Pompey:

  Tuque prior, tu parce, genus qui ducis Olympo
  Proice tela manu, sanguis meus.

[Footnote 7: Cic. _Ad Att_. VIII, 11, 4; X, 4, 8.]

This is the poet's final conviction regarding the civil war in which he
served; his first had not differed widely from this.

Vergil's one experience as advocate in the court room should perhaps be
placed after his retirement from the army. Egit, says Donatus, et causam
apud judices, unam omnino nec amplius quam semel. The reason for his lack
of success Donatus gives in the words of Melissus, a critic who ought to
know: in sermone tardissimum ac paene indocto similem. The poet himself
seems to allude to his disappointing failure in the _Ciris_: expertum
fallacis praemia volgi. How could he but fail? He never learned to cram
his convictions into mere phrases, and his judgments into all-inclusive
syllogisms. When he has done his best with human behavior, and the
sentence is pronounced, he spoils the whole with a rebellious dis aliter
visum. A successful advocate must know what not to see and feel, and he
must have ready convictions at his tongue's end. In the _Aeneid_ there
are several fluent orators, but they are never Vergil's congenial



It was apparently in the year 48--Vergil was then twenty-one--that the
poet attempted his first extended composition, the _Culex_, a poem that
hardly deserved the honor of a versified translation at the hands of
Spenser. This is indeed one of the strangest poems of Latin literature,
an overwhelming burden of mythological and literary references saddled on
the feeblest of fables.

A shepherd goes out one morning with his flocks to the woodland glades
whose charms the poet describes at length in a rather imitative rhapsody.
The shepherd then falls asleep; a serpent approaches and is about to
strike him when a gnat, seeing the danger, stings him in time to save
him. But--such is the fatalism of cynical fable-lore--the shepherd, still
in a stupor, crushes the gnat that has saved his life. At night the
gnat's ghost returns to rebuke the shepherd for his innocent ingratitude,
and rather inappropriately remains to rehearse at great length the tale
of what shades of old heroes he has seen in the lower regions. The poem
contains 414 lines.

The _Culex_ has been one of the standing puzzles of literary criticism,
and would be interesting, if only to illustrate the inadequacy of
stylistic criteria. Though it was accepted as Vergilian by Renaissance
readers simply because the manuscripts of the poem and ancient writers,
from Lucan and Statius to Martial and Suetonius, all attribute the work
to him, recent critics have usually been skeptical or downright recusant.
Some insist that it is a forgery or supposititious work; others that it
is a liberally padded re-working of Vergil's original. Only a few have
accepted it as a very youthful failure of Vergil's, or as an attempt of
the poet to parody the then popular romances. Recent objections have not
centered about metrical technique, diction, or details of style: these
are now admitted to be Vergilian enough, or rather what might well have
been Vergilian at the outset of his career. The chief criticism is
directed against a want of proportion and an apparent lack of artistic
sense betrayed in choosing so strange a character for the ponderous
title-role. These are faults that Vergil later does not betray.

Nevertheless, Vergil seems to have written the poem. Its ascription to
Vergil by so many authors of the early empire, as well as the concensus
of the manuscripts, must be taken very seriously. But the internal
evidence is even stronger. Octavius, to whom the poem is dedicated, is
addressed _Octavi venerande_ and _sancte puer_, a clear reference to the
remarkable honor that Caesar secured for him by election to the office of
pontiff[1] when he was approaching his fifteenth birthday and before
he assumed the _toga virilis_. Vergil was then twenty-one years of
age--nearing his twenty-second birthday--and we may perhaps assume in
Donatus' attribution of the _Culex_ to Vergil's sixteenth year a mistake
in some early manuscript which changed the original XXI to XVI, a
correction which the citations of Statius and Lucan favor.[2] Finally,
when, as we shall see presently, Horace in his second _Epode_, accords
Vergil the honor of imitating a passage of the _Culex_, Vergil returns
the compliment in his _Georgics_. We have therefore not only Vergil's
recognition of Horace's courtesy, but, in his acceptance of it, his
acknowledgment of the _Culex_ as his own.[3]

[Footnote 1: Vellius, II. 59, 3, pontificatus sacerdotio _puerum_
honoravit, that is, before he assumed _the toga virilis_ on October 18th.
Nicolaus Damascenus (4) confirms this. Octavius received the office made
vacant by the death of Domitius at Pharsalia (Aug. 9). His birthday was
Sept. 23, 63. This high office is the first indication that Caesar had
chosen his grandnephew to be his possible successor. The boy was hardly
known at Rome before this time. See _Classical Philology_, 1920, p. 26.]

[Footnote 2: Anderson, in _Classical Quarterly_, 1916, p. 225; and
_Class. Phil_. 1920, p. 26. The dedicatory lines of the _Culex_ imply
that the body of the poem was already complete. Whether the interval was
one of weeks or months or years the poet does not say.]

[Footnote 3: _Classical Philology_, 1920, pp. 23, 33.]

The _Culex_, therefore, is the work of a beginner addressed to a young
lad just highly honored, but after all to a schoolboy whom Vergil had,
presumably two years before, met in the lecture rooms of Epidius. Does
this provide a key with which to unlock the hidden intentions of our
strange treasure-trove of miscellaneous allusions? Let the reader
remember the nature of the literary lectures of that day when
dictionaries, reference books, and encyclopedias were not yet to be found
in every library, and school texts were not yet provided with concise
Allen and Greenough notes. The teacher alone could afford the voluminous
"cribs" of Didymus. Roman schoolboys had not, like the Greeks, drunk in
all myths by the easy process of nursery babble. By them the legends of
Homer and Euripides must be acquired through painful schoolroom exegesis.
Even the names of natural objects, like trees, birds, and beasts came
into literature with their Greek names, which had to be explained to the
Roman boys. Hence the teacher of literature at Rome must waste much
time upon elucidating the text, telling the myths in full, and giving
convenient compendia of metamorphoses, of Homeric heroes, of "trees and
flowers of the poets," and the like. Epidius himself, a pedagogue of the
progressive style, had doubtless proved an adept at this sort of
thing. Claiming to be a descendant of an ancient hero who had one day
transformed himself into a river-god, he must have had a knack for these
tales. At any rate we are told that he wrote a book on metamorphosed
trees.[4] When Octavius read the _Culex_, did he recognize in the quaint
passage describing the shepherd's grove of metamorphosed trees (124-145)
phrases from the lecture notes of their voluble teacher? Are there
reminiscences lurking also in the long list of flowers so incongruously
massed about the gnat's grave and in the two hundred lines that detail
the ghostly census of Hades? If this is a parody at all, it is to remind
Octavius of Epidian erudition. In any case it is a kind of prompter of
the poetic allusions that occupied the boys' hours at school. The simple
plot of the shepherd and the gnat was selected from the type of fable
lore thought suitable for school-room reading. It served by its very
incongruity as a suitable thread for a catalogue of facts and fiction.
Vergil himself furnishes the clue for this interpretation of the _Culex_,
but it has been overlooked because of the wretched condition of the text
that we have. The first lines[5] of the poem seem to mean:

"My verses on the _Culex_ shall be filled with erudition so that all
the lore of the past may be strung together playfully in the form of a
story." That Martial considered it a boy's book appropriate for vacation
hours between school tasks is apparent from the inscription:[6]

  Accipe facundi _Culicem_, studiose, Maronis,
  Ne nucibus positis, _Arma virumque_ legas.

[Footnote 4: Pliny, _Nat. Hist_. XVII. 243; Suetonius, _De Rhetoribus_,

[Footnote 5: Lines 3-5:
  lusimus (haec propter culicis sint carmina docta,
    omnis ut historiae per ludum consonet ordo
  notitiae) doctumque voces, licet invidus adsit.]

[Footnote 6: Martial, XIV. 185.]

The _Culex_ is then, after all, a poem of unique interest; it takes us
into the Roman schoolroom to find at their lectures the two lads whose
names come first in the honor roll of the golden age.

The poem is of course not a masterpiece, nor was it intended to be
anything but a _tour de force_; but a comprehension of its purpose will
at least save it from being judged by standards not applicable to it. It
is not naïvely and unintentionally incongruous. To the modern reader it
is dull because he has at hand far better compendia; it is uninspired
no doubt: the theme did not lend itself to enthusiastic treatment; the
obscurity and awkwardness of expression and the imitative phraseology
betray a young unformed style. To analyze the art, however, would be to
take the poem more seriously than Vergil intended it to be when he wrote
currente calamo. Yet we may say that on the whole the modulation of the
verse, the treatment of the caesural pauses[7] and the phrasing compare
rather favorably with the Catullan hexameters which obviously served as
its models, that in the best lines the poet shows himself sensitive to
delicate effects, and that the pastoral scene--which Horace compliments
a few years later--is, despite its imitative notes, written with
enthusiasm, and reminds us pleasantly of the _Eclogues_.

[Footnote 7: For stylistic and metrical studies of the _Culex_, see _The
Caesura in Vergil_, Butcher, _Classical Quarterly_, 1914, p. 123; Hardie,
_Journal of Philology_, XXXI, p. 266, and _Class Quart_. 1916, 32 ff.;
Miss Jackson, _Ibid_. 1911, 163; Warde Fowler, _Class. Rev_. 1919, 96.]



It was at about this same time, 48 B.C., that Vergil began to write the
_Ciris_, a romantic epyllion which deserves far more attention than it
has received, not only as an invaluable document for the history of the
poet's early development, but as a poem possessing in some passages at
least real artistic merit. The _Ciris_ was not yet completed at the time
when Vergil reached the momentous decision to go to Naples and study
philosophy. He apparently laid it aside and did not return to it until he
had been in Naples several years. It was not till later that he wrote the
dedication. As we shall see, the author again laid the poem away, and it
was not published till after his death. The preface written in Siro's
garden is addressed to Messalla, who was a student at Athens in 45-4
B.C., and served in the republican army of Brutus and Cassius in 43-2. In
it Vergil begs pardon for sending a poem of so trivial a nature at a time
when his one ambition is to describe worthily the philosophic system that
he has adopted. "Nevertheless," he says, "accept meanwhile this poem: it
is all that I can offer; upon it I have spent the efforts of early youth.
Long since the vow was made, and now is fulfilled." (_Ciris_, 42-7.)[1]

[Footnote 1: On the question of authenticity, see, Class. Phil. 1920, 103

The story, beginning at line 101, was familiar. Minos, King of Crete, had
laid siege to Megara, whose king, Nisus, had been promised invincibility
by the oracles so long as his crimson lock remained untouched. Scylla,
the daughter of Nisus, however, was driven by Juno to fall in love with
Minos, her father's enemy; and, to win his love, she yields to the
temptation of betraying her father to Minos. The picture of the girl when
she had decided to cut the charmed lock of hair, groping her way in the
dark, tiptoe, faltering, rushing, terrified at the fluttering of her own
heart, is an interesting attempt at intensive art: 209-219:

  cum furtim tacito descendens Scylla cubili
  auribus erectis nocturna silentia temptat
  et pressis tenuem singultibus aera captat.
  tum suspensa levans digitis vestigia primis
  egreditur ferroque manus armata bidenti
  evolat: at demptae subita in formidine vires
  caeruleas sua furta prius testantur ad umbras.
  nam qua se ad patrium tendebat semita limen,
  vestibulo in thalami paulum remoratur et alti
  suspicit ad gelidi nictantia sidera mundi
  non accepta piis promittens munera divis.

Her aged nurse, Carme, comes upon the bewildered and shivering girl,
folds her in her robe, and coaxes the awful confession from her; 250-260:

    haec loquitur mollique ut se velavit amictu
  frigidulam iniecta circumdat veste puellam,
  quae prius in tenui steterat succincta crocota.
  dulcia deinde genis rorantibus oscula figens
  persequitur miserae causas exquirere tabis.
  nec tamen ante ullas patitur sibi reddere voces,
  marmoreum tremebunda pedem quam rettulit intra.
  ilia autem "quid me" inquit, "nutricula, torques?
  quid tantum properas nostros novisse furores?
  non ego consueto mortalibus uror amore."

Scylla does not readily confess. The poet's characterization of her
as she protracts the story to avoid the final confession reveals an
ambitious though somewhat unpracticed art. Carme tries in vain to
dissuade the girl, and must, to calm her, promise to aid her if all other
means fail. The aged woman's tenderness for her foster child is very
effectively phrased in a style not without reminiscences of Catullus

    his ubi sollicitos animi relevaverat aestus
  vocibus et blanda pectus spe luserat aegrum,
  paulatim tremebunda genis obducere vestem
  virginis et placidam tenebris captare quietem
  inverso bibulum restinguens lumen olivo
  incipit ad crebros (que) insani pectoris ictus
  ferre manum assiduis mulcens praecordia palmis.
  noctem illam sic maesta super morientis alumnae
  frigidulos cubito subnixa pependit ocellos.

On the morrow the girl pleads with her father to make peace, with
humorous naïveté argues with the counsellors of state, tries to bribe the
seers, and finally resorts to magic. When nothing avails, she secures
Carme's aid. The lock is cut, the city falls, the girl is captured by
Minos--in true Alexandrian technique the catastrophe comes with terrible
speed--and she is led, not to marriage, but to chains on the captor's
galley. Her grief is expressed in a long soliloquy somewhat too
reminiscent of Ariadne's lament in Catullus. Finally, Amphitrite in pity
transforms the captive girl into a bird, the Ciris, and Zeus as a reward
for his devout life releases Nisus, also transforming him into a bird of
prey, and henceforth there has been eternal warfare between the Ciris and
the Nisus:

  quacunque illa levem fugiens secat aethera pennis,
  ecce inimicus atrox magno stridore per auras
  insequitur Nisus; qua se fert Nisus ad auras,
  illa levem fugiens raptim secat aethera pennis.[1]

[Footnote 1: These four lines occur again in the _Georgios_, I. 406-9.]

The _Ciris_ with all its flaws is one of our best examples of the
romantic verse tales made popular by the Alexandrian poets of
Callimachus' school. The old legends had of course been told in epic
or dramatic form, but changing society now cared less for the stirring
action and bloodshed that had entertained the early Greeks. The times
were ripe for a retelling from a different point of view, with a more
patient analysis of the emotions, of the inner impulses of the moment
before the blow, the battle of passions that preceded the final act. We
notice also in these new poems a preponderance of feminine characters.
These the masculine democracy of classical Athens had tended to
disregard, but in the capitals of the new Hellenistic monarchies, many
influential and brilliant women rose to positions of power in the
society of the court. A poet would have been dull not to respond to this
influence. This new note was of course one that would immediately appeal
to the Romans, for the ancient aristocracy, which had always accorded
woman a high place in society and the home, had never died out at Rome.
Indeed such early dramatists as Ennius and Accius had already felt the
need of developing the interest of feminine roles when they paraphrased
classical Greek plays for their audiences. Thus both at Alexandria and
at Rome the new poets naturally chose the more romantic myths of the old
regal period as fit for their retelling.

But the search for a different interpretation and a deeper content
induced a new method of narration. Indeed the stories themselves were too
well known to need a full rehearsal of the plot. Action might frequently
be assumed as known and relegated to a significant line or two here
and there. The scenic setting, the individual traits of the heroes and
heroines, their mental struggles, their silent doubts and hesitations,
became the chief concern of the new poets. Horace called this the
"purple-patch" method of writing.

The narrative devices, however, varied somewhat. Some poets discarded
all idea of form. They roamed through the woods by any path that might
appear. This is the way that Tibullus likes to treat a theme. Whatever
semi-apposite topic happens to suggest itself, provided only it contains
pleasing fancies, invites him to tarry a while; he may or may not bring
you back to the starting point. Other poets still adhere to form, though
the pattern must be elaborate enough to hide its scheme from the casual
reader, and sufficiently elastic to provide space for sentiment and
pathos. In his sixty-eighth poem Catullus employs what might be called a
geometrical pattern, in fact a pyramid of unequal steps. He mounts to the
central theme by a series of verses and descends on the other side by a
corresponding series. In the sixty-fourth poem, however, the _epyllion_
which the author of the _Ciris_ clearly had in mind, Catullus used an
intricate but by no means balanced form. The poem opens with the sea
voyage of Peleus on which he meets the sea-nymph, Thetis. Then the poet
leaps over the interval to the marriage feast, only to dwell upon the
sorrows of Ariadne depicted on the coverlet of the marriage couch; thence
he takes us back to the causes of Ariadne's woes, thence forward to the
vengeance upon Ariadne's faithless lover; then back to the second scene
embroidered on the tapestry; and now finally to the wedding itself which
ends with the Fates' wedding song celebrating the future glories of
Peleus' promised son.

The _Ciris_, to be sure, is not quite so intricate, but here again we
have only allusions to the essential parts of the story: how Scylla
offended Juno, how she met Minos, how she cut the lock, and how the city
was taken. We are not even told why Minos failed to keep his pledge to
the maiden. In the midst of the tale, Carme suspends the action by a long
reference to Minos' earlier passion for her own daughter, Britomartis,
which caused the girl's destruction, but the lament in which this story
is disclosed merely alludes to but does not tell the details of the
story. The whole plot of the _Ciris_ is in fact unravelled by means of
a series of allusions and suggestions, exclamations and soliloquies,
parentheses and aposiopeses, interrogations and apostrophes.

In verse-technique[2] the _Ciris_ is as near Catullus' _Peleus_ and
_Thetis_ as it is the _Aeneid_: indeed it is as reminiscent of the former
as it is prophetic of the latter. The spondaic ending which made the line
linger, usually over some word of emotional content, (l. 158):

  At levis ille deus, cui semper ad ulciscendum

was to Cicero the earmark of this style. The _Ciris_ has it less often
than Catullus. Being somewhat unjustly criticized as an artifice it was
usually avoided in the _Aeneid_. There are more harsh elisions in the
_Ciris_ than in the poet's later work, reminding one again of Catullan
technique. In his use of caesuras Vergil in the _Ciris_ resembles
Catullus: both to a certain extent distrust the trochaic pause. Its
yielding quality, however, brought it back into more favor in various
emotional passages of the _Aeneid_; but there it is carefully modified by
the introduction of masculine stops before and after, a nuance which is
hardly sought after in the _Ciris_ or in Catullus. Finally, the sentence
structure has not yet attained the malleability of a later day. While the
_Ciris_, like the _Peleus and Thetis_, is over-free with involved and
parenthetical sentences, it has on the whole fewer run-over lines so that
indeed the frequent coincidence of sense pauses and verse endings almost
borders on monotony.

[Footnote 2: See especially Skutsch, _Aus Vergils Frühzeit_, p. 74;
Drachmann, _Hermes_, 1908, p. 412 ff.; L.G. Eldridge, _Num. Culex et
Ciris_, etc. Giessen, 1914; Rand, _Harvard Studies_, XXX, p. 150. The
introduction which was written last is more reminiscent of Lucretius. On
the question of authenticity, see Drachmann, _loc. cit_. Vollmer, _Sitz.
Bayer. Akad_. 1907, 335, and _Vergil's Apprenticeship_, _Class. Phil_.
1920, p. 103.]

These are but a few of the minor details that show Vergil in his youth a
close reader of Catullus, and doubtless of Calvus, Cinna and Cornificius,
who employed the same methods. It was from this group, not from Homer or
Ennius, that Vergil learned his verse-technique. The exquisite finish of
the _Aeneid_ was the product of this technique meticulously reworked to
the demands of an exacting poetic taste.

The _Ciris_ gave Vergil his first lesson in serious poetic composition,
and no task could have been set of more immediate value for the training
of Rome's epic poet. In a national epic classical objectivity could not
suffice for a people that had grown so self-conscious. Epic poetry must
become more subjective at Rome or perish. To be sure the vices of the
episodic style must be pruned away, and they were, mercilessly. The
_Aeneid_ has none of the meretricious involutions of plot, none of the
puzzling half-uttered allusions to essential facts, none of the teasing
interruptions of the neoteric story book. The poet also learned to avoid
the danger of stressing trivial and impertinent pathos, and he rejected
the elegancies of style that threatened to lead to preciosity. What he
kept, however, was of permanent value. The new poetry, which had emerged
from a society that was deeply interested in science, had taught Vergil
to observe the details of nature with accuracy and an appreciation of
their beauty. It had also taught him that in an age of sophistication the
poet should not hide his personality wholly behind the veil. There is
a pleasing self-consciousness in the poet's reflections--never too
obtrusive--that reminds one of Catullus. It implies that poetry is
recognized in its great role of a criticism of life. But most of all
there is revealed in the _Ciris_ an epic poet's first timid probing into
the depths of human emotions, a striving to understand the riddles behind
the impulsive body. One sees why Dido is not, like Apollonius' Medea,
simply driven to passion by. Cupid's arrow--the naive Greek equivalent
of the medieval love-philter--why Pallas' body is not merely laid on the
funeral pyre with the traditional wailing, why Turnus does not meet his
foe with an Homeric boast. That Vergil has penetrated a richer vein of
sentiment, that he has learned to regard passion as something more than
an accident, to sacrifice mere logic of form for fragments of vital
emotion and flashes of new scenery, and finally that he enriched the
Latin vocabulary with fecund words are in no small measure the effect of
his early intensive work on the _Ciris_ under the tutelage of Catullus.

Vergil apparently never published the _Ciris_, for he re-used its
lines, indeed whole blocks of its lines with a freedom that cannot be
paralleled. The much discussed line of the fourth _Eclogue_:

  Cara deum suboles, magnum Jovis incrementum,

is from the _Ciris_ (I. 398), so is the familiar verse of _Eclogue_ VIII
(I. 41):

  Ut vidi, ut perii, ut me malus abstulit error,

and _Aeneid_ II. 405:

  Ad caelum tendens ardentia lumina frustra,

and the strange spondaic unelided line (_Aen_. III. 74):

  Nereidum matri et Neptuno Aegaeo,

and a score of others. The only reasonable explanation[3] of this strange
fact is that the _Ciris_ had not been circulated, that its lines were
still at the poet's disposal, and that he did not suppose the original
would ever be published. The fact that the process of re-using began even
in the _Eclogues_[4] shows that he had decided to reject the poem as
early as 41 B.C. A reasonable explanation is near at hand. Messalla, to
whom the poem was dedicated, joined his lot with that of Mark Antony and
Egypt after the battle of Philippi, and for Antony Vergil had no love.
The poem lay neglected till he lost interest in a style of work that was
passing out of fashion. Finding a more congenial form in the pastoral he
sacrificed the _Ciris_.

[Footnote 3: Drachmann, _Hermes_, 1908, p. 405.]

[Footnote 4: Especially in 8, 10, and 4. This method of re-working old
lines reveals an extraordinary gift of memory in the poet, who so vividly
retained in mind every line he had written that each might readily fall
into the pattern of his new compositions without leaving a trace of the
joining. Critics who have tried the task have been compelled to confess
that the criterion of contextual appropriateness cannot alone determine
whether or not these lines first occurred in the _Ciris_.]



The _Culex_ seems to have been completed in September 48 B.C., and the
main part of the _Ciris_ was written not much later. Now came a crisis in
Vergil's affairs. Perhaps his own experience in the law courts, or the
conviction that public life could contain no interest under an autocracy,
or disgust at rhetorical futility, or perhaps a copy of Lucretius brought
him to a stop. Lucretius he certainly had been reading; of that the
_Ciris_ provides unmistakable evidence. And the spell of that poet he
never escaped. His farewell to Rome and rhetoric has been quoted in part
above. The end of the poem bids--though more reluctantly--farewell to the
muses also:

  Ite hinc Camenae; vos quoque ite jam sane
  dulces Camenae (nam fatebimur verum,
  dulces fuistis): et tamen meas chartas
  revisitote, sed pudenter et raro.

It is to Siro that he now went, the Epicurean philosopher who, closely
associated with the voluminous Philodemus, was conducting a very popular
garden-school at Naples, outranking in fact the original school at
Athens. It is not unlikely that this is where Lucretius himself had

It is well to bear in mind that the ensuing years of philosophical study
were spent at Naples--a Greek city then--and very largely among Greeks.
This fact provides a key to much of Vergil. Our biographies have somehow
assumed Rome as the center of Siro's activities, though the evidence in
favor of Naples is unmistakable. Not only does Vergil speak of a journey
(Catal. V. 8):

  Nos ad beatos vela mittimus portus
  Magni petentes docta dicta Sironis,

and Servius say _Neapoli studuit_, and the _Ciris_ mention _Cecropus
horrulus_, and Cicero in all his references place Siro on the bay of
Naples,[1] but a fragment of a Herculanean roll of Philodemus locates the
garden school in the suburbs of Naples.

[Footnote 1: _De Fin_. II. 119, Cumaean villa; _Acad_. II. 106, Bauli;
_Ad. Fam_. VI. 11.2; Vestorius is a Neapolitan; of. _Class. Phil_.
1920, p. 107, and _Am. Jour. Philology_, XLI, 115. For other possible
references, see _Am. Jour. Phil_.1920, XLI, 280 ff.]

Even after Siro's death--about 42 B.C.--Vergil seems to have remained at
Naples, probably inheriting his teacher's villa. In 38 he with Varius and
Plotius came up from Naples to Sinuessa to join Maecenas' party on their
journey to Brundisium; Vergil wrote the _Georgics_ at Naples in the
thirties (_Georg_. IV. 460), and Donatus actually remarks that the poet
was seldom seen at Rome.

As the charred fragments of Philodemus' rolls are published one by one,
we begin to realize that the students of Vergil have failed to appreciate
the influences which must have reached the young poet in these years of
his life in a Greek city in daily communion with oriental philosophers
like Philodemus and Siro. After the death of Phaedrus these men were
doubtless the leaders of their sect; at least Asconius calls the former
_illa aetate nobilissimus_ (_In Pis_. 68). Cicero represents them as
_homines doctissimos_ as early as 60 B.C., and though in his tirade
against Piso--ten years before Vergil's adhesion to the school--he must
needs cast some slurs at Piso's teacher, he is careful to compliment both
his learning and his poetry. Indeed there seems to be not a little direct
use of Philodemus' works in Cicero's _De finibus_ and the _De natura
deorum_ written many years later. In any case, at least Catullus, Horace,
and Ovid made free to paraphrase some of his epigrams. And these verses
may well guard us against assuming that the man who could draw to his
lectures and companionship some of the brightest spirits of the day is
adequately represented by the crabbed controversial essays that his
library has produced. These essays follow a standard type and do not
necessarily reveal the actual man. Even these, however, disclose a man
not wholly confined to the _ipsa verba_ of Epicurus, for they show more
interest in rhetorical precepts than was displayed by the founder of the
school; they are more sympathetic toward the average man's religion, and
not a little concerned about the affairs of state. All this indicates a
healthy reaction that more than one philosopher underwent in coming in
contact with Roman men of the world, but it also doubtless reflects the
tendencies of the Syrian branch of the school from which he sprang; for
the Syrian group had had to cast off some of its traditional fanaticism
and acquire a few social graces and a modicum of worldly wisdom in its
long contact with the magnificent Seleucid court.

Philodemus was himself a native of Gadara, that unfortunate Macedonian
colony just east of the Sea of Galilee, which was subjected to Jewish
rule in the early youth of our philosopher. He studied with Zeno of
Sidon, to whom Cicero also listened in 78, a masterful teacher whose
followers and pupils, Demetrius, Phaedrus, Patro, probably also Siro,
and of course Philodemus, captured a large part of the most influential
Romans for the sect.[2]

[Footnote 2: _Italiam totam occupaverunt_. Cic. _Tusc_. IV, 7.]

How Philodemus taught his rich Roman patrons and pupils to value not only
his creed but the whole line of masters from Epicurus we may learn from
the Herculanean villa where his own library was found, for it contained
a veritable museum of Epicurean worthies down to Zeno, perhaps not
excluding the teacher himself, if we could but identify his portrait.[3]

[Footnote 3: See _Class. Phil_. 1920, p. 113.]

The list of influential Romans who joined the sect during this period is
remarkable, though of course we have in our incidental references but a
small part of the whole number. Here belonged Caesar, his father-in-law
Piso, who was Philodemus' patron, Manlius Torquatus, the consulars
Hirtius, Pansa, and Dolabella, Cassius the liberator, Trebatius
the jurist, Atticus, Cicero's life-long friend, Cicero's amusing
correspondents Paetus and Callus, and many others. To some of these the
attraction lay perhaps in the philosophy of ease which excused them from
dangerous political labors for the enjoyment of their villas on the Bay
of Naples. But to most Romans the greatest attraction of the doctrine lay
in its presentation of a tangible explanation of the universe, weary as
they were of a childish faith and too practical-minded to have patience
with metaphysical theories now long questioned and incomprehensible
except through a tedious application of dubious logic.

Vergil's companions in the _Cecropius hortulus_, destined to be his
life-long friends, were, according to Probus, Quintilius Varus, the
famous critic, Varius Rufus, the writer of epics and tragedies, and
Plotius Tucca. Of his early friendship with Varius he has left a
remembrance in _Catalepton_ I and VII, with Varus in _Eclogue_ VI. Horace
combined all these names more than once in his verses.[4] That the four
friends continued in intimate relationship with Philodemus, appears from
fragments of the rolls.[5]

[Footnote 4: Cf. Hor. _Sat_. i. 5.55; i. 10. 44-45 and 81; _Carm_. i.

[Footnote 5: _Rhein. Mus_., 1890, p. 172. The names of Quintilius and
Varius occur twice; the rest are too fragmentary to be certain, but
the space calls for names of the length of [Greek: Plo]tie] and [Greek:
Ou[ergilie] and the constant companionship of these four men makes the
restoration very probable.]

Of the general question of Philodemus' influence upon Varius and Vergil,
Varus and Horace, the critics and poets who shaped the ideals of the
Augustan literature, it is not yet time to speak. It will be difficult
ever to decide how far these men drew their materials from the memories
of their lecture-rooms; whether for instance Varius' _de morte_ depended
upon his teacher's [Greek: peri thanatou], as has been suggested, or to
what extent Horace used the [Greek: peri orgaes] and the [Greek: peri
kakion] when he wrote his first two epistles, or the [Greek: peiri
kolakeias] when he instructed his young friend Lollius how to conduct
himself at court, or whether it was this teacher who first called
attention to Bion, Neoptolemus, and Menippus; nor does it matter greatly,
since the value of these works lay rather in the art of expression and
timeliness of their doctrine than in originality of view.

In the theory of poetic art there is in many respects a marked difference
between the classical ideals of the Roman group and the rather luxurious
verses of Philodemus, but he too recognized the value of restraint and
simplicity, as some of his epigrams show. Furthermore his theories of
literary art are frequently in accord with Horace's Ars Poetica on the
very points of chaste diction and precise expression which this Augustan
group emphasized. It would not surprise his contemporaries if Horace
restated maxims of Philodemus when writing an essay to the son and
grandsons of Philodemus' patron. However, after all is said, Vergil had
questioned some of the Alexandrian ideals of art before he came under the
influence of Philodemus, and the seventh Catalepton gives a hint that
Varius thought as Vergil. It is not unlikely that Quintilius Varus,
Vergil's elder friend and fellow-Transpadane, who had grown up an
intimate friend of Catullus and Calvus, had in these matters a stronger
influence than Philodemus.

There are, however, certain turns of sentiment in Vergil which betray a
non-Roman flavor to one who comes to Vergil directly from a reading of
Lucretius, Catullus, or Cicero's letters. This is especially true of the
Oriental proskynesis found in the very first _Eclogue_ and developed into
complete "emperor worship" in the dedication of the _Georgics_. This
language, here for the first time used by a Roman poet, is not to
be explained as simple gratitude for great favors. It is not even
satisfactorily accounted for by supposing that the young poet was
somewhat slavishly following some Hellenistic model. Catullus had
paraphrased the Alexandrian poets, but he could hardly have inserted a
passage of this import. Nor was it mere flattery, for Vergil has shown
in his frank praise of Cato, Brutus, and Pompey that he does not merely
write at command. No, these passages in Vergil show the effects of the
long years of association with Greeks and Orientals that had steeped
his mind in expressions and sentiments which now seemed natural to him,
though they must have surprised many a reader at Rome. His teachers at
Naples had grown up in Syria and had furthermore carried with them the
tradition of the Syrian branch of the school that had learned to adapt
its language to suit the whims of the deified Seleucid monarchs. As
Epicureans they also employed sacred names with little reverence. Was not
Antiochus Epiphanes himself a "god," while as a member of the sect he
belittled divinity?

Naples, too, was a Greek city always filled with Oriental trading folk,
and these carried with them the language of subject races. It is at
Pompeii that the earliest inscriptions on Italian soil have been found
which recognize the imperial cult, and it is at Cumae that the best
instance of a cult calendar has come to light. It is a note, one of the
very few in the great poet's work, that grates upon us, but when he wrote
as he did he was probably not aware that his years of residence in the
"garden" had indeed accustomed his ear to some un-Roman sounds.[6]
Octavian was of course not unaware of the advantage that accrued to the
ruler through the Oriental theory of absolutism, and furtively accepted
all such expressions. By the time Vergil wrote the Aeneid the Roman world
had acquiesced, but then, to our surprise, Vergil ceases to accord divine
attributes to Augustus.

[Footnote 6: Julius Caesar began as early as 45 B.C. to invite
extraordinary honors for political purposes, but Roman literature seems
not to have taken any cognizance of them at that time.]

Again, I would suggest that it was at Naples that Vergil may most readily
have come upon the "messianic" ideas that occur in the fourth _Eclogue_,
for despite all the objections that have been raised against using that
word, conceptions are found there which were not yet naturalized in the
Occident. The child in question is thought of as a Soter whose _deeds_
the poet hopes to sing (l. 54), and furthermore lines 7 and 50 contain
unmistakably the Oriental idea of _naturam parturire_, as Suetonius
phrases it (_Aug_. 94). Quite apart from the likelihood that the Gadarene
may have gossiped at table about the messianic hopes of the Hebrews,
which of course he knew, it is not conceivable that he never betrayed any
knowledge of, or interest in, the prophetic ideas with which his native
country teemed. Meleager, also a Gadarene, preserved memories of the
people of his birthplace in his poems, and Caecilius of Caleacte, who
seems to have been in Italy at about this time, was not beyond quoting
Moses in his rhetorical works.[7]

[Footnote 7: It is generally assumed that his book was the source for the
quotation in _Pseudo-Longinus_.]

Furthermore, Naples was the natural resort of all those Greek and
Oriental rhetoricians and philosophers, historians, poets, actors, and
artists who drifted Romeward from the crumbling courts of Alexandria,
Antioch, and Pergamum. There they could find congenial surroundings while
discovering wealthy patrons in the numerous villas of the idle rich near
by, and thither they withdrew at vacation time if necessity called them
to Rome for more arduous tasks. Andronicus, the Syrian Epicurean, brought
to Rome by Sulla, made his home at nearby Cumae; Archias, Cicero's
client, also from Syria, spent much time at Naples, and the poet
Agathocles lived there; Parthenius of Nicaea, to whom the early Augustans
were deeply indebted, taught Vergil at Naples. Other Orientals like
Alexander, who wrote the history of Syria and the Jews, and Timagenes,
historian of the Diadochi, do not happen to be reported from Naples, but
we may safely assume that most of them spent whatever leisure time they
could there.

Puteoli too was still the seaport town of Rome as of all Central Italy,
and the Syrians were then the carriers of the Mediterranean trade.[8]
That is one reason why Apollo's oracles at Cumae and Hecate's necromatic
cave at Lake Avernus still prospered. When Vergil explored that region,
as the details of the sixth book show he must have done, he had occasion
to learn more than mere geographic details.

[Footnote 8: Frank, _An Economic History of Rome_, chap. xiv.]

That Vergil had Isaiah, chapter II, before his eyes when he wrote the
fourth _Eclogue_ is of course out of the question; there is not a single
close parallel of the kind that Vergil usually permits himself to borrow
from his sources; we cannot even be sure that he had seen any of the
Sibylline oracles, now found in the third book of the collection,
which contains so strange a syncretism of Mithraic, Greek, and Jewish
conceptions, but we can no longer doubt that he was in a general way
well informed and quite thoroughly permeated with such mystical and
apocalyptic sentiments as every Gadarene and any Greek from the Orient
might well know. It speaks well for his love of Rome that despite these
influences it was he who produced the most thoroughly nationalistic epic
ever written.

The first fruit of Vergil's studies in evolutionary science at Naples was
the _Aetna_, if indeed the poem be his. The problem of the authorship
has been patiently studied, and the arguments for authenticity concisely
summarized by Vessereau[9] make a strong case. The evidence is briefly
this. Servius attributed the poem to Vergil in his preface and again in
his commentary on _Aeneid_, III, 578. Donatus also seems to have done so,
though some of our manuscripts of his _Vita_ contain the phrase _de qua
ambigitur_. Again, the texts of the _Aetna_ which we have agree also in
this ascription. Internal evidence proves the poem to be a work of the
period between 54 and 44, which admirably suits Vergilian claims. Its
close dependence upon Lucretius gives the first date, its mention of the
"Medea" of the artist Timomachus as being overseas, a work which was
brought to Rome between 46 and 44, gives the second. Finally, the _Aetna_
is by a student of Epicurean philosophy largely influenced by Lucretius.
It would be difficult to make a stronger case short of a contemporaneous
attribution. Has not Vergil himself referred to the _Aetna_ in the
preface of his _Ciris_, where he thanks the Muses for their aid in an
abstruse poem (l. 93)?

  Quare quae _cantus_ meditanti mittere _caecos_[10]
  Magna mihi cupido tribuistis praemia divae.

What other poem could he have had in mind? The designation does not fit
the _Culex_, which is the only poem besides the _Aetna_ that could be in
question. It is best, therefore, to take the _Aetna_[11] into account in
studying Vergil's life, even though we reserve a place in our memories
for that stray phrase _de qua ambigitur_.

[Footnote 9: Vessereau, _Aetna_, xx ff.; Rand, _Harvard Studies_, XXX,
106, 155 ff. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Seneca
attributed the _Aetna_ to Vergil in _ad Lucilium_ 79, 5: The words
"Vergil's complete treatment" can hardly refer to the seven meager lines
found in the third book of the _Aeneid_.]

[Footnote 10: Lucretius is very fond of using the word _caecus_ with
reference to abstruse and obscure philosophical and scientific subjects.]

[Footnote 11: When Vergil wrote the _Georgics_, on a subject which the
poet of the _Aetna_ derides as trivial (264-74) he seems to apologize for
abandoning science, in favor of a meaner theme, _Georgics_ II, 483 ff. Is
not this a reference to the _Aetna_?]

The poet after an invocation to Apollo justifies himself for rejecting
the favorite themes of myth and fiction: the mysteries of nature are more
worthy of occupying the efforts of the mind. He has chosen one out of
very many that needs explanation. The true cause of volcanic eruption, he
says, is that air is driven into the pores of the earth, and when this
comes into contact with lava and flint which contain atoms of fire,
it creates the explosions that cause such destruction. After a second
invitation to the reader to appreciate the worth of such a theme he
tells the story of two brothers of Catania who, when other refugees from
Aetna's explosion rescued their worldly goods, risked their lives to save
their parents.

The poem is not a happy experiment. There is no lack of enthusiasm for
the subject, despite the fact that the science of that day was wholly
inadequate to the theme. But Vergil could hardly realize this, since both
Stoics and Epicureans had adopted the theory of the exploding winds.
The real trouble with the theme is its hopelessly prosaic ugliness.
Lucretius, by his imaginative power, had apparently deceived him into
thinking that any fragment of science might be treated poetically. In
his master the "flaring atom streams" had attained the sublimity of a
Platonic vision, and the very majestic sadness of his materialism carried
the young poet off his feet. But the mechanism of Aetna remained merely a
puzzle with little to inspire awe, and the theme contained inherently no
deep meaning for humanity--which, after all, the scientific problem must
possess to lend itself to poetic treatment. The poet indeed realized all
this before he had finished. He sought, with inadequate resources, to
stir an emotion of awe in describing the eruption, to argue the reader
into his own enthusiasm for a scientific subject, to prove the humanistic
worth of his problem by asserting its anti-religious value, and finally,
in a Turneresque obtrusion of human beings, to tell the story of the
Catanian brothers. But though the attempt does honor to his aesthetic
judgment the theme was incorrigible. Perhaps the recent eruptions of
Aetna--they are reported for the years 50 and 46 B.C.--had given the
theme a greater interest than it deserved. We may imagine how refugees
from Catania had flocked to Naples and told the tale of their suffering.

There is another element in the poem that is as significant as it is
prosaic, a spirit of carping at poetic custom which reminds the reader of
Philodemus' lectures. Philodemus, whether speaking of philosophy or music
or poetry, always begins in the negative. He is not happy until he has
soundly trounced his predecessors and opponents. The author of the
_Aetna_ has learned all too well this scholastic method, and his acerbity
usually turns the reader away before he has reached the central
theme. There is of course just a little of this tone left in the
_Georgics_--Lucretius also has a touch of it--but the _Aeneid_ has freed
itself completely.

The compensation to the reader lies not so much in episodical myths,
descriptions, and the story at the end, apologetically inserted on
Lucretius' theory of sweetened medicine, as rather in the poet's
contagious enthusiasm for his science, the thrill of discovery and the
sense of wonder (1. 251):

  Divina est animi ac jucunda voluptas!

Men have wasted hours enough on trivialities (258):

  Torquemur miseri in parvis, terimurque labore.

A worthier occupation is science (274):

  Implendus sibi quisque bonis est artibus: illae
  Sunt animi fruges, haec rerum est optima merces.

And science must be worthy of man's divine majesty (224):

  Non oculis solum pecudum miranda tueri
  More nec effusis in humum grave pascere corpus;
  Nosse fidem rerum dubiasque exquirere causas,
  Ingenium sacrare caputque attollere caelo,
  Scire quot et quae sint magno fatalia mundo

This may be prose, but it has not a little of the magnificence of the
Lucretian logic. The man who wrote this was at least a spiritual kinsman
of Vergil.



The years of Vergil's sojourn in Naples were perhaps the most eventful
in Rome's long history, and we may be sure that nothing but a frail
constitution could have saved a man of his age for study through those
years. After the battle of Pharsalia in 48, Caesar, aside from the
lotus-months in Egypt, pacified the Eastern provinces, then in 46 subdued
the senatorial remnants in Africa, driving Cato to his death, and
in September of that year celebrated his fourfold triumph with a
magnificence hitherto undreamed. All Italy went to see the spectacle, and
doubtless Vergil too; for here it was, if we mistake not, that he first
resolved to write an epic of Rome. The year 45 saw the defeat of the
Pompeian remnants in Spain, and the first preparations for the great
Parthian expedition which, as all knew, was to inaugurate the new
Monarchy. Then came the sudden blow that struck Caesar down, the civil
war that elevated Antony and Octavian and brought Cicero to his death,
and finally the victory at Philippi which ended all hope of a republic.
Through all this turmoil the philosophic group of the "Garden" continued
its pursuit of science, commenting, as we shall see, upon passing events.

The _Aetna_--which seems to date from about 47-6--reveals the young
philosopher, if it is Vergil, in a serious mood of single-minded devotion
to his new pursuit. But as may be inferred from the fifth _Catalepton_ he
was not sure of not backsliding. To the influence of Catullus, plainly
visible all through these brief poems, there was added the example
of Philodemus who wrote epigrams from time to time. Several of the
_Catalepton_ may belong to this period. The very first,[1] addressed to
Vergil's lifelong friend Plotius Tucca, is an amusing trifle in the very
vein of Philodemus. The fourth, like the first in elegiacs, is a gracious
tribute to a departing friend, Musa, perhaps his fellow-townsman Octavius
Musa.[2] It closes with a generous expression of unquestioning friendship
that asks for no return:

  Quare illud satis est si te permittis amari
  Nam contra ut sit amor mutuus, unde mihi?

[Footnote 1:
Dequa saepe tibi, venit? sed, Tucca, videre
  Non licet. Occulitur limine clausa viri.
Dequa saepe tibi, non venit adhuc mihi; namque
  Si occulitur, longe est tangere quod nequeas.
Venerit, audivi. Sed iam jnihi nuntius iste
  Quid prodest? illi dicito cui rediit.]

[Footnote 2: See Horace, _Sat_. I. 10, 82; Servius on _Ecl_. IX. 7; Berne
Scholia on _Ecl_. VIII. 6.]

That is the trait surely that accounts for Horace's outburst of

       Animae quales neque candidiores
  Terra tulit.

The seventh is an epigram mildly twitting Varius for his insistence upon
pure diction. The crusade for purity of speech had been given a new
impetus a decade before by the Atticists, and we may here infer that
Varius, the quondam friend of Catullus, was considered the guardian of
that tradition. Vergil, despite his devotion to neat technique, may have
had his misgivings about rules that in the end endanger the freedom of
the poet. His early work ranged very widely in its experiments in style,
and Horace's _Ars Poetica_ written many years later shows that Vergil had
to the very end been criticized by the extremists for taking liberties
with the language. The epigram begins as though it were an erotic poem in
the style of Philodemus. Then, having used the Greek word _pothos_, he
checks himself as though dreading a frown from Varius, and substitutes
the Latin word _puer_,

  Scilicet hoc fraude, Vari dulcissime, dicam:
   "Dispeream, nisi me perdidit iste pothos."
  Sin autem praecepta vetant me dicere, sane
    Non dicam, sed: "me perdidit iste puer."

For the comprehension of the personal allusions in the sixth and twelfth
epigrams, we have as yet discovered no clue, and as they are trifles of
no poetic value we may disregard them.

The fourteenth is, however, of very great interest. It purports to be a
vow spoken before Venus' shrine at Sorrento pledging gifts of devotion in
return for aid in composing the story of Trojan Aeneas.

  Si mihi susceptum fuerit decurrere munus,
    O Paphon, o sedes quae colis Idalias,
  Troius Aeneas Romana per oppida digno
    Iam tandem ut tecum carmine vectus eat:
  Non ego ture modo aut picta tua templa tabella
    Ornabo et puris serta feram manibus--
  Corniger hos aries humilis et maxima taurus
    Victima sacrato sparget honore focos
  Marmoreusque tibi aut mille coloribus ales
    In morem picta stabit Amor pharetra.
  Adsis o Cytherea: tuos te Caesar Olympo
    Et Surrentini litoris ara vocat.

The poem has hitherto been assigned to a period twenty years later. But
surely this youthful ferment of hope and anxiety does not represent the
composure of a man who has already published the _Georgics_. The eager
offering of flowers and a many-hued statue of Cupid reminds one rather of
the youth who in the _Ciris_ begged for inspiration with hands full of
lilies and hyacinths.

However, we are not entirely left to conjecture. There is indubitable
evidence that Vergil began an epic at this time, some fifteen years
before he published the _Georgics_. It seems clear also that the epic was
an _Aeneid_, with Julius Caesar in the background, and that parts of the
early epic were finally merged into the great work of his maturity. The
question is of such importance to the study of Vergil's developing art
that we may be justified in going fully into the evidence[3]. As it
happens we are fortunate in having several references to this early
effort. The ninth _Catalepton_, written in 42, mentions the poet's
ambition to write a national poem worthy of a place among the great
classics of Greece (l.62):

  Si patrio Graios carmine adire sales.

The sixth _Eclogue_ begins with an allusion to it:

  Prima Syracusio dignata est ludere versu
  Nostra, nec erubuit silvas habitare Thalia.
  Cum canerem reges et proelia, Cynthius aurem
  Vellit et admonuit, pastorem Tityre pinguis
  Pascere oportet oves, deductum dicere carmen.

[Footnote 3: Cf. _Classical Quarterly_, 1920, 156.]

This may be paraphrased: "My first song--the _Culex_--was a pastoral
strain. When later I essayed to sing of kings and battles, Phoebus
warned me to return to my shepherd song." On this passage Servius
has the comment: significat aut Aeneidem aut gesta regum Albanorum.
Donatus finally in his _Vita_ says explicitly: mox cum res Romanas
inchoasset, offensus materia, ad Bucolica transit. The poem, therefore,
was on the stocks before the _Bucolics_. We may surmise that the death
of Caesar, whose deeds seem to have brought the idea of such a poem to
Vergil's mind, caused him to lay the work aside.

Returning to the fourteenth _Catalepton_, we find what seems to be a
definite key to the date and circumstances of its writing. The closing
lines are:

  Adsis, o Cytherea: tuos te Caesar Olympo
    Et Surrentini litoris ara vocat.

It was on September 26 in 46 B.C., that Julius Caesar so strikingly
called attention to his claims of descent from Venus and Aeneas by
dedicating a temple to Venus Genetrix, the mother of the Julian gens. It
was on that day that Caesar "called Venus from heaven" to dwell in her
new temple.[4]

[Footnote 4: Cassius Dio, 43, 22; Appian, II. 102. There is independent
proof that _Catalepton_ XIV is earlier than the _Georgics_. In _Georgics_
II, 146, Vergil repeats the phrase _maxima taurus victima_, but the
phrase must have had its origin in the _Catalepton_, since here _maxima_
balances _humilis_. In the _Georgics_ the phrase is merely a verbal
reminiscence, for there is nothing in the context there to explain
_maxima_. On the order of composition of the Aeneid, see M.M. Crump, _The
Growth of the Aeneid_]

Was not this the act that prompted the happy idea of writing the epic of
Aeneas? Vergil was then living at Naples, and we can picture the poet
fevered with the new impulse, sailing away from his lectures across the
fair bay for a day's brooding. Could one find a more fitting place than
Venus's shrine at Sorrento for the invocation of the _Aeneid_?

How far this first attempt proceeded we shall probably not know. Vergil's
own words would imply that his early effort centered about Aeneas' wars
in Italy; the sixth _Eclogue_,

  Cum canerem reges et proelia,

is rather explicit on this point. Furthermore, the erroneous reference of
Calaeno's omen to Anchises in the seventh book (l. 122) would indicate
that this part at least was written before the harpy-scene of the third,
for the latter is so extensive that the poet could hardly have forgotten
it if it had already been written.

It is, however, in reading the first and fifth books that I think we
may profit most by keeping in mind the fact that the poet had begun the
_Aeneid_ before Caesar's death. In Book I, 286 ff., occurs a passage
which Servius referred to Julius Caesar. It reads:

  Nascetur pulchra Troianus origine Caesar,
  Imperium Oceano, famam qui terminet astris,
  Iulius, a magno demissum nomen Iulo.
  Hunc tu olim caelo, spoliis Orientis onustum,
  Accipies secura; uocabitur his quoque uotis.[5]

[Footnote 5: The following lines (291-6) refer to the succeeding reign
of Augustus as the poet is careful to indicate in the words _tum

Very few modern editors have dared accept Servius' judgment here, and
yet if we may think of these lines as adapted from (say) an original
dedication to Julius Caesar written about 45 B.C., the difficulties of
the commentators will vanish. The facts that Vergil seems to have in mind
are these: in September 46 B.C., Julius Caesar, after returning from
Thapsus, celebrated his four great triumphs over Gaul, Egypt, Pontus, and
Africa, displaying loads of booty such as had never before been seen at
Rome. He then gave an extended series of athletic games, of the kind
described in Vergil's fifth book, including a restoration of the ancient
_ludus Troiae_. When these were over he dedicated the temple of Venus
Genetrix, thereby publicly announcing his descent from Venus, and
presently proclaimed his own superhuman rank more explicitly by placing a
statue of himself among the gods on the Capitoline (Dio, XLIII, 14-22).
Are not the phrases, _imperium Oceano_ and _spoliis Orientis onustum_
a direct reference to this triumph which, of course, Vergil saw? And did
not these dedications inspire the prophecy _uocabitur hic quoque uotis?_
Be that as it may, it is difficult to refuse credence to Servius in this
case, for Vergil here (I, 267-274 and 283) accepts Julius Caesar's claim
of descent from Iulus, whereas in the sixth book, in speaking of the
descent of the royal Roman line, he derives it, as was regularly done in
Augustus' day, from Silvius the son of Aeneas and Lavinia (VI, 763 ff.).
We must notice also that in the _Aeneid_ as in the _Georgics_ Augustus is
regularly called 'Augustus Caesar' or 'Caesar,' whereas in the only other
references to Julius in the _Aeneid_ the poet explicitly points to him by
saying 'Caesar et omnis _Iuli_ progenies' (VI, 789).

Servius, therefore, seems to be correct in regarding Julius as the
subject of the passage in the first book, and it follows that the passage
contains memories of the year 46 B.C., whether or not the lines were, as
I suggest, first written soon after Caesar's triumph.

The fifth book also, despite the fact that its beginning and end show a
late hand, contains much that can be best brought into connection with
Vergil's earlier years. It is, for instance, easier to comprehend the
poet's references to Memmius, Catiline, and Cluentius in the forties than
twenty years later.

Vergil's strange comparison of Messalla to the _superbus Eryx_ in
_Catalepton_ IX, written in 42 B.C.,[6] is also readily explained if we
may assume that he has recently studied the Eryx myth in preparation for
the contest of Book V (11. 392-420). The poet's enthusiasm for the _ludus
Troiae is well understood as a description of what he saw at Caesar's
re-introduction of the spectacle in 46. At Caesar's games Octavian, then
sixteen years of age, must have led one of the troops:[7] in the fifth
book Atys the ancestor of Octavian's maternal line led one column by the
side of Iulus:

  Alter Atys, genus unde Atii duxere Latini (1. 568).

[Footnote 6: See Chapter VIII.]

[Footnote 7: The brief account of Nicolaus of Damascus (9) mentions that
Octavius had charge of the Greek plays at the triumphal games.]

Then, too, marks of youth pervade the substance of the book. The
questionable witticisms might perhaps be attributed to an attempt to
relieve the strain, but there is an unusual amount of Homeric imitation,
and inartistic allusion to contemporaries which, as in the youthful
_Bucolics_, destroys the dramatic illusion. Thus, Vergil not only dwells
upon the ancestry of the Memmii, Sergii, and Cluentii, but insists upon
reminding the reader of Catiline's conspiracy in the _Sergestus, furens
animi_, who dashes upon the rock in his mad eagerness to win, and
obtrudes etymology in the phrase _segnem Menoeten_ (1. 173). One is
tempted to suspect that the whole narrative of the boat-race is filled
with pragmatic allusions. If the characters of his epic must be connected
with well-known Roman families, it is at least interesting that the
connections are indicated in the fifth book and not in the passages where
the names first meet the reader. Does it not appear that the body of the
book was composed long before the rest, and then left at the poet's death
not quite furbished to the fastidious taste of a later day?

Finally, I would suggest that the strange and still unexplained[8] omen
of Acestes' burning arrow in 11. 520 ff. probably refers to some event of
importance to Segesta in the same year, 46 B.C. We are told by the author
of the _Bellum Africanum_ that Caesar mustered his troops for the African
campaign at Lilybaeum in the winter of 47. We are not told that while
there he ascended the mountain, offered sacrifices to Venus Erycina, and
ordered his statue to be placed in her temple, or that he gave favors to
the people of Segesta who had the care of that temple. But he probably
did something of that kind, for as he had already vowed his temple to
Venus Genetrix he could hardly have remained eight days at Lilybaeum so
near the shrine of Aeneas' Venus without some act of filial devotion. If
Vergil wrote any part of the fifth book in or soon after 46 this would
seem to be the solution of the obscure passage in question.

[Footnote 8: See however DeWitt, _The Arrow of Acestes, Am. Jour. Phil_.
1920, 369.]

It is of importance then in the study of the _Aeneid_ to keep in mind
the fact that the plot was probably shaped and many episodes blocked out
while Vergil was young and Julius Caesar still the dominant figure in
Rome. Many scenes besides those in the fifth book may find a new meaning
in this suggestion. Does it not explain why so many traits in Dido's
character irresistibly suggest Cleopatra,[9] why half the lines of the
fourth book are reminiscent of Caesar's dallying in Egypt in 47? Do
not the protracted battle scenes of the last book--otherwise so
un-Vergilian--remind one of Caesar's never-ending campaigns against foes
springing up in all quarters, and of the fact that Vergil had himself
recently had a share in the struggle? The young Octavius, also, whose
boyhood is so sympathetically sketched by Nicolaus (5-9)--a leader among
his companions always, but ever devoted and generous--seems to peer
through the portrait of Ascanius.[10] Vergil's memories of the boy at
school, the recipient of the _Culex_, the leader of the Trojan troop at
Caesar's games, the lad of sixteen sitting for a day in the forum as
_praefectus urbi_, seem very recent in the pages of the epic.

[Footnote 9: Nettleship, _Ancient Lives of Virgil_, 104; Warde Fowler,
_Religious Experience of the Roman People_, p. 415.]

[Footnote 10: See Warde Fowler, _The Death of Turnus_, pp. 87-92, on the
character of Ascanius.]

It would be futile to attempt to pick out definite lines and claim that
these were parts of the youthful poem. Indeed the artistry of most of the
verses discussed is, as any reader will notice, more on the plane of the
later work than of the _Ciris_, written about 47-3 B.C. It is safe to say
that Vergil did not in his youth write the sonorous lines of _Aen_. I,
285-290, just as they now stand. But as we may learn from the _Ciris_,
which Vergil attempted to suppress, no poet has more successfully
retouched lines written in youth and fitted them into mature work without
leaving a trace of the process.

Critics have always expressed their admiration for the comprehensive
scope of the _Aeneid_, its depth of learning, its finished artistry, and
its wide range of observation. The substantial character of the poem is
not a mystery to us when we consider how long its theme lay in the poet's



Caesar fell on the Ides of March, 44. The peaceful philosophic community
at Herculaneum "seeking wisdom in daily intercourse" must have felt
the shock as of an earthquake, despite Epicurean scorn for political
ambition. Caesar had been friendly to the school; his father-in-law,
Piso, had been Philodemus' life-long friend and patron, and, if we may
believe Cicero, even at times a boon companion. Several of Caesar's
nearest friends were Epicureans of the Neapolitan bay. Their future
depended wholly upon Caesar. Dolabella was Antony's colleague in that
year's consulship, while Hirtius and Pansa had been chosen consuls for
the following year by Caesar. To add to the shock, the liberators had
been led by a recent convert to the school, Cassius.

The community as a whole was Caesarian, a fact explained not wholly by
Piso's relations to Philodemus and the friendly attitude of so many
followers of Caesar, but also by the consideration that the leading
spirits were Transpadanes: Vergil, Varius and Quintilius, at least. But
at Rome the political struggle soon turned itself into a contest to
decide not whether Caesar's regime should be honored and continued in the
family--Octavius seemed at first too young to be a decisive factor--but
whether Antony would be able to make himself Caesar's successor. When in
July Brutus and Cassius were out-manoeuvered by Antony, and Cicero fled
helplessly from Rome, it was Piso who stepped into the breach, not to
support Brutus and Cassius, but to check the usurpation of Antony. This
gave Cicero a program. In September he entered the lists against Antony;
in December he accepted the support of Octavian who had with astonishing
daring for a youth of eighteen collected a strong army of Caesar's
veterans and placed himself at the service of Cicero and the Senate in
their warfare against Antony. Spring found the new consuls, Hirtius
and Pansa, both Caesarians, with the aid of Octavian, Caesar's heir,
besieging Antony at the bidding of the Senate in the defence of
Decimus Brutus, one of Caesar's murderers! Such was Cicero's skill in
generalship. Of course Caesarians were not wholly pleased with this
turn of events. Cicero's success would mean not only the elimination of
Antony--to which they did not object--but also the recall of Brutus and
Cassius, and the consequent elimination of themselves from political
influence. Piso accordingly began to waver. While assuring the Senate
of his continued support in their efforts to render Antony harmless,
he refused to follow Cicero's leadership in attempting the complete
restoration of Brutus' party. Cicero's _Philippics_ dwell with no little
concern upon this phase of the question.

We would expect the Garden group, friendly to the memory of Caesar, to
adopt the same point of view as Piso and for the same reasons. They could
hardly have sympathized with the murderers of Caesar. On the other hand,
they had no reason for supporting the usurpations of Antony, and seem to
have enjoyed Cicero's _Philippics_ in so far as these attacked Antony.
Extreme measures were, however, not agreeable to Epicureans, who in
general had nothing but condemnation for civil war. However, Octavian's
strong stand could only have pleased them: Caesar's grand-nephew and heir
would naturally be to them a sympathetic figure.

A fragment of Philodemus, recently deciphered,[1] reveals the teacher
adopting in his lectures the very point of view which we have already
found in Piso. The fragment is brief and mutilated, but so much is clear:
Philodemus criticizes the party of Cicero for carrying the attack upon
Antony to such extremes that through fear of the liberators a reaction
in favor of Antony might set in. We find this position reflected even in
Vergil. He never speaks harshly of the liberators, to be sure; in
fact his indirect reference to Brutus in the _Aeneid_ is remarkably
sympathetic for an Augustan poet, but we have two epigrams of his
attacking partizans of Antony in terms that remind us of passages in
Cicero's _Philippics_. It would almost appear that Vergil now drew his
themes for lampoons from Cicero's unforgettable phrases,[2] as Catullus
had done some fifteen years before. How thoroughly Vergil disliked Antony
may be seen in the familiar line in the _Aeneid_ which Servius recognized
as an allusion to that usurper (_Aen_. VI. 622):

  Fixit leges pretio atque refixit.

[Footnote 1: _Hermes_, 1918, p. 382.]

[Footnote 2: Three other epigrams, VI, XII, XIII, have been assumed by
some critics to be direct attacks upon Antony, but the key to them has
been lost and certainty is no longer attainable.]

If Servius is correct, we have here again a reminder of those stormy
years. This, too, is a dagger drawn from Cicero's armory. Again and again
the orator in the _Philippics_ charges Antony with having used Caesar's
seal ring for lucrative forgeries in state documents. It is interesting
to find that Vergil's school friend, Varius, in his poem on Caesar's
death, called _De Morte_[3] first put Cicero's charges into effective

  Vendidit hic Latium populis agrosque Quiritum
  Eripuit: fixit leges pretio atque refixit.

[Footnote 3: Some recent critics have suggested that the poem may have
been a general discussion of the fear of death, but Varius is constantly
referred to as an epic poet (Horace, _Sat_. I. 10, 43; _Carm_. I. 6
and Porphyrio _ad loc_). His poem was written before Vergil's eighth
_Eclogue_ which we place in 41 B.C. (Macrobius, _Sat_. VI. 2. 20) and
probably before the ninth (see I.36).]

The reference here, too, must have been to Antony. The circle was clearly
in harmony in their political views.

The two creatures of Antony attacked by Cicero and Vergil alike are
Ventidius and Annius Cimber. The epigram on the former takes the form
of a parody of Catullus' "Phasellus ille," a poem which Vergil had good
reason to remember, since Catullus' yacht had been towed up the Mincio
past Vergil's home when he was a lad of about thirteen. Indeed we hope
he was out fishing that day and shared his catch with the home-returning
travelers. Parodies are usually not works of artistic importance, and
this for all its epigrammatic neatness is no exception to the rule. But
it is not without interest to catch the poet at play for a moment, and
learn his opinion on a political character of some importance.

Ventidius had had a checkered career. After captivity, possibly slavery
and manumission, Caesar had found him keeping a line of post horses and
pack mules for hire on the great Aemilian way, and had drafted him into
his transport service during the Gallic War. He suddenly became an
important man, and of course Caesar let him, as he let other chiefs of
departments, profit by war contracts. It was the only way he could
hold men of great ability on very small official salaries. Vergil had
doubtless heard of the meteoric rise of this _mulio_ even when he was
at school, for the post-road for Caesar's great trains of supplies led
through Cremona. After the war Caesar rewarded Ventidius further by
letting him stand for magistracies and become a senator--which of course
shocked the nobility. Muleteers in the Senate! The man changed his
cognomen to be sure, called himself Sabinus on the election posters, but
Vergil remembered what name he bore at Cremona. Caesar finally designated
him for the judge's bench, as praetor, and this high office he entered in
43. He at once attached himself to Antony, who used him as an agent to
buy the service of Caesarian veterans for his army. It was this that
stirred Cicero's ire, and Cicero did not hesitate to expose the man's
career. Vergil's lampoon is interesting then not only in its connections
with Catullus and the poet's own boyhood memories, but for its
reminiscences of Cicero's speeches and the revelation of his own
sympathies in the partizan struggle. The poem of Catullus and Vergil's
parody must be read side by side to reveal the purport of Vergil's

  Phaselus ille, quem videtis, hospites,
  Ait fuisse navium celerrimus,
  Neque ullius natantis impetum trabis
  Nequisse praeterire, sive palmulis
  Opus foret volare sive linteo.
  Et hoc negat minacis Adriatici
  Negare litus insulasve Cycladas
  Rhodumque nobilem horridamque Thraciam
  Propontida trucemve Ponticum sinum,
  Ubi iste post phaselus antea fuit
  Comata silva: nam Cytorio in iugo
  Loquente saepe sibilum edidit coma.
  Amastri Pontica et Cytore buxifer,
  Tibi haec fuisse et esse cognitissima
  Ait phaselus: ultima ex origine
  Tuo stetisse dicit in cacumine,
  Tuo imbuisse palmulas in aequore,
  Et inde tot per inpotentia freta
  Erum tulisse, laeva sive dextera
  Vocaret aura, sive utrumque Iuppiter
  Simul secundus incidisset in pedem;
  Neque ulla vota litoralibus deis
  Sibi esse facta, cum veniret a mari
  Novissimo hunc ad usque limpidum lacum.
  Sed haec prius fuere; nunc recondita
  Senet quiete seque dedicat tibi,
  Gemelle Castor et gemelle Castoris.

Vergil's parody,[4] which substitutes the mule-team plodding through the
Gallic mire for Catullus' graceful yacht speeding home from Asia, follows
the original phraseology with amusing fidelity:

  Sabinus ille, quem videtis, hospites
  Ait fuisse mulio celerrimus,
  Neque ullius volantis impetum cisi
  Nequisse praeterire, sive Mantuam
  Opus foret volare sive Brixiam.
  Et hoc negat Tryphonis aemuli domum
  Negare nobilem insulamve Caeruli,
  Ubi iste post Sabinus, ante Quinctio
  Bidente dicit attodisse forcipe
  Comata colla, ne Cytorio iugo
  Premente dura volnus ederet iuba.
  Cremona frigida et lutosa Gallia,
  Tibi haec fuisse et esse cognitissima
  Ait Sabinus: ultima ex origine
  Tua stetisse (dicit) in voragine,
  Tua in palude deposisse sarcinas
  Et inde tot per orbitosa milia
  Iugum tulisse, laeva sive dextera
  Strigare mula sive utrumque coeperat

       *       *       *       *       *

  Neque ulla vota semitalibus deis
  Sibi esse facta praeter hoc novissimum,
  Paterna lora proximumque pectinem.
  Sed haec prius fuere: mine eburnea
  Sedetque sede seque dedicat tibi,
  Gemelle Castor et gemelle Castoris.

[Footnote 4: See _Classical Philology_, 1920, p. 114.]

The other epigram referred to (_Catalefton II_) also attacks a creature
of Antony's, Annius Cimber, a despised rhetorician who had been helped
to high political office by Antony. Again Cicero's _Philippics_ (XI. 14)
serve as our best guide for the background.

  Corinthiorum amator iste verborum,
  Iste iste rhetor, namque quatenus totus
  Thucydides, Britannus, Attice febris!
  Tau Gallicum min et sphin ut male illisit,
  Ita omnia ista verba miscuit fratri.

It might be paraphrased: "a maniac for archaic words, a rhetor indeed, he
is as much and as little a Thucydides as he is a British prince, the
bane of Attic style! It was a dose of archaic words and Celtic brogue, I
fancy, that he concocted for his brother."

There seem to be three points of attack. Cimber, to judge from Cicero's
invective, was suspected of having risen from servile parentage, and of
trying, as freedmen then frequently did, to pass as a descendant of
some unfortunate barbarian prince. Since his brogue was Celtic (_tau
Gallicum_) he could readily make a plausible story of being British.
Vergil seems to imply that the brogue as well as the name Cimber had been
assumed to hide his Asiatic parentage. The second point seems to be that
Cimber, though a teacher of rhetoric, was so ignorant of Greek, that
while proclaiming himself an Atticist, he used non-Attic forms and
vaunted Thucydides instead of Lysias as the model of the simple style.
Finally, it was rumored, and Cicero affects to believe the tale, that
Cimber was not without guilt in the death of his brother. Vergil is, of
course, not greatly concerned in deriding Atticism itself: to this school
Vergil must have felt less aversion than to Antony's flowery style; it is
the perversion of the doctrine that amuses the poet.

Taken in conjunction with other hints, these two poems show us where the
poet's sympathies lay during those years of terror. There may well have
been a number of similar epigrams directed at Antony himself, but if
so they would of course have been destroyed during the reign of the
triumvirate. Antony's vindictiveness knew no bounds, as Rome learned when
Cicero was murdered.



Vergil's dedication of the _Ciris_ to Valerius Messalla was, as the poem
itself reveals, written several years after the main body of the poem.
The most probable date is 43 B.C., when the young nobleman, then only
about twenty-one, went with Cicero's blessing[1] to join Brutus and
Cassius in their fight for the Republic. Messalla had then, besides
making himself an adept at philosophy--at Naples perhaps, since Vergil
knew him--and stealing away student hours at Athens for Greek verse
writing, gained no little renown by taking a lawsuit against the most
learned lawyer of the day, Servius Sulpicius. Cicero's letter of
commendation, which we still have, is unusually laudatory.

[Footnote 1: Cicero, _Ad Brutum_, I, 15.]

The dedication of the _Ciris_ reveals Vergil still eager to win his place
as a rival of Lucretius. We may paraphrase it thus:

"Having tried in vain for the favor of the populace, I am now in the
'Garden' seeking a theme worthy of philosophy, though I have spent many
years to other purpose. Now I have dared to ascend the mountain of wisdom
where but few have ventured. Yet I must complete these verses that I
have begun so that the Muses may cease to entice me further. Oh, if only
wisdom, the mistress of the four sages of old, would lead me to her tower
whence I might from afar view the errors of men; I should not then honor
one so great with a theme so trifling, but I should weave a marvelous
fabric like Athena's pictured robe ... a great poem on Nature, and into
its texture I should weave your name. But for that my powers are still
too frail. I can only offer these verses on which I have spent many hours
of my early school-days, a vow long promised and now fulfilled."

It is apparent that the student still throbs with a desire to become
a poet of philosophy, and that he is willing to appease the muses of
lighter song only because they insist on returning. But there is another
poem addressed to Messalla that is equally full of personal interest.

Messalla, as we know from Plutarch's _Brutus,_ drawn partly from the
young man's diary, joined Cassius in Asia, and did noteworthy service in
helping his general win the Eastern provinces from the Euxine to Syria
for the Republican cause. Later at Philippi he led the cavalry charge
which broke through the triumvirate line and captured Octavius' camp.
That was the famous first battle of Philippi, prematurely reported in
Italy as a decisive victory for the Republican cause. Three weeks later
the forces clashed again and the triumvirs won a complete victory.
Messalla, who had been chosen commander by the defeated remnant,
recognized the hopelessness of his position and surrendered to the

Vergil's ninth _Catalepton_ seems to have been written as a paean in
honor of Messalla on receipt of the first incomplete report. The poem
does not by any means imply that Vergil favored Brutus and Cassius or
felt any ill-will towards Octavian. Vergil's regard for Messalla
was clearly a personal matter, and of such a nature that political
differences played no part in it. The poet's complete silence in the
poem about Brutus and Cassius indicates that it is not to any extent the
_cause_ which interests him. Nor can a eulogy of a young republican at
this time be considered as implying any ill-will toward Octavian, to whom
Vergil was always devoted. At this early day Antony was still looked upon
as the dominating person in the triumvirate, and for him Vergil had no
love whatever. He may, therefore, though a Caesarian and friendly to
Octavian, sing the praises of a personal friend who is fighting Antony's

The ninth _Catalepton,_ like most eulogistic verse thrown off at high
speed, has few good lines (indeed it was probably never finished), but it
is exceedingly interesting as a document in Vergil's life.

Since it has generally been placed about fifteen years too late and
therefore misunderstood, we must dwell at length on some of its
significant details. The poem can be briefly summarized:

"A conqueror you come, the great glory of a mighty triumph, a victor on
land and sea over barbarian tribes; and yet a poet too. Some of your
verses have found a place in my pages, pastoral songs in which two
shepherds lying under the spreading oak sing in honor of your heroine to
whom the divinities bring gifts. The heroine of your song shall be more
famous than the themes of Greek song, yes even than the Roman Lucrece for
whose honor your sires drove the tyrants out of Rome."

"Great are the honors that Rome has bestowed upon the liberty-loving
(Publicolas) Messallas for that and other deeds. So I need not sing of
your recent exploits: how you left your home, your son, and the forum, to
endure winter's chill and summer's heat in warfare on land and sea. And
now you are off to Africa and Spain and beyond the seas."

"Such deeds are too great for my song. I shall be satisfied if I can but
praise your verses."

The most significant passage is the implied comparison of Valerius
Messalla with the founder of the Valerian family who had aided the first
Brutus in establishing the republic as he now was aiding the last Brutus
in restoring it. The comparison is the more startling because our
Messalla later explicitly rejected all connection with the first Valerius
and seems never to have used the cognomen Publicola. The explanation of
Vergil's passage is obvious.[2] The poet hearing of Messalla's remarkable
exploit at Philippi saw at once that his association with Brutus would
remind every Roman of the events of 509 B.C., and that the populace would
as a matter of course acclaim the young hero by the ancient cognomen
"Publicola." Later, after his defeat and submission, Messalla had
of course to suppress every indication that might connect him with
"tyrannicide" stock or faction. The poem, therefore, must have been
written before Messalla's surrender in 42 B.C.

[Footnote 2: The argument is given in full in _Classical Philology_,
1920, p. 36.]

The poet's silences and hesitation in touching upon this subject of civil
war are significant of his mood. The principals of the triumph receive
not a word: his friend is the "glory" of a triumph led by men whose names
are apparently not pleasant memories. Nor is there any exultation over
a presumed defeat of "tyrants" and a restoration of a "republic." The
exploit of Messalla that Vergil especially stresses is the defeat of
"barbarians," naturally the subjection of the Thracian and Pontic tribes
and of the Oriental provinces earlier in the year. And the assumption is
made (1. 51 ff.) that Messalla has, as a recognition of his generalship,
been chosen to complete the war in Africa, Spain, and Britain. Most
significant of all is Vergil's blunt confession that his mind is not
wholly at ease concerning the theme (II. 9-12): "I am indeed strangely at
a loss for words, for I will confess that what has impelled me to write
ought rather to have deterred me." Could he have been more explicit in
explaining that Messalla's exploits, for which he has friendly praise,
were performed in a cause of which his heart did not approve? And does
not this explain why he gives so much space to Messalla's verses, and why
he so quickly passes over the victory of Philippi with an assertion of
his incapacity for doing it justice?

To the biographer, however, the passage praising Messalla's Greek
pastorals is the most interesting for it reveals clearly how Vergil came
to make the momentous decision of writing pastorals. Since Messalla's
verses were in Greek they had, of course, been written two years before
this while he was a student at Athens. Would that we knew this heroine
upon whom he represents the divinities as bestowing gifts! Propertius,
who acknowledged Mesalla as his patron later employed this same motive
of celestial adoration in honor of Cynthia (II. 3, 25), but surely
Messalla's _herois_ was, to judge from Vergil's comparison, a person of
far higher station than Cynthia. Could she have been the lady he married
upon his return from Athens? Such a treatment of a woman of social
station would be in line with the customs of the "new poets," Catullus,
Calvus, and Ticidas, rather than of the Augustans, Gallus, Propertius,
and Tibullus. Vergil himself used the motive in the second _Eclogue_ (l.
46), a reminiscence which, doubtless with many others that we are unable
to trace, Messalla must have recognized as his own.

The pastoral which Vergil had translated from Messalla is quite fully

  Molliter hic _viridi patulae sub tegmine quercus_
    Moeris pastores et Meliboeus erant,
  Dulcia jactantes alterno carmina versu
    Qualia Trinacriae doctus amat iuvenis.

That is, of course, the very beginning of his own _Eclogues_. When he
published them he placed at the very beginning the well-known line that
recalled Messalla's own line:

  Tityre, tu _patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi_.

What can this mean but a graceful reminder to Messalla that it was he who
had inspired the new effort?[3]

[Footnote 3: Roman writers frequently observed the graceful custom of
acknowledging their source of inspiration by weaving in a recognizable
phrase or line from the master into the very first sentence of a new
work: cf. _Arma virumque cano_--[Greek: Andra moi ennepe] (Lundström,
_Eranos_, 1915, p. 4). Shelley responding to the same impulse paraphrased
Bion's opening lines in "I weep for Adonais--he is dead."]

We may conclude then that Vergil's use of that line as the title of his
_Eclogues_ is a recognition of Messalla's influence. Conversely it is
proof, if proof were needed, that the ninth _Catalepton_ is Vergil's. We
may then interpret line thirteen of the ninth _Catalepton:_

  pauca tua in nostras venerunt carmina chartas,

as a statement that in the autumn of 42, Vergil had already written some
of his _Eclogues_, and that these early ones--presumably at least numbers
II, III, and VII--contain suggestions from Messalla.

There was, of course, no triumph, and Vergil's eulogy was never sent,
indeed it probably never was entirely completed.[4] Messalla quickly made
his peace with the triumvirs, and, preferring not to return to Rome in
disgrace, cast his lot with Antony who remained in the East. Vergil, who
thoroughly disliked Antony, must then have felt that for the present, at
least, a barrier had been raised between him and Messalla. Accordingly
the _Ciris_ also was abandoned and presently pillaged for other uses.

[Footnote 4: It ought, therefore, not to be used seriously in discussions
of Vergil's technique.]

The news of Philippi was soon followed by orders from Octavian--to be
thoroughly accurate we ought of course to call him Caesar--that lands
must now, according to past pledges, be procured in Italy for nearly
two hundred thousand veterans. Every one knew that the cities that had
favored the liberators, and even those that had tried to preserve their
neutrality, would suffer. Vergil could, of course, guess that lands in
the Po Valley would be in particular demand because of their fertility.
The first note of fear is found in his eighth _Catalepton_:

  Villula, quae Sironis eras, et pauper agelle,
    Verum illi domino tu quoque divitiae,
  Me tibi et hos una mecum, quos semper amavi,
    Si quid de patria tristius audiero,
  Commendo imprimisque patrem: tu nunc eris illi
    Mantua quod fuerat quodque Cremona prius.

It is usually assumed from this passage that Siro had recently died,
probably, therefore, some time in 42 B.C., and that, in accordance with a
custom frequently followed by Greek philosophers at Rome, he had left his
property to his favorite pupil. The garden school, therefore, seems to
have come to an end, though possibly Philodemus may have continued it
for the few remaining years of his life. Siro's villa apparently proved
attractive to Vergil, for he made Naples his permanent home, despite the
gift of a house on the Esquiline from Maecenas.

This, however, is not Vergil's last mention of Siro, if we may believe
Servius, who thinks that "Silenum" in the sixth _Eclogue_ stands for
"Sironem," its metrical equivalent. If, as seems wholly likely, Servius
is right, the sixth _Eclogue_ is a fervid tribute to a teacher who
deserves not to be forgotten in the story of Vergil's education. The poem
has been so strangely misinterpreted in recent years that it is time to
follow out Servius' suggestion and see whether it does not lead to some

[Footnote 5: Skutsch roused a storm of discussion over it by insisting
that it was a catalogue of poems written by Gallus (_Aus Vergils
Frühzeit_.) Cartault, _Étude sur les Bucoliques de Virgile_ (p. 285),
almost accepts Servius' suggestion: "un résumé de ses lectures et de ses

After an introduction to Varus the poem tells how two shepherds found
Silenus off his guard, bound him, and demanded songs that he had long
promised. The reader will recall, of course, how Plato also likened his
teacher Socrates to Silenus. Silenus sang indeed till hills and valleys
thrilled with the music: of creation of sun and moon, the world of
living things, the golden age, and of the myths of Prometheus, Phaeton,
Pasiphaë, and many others; he even sang of how Gallus had been captured
by the Muses and been made a minister of Apollo.

A strange pastoral it has seemed to many! And yet not so strange when we
bear in mind that the books of Philodemus reveal Vergil and Quintilius
Varus as fellow students at Naples. Surely Servius has provided the key.
The whole poem, with its references to old myths, is merely a rehearsal
of schoolroom reminiscences, as might have been guessed from the fine
Lucretian rhythms with which it begins:

  Namque canebat, uti magnum per inane coacta
  Semina terrarumque animaeque marisque fuissent
  Et liquidi simul ignis; ut his exordia primis
  Omnia et ipse tener mundi concreverit orbis;
  Tum durare solum et discludere Nerea ponto
  Coeperit, et rerum paulatim sumere formas;
  Iamque novum terrae stupeant lucescere solem.
  Altius atque cadant summotis nubibus imbres;
  Incipiant silvae cum primum surgere, cumque
  Rara per ignaros errent animalia montis.

The myths that follow are meant to continue this list of subjects, only
with somewhat less blunt obviousness. They suggested to Varus the usual
Epicurean theories of perception, imagination, passion, and mental
aberrations, subjects that Siro must have discussed in some such way as
Lucretius treated them in his third and fourth books of the _De Rerum

It is, of course, not to be supposed that Siro had lectured upon
mythology as such. But the Epicurean teachers, despite their scorn
for legends, employed them for pedagogical purposes in several ways.
Lucretius, for instance, uses them sometimes for their picturesqueness,
as in the _prooemium_ and again in the allegory of the seasons (V. 732).
He also employs them in a Euhemeristic fashion, explaining them as
popular allegories of actual human experiences, citing the myths of
Tantalus and Sisyphus, for example, as expressions of the ever-present
dread of punishment for crimes. Indeed Vergil himself in the _Aetna_--if
it be his--somewhat naïvely introduced the battle of the giants for its
picturesque interest. It is only after he had enjoyed telling the story
in full that he checked himself with the blunt remark:

  (1. 74)  Haec est mendosae vulgata licentia famae.

Lucretius is little less amusing in his rejection of the Cybele myth,
after a lovely passage of forty lines (II, 600) devoted to it.

Vergil was, therefore, on familiar ground when he tried to remind his
schoolmate of Siro's philosophical themes by designating each of them by
means of an appropriate myth. Perhaps we, who unlike Varus have not heard
the original lectures, may not be able in every case to discover the
theme from the myth, but the poet has at least set us out on the right
scent by making the first riddles very easy. The _lapides Pyrrhae_ (I.
41) refer of course to the creation of man; _Saturnia regna_ is, in
Epicurean lore, the primitive life of the early savages; _furtum
Promethei_ (I. 42) must refer to Epicurus' explanation of how fire came
from clashing trees and from lightning. The story of Hylas (I. 43)
probably reminded Varus of Siro's lecture on images and reflection,
Pasiphaë (I. 46) of unruly passions, explained perhaps as in Lucretius'
fourth book, Atalanta (I. 61) of greed, and Phaeton of ambition. As for
Scylla, Vergil had himself in the _Ciris_ (I. 69) mentioned, only to
reject, the allegorical interpretation here presented, according to which
she portrays:

      "the sin of lustfulness
  and love's incontinence."

Vergil had not then met Siro, but he may have read some of his lectures.

Finally, the strange lines on Cornelius Gallus might find a ready
explanation if we knew whether or not Gallus had also been a member
of the Neapolitan circle. Probus, if we may believe him, suggests the
possibility in calling him a schoolmate of Vergil's, and a plausible
interpretation of this eclogue turns that possibility into a probability.
The passage (II. 64-73) may well be Vergil's way of recalling to Varus a
well-beloved fellow-student who had left the circle to become a poet.

The whole poem, therefore, is a delightful commentary upon Vergil's
life in Siro's garden, written probably after Siro had died, the school
closed, and Varus gone off to war. The younger man's school days are
now over; he had found his idiom in a poetic form to which Messalla's
experiments had drawn him. The _Eclogues_ are already appearing in rapid



It has been remarked that Vergil's genius was of slow growth; he was
twenty-eight before he wrote any verses that his mature judgment
recognized as worthy of publication. A survey of his early life reveals
some of the reasons for this tardy development. Born and schooled in
a province he was naturally held back by lack of those contacts which
stimulate boys of the city to rapid mental growth. The first few years at
Rome were in some measure wasted upon a subject for which he had neither
taste nor endowment. The banal rhetorical training might indeed have
made a Lucan or a Juvenal out of him had he not finally revolted so
decisively. However, this work at Rome proved not to be a total loss.
His choice of a national theme for an epic and his insight into the
true qualities of imperial Rome owe something to the study of political
questions that his preparation for a public career had necessitated. He
learned something in his Roman days that not even Epicurean scorn for
politics could eradicate.

However, his next decision, to devote his life to philosophy, again
retarded his poetic development. Certainly it held him in leash during
the years of adolescent enthusiasms when he might have become a lyric
poet of the neoteric school. A Catullus or a Keats must be caught
early. Indeed the very dogmas of the Epicurean school, if taken in all
earnestness, were suppressive of lyrical enthusiasm. The _Aetna_ shows
perhaps the worst effects of Epicurean doctrine in its scholastic
insistence that myths must now give way to facts. Its author was still
too absorbed in the microscopic analysis of a petty piece of research
to catch the spirit of Lucretius who had found in the visions of the
scientific workshop a majesty and beauty that partook of the essence of

In the end Vergil's poetry, like that of Lucretius, owed more to
Epicureanism than modern critics--too often obsessed by a misapplied
_odium philosophicum_--have been inclined to admit. It is all too easy
to compare this philosophy with other systems, past and present, and
to prove its science inadequate, its implications unethical, and its
attitude towards art banal. But that is not a sound historical method of
approach. The student of Vergil should rather remember how great was the
need of that age for some practical philosophy capable of lifting the
mind out of the stupor in which a hybrid mythology had left it, and how,
when Platonic idealism had been wrecked by the skeptics, and Stoicism
with its hypothetical premises had repelled many students, Epicurean
positivism came as a saving gospel of enlightenment.

The system, despite its inadequate first answers, employed a scientific
method that gave the Romans faith in many of its results, just at a time
when orthodox mythology had yielded before the first critical inspection.
As a preliminary system of illumination it proved invaluable. Untrained
in metaphysical processes of thought, ignorant of the tools of exact
science, the Romans had as yet been granted no answers to their growing
curiosity about nature except those offered by a hopelessly naïve faith.
Stoicism had first been brought over by Greek teachers as a possible
guide, but the Roman, now trained by his extraordinary career in world
politics to think in terms of experience, could have but little patience
with a metaphysical system that constantly took refuge in a faith in
aprioristic logic which had already been successfully challenged by
two centuries of skeptics. The Epicurean at least kept his feet on the
ground, appealed to the practical man's faith in his own senses, and
plausibly propped his hypotheses with analogous illustrations, oftentimes
approaching very close to the cogent methods of a new inductive logic. He
rested his case at least on the processes of argumentation that the Roman
daily applied in the law-courts and the Senate, and not upon flights of
metaphysical reasoning. He came with a gospel of illumination to a race
eager for light, opening vistas into an infinity of worlds marvelously
created by processes that the average man beheld in his daily walks.

It was this capacity of the Epicurean philosophy to free the imagination,
to lift man out of a trivial mythology into a world of infinite visions,
and to satisfy man's curiosity regarding the universe with tangible
answers[1] that especially attracted Romans of Vergil's day to the new
philosophy. Their experience was not unlike that of numberless men of
the last generation who first escaped from a puerile cosmology by way
of popularized versions of Darwinism which the experts condemned as

[Footnote 1: It is not quite accurate to say that the Romans made a dogma
of Epicurus' _ipse dixit_ which destroyed scientific open-mindedness.
Vergil uses Posidonius and Zeno as freely as the Stoic Seneca does

Furthermore, Epicureanism provided a view of nature which was apt in the
minds of an imaginative poet to lead toward romanticism. Stoicism indeed
pretended to be pantheistic, and Wordsworth has demonstrated the value
to romanticism of that attitude. But to the clear of vision Stoicism
immediately took from nature with one hand what it had given with the
other. Invariably, its rule of "follow nature" had to be defined in terms
that proved its distrust of what the world called nature. As a matter of
fact the Stoic had only scorn for naturalism. Physical man was to him a
creature to be chained. Trust not the "scelerata pulpa; peccat et haec,
peccat!" cries Persius in terror.

The earlier naïve animism of Greece and Rome had contained more of
aesthetic value, for it was the very spring from which had flowed all the
wealth of ancient myths. But the nymphs of that stream were dead, slain
by philosophical questioning. The new poetic myth-making that still
showed the influence of an old habit of mind was apt to be rather
self-conscious and diffident, ending in something resembling the pathetic

Epicureanism on the other hand by employing the theory of evolution was
able to unite man and nature once more. And since man is so self-centered
that his imagination refuses to extend sympathetic treatment to nature
unless he can feel a vital bond of fellowship with it, the poetry of
romance became possible only upon the discovery of that unity. This is
doubtless why Lucretius, first of all the Romans, could in his prooemium
bring back to nature that sensuousness which through the songs of the
troubadours has become the central theme of romantic poetry even to our

  Nam simulac species patefactast verna diei ...
  Aëriae primum volucres te diva tuumque
  Significant initum perculsae corda tua vi,
  Inde ferae pecudes persultant pabula laeta.

Vergil, convinced by the same philosophy, expresses himself similarly:

  Et genus aequoreum, pecudes, pictaeque volucres
                      amor omnibus idem.

And again:

  Avia tum resonant avibus virgulta canoris
  Et Venerem certis repetunt armenta diebus
  Parturit almus ager Zepherique trementibus auris
  Laxant arva sinus.

It is, of course, the theme of "Sumer is icumen in." Lucretius feels so
strongly the unity of naturally evolved creation that he never
hesitates to compare men of various temperaments with animals of
sundry natures--the fiery lion, the cool-tempered ox--and explain the
differences in both by the same preponderance of some peculiar kind of

Obviously this was a system which, by enlarging man's mental horizon and
sympathies, could create new values for aesthetic use. Like the crude
evolutionistic hypotheses in Rousseau's day, it gave one a more soundly
based sympathy for one's fellows--since evolution was not yet "red in
tooth and claw." If nature was to be trusted, why not man's nature? Why
curse the body, any man's body, as the root-ground of sin? Were not the
instincts a part of man? Might not the scientific view prove that the
passions so far from being diseases, conditioned the very life and
survival of the race? Perhaps the evils of excess, called sin, were after
all due to defects in social and political institutions that had applied
incorrect regulative principles, or to the selfishly imposed religious
fears which had driven the healthy instincts into tantrums. Rid man of
these erroneous fears and of a political system begot for purposes
of exploitation and see whether by returning to an age of primitive
innocence he cannot prove that nature is trustworthy.[2]

[Footnote 2: Lucretius, III, 37-93; II, 23-39; V, 1105-1135.]

There is in this philosophy then a basis for a large humanitarianism,
dangerous perhaps in its implications. And yet it could hardly have been
more perilous than the Roman orthodox religion which insisted only upon
formal correctness, seldom upon ethical decorum, or than Stoicism with
its categorical imperative, which could restrain only those who were
already convinced. The Stoic pretence of appealing to a natural law could
be proved illogical at first examination, when driven to admit that
"nature" must be explained by a question-begging definition before its
rule could be applied.

Indeed the Romans of Vergil's day had not been accustomed to look for
ethical sanctions in religion or creed. Morality had always been for them
a matter of family custom, parental teaching of the rules of decorum,
legal doctrine regarding the universality of _aequitas_, and, more than
they knew, of puritanic instincts inherited from a well-sifted stock. It
probably did not occur to Lucretius and Vergil to ask whether this new
philosophy encouraged a higher or a lower ethical standard. Cicero, as
statesman, does; but the question had doubtless come to him first out of
the literature of the Academy which he was wont to read. Despite their
creed, Lucretius and Vergil are indeed Rome's foremost apostles of
Righteousness; and if anyone had pressed home the charge of possible
moral weakness in their system they might well have pointed to the
exemplary life of Epicurus and many of his followers. To the Romans this
philosophy brought a creed of wide sympathies with none of the "lust
for sensation" that accompanied its return in the days of Rousseau and
"Werther." Had not the old Roman stock, sound in marrow and clear of
eye, been shattered by wars and thinned out by emigration, only to be
displaced by a more nervous and impulsive people that had come in by
the slave trade, Roman civilization would hardly have suffered from the
application of the doctrines of Epicurus.

Whether or not Vergil remained an Epicurean to the end, we must, to be
fair, give credit to that philosophy for much that is most poetical in
his later work,--a romantic charm in the treatment of nature, a deep
comprehension of man's temper, a broader sympathy with humanity and a
clearer understanding of the difference between social virtue and mere
ritualistic correctness than was to be expected of a Roman at this time.

It is, however, very probable that Vergil remained on the whole faithful
to this creed[3] to the very end. He was forty years of age and only
eleven years from his death when he published the _Georgics_, which are
permeated with the Epicurean view of nature; and the restatement of this
creed in the first book of the _Aeneid_ ought to warn us that his faith
in it did not die.

[Footnote 3: This is, of course, not the view of Sellar, Conington,
Glover, and Norden,--to mention but a few of those who hold that Vergil
became a Stoic. See chapter XV for a development of this view.]



The visitor to Arcadia should perhaps be urged to leave his microscope at
home. Happiest, at any rate, is the reader of Vergil's pastorals who can
take an unannotated pocket edition to his vacation retreat, forgetting
what every inquisitive Donatus has conjectured about the possible
hidden meanings that lie in them. But the biographer may not share that
pleasure. The _Eclogues_ were soon burdened with comments by critics who
sought in them for the secrets of an early career hidden in the obscurity
of an unannaled provincial life. In their eager search for data they
forced every possible passage to yield some personal allusion, till the
poems came to be nothing but a symbolic biography of the author. The
modern student must delve into this material if only to clear away a
little of the allegory that obscures the text.

It is well to admit honestly at once that modern criticism has no
scientific method which can with absolute accuracy sift out all the
falsehoods that obscure the truth in this matter, but at least a
beginning has been made in demonstrating that the glosses are not
themselves consistent. Those early commentators who variously place the
confiscation of Vergil's farm after the battle of Mutina (43 B.C.),
after Philippi (42) and after Actium (31), who conceive of Mark Antony
as a partizan of Brutus, and Alfenus Varus as the governor of a province
that did not exist, may state some real facts: they certainly hazard many
futile guesses. The safest way is to trust these records only when they
harmonize with the data provided by reliable historians, and to interpret
the _Eclogues_ primarily as imaginative pastoral poetry, and not, except
when they demand it, as a personal record. We shall here treat the
_Bucolics_ in what seems to be their order of composition, not the order
of their position in the collection.

The eulogy of Messalla, written in 42 B.C., reveals Vergil already at
work upon pastoral themes, to which, as he tells us, Messalla's Greek
eclogues had called his attention. We may then at once reject the
statement of the scholiasts that Vergil wrote the _Eclogues_ for the
purpose of thanking Pollio, Alfenus, and Gallus for having saved his
estates from confiscation. At least a full half of these poems had been
written before there was any material cause for gratitude, and, as we
shall see presently, these three men had in any case little to do with
the matter. It will serve as a good antidote against the conjectures of
the allegorizing school if we remember that these commentators of the
Empire were for the most part Greek freedmen, themselves largely occupied
in fawning upon their patrons. They apparently assumed that poets as a
matter of course wrote what they did in order to please some patron--a
questionable enough assumption regarding any Roman poetry composed before
the Silver Age.

The second _Eclogue_ is a very early study which, in the theme of the
gift-bringing, seems to be reminiscent of Messalla's work.[1] The third
and seventh are also generally accepted as early experiments in the more
realistic forms of amoebean pastoral. Since the fifth, which should be
placed early in 41 B.C., actually cites the second and third, we have a
_terminus ante quem_ for these two eclogues. To the early list the tenth
should be added if it was addressed to Gallus while he was still doing
military service in Greece, and with these we may place the sixth,
discussed above.

[Footnote 1: See Chapter VIII.]

The lack of realistic local color in these pastorals has frequently been
criticized, on the supposition that Vergil wrote them while at home in
Mantua, and ought, therefore, to have given true pictures of Mantuan
scenery and characters. His home country was and is a monotonous plain.
The jutting crags with their athletic goats, the grottoes inviting
melodious shepherds to neglect their flocks, the mountain glades and
waterfalls of the _Eclogues_ can of course not be Mantuan. The Po Valley
was thickly settled, and its deep black soil intensively cultivated. A
few sheep were, of course, kept to provide wool, but these were herded by
farmers' boys in the orchards. The lone she-goat, indispensable to every
Italian household, was doubtless tethered by a leg on the roadside. There
were herds of swine where the old oak forests had not yet been cut, but
the swine-herd is usually not reckoned among songsters. Nor was any
poetry to be expected from the cowboys who managed the cattle ranches
at the foot hills of the Alps and the buffalo herds along the undrained
lowlands. Is Vergil's scenery then nothing but literary reminiscence?

In point of fact the pastoral scenery in Vergil is Neapolitan. The eighth
_Catalepton_ is proof that Vergil was at Naples when he heard of the
dangers to his father's property in the North. It is doubtful whether
Vergil ever again saw Mantua after leaving it for Cremona in his early
boyhood. The property, of course, belonged not to him but to his father,
who, as the brief poem indicates, had remained there with his family. The
pastoral scenery seldom, except in the ninth _Eclogue_, pretends to be
Mantuan. Even where, as in the first, the poem is intended to convey
a personal expression of gratitude for Vergil's exemption from harsh
evictions, the poet is very careful not to obtrude a picture of himself
or his own circumstances. Tityrus is an old man, and a slave in a typical
shepherd's country, such as could be seen every day in the mountains near
Naples. And there were as many evictions near Naples as in the North.
Indeed it is the Neapolitan country--as picturesque as any in Italy--that
constantly comes to the reader's mind. We are told by Seneca that
thousands of sheep fed upon the rough mountains behind Stabiae, and
the clothier's hall and numerous fulleries of Pompeii remind us that
wool-growing was an important industry of that region. Vergil's excursion
to Sorrento was doubtless not the only visit across the bay. Behind
Naples along the ridge of Posilipo,[2] below which Vergil was later
buried, in the mountains about Camaldoli, and behind Puteoli all the
way to Avernus--a country which the poet had roamed with observant
eyes--there could have been nothing but shepherd country. Here, then,
are the crags and waterfalls and grottoes that Vergil describes in the

[Footnote 2: The picturesque road from Naples to Puteoli clung to the
edge of the rocky promontory of Posilipo, finally piercing the outermost
rock by means of a tunnel now misnamed the "grotto di Sejano." Most of
the road is now under twenty feet of water: See Günther, _Pausilypon_. To
see the splendid ridge as Vergil saw it from the road one must now row
the length of it from Naples to Nésida, sketching in an abundance of
ilexes and goats in place of the villas that now cover it.]

And here, too, were doubtless as many melodious shepherds as ever
Theocritus found in Sicily, for they were of the same race of people as
the Sicilians. Why should the slopes of Lactarius be less musical than
those of Aetna? Indeed the reasonable reader will find that, except for
an occasional transference of actual persons into Arcadian setting--by an
allegorical turn invented before Vergil--there is no serious confusion
in the scenery or inconsistent treatment in the plots of Vergil's
_Eclogues_. But by failing to make this simple assumption--naturally due
any and every poet--readers of Vergil have needlessly marred the effect
of some of his finest passages.

The fifth _Eclogue_, written probably in 41 B.C., is a very melodious
Daphnis-song that has always been a favorite with poets. It has been and
may be read with entire pleasure as an elegy to Daphnis, the patron god
of singing shepherds. Those, however, who in Roman times knew Vergil's
love of symbolism, suspected that a more personal interest led him to
compose this elegy. The death and apotheosis of Julius Caesar is still
thought by some to be the real subject of the poem, while a few have
accepted another ancient conjecture that Vergil here wrote of his
brother. The person mourned must, however, have been of more importance
than Vergil's brother. On the other hand, certain details in the
poem--the sorrow of the mother, for instance--preclude the conjecture
that it was Caesar, unless the poet is here confusing his details more
than we need assume in any other eclogue.

It is indeed difficult to escape the very old persuasion that a sorrow
so sympathetically expressed must be more than a mere Theocritan
reminiscence. If we could find some poet--for Daphnis must be that--near
to Vergil himself, who met an unhappy death in those days, a poet, too,
who died in such circumstances during the civil strife that general
expression of grief had to be hidden behind a symbolic veil, would not
the poem thereby gain a theme worthy of its grace? I think we have such
a poet in Cornificius, the dear friend of Catullus, to whom in fact
Catullus addressed what seem to be his last verses.[3] Like so many of
the new poets, Cornificius had espoused Caesar's cause, but at the end
was induced by Cicero to support Brutus against the triumvirs. After
Philippi Cornificius kept up the hopeless struggle in Africa for several
months until finally he was defeated and put to death. If he be Vergil's
Daphnis we have an explanation of why his identity escaped the notice of
curious scholars. Tactful silence became quite necessary at a time when
almost every household at Rome was rent by divided sympathies, and yet
brotherhood in art could hardly be entirely stifled. From the point of
view of the masters of Rome, Cornificius had met a just doom as a rebel.
If his poet friends mourned for him it must have been in some such guise
as this.

[Footnote 3: Catullus, 38.]

In this instance the circumstantial evidence is rather strong, for we are
told by a commentator that Valgius, an early friend of Vergil's,
wrote elegies to the memory of a "Codrus," identified by some as

  Codrusque ille canit quali tu voce canebas,
  Atque solet numeros dicere Cinna tuos.

[Footnote 4: _Scholia Veronensia_, Ecl. VII, 22. The evidence is
presented in _Classical Review_, 1920, p. 49.]

That "shepherd" at least is an actual person, a friend of Cinna, and
a member of the neoteric group; that indeed it is Cornificius is
exceedingly probable. The poet-patriot seems then, not to have been
forgotten by his friends.

All too little is known about this friend of Catullus and Cinna, but what
is known excites a keen interest. Though he was younger than Cicero by
nearly a generation, the great orator[5] did him no little deference as
a representative of the Atticistic group. In verse writing he was of
Catullus' school, composing at least one epyllion, besides lyric verse.
According to Macrobius, Vergil paid him the compliment of imitating him,
and he in turn is cited by the scholiasts as authority for an opinion of
Vergil's. If the Daphnis-song is an elegy written at his death--and it
would be difficult to find a more fitting subject--the poem, undoubtedly
one of the most charming of Vergil's _Eclogues_, was composed in 41 B.C.
It were a pity if Vergil's prayer for the poet should after all not come

  Semper honos, nomenque tuum laudesque manebunt.

[Footnote 5: See Cicero's letter to him: _Ad Fam_. XII, 17, 2.]

The tenth _Eclogue_, to Gallus, steeped in all the literary associations
of pastoral elegies, from the time of Theocritus' Daphnis to our own
"Lycidas" and "Adonais," has perhaps surrounded itself with an atmosphere
that should not be disturbed by biographical details. However, we must
intrude. Vergil's associations with Gallus, as has been intimated, were
those, apparently, of Neapolitan school days and of poetry. The sixth
_Eclogue_ delicately implies that the departure of Gallus from the circle
had made a very deep impression upon his teacher and fellow students.

What would we not barter of all the sesquipedalian epics of the Empire
for a few pages written by Cornelius Gallus, a thousand for each! This
brilliant, hot-headed, over-grown boy, whom every one loved, was very
nearly Vergil's age. A Celt, as one might conjecture from his career,
he had met Octavius in the schoolroom, and won the boy's enduring
admiration. Then, like Vergil, he seems to have turned from rhetoric to
philosophy, from philosophy to poetry, and to poetry of the Catullan
romances, as a matter of course. It was Cytheris, the fickle actress--if
the scholiasts are right--who opened his eyes to the fact that there were
themes for passionate poetry nearer home than the legendary love-tales;
and when she forgot him, finding excitement elsewhere during his months
of service with Octavian, he nursed his morbid grief in un-Roman
self-pity, this first poet of the _poitrinaire_ school. His subsequent
career was meteoric. Octavian, fascinated by a brilliancy that hid a
lack of Roman steadiness, placed him in charge of the stupendous task
of organizing Egypt, a work that would tax the powers of a Caesar. The
romantic poet lost his head. Wine-inspired orations that delighted his
guests, portrait busts of himself in every town, grotesque catalogues of
campaigns against unheard-of negro tribes inscribed even on the venerable
pyramids did not accord with the traditions of Rome. Octavian cut his
career short, and in deep chagrin Gallus committed suicide.

The tenth _Eclogue_[6] gives Vergil's impressions upon reading one of the
elegies of Gallus which had apparently been written at some lonely army
post in Greece after the news of Cytheris' desertion. In his elegy the
poet had, it would seem, bemoaned the lot that had drawn him to the East
away from his beloved.

"Would that he might have been a simple shepherd like the Greeks about
his tent, for their loves remained true!" And this is of course the very
theme which Vergil dramatizes in pastoral form.

[Footnote 6: This is the interpretation of Leo, _Hermes_, 1902, p. 15.]

We, like Vergil, realize that Gallus invented a new genre in literature.
He had daringly brought the grief of wounded love out of the realm of
fiction--where classic tradition had insisted upon keeping it--into the
immediate and personal song. The hint for this procedure had, of course,
come from Catullus, but it was Gallus whom succeeding elegists all
accredited with the discovery. Vergil at once felt the compelling force
of this adventuresome experiment. He gave it immediate recognition in his
_Eclogues_, and Tibullus, Propertius, and Ovid became his followers.

The poems of Gallus, if the Arcadian setting is real, were probably
written soon after Philippi. Vergil's _Eclogue_ of recognition may have
been composed not much later, for we have a right to assume that Vergil
would have had one of the first copies of Gallus' poems. If this be true,
the first and last few lines were fitted on later, when the whole book
was published, to adapt the poem for its honorable position at the close
of the volume.



The first and ninth _Eclogues_, and only these, concern the confiscations
of land at Cremona and Mantua which threatened to deprive Vergil's father
of his estates and consequently the poet of his income. There seems to be
no way of deciding which is the earlier. Ancient commentators, following
the order of precedence, interpreted the ninth as an indication of a
second eviction, but there seems to be no sound reason for agreeing with
them, since they are entirely too literal in their inferences. Conington
sanely decides that only one eviction took place, and he places the ninth
before the first in order of time. He may be right. The two poems at any
rate belong to the early months of 41.

The obsequious scholiasts of the Empire have nowhere so thoroughly
exposed their own mode of thought as in their interpretations of these
two _Eclogues_. Knowing and caring little for the actual course of
events, having no comprehension of the institutions of an earlier day,
concerned only with extracting what is to them a dramatic story from
the _Eclogues_, they put all the historical characters into impossible
situations. The one thing of which they feel comfortably sure is that
every _Eclogue_ that mentions Pollio, Gallus and Alfenus Varus must have
been a "bread and butter" poem written in gratitude for value received.
Of the close literary associations of the time they seem to be unaware.
To suit such purposes Pollio[1] is at times made governor of Cisalpine
Gaul, and at times placed on the commission to colonize Cremona, Alfenus
is made Pollio's "successor" in a province that does not exist, and
Gallus is also made a colonial commissioner. If, however, we examine
these statements in the light of facts provided by independent sources we
shall find that the whole structure based upon the subjective inferences
of the scholiasts falls to the ground.

[Footnote 1: See Diehl, _Vitae Vergilianae_, pp. 51 ff.]

We must first follow Pollio's career through this period. When the
triumvirate was formed in 43, Pollio was made Antony's _legatus_ in
Cisalpine Gaul and promised the consulship for the year 40.[2] After
Philippi, however, in the autumn of 42, Cisalpine Gaul was declared
a part of Italy and, therefore, fell out of Pollio's control.[3]
Nevertheless, he was not deprived of a command for the year remaining
before his consulship (41 B.C.), but was permitted to withdraw to the
upper end of the Adriatic with his army of seven legions.[4] His duty was
doubtless to guard the low Venetian coast against the remnants of the
republican forces still on the high seas, and, if he had time, to subdue
the Illyrian tribes friendly to the republican cause.[5] During this
year, in which Octavian had to besiege Lucius Antony at Perusia, Pollio,
a legatus of Mark Antony, was naturally not on good terms with Octavian,
and could hardly have used any influence in behalf of Vergil or any one
else. After the Perusine war he joined Antony at Brundisium in the spring
of 40, and acted as his spokesman at the conference which led to the
momentous treaty of peace. We may, therefore, safely conclude that Pollio
was neither governor nor colonial commissioner in Cisalpine Gaul when
Cremona and Mantua were disturbed, nor could he have been on such terms
with Octavian as to use his influence in behalf of Vergil. The eighth and
fourth _Eclogues_ which do honor to him, seem to have nothing whatever
to do with material favors. They doubtless owe their origin to Pollio's
position as a poet, and Pollio's interest in young men of letters.

[Footnote 2: Appian, IV. 2 and V. 22.]

[Footnote 3: Appian, V. 3 and V. 22.]

[Footnote 4: Velleius Paterculus, II. 76.2; Macrobius, _Sat_. I. XI. 22]

[Footnote 5: A task which he performed in 39.]

With regard to Alfenus and Gallus, the scholiasts remained somewhat
nearer the truth, for they had at hand a speech of Callus criticizing the
former for his behavior at Mantua. By quoting the precise words of this
speech Servius[6] has provided us with a solid criterion for accepting
what is consistent in the statements of Vergil's earlier biographers and
eliminating some conjectures. The passage reads: "When ordered to leave
unoccupied a district of three miles outside the city, you included
within the district eight hundred paces of water which lies about the
walls." The passage, of course, shows that Alfenus was a commissioner on
the colonial board, as Servius says. It does not excuse Servius' error
of making Alfenus Pollio's successor as provincial governor[7] after
Cisalpine Gaul had become autonomous, nor does it imply that Alfenus had
in any manner been generous to Vergil or to any one else. In fact it
reveals Alfenus in the act of seizing an unreasonable amount of land.
Vergil,[8] of course, recognizes Alfenus' position as commissioner in his
ninth Eclogue where he promises him great glory if he will show mercy to

Vare, tuum nomen, superet modo Mantua nobis ...

And Vergil's appeal to him was reasonable, since he, too, was a man of
literary ambitions.[9] But there is no proof that Alfenus gave ear to
his plea; at any rate the poet never mentions him again. Servius'
supposition that Alfenus had been of service to the poet[10] seems
to rest wholly on the mistaken idea that the sixth _Eclogue_ was
obsequiously addressed to him. As we have seen, however, Quintilius
Varus has a better claim to that poem.

[Footnote 6: Servius _Dan_. on _Ecl_. IX. 10; ex oratione Cornelii in
Alfenum. Cf. Kroll, in _Rhein. Museum_ 1909, 52.]

[Footnote 7: Servius _Dan_. on _Ecl_. VI. 6.]

[Footnote 8: Vergil, _Eclogue_ IX, 26-29.]

[Footnote 9: See _Suffenus and Alfenus, Classical Quarterly_, 1920, p.

[Footnote 10: On _Eclogue_. VI. 6.]

The quotation from the speech of Gallus also lends support to a statement
in Servius that Gallus had been assigned to the duty of exacting moneys
from cities which escaped confiscation.[11] For this we are duly
grateful. It indicates how Alfenus and Gallus came into conflict since
the latter's financial sphere would naturally be invaded if the former
seized exempted territory for the extension of his new colony of Cremona.
In such conditions we can realize that Gallus was, as a matter of course,
interested in saving Mantua from confiscation, and that in this effort
he may well have appealed to Octavian in Vergil's behalf. In fact his
interpretation of the three-mile exemption might actually have saved
Vergil's properties, which seem to have lain about that distance from the

[Footnote 11: Servius _Dan_. on _Ecl_. VI. 64.]

[Footnote 12: Vita Probiana, _milia passuum_ XXX is usually changed to
III on the basis of Donatus: _a Mantua non procul_.]

Again, however, there is little reason for the supposition that Vergil's
_Eclogues_ in honor of Gallus have any reference whatever to this affair.
The sixth followed the death of Siro, and the tenth seems to precede the
days of colonial disturbances, if it has reference to Gallus as a soldier
in Greece. If the sixth _Eclogue_ refers to Siro, as Servius holds, then
Vergil and Gallus had long been literary associates before the first and
ninth were written.

The student of Vergil who has once compared the statements of the
scholiasts with the historical facts at these few points, where they
run parallel, will have little patience with the petty gossip which was
elicited from the _Eclogues_. The story of Vergil's tiff with a soldier,
for example, is apparently an inference from Menalcas' experience in
_Eclogue_ IX. 15; but "Menalcas" appears in four other _Eclogues_ where
he cannot be Vergil. The poet indeed was at Naples, as the eighth
_Catalepton_ proves. The estate in danger is not his, but that of his
father, who presumably was the only man legally competent of action in
case of eviction. Vergil's poem, to be sure, is a plea for Mantua, but it
is clearly a plea for the whole town and not for his father alone. The
landmark of the low hills and the beeches up to which the property was
saved (IX.8) seems to be the limits of Mantua's boundaries, not of
Vergil's estates on the low river-plains. We need not then concern
ourselves in a Vergilian biography with the tale that Arrius or Clodius
or Claudius or Milienus Toro chased the poet into a coal-bin or ducked
him into the river.[13] The shepherds of the poem are typical characters
made to pass through the typical experiences of times of distress.

[Footnote 13: See Diehl, _Vitae Vergilianae_, p. 58.]

The first _Eclogue, Tityre tu_, is even more general than the ninth in
its application. Though, of course, it is meant to convey the poet's
thanks to Octavian for a favorable decree, it speaks for all the poor
peasants who have been saved. The aged slave, Tityrus, does not
represent Vergil's circumstances, but rather those of the servile
shepherd-tenants,[14] so numerous in Italy at this time. Such men, though
renters, could not legally own property, since they were slaves. But in
practice they were allowed and even encouraged to accumulate possessions
in the hope that they might some day buy their freedom, and with freedom
would naturally come citizenship and the full ownership of their
accumulations. Many of the poor peasants scattered through Italy were
_coloni_ of this type and they doubtless suffered severely in the
evictions. Tityrus is here pictured as going to the city to ask for his
liberty, which would in turn ensure the right of ownership. Such is the
allegory, simple and logical. It is only the old habit of confusing
Tityrus with Vergil which has obscured the meaning of the poem. However,
the real purpose of the poem lies in the second part where the poet
expresses his sympathy for the luckless ones that are being driven from
their homes; and that this represents a cry of the whole of Italy and
not alone of his home town is evident from the fact that he sets the
characters in typical shepherd country,[15] not in Mantuan scenery as in
the ninth. The plaint of Meliboeus for those who must leave their homes
to barbarians and migrate to Africa and Britain to begin life again is
so poignant that one wonders in what mood Octavian read it. "En quo
discordia cives produxit miseros!" was not very flattering to him.

[Footnote 14: See Leo, _Hermes_, 1903, p. 1 ff., questioned by Stampini,
_Le Bucoliche_,'3 1905, p. 93.]

[Footnote 15: Capua and Nuceria were two of the cities near Naples where
Vergil could see the work of eviction near at hand.]

The very deep sympathy of Vergil for the poor exiles rings also through
the _Dirae_, a very surprising poem which he wrote at this same time,
but on second thought suppressed. It has the bitterness of the first
_Eclogue_ without its grace and tactful beginning. The triumvirs were in
no mood to read a book of lamentations. "Honey on the rim" was Lucretius'
wise precept, and it was doubtless a prudent impulse that substituted
the _Eclogue_ for the "Curses." The former probably accomplished little
enough, the latter would not even have been read.

The _Dirae_ takes the form of a "cursing roundel," a form once employed
by Callimachus, who may have inherited it from the East. It calls down
heaven's wrath upon the confiscated lands in language as bitter as ever
Mt. Ebal heard: fire and flood over the crops, blight upon the fruit, and
pestilence upon the heartless barbarians who drive peaceful peasants into

The setting is once more that of the country about Naples, of the
Campanian hills and the sea coast, not that of Mantua.[16] It is
doubtless the miserable poor of Capua and Nuceria that Vergil
particularly has in mind. The singers are two slave-shepherds departing
from the lands of a master who has been dispossessed. The poem is
pervaded by a strong note of pity for the lovers of peace,--"pii cives,"
shall we say the "pacifists,"--who had been punished for refusing to
enlist in a civil war. A sympathy for them must have been deep in the
gentle philosopher of the garden:

     O male deuoti, praetorum crimina, agelli![17]
  Tuque inimica pii semper discordia ciuis.
  Exsul ego indemnatus egens mea rura reliqui,
  Miles ut accipiat funesti praemia belli.
  Hinc ego de tumulo mea rura nouissima uisam,
  Hinc ibo in siluas: obstabunt iam mihi colles,
  Obstabunt montes, campos audire licebit.[18]

[Footnote 16: It is just possible that "Lycurgus" (l. 8) who is spoken of
as the author of the mischief is meant for Alfenus Varus, who boasted of
his knowledge of law. Horace lampoons him as _Alfenus vafer_.]

[Footnote 17:
  Ye fields accursed for our statesmen's sins,
  O Discord ever foe to men of peace,
  In want, an exile, uncondemned, I yield
  My lands, to pay the wages of a hell-born war.
  Ere I go hence, one last look towards my fields,
  Then to the woods I turn to close you out
  From view, but ye shall hear my curses still.]

[Footnote 18: The _Lydia_ which comes in the MS. attached to the _Dirae_
is not Vergil's. Nor can it be the famous poem of that name written by
Valerius Cato, despite the opinion of Lindsay, _Class. Review_, 1918, p.
62. It is too slight and ineffectual to be identified with that work.
The poem abounds with conceits that a neurotic and sentimental pupil of
Propertius--not too well practiced in verse writing--would be likely to
cull from his master.]

For Vergil there was henceforth no joy in war or the fruits of war. His
devotion to Julius Caesar had been unquestioned, and Octavian, when he
proved himself a worthy successor and established peace, inherited that
devotion. But for the patriots who had fought the losing battle he had
only a heart full of pity.

  Ne pueri ne tanta animis adsuescite bella,
  Neu patriae validos in viscera vertite viris;
  Tuque prior, tu parce, genus qui ducis Olympo,
  Projice tela manu, sanguis meus!



We come finally to the two _Eclogues_ addressed to Asinius Pollio. This
remarkable man was only six years older than Vergil, but he was just old
enough to become a member of Caesar's staff, an experience that matured
men quickly. To Vergil he seemed to be a link with the last great
generation of the Republic. That Catullus had mentioned him gracefully
in a poem, and Cinna had written him a _propempticon_, that Caesar had
spoken to him on the fateful night at the Rubicon, and that he had been
one of Cicero's correspondents, placed him on a very high pedestal in
the eyes of the studious poet still groping his way. It may well be that
Gallus was the tie that connected Pollio and Vergil, for we find in a
letter of Pollio's to Cicero that the former while campaigning in Spain
was in the habit of exchanging literary chitchat with Gallus. That was in
the spring of 43, at the very time doubtless when Pollio--as young men
then did--spent his leisure moments between battles in writing tragedies.
Vergil in his eighth Eclogue, perhaps with over-generous praise, compares
these plays with those of Sophocles.

This _Eclogue_ presents one of the most striking studies in primitive
custom that Latin poetry has produced, a bit of realism suffused with a
romantic pastoral atmosphere. The first shepherd's song is of unrequited
love cherished from boyhood for a maiden who has now chosen a worthless
rival. The second is a song sung while a deserted shepherdess performs
with scrupulous precision the magic rites which are to bring her
faithless lover back to her. There are reminiscences of Theocritus of
course, any edition of the _Eclogues_ will give them in full, but Vergil,
so long as he lived at Naples, did not have to go to Sicilian books for
these details. He who knows the social customs of Campania, the magical
charms scribbled on the walls of Pompeii, the deadly curses scratched on
enduring metal by forlorn lovers,--curses hidden beneath the threshold
or hearthstone of the rival to blight her cheeks and wrinkle her silly
face,--knows very well that such folks are the very singers that Vergil
might meet in his walks about the hills of the golden bay.

The eighth _Eclogue_ claims to have been written at the invitation of
Pollio, who had apparently learned thus early that Vergil was a
poet worth encouraging. That the poem has nothing to do with the
confiscations, in so far at least as we are able to understand the
historical situation, has been suggested above. It is usually dated in
the year of Pollio's Albanian campaign in 39, that is a year after his
consulship. Should it not rather be placed two years earlier when Pollio
had given up the Cisalpine province and withdrawn to the upper Adriatic
coast preparatory to proceeding on Antony's orders against the Illyrian
rebels? In the spring of 41 Pollio camped near the Timavus, mentioned in
line 6; two years later the natural route for him to take from Rome would
be via Brundisium and Dyrrhachium.[1] The point is of little interest
except in so far as the date of the poem aids us in tracing Pollio's
influence upon the poet, and in arranging the _Eclogues_ in their
chronological sequence.

[Footnote 1: Antony's province did not extend beyond Scodra; the roads
down the Illyrian mountain from Trieste were not easy for an army to
travel; if the _Eclogues_ were composed in three years (Donatus) the year
39 is too late. Finally, Vellius, II, 76.2, makes it plain that in 41
Pollio remained in Venetia contrary to orders. He had apparently been
ordered to proceed into Illyria at that time.]

Finally, we have the famous "Messianic" _Eclogue_, the fourth, which was
addressed to Pollio during his consulship. By its fortuitous resemblance
to the prophetic literature of the Bible, it came at one time to be the
best known poem in Latin, and elevated its author to the position of
an arch-magician in the medieval world. Indeed, this poem was largely
influential in saving the rest of Vergil's works from the oblivion to
which the dark ages consigned at least nine-tenths of Latin literature.

The poem was written soon after the peace of Brundisium--in the
consummation of which Pollio had had a large share--when all of Italy was
exulting in its escape from another impending civil war. Its immediate
purpose was to give adequate expression to this joy and hope at once in
an abiding record that the Romans and the rulers of Rome might read and
not forget. Its form seems to have been conditioned largely by a strange
allegorical poem written just before the peace by a still unknown poet.
The poet was Horace, who in the sixteenth epode had candidly expressed
the fears of Roman republicans for Rome's capacity to survive. Horace had
boldly asked the question whether after all it was not the duty of those
who still loved liberty to abandon the land of endless warfare, and found
a new home in the far west--a land which still preserved the simple
virtues of the "Golden Age." Vergil's enthusiasm for the new peace
expresses itself as an answer to Horace:[2] the "Golden Age" need not be
sought for elsewhere; in the new era of peace now inaugurated by Octavian
the Virgin Justice shall return to Italy and the Golden Age shall come
to this generation on Italian soil. Vergil, however, introduces a new
"messianic" element into the symbolism of his poem, for he measures the
progress of the new era by the stages in the growth of a child who is
destined finally to bring the prophecy to fulfillment. This happy idea
may well have been suggested by table talks with Philodemus or Siro, who
must at times have recalled stories of savior-princes that they had heard
in their youth in the East. The oppressed Orient was full of prophetic
utterances promising the return of independence and prosperity under the
leadership of some long-hoped-for worthy prince of the tediously unworthy
reigning dynasties. Indeed, since Philodemus grew to boyhood at Gadara
under Jewish rule he could hardly have escaped the knowledge of the very
definite Messianic hopes of the Hebrew people. It may well be, therefore,
that a stray image whose ultimate source was none other than Isaiah came
in this indirect fashion into Vergil's poem, and that the monks of the
dark ages guessed better than they knew.

[Footnote 2: Sellar, _Horace and the Elegiac Poets_, p. 123. Ramsay,
quoted by W. Warde Fowler, _Vergil's Messianic Eclogue_, p, 54.]

To attempt to identify Vergil's child with a definite person would be a
futile effort to analyze poetic allegory. Contemporary readers doubtless
supposed that since the Republic was dead, the successor to power after
the death of Octavius and Antony would naturally be a son of one of

The settlements of the year were sealed by two marriages, that of
Octavian to Scribonia and that of Octavian's sister to Antony. It was
enough that some prince worthy of leadership could naturally be expected
from these dynastic marriages, and that in either case it would be a
child of Octavian's house.[3] Thus far his readers might let their
imagination range; what actually happened afterwards through a series of
evil fortunes has, of course, nothing to do with the question. Pollio is
obviously addressed as the consul whose year marked the peace which all
the world hoped and prayed would be lasting.

[Footnote 3: See _Class. Phil_. XI, 334.]

We have now reviewed the circumstances which called forth the _Eclogues_.
They seem, as Donatus says, to have been written within a period of three
years. The second, third, seventh and sixth apparently fall within the
year 42, the tenth, fifth, eighth, ninth and first in the year 41, while
the _Pollio_ certainly belongs to the year 40, when Vergil became thirty
years of age. The writing of these poems had called the poet more and
more away from philosophy and brought him into closer touch with the
sufferings and experiences of his own people. He had found a theme after
his own heart, and with the theme had come a style and expression
that fitted his genius. He abandoned Hellenistic conceits with their
prettiness of sentiment, attained an easy modulation of line readily
responding to a variety of emotions, learned the dignity of his own
language as he acquired a deeper sympathy for the sufferings of his own
people. There is a new note, as there is a new rhythm in:

  _Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo_.



Julius Caesar had learned from bitter experience that poets were
dangerous enemies. Cicero's innuendoes were disagreeable enough but they
might be forgotten. When, however, Catullus and Calvus put them into
biting epigrams there was no forgetting. This was doubtless Caesar's
chief reason for his constant endeavor to win the goodwill of the young
poets, and he ultimately did win that of Calvus and Catullus. Whether
Octavian, and his sage adviser Maecenas, acted from the same motive we
do not know, though they too had seen in Vergil's epigrams on Antony's
creatures, and in Horace's sixteenth epode that the poets of the new
generation seemed likely to give effective expression to political
sentiments. At any rate, the new court at Rome began very soon to make
generous overtures to the literary men of the day.

Pollio, Octavian's senior by many years, and of noble family, could
hardly be approached. Though gradually drawing away from Antony, he
had so closely associated himself with this brilliant companion of his
Gallic-war days, that he preferred not to take a subordinate place at the
Roman court. Messalla, who had entered the service of Antony, was also
out of reach. There remained the brilliant circle of young men at Naples,
men whose names occurred in the dedications of Philodemus' lectures:
Vergil, Varius, Plotius and Quintilius Varus, three of whom at least were
from the north and would naturally be inclined to look upon Octavian with

Varius had already written his epic _De Morte_ which seems to have
mourned Caesar's death, and, though in hidden language, he had alluded
bitterly to Antony's usurpations in the year that followed the murder.
Before Vergil's epic appeared it was Varius who was always considered the
epic poet of the group. Of Plotius Tucca we know little except that he is
called a poet, was a constant member of the circle, and with Varius
the literary executor who published Vergil's works after his death.
Quintilius Varus had, like Varius, come from Cremona, known Catullus
intimately, and, if we accept the view of Servius for the sixth
_Eclogue_, had been Vergil's most devoted companion in Siro's school. He
also took some part in the civil wars, and came to be looked upon as
a very firm supporter of sound literary standards.[1] Horace's _Ouis
desiderio_, shows that Varus was one of Vergil's most devoted friends.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Horace, _Ars Poetica_, 440.]

Vergil's position as foremost of these poets was doubtless established by
the publication of the _Eclogues_. They took Rome by storm, and were even
set to music and sung on the stage, according to an Alexandrian fashion
then prevailing in the capital. Octavian was, of course, attracted to
them by a personal interest. The poet was given a house in Maecenas'
gardens on the Esquiline with the hope of enticing him to Rome. Vergil
doubtless spent some time in the city before he turned to the more
serious task of the _Georgics_, but we are told that he preferred the
Neapolitan bay and established his home there. This group, it would seem,
was definitely drawn into Octavian's circle soon after the peace of
Brundisium, and formed the nucleus of a kind of literary academy that set
the standards for the Augustan age.

The introduction of Horace into this circle makes an interesting story.
He was five years younger than Vergil, and had had his advanced education
at Athens. There Brutus found him in 43, when attending philosophical
lectures in order to hide his political intrigues; and though Horace
was a freedman's son, Brutus gave him the high dignity of a military
tribuneship. Brutus as a Republican was, of course, a stickler for all
the aristocratic customs. That he conferred upon Horace a knight's office
probably indicates that the _libertinus pater_ had been a war captive
rather than a man of servile stock, and, therefore, only technically a
"freedman." In practical life the Romans observed this distinction, even
though it was not usually feasible to do so in political life. After
Philippi Horace found himself with the defeated remnant and returned to
Italy only to discover that his property had been confiscated. He was
eager for a career in literature, but having to earn his bread, he bought
a poor clerkship in the treasury office. Then during spare moments he
wrote--satires, of course. What else could such a wreckage of enthusiasm
and ambitions produce?

His only hope lay in attracting the attention of some kindly disposed
literary man, and for some reason he chose Vergil. The _Eclogues_ were
not yet out, but the _Culex_ was in circulation, and he made the pastoral
scene of this the basis of an epode--the second--written with no little
good-natured humor. Horace imagines a broker of the forum reading that
passage, and, quite carried away by the succession of delightful scenes,
deciding to quit business for the simple life. He accordingly draws in
all his moneys on the Calends--on the Ides he lends them out again![2]
What Vergil wrote Horace when he received a copy of the _Epode_, we
are not told, but in his next work, the _Georgics_, he returned the
compliment by similarly threading Horace's phrases into a description of
country life--a passage that is indeed one of the most successful in the

[Footnote 2: Horace's scenes (his memory is visual rather than auditory)
unmistakably reproduce those of the _Culex_; cf. _Culex_ 148-58 with
_Epode_ 26-28; _Culex_ 86-7 with _Epode_ 21-22; _Culex_ 49-50 with
_Epode_ 11-12; etc. A full comparison is made in _Classical Philology_,
1920, p. 24. Vergil could, of course, be expected to recognize the
allusions to his own poem.]

[Footnote 3: _See Georgics_, II, 458-542, and a discussion of it in
_Classical Philology_, 1920, p. 42.]

The composition of the sixteenth epode by Horace--soon after the second,
it would seem--gave Vergil an opportunity to recognize the new poet, and
answer his pessimistic appeal with the cheerful prophecy of the fourth
Eclogue, as we have seen. By this time we may suppose that an intimate
friendship had sprung up between the two poets, strengthened of course
by friendly intercourse, now that Vergil could spend some of his time
at Rome. Horace himself tells how Vergil and Varius introduced him to
Maecenas (_Sat_. 1. 6), an important event in his career that took place
some time before the Brundisian journey (_Sat_. 1. 5). Maecenas had
hesitated somewhat before accepting the intimacy of the young satirist:
Horace had fought quite recently in the enemy's army, had criticized
the government in his _Epodes_, and was of a class--at least
technically--which Octavian had been warned not to recognize socially,
unless he was prepared to offend the old nobility. But Horace's dignified
candor won him the confidence of Maecenas; and that there might be no
misunderstanding he included in his first book of _Satires_ a simple
account of what he was and hoped to be. Thus through the efforts of
Vergil and Varius he entered the circle whose guiding spirit he was
destined to become.

Thus the coterie was formed, which under such powerful patronage was
bound to become a sort of unofficial commission for the regulation of
literary standards. It was an important question, not only for the young
men themselves but for the future of Roman literature, which direction
this group would take and whose influence would predominate. It might be
Maecenas, the holder of the purse-strings, a man who could not check his
ambition to express himself whether in prose or verse. This Etruscan,
whose few surviving pages reveal the fact that he never acquired
an understanding of the dignity of Rome's language, that he was
temperamentally un-Roman in his love for meretricious gaudiness and
prettiness, might have worked incalculable harm on this school had his
taste in the least affected it. But whether he withheld his dictum, or it
was disregarded by the others, no influence of his can be detected in the
literature of the epoch.

Apollodorus, Octavian's aged teacher, a man of very great personal
influence, and highly respected, probably counted for more. In his
lectures and his books, one of which, Valgius, a member of the circle,
translated into Latin, he preached the doctrines of a chaste and
dignified classicism. His creed fortunately fell in with the tendencies
of the time, and whether this teaching be called a cause, or whether the
popularity of it be an effect of pre-existing causes, we know that this
man came to represent many of the ideals of the school.

But to trace these ideals in their contact with Vergil's mental
development, we must look back for a moment to the tendencies of the
Catullan age from which he was emerging. In a curious passage written not
many years after this, Horace, when grouping the poets according to their
styles and departments,[4] places Vergil in a class apart. He mentions
first a turgid epic poet for whom he has no regard. Then there are
Varius and Pollio, in epic and tragedy respectively, of whose forceful
directness he does approve. In comedy, his friend, Fundanius, represents
a homely plainness which he commends, while Vergil stands for gentleness
and urbanity (molle atque facetum).

[Footnote 4: _Sat_. I. 10, 40 ff.]

The passage is important not only because it reveals a contemporaneous
view of Vergil's position but because it shows Horace thus early as the
spokesman of the "classical" coterie, the tenets of which in the end
prevailed. In this passage Horace employs the categories of the standard
text-books of rhetoric of that day[5] which were accustomed to classify
styles into four types: (1) Grand and ornate, (2) grand but austere, (3)
plain and austere, (4) plain but graceful. The first two styles might
obviously be used in forensic prose or in ambitious poetic work like
epics and tragedies. Horace would clearly reject the former, represented
for instance by Hortensius and Pacuvius, in favor of the austere dignity
and force of the second, affected by men like Cornificius in prose and
Varius and Pollio in verse. The two types of the "plain" style were
employed in more modest poems of literature, both, in prose and in such
poetry as comedy, the epyllion, in pastoral verse, and the like. Severe
simplicity was favored by Calvus in his orations, Catullus in his
lyrics 5 while a more polished and well-nigh _précieuse_ plainness was
illustrated in the speeches of Calidius and in the Alexandrian epyllion
of Catullus' _Peleus and Thetis_ and in Vergil's _Ciris_ and _Bucolics_.

[Footnote 5: E.g. Demetrius, Philodemus, Cicero; of. _Class. Phil_. 1920,
p. 230.]

In choosing between these two, Horace, of course, sympathizes with the
ideals of the severe and chaste style, which he finds in the comedies of
Fundanius. Vergil's early work, unambitious and "plain" though it is,
falls, of course, into the last group; and though Horace recognizes his
type with a friendly remark, one feels that he recognizes it for reasons
of friendship, rather than because of any native sympathy for it. By his
juxtaposition he shows that the classical ideals of the second and third
of the four "styles" are to him most sympathetic. _Mollitudo_ does not
find favor in any of his own work, or in his criticism of other men's
work. Vergil, therefore, though he appears in this Augustan coterie as
an important member, is still felt to be something of a free lance who
adheres to Alexandrian art[6] not wholly in accord with the standards
which are now being formulated. If Horace had obeyed his literary
instincts alone he would probably have relegated Vergil at this period
to the silence he accorded Callus and Propertius if not to the open
hostility he expressed towards the Alexandrianism of Catullus. It is
significant of Vergil's breadth of sympathy that he remitted not a jot in
his devotion to Catullus and Gallus and that he won the deep reverence of
Propertius while remaining the friend and companion of the courtly group
working towards a stricter classicism. If we may attempt to classify
the early Augustans, we find them aligning themselves thus. The strict
classicists are Horace the satirist, Varius a writer of epics, Pollio
of tragedy; while Varus, Valgius, Plotius, and Fundanius, though less
productive, employ their influence in the support of this tendency as
does Tibullus somewhat later. Vergil is a close personal friend of these
men but refuses to accept the axioms of any one school; Gallus, his
friend, is a free romanticist, and is followed in this tendency a few
years later by Propertius.

[Footnote 6: Horace had doubtless seen not only the _Culex_ but several
of the other minor works that Vergil never deigned to put into general

The influences that made for classicism were many. Apollodorus, the
teacher of Octavian, must have been a strong factor, but since his work
has been lost, the weight of it cannot now be estimated. Horace imbibed
his love for severe ideals in Athens, of course. There his teachers were
Stoic rhetoricians who trained him in an uncompromising respect for
stylistic rules.[7] He read the Hellenistic poets, to be sure, and
reveals in his poems a ready memory of them, but it was the great epoch
of Greek poetry that formed his style. Such are the foreign influences.
But the native Roman factors must not be forgotten. In point of fact it
was the classicistic Catullus and Calvus, of the simple, limpid lyrics,
written in pure unalloyed every-day Latin, that taught the new generation
to reject the later Hellenistic style of Catullus and Calvus as
illustrated in the verse romances. Varus, Pollio, and Varius were old
enough to know Catullus and Calvus personally, to remember the days when
poems like _Dianae sumus in fide_ were just issued, and they were poets
who could value the perfect art of such work even after the authors of
them had been enticed by ambition into dangerous by-paths. In a word, it
was Catullus and Calvus, the lyric poets, who made it possible for the
next generation to reject Catullus and Calvus the neoteric romancers.

[Footnote 7: For the stylistic tenets of the Stoic teachers see
Fiske, _Lucilius and Horace_, pp. 64-143. Apollodorus seems to be the
rhetorician whom Horace calls Heliodorus in _Sat_. I, 5, see _Class.
Phil_. 1920, 393.]

For the modern, therefore, it is difficult to restrain a just resentment
when he finds Horace referring to these two great predecessors with a
sneer. Yet we can, if we will, detect an adequate explanation of Horace's
attitude. Very few poets of any time have been able to capture and hold
the generation immediately succeeding. The stronger the impression made
by a genius, the farther away is the pendulum of approbation apt to
swing. The _neoteroi_ had to face, in addition to this revulsion, the
misfortunes of the time. The civil wars which came close upon them had
little use for the sentimentality of their romances or the involutions
of their manner of composition. And again, Catullus and Calvus had been
over-brutal in their attacks upon Julius Caesar, a character lifted to
the high heavens by the war and the martyrdom that followed. And, as
fortune would have it, almost all of the new literary men were, as we
have seen, peculiarly devoted to Caesar. We know enough of wars to have
discovered that intense partizanship does silence literary judgment
except in the case of a very few men of unusual balance. Vergil was one
of the very few; he kept his candle lit at the shrine of Catullus still,
but this was hardly to be expected of the rest.

In prose also the Augustans upheld the refined and chaste work of
classical Atticism, an ideal which they derived from the Romans of the
preceding generation rather than from teachers like Apollodorus. Pollio
and Messalla are now the foremost orators. Pollio had stood close to
Calvus as well as to Caesar, and had witnessed the revulsion of feeling
against Cicero's style which continued to move in its old leisurely
course even after the civil war had quickened men's pulses. Messalla may
have been influenced by the example of his general, Brutus, a man who
never wasted words (so long as he kept his temper). Messalla and Pollio
were the dictators of prose style during this period.

We find Vergil, therefore, in a peculiar position. He was still
recognized as a pupil of Catullus and the Alexandrians at a time when the
pendulum was swinging so violently away from the republican poets that
they did not even get credit for the lessons that they had so well taught
the new generation. Vergil himself was in each new work drifting more and
more toward classicism, but he continued to the last to honor
Catullus and Calvus, Cinna and Cornificius, and his friend Gallus, in
complimentary imitation or by friendly mention. The new Academy was proud
to claim him as a member, though it doubtless knew that Vergil was too
great to be bound by rules. To after ages, while Horace has come to stand
as an extremist who carried the law beyond the spirit, Vergil, honoring
the past and welcoming the future, has assumed the position of Rome's
most representative poet.



The years that followed the publication of the _Eclogues_ seem to have
been a season of reading, traveling, observing, and brooding. Maecenas
desired to keep the poet at Rome, and as an inducement provided him with
a villa in his own gardens on the Esquiline. The fame of the _digitus
praetereuntium_ awaited his coming and going, his _Bucolics_ had been set
to music and sung in the concert halls to vehement applause.[1] He seems
even to have made an effort to be socially congenial. There is intimate
knowledge of courtly customs in the staging of his epic; and in Horace's
fourth book a refurbished early poem in Philodemus' manner pictures a
Vergil--apparently the poet--as the pet of the fashionable world. But
these things had no attraction for him. Rome indeed appealed to his
imagination, _Roma pulcherrima rerum_, but it was the invisible Rome
rather than the _fumum et opes strepitumque_, it was the city of pristine
ideals, of irresistible potency, of Anchises' pageant of heroes. When
he walked through the Forum he saw not only the glistening monuments in
their new marble veneer, but beyond these, in the far distant past, the
straw hut of Romulus and the sacred grove on the Capitoline where the
spirit of Jove had guarded a folk of simpler piety.[2] And down the
centuries he beheld the heroes, the law-givers, and the rulers, who had
made the Forum the court of a world-wide empire. The Rome of his own day
was too feverish, it soon drove him back to his garden villa near Naples.

[Footnote 1: Tacitus, _Dialogus_, 13: Malo securum et quietum Vergilii
secessum, in quo tamen neque apud divum Augustum gratia caruit neque apud
populum Romanum notitia. Testes Augusti epistulae, testis ipse populus,
qui auditis in theatro Vergilii versibus surrexit universus et forte
praesentem spectantemque Vergilium veneratus est quasi Augustum.]

[Footnote 2: _Aeneid_ VIII.]

It was well that he possessed such a retreat during those years of petty
political squabbles. The capital still hummed with rumors of civil war.
Antony seemed determined to sever the eastern provinces from the empire
and make of them a gift to Cleopatra and her children--a mad course that
could only end in another world war. Sextus Pompey still held Sicily and
the central seas, ready to betray the state at the first mis-step on
Octavian's part. At Rome itself were many citizens in high position who
were at variance with the government, quite prepared to declare for
Antony or Pompey if either should appear a match for the young heir of
Caesar. Clearly the great epic of Rome could not have matured in that
atmosphere of suspicion, intrigue, and selfishness. The convulsions of
the dying republic, beheld day by day near at hand, could only have
inspired a disgust sufficient to poison a poet's sensitive hope. It was
indeed fortunate that Vergil could escape all this, that he could retain
through the period of transition the memories of Rome's former greatness
and the faith in her destiny that he had imbibed in his youth. The time
came when Octavian, after Actium, reunited the Empire with a firm hand
and justified the buoyant optimism which Vergil, almost alone of his
generation, had been able to preserve.

During these few years Vergil seems to have written but little. We have,
however, a strange poem of thirty-eight lines, the _Copa_, which, to
judge from its exclusion from the _Catalepton_, should perhaps be
assigned to this period. A study in tempered realism, not unlike the
eighth _Eclogue_, it gives us the song of a Syrian tavern-maid inviting
wayfarers into her inn from the hot and dusty road. The spirit is
admirably reproduced in Kirby Smith's rollicking translation:[3]

[Footnote 3: See Kirby Flower Smith, _Marital, the Epigrammatist and,
Other Essays_, Johns Hopkins Press, 1920, p. 170. The attribution of the
poem to Vergil by the ancients as well as by the manuscripts, and the
style of its fanciful realism so patent in much of Vergil's work place
the poem in the authentic list. Rand, _Young Virgil's Poetry_, Harvard
Studies, 1919, p. 174, has well summed up the arguments regarding the
authorship of the poem.]

'Twas at a smoke-stained tavern, and she, the hostess there--
A wine-flushed Syrian damsel, a turban on her hair--
Beat out a husky tempo from reeds in either hand,
And danced--the dainty wanton--an Ionian saraband.
"'Tis hot," she sang, "and dusty; nay, travelers, whither bound?
Bide here and tip a beaker--till all the world goes round;
Bide here and have for asking wine-pitchers, music, flowers,
Green pergolas, fair gardens, cool coverts, leafy bowers.
In our Arcadian grotto we have someone to play
On Pan-pipes, shepherd fashion, sweet music all the day.
We broached a cask but lately; our busy little stream
Will gurgle softly near you the while you drink and dream.
Chaplets of yellow violets a-plenty you shall find,
And glorious crimson roses in garlands intertwined;
And baskets heaped with lilies the water nymph shall bring--
White lilies that this morning were mirrored in her spring.
Here's cheese new pressed in rushes for everyone who comes,
And, lo, Pomona sends us her choicest golden plums.
Red mulberries await you, late purple grapes withal,
Dark melons cased in rushes against the garden wall,
Brown chestnuts, ruddy apples. Divinities bide here,
Fair Ceres, Cupid, Bacchus, those gods of all good cheer,
Priapus too--quite harmless, though terrible to see--
Our little hardwood warden with scythe of trusty tree.

"Ho, friar with the donkey, turn in and be our guest!
Your donkey--Vesta's darling--is weary; let him rest.
In every tree the locusts their shrilling still renew,
And cool beneath the brambles the lizard lies perdu.
So test our summer-tankards, deep draughts for thirsty men;
Then fill our crystal goblets, and souse yourself again.
Come, handsome boy, you're weary! 'Twere best for you to twine
Your heavy head with roses and rest beneath our vine,
Where dainty arms expect you and fragrant lips invite;
Oh, hang the strait-laced model that plays the anchorite!
Sweet garlands for cold ashes why should you care to save?
Or would you rather keep them to lay upon your grave?
Nay, drink and shake the dice-box. Tomorrow's care begone!
Death plucks your sleeve and whispers: 'Live now, I come anon.'"

Memories of the Neapolitan bay! The _Copa_ should be read in the arbor of
an _osteria_ at Sorrento or Capri to the rhythm of the tarantella where
the modern offspring of Vergil's tavern-maid are still plying the arts of
song and dance upon the passerby.[4]

[Footnote 4: Unfortunately the evidence does not suffice to assign the
_Moretum_ to Vergil, though it was certainly composed by a genuine if
somewhat halting poet, and in Vergil's day. It has many imaginative
phrases, and the meticulous exactness of its miniature work might seem to
be Vergilian were it not for the unrelieved plainness of the theme. Even
so, it might be considered an experiment in a new style, if the rather
dubious manuscript evidence were supported by a single ancient citation.
See Rand, _loc. Cit._ p. 178.]

There are also three brief _Priapea_ which should probably be assigned to
this period. The third may indeed have been an inscription on a pedestal
of the scare-crow god set out to keep off thieving rooks and urchins in
the poet's own garden:

This place, my lads, I prosper, I guard the hovel, too,
Thatched, as you see, by willows and reeds and grass that grew
In all the marsh about it; hence me, mere stump of oak,
Shaped by the farmer's hatchet, they now as god invoke.
They bring me gifts devoutly, the master and his boy,
Supposing me the giver of the blessings they enjoy.
The kind old man each morning comes here to weed the ground,
He clears the shrine of thistles and burrs that grow around.
The lad brings dainty offerings with small but ready hand:
At dawn of spring he crowns me with a lavish daisy-strand,
From summer's earliest harvest, while still the stalk is green,
He wreathes my brow with chaplets; he fills me baskets clean
With golden pansies, poppies, with apples ripe and gourds,
The first rich blushing clusters of grapes for me he hoards.
And once to my great honor--but let no god be told!--
He brought me to my altar a lambkin from the fold.
So though, my lads, a Scare-Crow and no true god I be,
My master and his vineyard are very dear to me.
Keep off your filching hands, lads, and elsewhere ply your theft:

Our neighbor is a miser, his Scare-Crow gets no gifts,
His apples are not guarded--the path is on your left.

The quaint simplicity of the sentiment and the playful surprise at the
end quickly disarm any skepticism that would deny these lines to Horace's
poet of "tender humor."

During this period the poet seems also to have traveled. Maecenas enjoyed
the society of literary men, and we may well suppose that he took Vergil
with him in his administrative tours on more than the one occasion
which Horace happens to have recorded. The poet certainly knows Italy
remarkably well. The meager and inaccurate maps and geographical works of
that day could not have provided him with the insight into details which
the Georgics and the last six books of the _Aeneid_ reveal. We know, of
course, from Horace's third ode that Vergil went to Greece. This famous
poem, a "steamer-letter" as it were, is undated, but it may well be a
continuation of the Brundisian diary. The strange turn which the poem
takes--its dread of the sea's dangers--seems to point to a time when
Horace's memories of his own shipwreck were still very vivid.

There was also time for extensive reading. That Vergil ranged widely and
deeply in philosophy and history, antiquities and all the world's best
prose and poetry, the vast learning of the _Georgics_ and the _Aeneid_
abundantly proves. The epic story which he had early plotted out must
have lain very near the threshold of his consciousness through this
period, for his mind kept seizing upon and storing up apposite incidents
and germs of fruitful lore. References to Aeneas crop out here and there
in the _Georgics_, and the mysterious address to Mantua in the third book
promises, under allusive metaphors, an epic of Trojan heroes. Nor could
the poet forget the philosophic work he had so long pondered over. Doubts
increased, however, of his capacity to justify himself after the sure
success of Lucretius. A remarkable confession in the second book of the
_Georgics_ reveals his conviction that in this poem he had, through
lack of confidence, chosen the inferior theme of nature's physical
and sensuous appeal when he would far rather have experienced the
intellectual joy of penetrating into nature's inner mysteries.[5]

[Footnote 5:
    Me vero primum dulces ante omnia Musae,
    Quarum sacra fero ingenti percussus-amore,
    Accipiant, caelique vias et sidera monstrent--
    Sin, has ne possim naturae accedere partes,
    Frigidus obstiterit circum praecordia sanguis,
    Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes.
                                          _Georgics_, II. 475. ff.

Was this striking _apologia of the Georgics_ forced upon Vergil by
the fact that in the _Aetna_, 264-74, he had pronounced peasant-lore
trivial in comparison with science?]

Though we need not take too literally a poet's prefatorial remarks,
Vergil doubtless hoped that his _Georgics_ might turn men's thoughts
towards a serious effort at rehabilitating agriculture, and the
practical-minded Maecenas certainly encouraged the work with some such
aim in view. The government might well be deeply concerned. The veterans
who had recently settled many of Italy's best tracts could not have
been skilled farmers. The very fact that the lands were given them for
political services could only have suggested to the shrewd among them
that the old Roman respect for property rights had been infringed,
and that it was wise to sell as soon as possible and depart with some
tangible gain before another revolution resulted in a new redistribution.
Such suspicions could hardly beget the patience essential for the
development of agriculture. And yet this was the very time when farming
must be encouraged. Large parts of the arable land had been abandoned to
grazing during the preceding century because of the importation of the
provincial stipendiary grain, and Italy had lost the custom of raising
the amount of food that her population required. As a result, the younger
Pompey's control of Sicily and the trade routes had now brought on a
series of famines and consequent bread-riots. Year after year Octavian
failed in his attempts to lure away or to defeat this obnoxious rebel.
At best he could buy him off for a while, though he never knew at what
season of scarcity the purchase price might become prohibitive. The
choice of Vergil's subject coincided, therefore, with a need that all men

The _Georgics_, however, are not written in the spirit of a colonial
advertisement. In the youthful _Culex_ Vergil had dwelt somewhat too
emphatically upon the song-birds and the cool shade, and had drawn upon
himself the genial comment of Horace that Alfius did not find conditions
in the country quite as enchanting as pictured. This time the poet paints
no idealized landscape. Enticing though the picture is, Vergil insists on
the need of unceasing, ungrudging toil. He lists the weeds and blights,
the pests and the vermin against which the farmer must contend. Indeed
it is in the contemplation of a life of toil that he finds his honest
philosophy of life: the gospel of salvation through work. Hardships whet
the ingenuity of man; God himself for man's own good brought an end to
the age of golden indolence, shook the honey from the trees, and gave
vipers their venom. Man has been left alone to contend with an obstinate
nature, and in that struggle to discover his own worth. The _Georgics_
are far removed from pastoral allegory; Italy is no longer Arcadia, it is
just Italy in all its glory and all its cruelty.

Vergil's delight in nature is essentially Roman, though somewhat
more self-conscious than that of his fellows. There is little of the
sentimental rapture that the eighteenth century discovered for us. Vergil
is not likely to stand in postures before the awful solemnity of the
sea or the majesty of wide vistas from mountain tops. Italian hill-tops
afford views of numerous charming landscapes but no scenes of entrancing
grandeur or awe-inspiring desolation, and the sea, before the days of the
compass, was too suggestive of death and sorrow to invite consideration
of its lawless beauty. These aspects of nature had to be discovered by
later experiences in other lands. At first glance Vergil seems to care
most for the obvious gifts of Italy's generous amenities, the physical
pleasure in the free out-of-doors, the form and color of landscapes,
the wholesome life. As one reads on, however, one becomes aware of an
intimacy and fellowship with animate things that go deeper. Particularly
in the second book the very blades of grass and tendrils of the vines
seem to be sentient. The grafted trees "behold with wonder" strange
leaves and fruits growing from their stems, transplanted shoots "put off
their wild-wood instincts," the thirsting plant "lifts up its head" in
gratitude when watered. Our own generation, which was sedulously enticed
into nature study by books crammed with the "pathetic fallacy," has
become suspicious of everything akin to "nature faking." It has learned
that this device has been a trick employed by a crafty pedagogy for the
sake of appealing to unimaginative children. Vergil was probably far from
being conscious of any such purpose. As a Roman he simply gave expression
to a mode of viewing nature that still seemed natural to most Greeks and
Romans. The Roman farmer had not entirely outgrown his primitive animism.
When he said his prayers to the spirits of the groves, the fields, and
the streams, he probably did not visualize these beings in human form;
manifestations of life betokened spirits that produced life and growth.
Vergil's phrases are the poetic expression of the animism of the
unsophisticated rustic which at an earlier age had shaped the great
nature myths.

And if Vergil had been questioned about his own faith he could well have
found a consistent answer. Though he had himself long ceased to pay
homage to these _animae_, his philosophy, like that of Lucretius, also
sought the life-principle in nature, though he sought that principle a
step farther removed in the atom, the vitalized seeds of things, forever
in motion, forever creating new combinations, and forever working the
miracles of life by means of the energy with which they were themselves
instinct. The memorable lines on spring in the second book are cast into
the form of old poetry, but the basis of them is Epicurean energism, as
in Lucretius' prooemium. Vergil's study of evolution had for him also
united man and nature, making the romance of the _Georgics_ possible; it
had shaped a kind of scientific animism that permitted him to accept the
language of the simple peasant even though its connotations were for him
more complex and subtle.

Finally, the careful reader will discover in Vergil's nature poetry a
very modern attention to details such as we hardly expect to find before
the nineteenth century. Here again Vergil is Lucretius' companion.
This habit was apparently a composite product. The ingredients are the
capacity for wonder that we find in some great poets like Wordsworth and
Plato, a genius for noting details, bred in him as in Lucretius by long
occupation with deductive methods of philosophy,--scientific pursuits
have thus enriched modern poetry also--and a sure aesthetic sense.
This power of observation has been overlooked by many of Vergil's
commentators. Conington, for example, has frequently done the poet an
injustice by assuming that Vergil was in error whenever his statements
seem not to accord with what we happen to know. We have now learned to be
more wary. It is usually a safer assumption that our observation is
in error. A recent study of "trees, shrubs and plants of Vergil,"
illuminating in numberless details, has fallen into the same error here
and there by failing to notice that Vergil wrote his _Bucolics_ and
_Georgics_ not near Mantua but in southern Italy. The modern botanical
critic of Vergil should, as Mackail has said, study the flora of Campania
not of Lombardy. In every line of composition Vergil took infinite
pains to give an accurate setting and atmosphere. Carcopino[6] has just
astonished us with proof of the poet's minute study of topographical
details in the region of Lavinium and Ostia, Mackail[7] has vindicated
his care as an antiquarian, Warde Fowler[8] has repeatedly pointed
out his scrupulous accuracy in portraying religious rites, and now
Sergeaunt,[9] in a study of his botany, has emphasized his habit of
making careful observations in that domain.

[Footnote 6: Carcopino, _Virgile et les origines d'Ostie_.]

[Footnote 7: Mackail, _Journal of Roman Studies_, 1915.]

[Footnote 8: Warde Fowler, _Religious Experience of the Roman
People_. p. 408.]

[Footnote 9: Sergeaunt, _Trees, Shrubs, and Plants of Virgil_.]

This modern habit it is that makes the _Georgics_ read so much like
Fabre's remarkable essays. The study of the bees in the fourth book is,
of course, not free from errors that nothing less than generations of
close scrutiny could remove. But the right kind of observing has begun.
On the other hand the book is not merely a farmer's practical manual
on how to raise bees for profit. The poet's interest is in the amazing
insects themselves, their how and why and wherefore. It is the mystery
of their instincts, habits, and all-compelling energy that leads him to
study the bees, and finally to the half-concealed confession that his
philosophy has failed to solve the problems of animate nature.



While Caesar Octavian, now grown to full political stature, was reuniting
the East and the West after Actium, Vergil was writing the last pages of
the _Georgics_. The battle that decided Rome's future also determined the
poet's next theme. The Epic of Rome, abandoned at the death of Caesar,
unthinkable during the civil wars which followed, appealed for a hearing
now that Rome was saved and the empire restored. Vergil's youthful
enthusiasm for Rome, which had sprung from a critical reading of her past
career, seemed fully justified; he began at once his _Arma virumque_.

The _Aeneid_ reveals, as the critics of nineteen centuries have
reiterated, an unsurpassed range of reading. But it is not necessary
to repeat the evidence of Vergil's literary obligations in an essay
concerned chiefly with the poet's more intimate experiences. In point of
fact, the tracking of poetic reminiscences in a poet who lived when no
concealment of borrowed thought was demanded does as much violence to
Vergil as it does to Euripides or Petrarch. The poet has always been
expected to give expression to his own convictions, but until recently it
has been considered a graceful act on his part to honor the good work of
his predecessors by the frank use, in recognizable form, of the lines
that he most admires. The only requirement has been that the poet should
assimilate, and not merely agglomerate his acceptances, that he should as
Vergil put it, "wrest the club from Hercules" and wield it as its master.

In essence the poetry of the _Aeneid_ is never Homeric, despite the
incorporation of many Homeric lines. It is rather a sapling of Vergil's
Hellenistic garden, slowly acclimated to the Italian soil, fed richly by
years of philosophic study, braced, pruned, and reared into a tree of
noble strength and classic dignity. The form and majesty of the tree
bespeak infinite care in cultivation, but the fruit has not lost the
delicate tang and savour of its seed. The poet of the _Ciris_, the
_Copa_, the _Dirae_, and the _Bucolics_ is never far to seek in the

It would be a long story to trace the flowering in the Aeneid of the
seedling sown in Vergil's boyhood garden-plot.[1] The note of intimacy,
unexpected in an epic, the occasional drawing of the veil to reveal the
poet's own countenance, an un-Homeric sentimentality now and then, the
great abundance of sense-teeming collocations, the depth of sympathy
revealed in such tragic characters as Pallas, Lausus, Euryalus, the
insistent study of inner motives, the meticulous selection of incidents,
the careful artistry of the meter, the fastidious choice of words, and
the precision of the joiner's craft in the composition of traditional
elements, all suggest the habits of work practiced by the friends of
Cinna and Valerius Cato.

[Footnote 1: For a careful study of this subject see Duckett,
_Hellenistic Influence on the Aeneid,_ Smith College Studies, 1920.]

The last point is well illustrated in Sinon's speech at the opening of
the second book. The old folktale of how the "wooden horse," left on the
shore by the Greeks, was recklessly dragged to the citadel by the Trojans
satisfied the unquestioning Homer. Vergil does not take the improbable
on faith. Sinon is compelled to be entirely convincing. In his speech he
uses every art of persuasion: he awakens in turn curiosity, surprise,
pity, admiration, sympathy, and faith. The passage is as curiously
wrought as any episode of Catullus or the _Ciris_. It is not, as has been
held, a result of rhetorical studies alone; it reveals rather a native
good sense tempered with a neoteric interest in psychology and a neoteric
exactness in formal composition. And yet the passage exhibits a great
advance upon the geometric formality of the _Ciris_. The incident is not
treated episodically as it might have been in Vergil's early work. The
pattern is not whimsically intricate but is shaped by an understanding
mind. While its art is as studied and conscious as that of the _Ciris_,
it has the directness and integrity of Homeric narrative. Yet Vergil
has not forgotten the startling effects that Catullus would attain by
compressing a long tale into a suggestive phrase, if only a memory of the
tale could be assumed. The story of Priam's death on the citadel is told
in all its tragic horror till the climax is reached. Then suddenly with
astonishing force the mind is flung through and beyond the memories of
the awful mutilation by the amazingly condensed phrase:

      jacet ingens litore truncus
  avulsumque umeris caput et sine nomine corpus.

There Vergil has given only the last line of a suppressed tragedy which
the reader is compelled to visualize for himself.

Neoteric, too, is the accurate observation and the patience with details
displayed by the author of the _Aeneid_. In his youth Vergil had, to be
sure, avoided the extremes of photographic realism illustrated by the
very curious _Moretum_, but he had nevertheless, in works like the
_Copa_, the _Dirae_, and the eighth _Eclogue_, practiced the craft of the
miniaturist whenever he found the minutiae aesthetically significant. To
realize the precision of his strokes even then one has but to recall the
couplet of the _Copa_ which in an instant sets one upon the dusty road of
an Italian July midday:

  Nunc cantu crebro rumpunt arbusta cicadae
    nunc varia in gelida sede lacerta latet.

Throughout the _Aeneid,_ the patches of landscape, the retreats for
storm-tossed ships, the carved temple-doors, the groups of accoutred
warriors marching past, and many a gruesome battle scene, are reminders
of this early technique.

What degrees of conscientious workmanship went into these results, we are
just now learning. Carcopino,[2] who, with a copy of Vergil in hand, has
carefully surveyed the Latin coast from the Tiber mouth, past the site of
Lavinium down to Ardea, is convinced that the poet traced every manoeuvre
and every sally on the actual ground which he chose for his theatre of
action in the last six books. It still seems possible to recognize the
deep valley of the ambuscade and the plain where Camilla deployed her
cavalry. Furthermore, there can be little doubt that for the sake of a
heroic-age setting Vergil studied the remains and records of most ancient
Rome. There were still in existence in various Latin towns sixth-century
temples laden with antique arms and armor deposited as votive offerings,
terracotta statues of gods and heroes, and even documents stored for
safe-keeping. In the expansion of Rome over the Campus Martius unmarked
tombs with their antique furniture were often disclosed. It is apparent
from his works that Vergil examined such material, just as he delved into
Varro's antiquities and Cato's "origins" for ancient lore. His remarks
on Praeneste and Antemnae, his knowledge of ancient coin symbols, of the
early rites of the Hercules cult, show the results of these early habits
of work. It must always be noticed, however, that in his mature art he is
master of his vast hoard of material. There is never, as in the _Culex_
and _Ciris_, a display of irrelevant facts, a yielding to the temptation
of being excursive and episodic. Wherever the work had received the final
touch, the composition shows a flawless unity.

[Footnote 2: Carcopino, _Virgile et les origines d'Ostie_.]

The poet's response to personal experience reveals itself nowhere more
than in the political aspect of the _Aeneid_ a fact that is the more
remarkable because Vergil lived so long in Epicurean circles where an
interest in politics was studiously suppressed.

What makes the poem the first of national epics is, however, not a
devotion to Rome's historical claims to primacy in Italy. The narrow
imperialism of the urban aristocracy finds no support in him. Not the
city of Rome but Italy is the _patria_ of the _Aeneid_, and Italy as a
civilizing and peace-bringing force, not as the exploiting conqueror.
Here we recognize a spirit akin to Julius Caesar. Vergil's hero Aeneas,
is not a Latin but a Trojan. That fact is, of course, due to the
exigencies of tradition, but that Aeneas receives his aid from the Greek
Evander and from the numerous Etruscan cities north of the Tiber while
most of the Latins join Turnus, the enemy, cannot be attributed to
tradition. In fact, Livy, who gives the more usual Roman version, says
nothing of the Greeks, but joins Latinus and the Latian aborigines to
Aeneas while he musters the Etruscans under the Rutulian, Turnus. The
explanation for Vergil's striking departure from the usual patriotic
version of the legend is rather involved and need not be examined here.
But we may at any rate remark his wish to recognize the many races that
had been amalgamated by the state, to refuse his approval of a narrow
urban patriotism, and to give his assent to a view of Rome's place
and mission upon which Julius Caesar had always acted in extending
citizenship to peoples of all races, in scattering Roman colonies
throughout the empire, and in setting the provinces on the road to a
full participation in imperial privileges and duties. With such a policy
Vergil, schooled at Cremona, Milan, and Naples, could hardly fail to

It has been inferred from the position of authority which Aeneas assumes
that Vergil favored a strong monarchial form of government and intended
Aeneas to be, as it were, a prototype of Augustus. The inference is
doubtless over-hasty. Vergil had a lively historical sense and in his
hero seems only to have attempted a picture of a primitive king of the
heroic age. Indeed Aeneas is perhaps more of an autocrat than are
the Homeric kings, but that is because the Trojans are pictured as a
migrating group, torn root and branch from their land and government, and
following a semi-divine leader whose directions they have deliberately
chosen to obey. In his references to Roman history, in the pageant of
heroes of the sixth book, as well as in the historical scenes of the
shield, no monarchial tendencies appear. Brutus the tyrannicide, Pompey
and Cato, the irreconcilable foes of Caesar, Vergil's youthful hero,
receive their meed of praise in the _Aeneid_, though there were many who
held it treason in that day to mention rebels with respect.

It is indeed a very striking fact that Vergil, who was the first of Roman
writers to attribute divine honors to the youthful Octavian, refrains
entirely from doing so in the _Aeneid_ at a time when the rest of Rome
hesitated at no form of laudation. Julius Caesar is still recognized as
more than human,

  vocabitur hic quoque votis,

but Augustus is not. The contrast is significant. The language of the
very young man at Naples had, of course, been colored by Oriental
forms of expression that were in part unconsciously imbibed from the
conversations of the Garden. These were phrases too which Julius Caesar
in the last two years of his life encouraged; for he had learned from
Alexander's experience that the shortest cut through constitutional
obstructions to supreme power lay by way of the doctrine of divine
royalty. In fact, the Senate was forced to recognize the doctrine before
Caesar's death, and after his death consistently voted public sacrifices
at his grave. Vergil was, therefore, following a high authority in the
case of Caesar, and was drawing the logical inference in the case of
Octavian when he wrote the first _Eclogue_ and the prooemium of the
_Georgics_. This makes it all the more remarkable that while his
admiration for Augustus increased with the years, he ceased to give any
countenance to the growing cult of "emperor worship." That the restraint
was not simply in obedience to a governmental policy seems clear,
for Horace, who in his youthful work had shown his distrust of the
government, had now learned to make very liberal use of celestial

Augustus, then, is not in any way identified with the semi-divine Aeneas.
Vergil does not even place him at a post of special honor on the mount
of revelations, but rather in the midst of a long line of remarkable
_principes_. With dignity and sanity he lays the stress upon the great
events of the Republic and upon its heroes. We may, therefore, justly
conclude that when he wrote the epic he advocated a constitution of the
type proposed by Cicero, in which the _princeps_ should be a true leader
in the state but in a constitutional republic.

It is the great past, illustrated by the pageant of heroes and the
prophetic pictures of Aeneas's shield, that kindles the poet's
imagination. His sympathies are generous enough to include every race
within the empire and every leader who had shared in Rome's making,
from the divine founder, Romulus, and the tyrannicide, Brutus, to the
republican martyrs, Cato and Pompey, as well as the restorers of peace,
Caesar and Augustus. He has no false patriotism that blinds him to Rome's
shortcomings. He frankly admits with regret her failures in arts and
sciences with a modesty that permits of no reference to his own saving
work. What Rome has done and can do supremely well he also knows: she can
rule with justice, banish violence with law, and displace war by peace.
After the years of civil wars which he had lived through in agony of
spirit, it is not strange that such a mission seemed to him supreme. And
that is why the last words of Anchises to Aeneas are:

  Hae tibi erunt artes: pacisque imponere morem
  Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.

The tragedy of Dido reveals better perhaps than any other portion of
the _Aeneid_ how sensitively the poet reflected Rome's life and
thought rather than those of his Greek literary sources. And yet the
irrepressible Servius was so reckless as to say that the whole book had
been "transferred" from Apollonius. Fortunately we have in this case the
alleged source, and can meet the scholiast with a sweeping denial. Both
authors portray the love of a woman, and there the similarity ends.
Apollonius is wholly dependent upon a literal Cupid and his shafts.
Vergil, to be sure, is so far obedient to Greek convention as to play
with the motive--Cupid came to the banquet in the form of Ascanius--but
only after it was really no longer needed. The psychology of passion's
progress in the first book is convincingly expressed for the first time in
any literature. Aeneas first receives a full account of Dido's deeds of
courage and presently beholds her as she sits upon her throne,
directing the work of city building, judging and ruling as lawgiver
and administrator, and finally proclaiming mercy for his shipwrecked
companions. For her part she, we discover as he does, had long known
his story, and in her admiration for his people had chosen the deeds of
Trojan heroes for representation upon the temple doors: Sunt lacrimae
rerum. The poet simply and naturally leads hero and heroine through
the experience of admiration, generous sympathy, and gratitude to
an inevitable affection, which at the night's banquet, through a
soul-stirring tale told with dignity and heard in rapture, could only
ripen into a very human passion.

The vital difference between Vergil's treatment of the theme and
Apollonius' may be traced to the difference between the Roman and the
Greek family. Into Italy as into Greece had come, many centuries before,
hordes of Indo-European migrants from the Danubian region who had carried
into the South the wholesome family customs of the North, the very
customs indeed out of which the transalpine literature of medieval
chivalry later blossomed.

In Greece those social customs--still recognizable in Homer and the early
mythology--had in the sixth century been overwhelmed by a back-flow of
Aegean society, when the northern aristocracy was compelled to surrender
to the native element which constituted the backbone of the democracy.
With the re-emergence of the Aegean society, in which woman was relegated
to a menial position, the possibility of a genuine romantic literature
naturally came to an end.

At Rome there was no such cataclysm during the centuries of the Republic.
Here the old stock though somewhat mixed with Etruscans, survived. The
ancient aristocracy retained its dominant position in the state and
society, and its mores even penetrated downward. They were not stifled
by new southern customs welling up from below, at least not until the
plebeian element won the support of the founders of the empire, and
finally overwhelmed the nobility. At Rome during the Republic there was
no question of social inequality between the sexes, for though in law the
patriarchal clan-system, imposed by the exigencies of a migrating group,
made the father of the family responsible for civil order, no inferences
were drawn to the detriment of the mother's position in the household.
Nepos once aptly remarked: "Many things are considered entirely proper
here which the Greeks hold to be indelicate. No Roman ever hesitates to
take his wife with him to a social dinner. In fact, our women invariably
have the seat of honor at temples and large gatherings. In such matters
we differ wholly from the Greeks."

Indeed the very persistence of a nobility was in itself a favorable
factor in establishing a better position for women. Not only did the
accumulation of wealth in the household and the persistence of
courtly manners demand respect for the _domina_ of the villa, but the
transference of noble blood and of a goodly inheritance of name and land
through the mother's hand were matters of vital importance. The nobility
of the senate moreover long controlled the foreign policy of the empire,
and as the empire grew the men were called away to foreign parts on
missions and legations. At such times, the lady in an important household
was mistress of large affairs. It has been pointed out as a significant
fact that the father of the Gracchi was engaged for long years in
ambassadorial and military duties. The training of the lads consequently
fell to the share of Cornelia, a fact which may in some measure account
for the humanitarian interests of those two brilliant reformers. The
responsibilities that fell upon the shoulders of such women must have
stimulated their keenest powers and thus won for them the high esteem
which, in this case, we know the sons accorded their mother. One does
not soon forget the scene (Cicero, _Ad Att_. XV, II) at which Brutus and
Cassius together with their wives, Porcia and Tertia, and Servilia, the
mother of Brutus, discussed momentous decisions with Cicero. When Brutus
stood wavering, Cicero avoiding the issue, and Cassius as usual losing
his temper, it was Servilia who offered the only feasible solution,
and it was her program which they adopted. Is it surprising that Greek
historians like Plutarch could never quite comprehend the part in Roman
politics played by women like Clodia, Porcia and Terentia? In sheer
despair he usually resorts to the hypotheses of some personal intrigue
for an explanation of their powerful influence.

It is in truth very likely that had Roman literature been permitted to
run its own natural course, without being overwhelmed, as was the Italian
literature of the renaissance, it would have progressed much farther on
the road to Romanticism. Apollonius was far more a restraining influence
in this respect than an inspiration. As it is, Vergil's first and fourth
books are as unthinkable in Greek dress as is the sixth. They constitute
a very conspicuous landmark in the history of literature.

Vergil does not wholly escape the powerful conventions of his Greek
predecessors: in his fourth book, for instance, there are suggestions of
the melodramatic "maiden's lament" so dear to the music hall gallery of
Alexandria. But Vergil, apparently to his own surprise, permits his Roman
understanding of life to prevail, and transcends his first intentions
as soon as he has felt the grip of the character he is portraying. Dido
quickly emerges from the role of a temptress designed as a last snare to
trap the hero, and becomes a woman who reveals human laws paramount even
to divine ordinance. Once realizing this the poet sacrifices even his
hero and wrecks his original plot to be true to his insight into human
nature. The confession of Aeneas, as he departs, that in heeding heaven's
command he has blasphemed against love--_polluto amore_--how strange a
thought for the _pius Aeneas_! That sentiment was not Greek, it was a new
flash of intuition of the very quality of purest Romance.

The _Aeneid_ is also a remarkably religious poem to have come from one
who had devoted so many enthusiastic years to a materialistic philosophy.
Indeed it is usual to assume that the poet had abandoned his philosophy
and turned to Stoicism before his death. But there is after all no
legitimate ground for this supposition. The _Aeneid_ has, of course, none
of the scientific fanaticism that mars the _Aetna_, and the poet has
grown mellow and tolerant with years, but that he was still convinced of
the general soundness of the Epicurean hypotheses seems certain. Many
puzzles of the _Aeneid_ are at least best explained by that view. The
repetition of his creed in the first _Aeneid_ ought to warn us that
his enthusiasm for the study of _Rerum natura_ did not die. Indeed the
_Aeneid_ is full of Epicurean phrases and notions. The atoms of fire are
struck out of the flint (VI, 6), the atoms of light are emitted from the
sun (VII, 527, and VIII, 23), early men were born _duro robore_ and lived
like those described in the fifth book of Lucretius (VIII, 320), and
Conington finds almost two hundred reminiscences of Lucretius in the
_Aeneid_, the proportion increasing rather than decreasing in the later

[Footnote 3: Servius, VI, 264, makes the explicit statement: ex majore
parte, Sironem, id est, magistrum Epicureum sequitur.]

It is, however, in the interpretation of the word _fatum_ and the role
played by the gods[4] that the test of Vergil's philosophy is usually
applied. The modern equivalent of _fatum_ is, as Guyau[5] has said,
_determinism_. Determinism was accepted by both schools but with a
difference. To the Stoic, _fatum_ is a synonym of Providence whose
popular name is Zeus. The Epicurean also accepts _fatum_ as governing the
universe, but it is not teleological, and Zeus is not identified with it
but is, like man, subordinated to it. Again, the Stoic is consistently
fatalistic. Even man's moral obligations, which are admitted, imply no
real freedom in the shaping of results, for though man has the choice
between pursuing his end voluntarily (which is virtue) or kicking against
the pricks (which is vice), the sum total of his accomplishments is not
altered by his choice: _ducunt volentern fata, nolentem trahunt_. On the
other hand, Vergil's master, while he affirms the causal nexus for the
governance of the universe:

  nec sanctum numen _fati protollere fines_
  posse neque adversus naturae foedera niti

[Footnote 4: The passages have been analyzed and discussed frequently.
See especially Heinze, _Vergils Epische Technik_, 290 ff., who interprets
Zeus as fate; Matthaei, _Class. Quart_. 1917, pp. 11-26, who denies the
identity; Drachmann, Guderne kos Vergil, 1887; MacInnis, _Class. Rev_.
1910, p. 160, and Warde Fowler, _Aeneas at the Site of Rome_, pp. 122 fF.
For a fuller statement of this question see _Am. Jour_. Phil. 1920.]

[Footnote 5: _Morale d'Epicure_, p. 72.]

(Lucr. V, 309), posits a spontaneous initiative in the soul-atoms of man:

  quod _fati foedera rumpat_
  ex infinite _ne causam causa sequatur_.

(Lucr. II, 254). If then Vergil were a Stoic his Jupiter should be
omnipotent and omniscient and the embodiment of _fatum_, and his human
characters must be represented as devoid of independent power; but such
ideas are not found in the _Aeneid_.

Jupiter is indeed called "omnipotens" at times, but so are Juno and
Apollo, which shows that the term must be used in a relative sense. In a
few cases he can grant very great powers as when he tells Venus: Imperium
sine fine dedi (I, 278). But very providence he never seems to be. He
draws (sortitur) the lots of fate (III, 375), he does not assign them at
will, and he unrolls the book of fate and announces what he finds (I,
261). He is powerless to grant Cybele's prayer that the ships may escape

  Cui tanta deo permissa potestas? (IX, 97.)

He cannot decide the battle between the warriors until he weighs their
fates (XII, 725), and in the council of the gods he confesses explicitly
his non-interference with the laws of causality:

        Sua cuique exorsa laborem
  Fortunamque ferent. Rex Jupiter omnibus idem.
  Fata viam invenient. (X, 112.)

And here the scholiast naïvely remarks:

  Videtur his ostendisse aliud esse fata, aliud Jovem.[6]

[Footnote 6: Serv. _ad loc_. MacInnis, _Class. Rev_. 1910, p. 172, cites
several other passages to the point in refutation of Heinze.]

Again, contrary to the Stoic creed, the poet conceives of his human
characters as capable of initiating action and even of thwarting fate.
Aeneas in the second book rushes into battle on an impulse; he could
forget his fates and remain in Sicily if he chose (V, 700). He might also
remain in Carthage, and explains fully why he does not; and Dido, if left
_nescla fati_, might thwart the fates (I, 299), and finally does, slaying
herself before her time[7] (IV, 696). The Stoic hypothesis seems to break
down completely in such passages.

[Footnote 7: See Matthaei, _Class. Quart_. 1917, p. 19.]

Can we assume an Epicurean creed with better success? At least in so far
as it places the _foedera naturae_ above the gods and attributes some
freedom of will and action to men, for as we have seen in both of
these matters Vergil agrees with Lucretius. But there is one apparent
difficulty in that Vergil, contrary to his teacher's usual practice,
permits the interference of the gods in human action. The difficulty is,
however, only apparent, if, as Vergil does, we conceive of these gods
simply as heroic and super-human characters in the drama, accepted from
an heroic age in order to keep the ancient atmosphere in which Aeneas had
lived in men's imagination ever since Homer first spoke of him. As such
characters they have the power of initiative and the right to interfere
in action that Epicurus attributes to men, and in so far as they are
of heroic stature their actions may be the more effective. Thus far an
Epicurean might well go, and must go in an epic of the heroic age. This
is, of course, not the same as saying that Vergil adopted the gods
in imitation of Homer or that he needed Olympic machinery because he
supposed it a necessary part of the epic technique. Surely Vergil was
gifted with as much critical acumen as Lucan. But he had to accept these
creatures as subsidiary characters the moment he chose Aeneas as his
hero, for Aeneas was the son of Venus who dwelt with the celestials at
least a part of the time. Her presence in turn involved Juno and Jupiter
and the rest of her daily associates. Furthermore, since the tale was of
the heroic age of long ago, the characters must naturally behave as the
characters of that day were wont to do, and there were old books like
Homer and Hesiod from which every schoolboy had become familiar with
their behavior. If the poet wished to make a plausible tale of that
period he could no more undertake to modernize his characters than could
Tennyson in his _Idylls_. The would-be gods are in the tale not to
reveal Vergil's philosophy--they do not--but to orient the reader in the
atmosphere in which Aeneas had always been conceived as moving. They
perform the same function as the heroic accoutrements and architecture
for a correct description of which Vergil visited ancient temples and
studied Cato.

Had he chosen a contemporary hero or one less blessed with celestial
relatives there is no reason to suppose that he would have employed the
super-human personages at all. If this be true it is as uncritical to
search for the poet's own conception of divinity in these personages as
it would be to infer his taste in furniture from the straw cot which he
chooses to give his hero at Evander's hovel. In the epic of primitive
Rome the claims of art took precedence over personal creed, and so they
would with any true poet; and if any critic were prosaic enough
to object, Vergil might have answered with Livy: Datur haec venia
antiquitati ut miscendo humana divinis primordia urbium augustiora
faciat, and if the inconsistency with his philosophy were stressed he
could refer to Lucretius' proemium. It is clear then that while the
conceptions of destiny and free-will found in the _Aeneid_ are at
variance with Stoic creed at every point, they fit readily into the
Epicurean scheme of things as soon as we grant what any Epicurean poet
would readily have granted that the celestials might be employed as
characters of the drama if in general subordinated to the same laws of
causality and of freedom as were human beings.

What then are we to say of the Stoic coloring of the sixth book? In the
first place, it is not actually Stoic. It is a syncretism of mystical
beliefs, developed by Orphic and Apocalyptic poets and mystics from
Pythagoras and Plato to a group of Hellenistic writers, popularized by
the later less logical Stoic philosophers like Posidonius, and gaining in
Vergil's day a wide acceptance among those who were growing impatient of
the exacting metaphysical processes of thought. Indeed Vergil contributed
something toward foisting these beliefs upon early Christianity, though
they were no more essential to it than to Stoicism.

Be that as it may, this mystical setting was here adopted because the
poet needed for his own purposes[8] a vision of incorporated souls of
Roman heroes, a thing which neither Epicurean nor orthodox Stoic creed
could provide. So he created this _mythos_ as Plato for his own purpose
created a vision of Er.[9] The dramatic purpose of the _descensus_ was of
course to complete for Aeneas the progressive revelation of his mission,
so skilfully developed by careful stages all through the third book,[10]
to give the hero his final commands and to inspire him for the final
struggle.[11] Then the poet realized that he could at the same time
produce a powerful artistic effect upon the reader if he accomplished
this by means of a vision of Rome's great heroes presented in review by
Anchises from the mount of revelations, for this was an age in which Rome
was growing proud of her history. But to do this he must have a _mythos_
which assumed that souls lived before their earthly existence. A Homeric
limbo of departed souls did not suffice (though Vergil also availed
himself of that in order to recall the friends of the early books). With
this in view he builds his home of the dead out of what Servius calls
much _sapientia_, filling in details here and there even from the
legendary lower-world personages so that the reader may meet some
familiar faces. However, the setting is not to be taken literally, for of
course neither he nor anyone else actually believed that prenatal spirits
bore the attributes and garments of their future existence. Nor is the
poet concerned about the eschatology which had to be assumed for the
setting; but his judgments on life, though afforded an opportunity to
find expression through the characters of the scene, are not allowed to
be circumscribed by them; they are his own deepest convictions.

[Footnote 8: No one would attempt to infer Stephen Phillips' eschatology
from the setting of his _Christ in Hades_.]

[Footnote 9: Vergil indeed was careful to warn the reader (VI, 893) that
the portal of unreal dreams refers the imagery of the sixth book to
fiction, and Servius reiterates the warning. On the employment of myths
by Epicureans see chapter VIII, above.]

[Footnote 10: See Heinze, _Epische Technik_, pp. 82 ff.]

[Footnote 11: This Vergil indicates repeatedly: _Aen_. V, 737; VI, 718,
806-7, 890-2.]

It has frequently been said that Vergil's philosophical system is
confused and that his judgments on providence are inconsistent, that in
fact he seems not to have thought his problems through. This is of course
true so far as it is true of all the students of philosophy of his day.
Indeed we must admit that with the very inadequate psychology of that
time no reasonable solution of the then central problem of determinism
could be found. But there is no reason for supposing that the poet did
not have a complete mastery of what the best teachers of his day had to

Vergil's Epicureanism, however, served him chiefly as a working
hypothesis for scientific purposes. With its ethical and religious
implications he had not concerned himself; and so it was not permitted
in his later days to interfere with a deep respect for the essentials of
religion. Similarly, the profoundest students of science today, men
who in all their experiments act implicitly and undeviatingly on the
hypotheses of atomism and determinism in the world of research, are
usually the last to deny the validity of the basic religious tenets. In
his knowledge of religious rites Vergil reveals an exactness that seems
to point to very careful observances in his childhood home. They have
become second nature as it were, and go as deep as the filial devotion
which so constantly brings the word _pietas_ to his pen.

But his religion is more than a matter of rites and ceremonies. It has,
to a degree very unusual for a Roman, associated itself with morality and
especially with social morality. The culprits of his Tartarus are not
merely the legendary offenders against exacting deities:

  Hic quibus invisi fratres, dum vita manebat,
  Pulsatusve parens et fraus innexa clienti,
  Aut qui divitiis soli incubuere repertis
  Nec partem posuere suis, quae maxima turba est.

The virtues that win a place in Elysium indicate the same fusion of
religion with humanitarian sympathies:

  Hic manus ob patriam pugnando vulnera passi,
  Quique sacerdotes casti, dum vita manebat,
  Quique pii vates et Phoebo digna locuti,
  Inventas aut qui vitam excoluere per artis,
  Quique sui memores aliquos fecere merendo:
  Omnibus his nivea cinguntur tempora vitta.

His Elysium is far removed from Homer's limbo; truly did he deserve his
place among those

  Phoebo digna locuti.

Before he had completed his work the poet set out for Greece to visit the
places which he had described and which in his fastidious zeal he seems
to have thought in need of the same careful examination that he had
accorded his Italian scenery. Three years he still thought requisite for
the completion of his epic. But at Megara he fell ill, and being carried
back in Augustus' company to Brundisium he died there, in 19 B.C. at the
age of fifty-one. Before his death he gave instructions that his epic
should be burned and that his executors, his life-long friends Varius and
Tucca, should suppress whatever of his manuscripts he had himself failed
to publish. In order to save the Aeneid, however, Augustus interposed
the supreme authority of the state to annul that clause of the will. The
minor works were probably left unpublished for some time. Indeed, there
is no convincing proof that such works as the Ciris, the Aetna, and the
Catalepton were circulated in the Augustan age.

The ashes were carried to his home at Naples and buried beneath a
tombstone bearing the simple epitaph written by some friend who knew the
poet's simplicity of heart:

  Mantua me genuit, Calabri rapuere, tenet nunc
  Parthenope; cecini pascua rura duces.

His tomb[12] was on the roadside outside the city, as was usual--Donatus
says on the highway to Puteoli, nearly two miles from the gates. Recent
examination of the region has shown that by some cataclysm of the middle
ages not mentioned in any record, the road and the tomb have subsided,
and now the quiet waters of the golden bay flow many fathoms over them.

[Footnote 12: Günther, _Pausilypon_, p. 201]


_Aeneid_, the
_Aetna_, the
Alexandrian poetry
Alfenus Varus
Ancestry of Vergil
Annius Cimber
Antiquarian lore in the _Aeneid_
Antony, Mark
Antony, Lucius, at Perugia
Apollodorus, the rhetorician
Apollonius of Rhodes
Archias, the poet
Asianists, the
Atticists, the
_Auctor ad Herennium_
Augustus, cf. Octavius.
Avernus, Lake

Birt's edition of the _Catalepton_
Brutus, M. Junius
_Bucolics_, the, see _Eclogues_.
Burial-place of Vergil

Caecilius of Caleacte
Calvus, C. Licinius
Cassius, Longinus
Catullus, C. Valerius
Celts, the
Child, of the fourth _Eclogue_
Cicero, M. Tullius
Cinna, C. Helvius
_Ciris_, the
Cisalpine Gaul
Civil War, the
Cleopatra and Dido
Confiscation of Vergil's lands
_Copa_, the
Cornificius, the poet
_Culex_, the
Cytheris (Lycoris)

Death of Vergil
Diction, purity of
Diehl, _Vitae Vergilianae_
_Dirae_, the
Donatus, the _Vita_ of

_Eclogues_, the;
  No. I
  No. II
  No. IV
  No. V
  No. VI
  No. VIII
  No. IX
  No. X
Education of Vergil
"Emperor Worship"
Epic, an early effort at
Epicurean philosophy
Epigrams of Vergil
  see _Catalepton_.
Ethics in the _Aeneid_
Evictions by the triumvirs

Fate, in the _Aeneid_
Fowler, W.W., Studies of

Gallus, Cornelius
"Garden," the, near Naples
_Georgics_, the
Golden Age, the
"Grand Style," the
Greeks, in the _Aeneid_

Imperial Cult, the
Julius Caesar
Law, the study of
Literary theory

_Ludus Troiae_
Lycoris (Cytheris)
Lydia, the
Lysias, as model of style

Maecenas, C. Cilnius
 the literary circle of
Magia, Vergil's mother
Maro, meaning of
Martial, on the _Culex_
Meleager of Gadara
Messalla, M. Valerius
Messianic prophecy
Metrical technique
Mountain scenery in the _Eclogues_

Nationalism in the _Aeneid_
Nature, observation of
"New poetry," the _neoteroi_
Nicolaus Damascenus

Octavius, or Octavianus
 see Augustus.
Octavius Musa
Oracles, the Sibylline
Orientals at Naples

parody, Vergil's in _Catalepton_, X
Pasiphaë, the myth of
Pastoral elegy
Pastoral poetry
"Pathetic fallacy," the
Patriotism in the _Aeneid_
Peace of Brundisium
Perusine War, the
Pharsalia, the battle of
Philippi, the battle of
Philosophic study
Piso, Calpurnius
"Plain style" the
Plotius Tucca,
Politics of the Epicurean group
Pollio, C. Asinius
Pompey, the Great
Portraits of Vergil
_Priapea_, the three
Probus, the _Vita_ of
Purity of diction
_Purpureus pannus_

Quintilius Varus
Rand, _Young Virgil's Poetry_
Realism in the _Eclogues_
  in the _Aeneid_
_Res Romanae_ of Vergil
Romantic poetry
Scholiasts, on Vergil
Skutsch, _Aus Vergils Frühzeit_
Spenser's _Gnat_
Syrians at Naples
Thucydides, as a model of style
Tucca, see Plotius
Valerius Cato
Valerius Messalla, see Messalla
Varius Rufus
Varus, see Alfenus Varus, and Quintilius Varus
Ventidius Bassus
Venus Genetrix
Vergil, see Table of Contents
Vessereau, on the _Aetna_

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