Virgil

70-19BC

 

Publicus Vergilius Maro is buried in Virgil's Tomb in Piedigrotta, Naples, Italy, Europe.



Entrance to Virgil's Tomb




Inscription at Virgil's Tomb

Information about Virgil's life is sparse as it relies upon a lost biography by Varius. Virgil may have been born at Andes near Mantua and he probably came from a wealthy family who enabled him to attend school and receive an education. He may have considered a career in law before turning his attention to poetry. Virgil was the greatest of the Roman writers and was the author of three classic Latin texts namely: the Eclogues, the Georgics and the Aeneid.

The Eclogues were ten short pastoral poems - set in Arcadia - which imitated the Idylls of the Greek poet Theocritus. The Georgics was a long didactic poem (based on Hesiod and Aratus) which concerned itself with methods of farming and was written between 37-29 BC. The Aeneid, which was an epic poem, based upon the Odyssey and the Iliad by Homer and written in ten books, recorded the adventures of Aeneas on his way back from the Trojan Wars. Like the Odyssey - it was written in dactylic hexameter. Virgil spent the last 11 years of his life writing it from 29-19 BC .

Virgil had a profound influence on generations of English poets from Spenser to Shakespeare and from Milton to Tennyson. He was widely read in England by those who knew Latin - which would have been most educated people. His work provided the model for much of the epic poetry written during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. He was also translated widely - with Dryden's 1697 version being particularly significant. More recently C. Day-Lewis translated both the Georgics and the Aeneid.

Virgil also famously appeared as Dante's guide in the Divine Comedy leading him through the various layers of hell. (Dante was greatly influenced by Virgil.)

Virgil died at Brindisi in 19 BC but he had requested that his ashes be brought back to his villa in Naples where his tomb was created. His tomb has been a place of literary pilgrimage ever since. Some of the earlier visitors were Petrarch and Boccaccio.

Tityrus


O Meliboeus, 'twas a god vouchsafed
This ease to us, for him a god will I
Deem ever, and from my folds a tender lamb
Oft with its life-blood shall his altar stain.
His gift it is that, as your eyes may see,
My kine may roam at large, and I myself
Play on my shepherd's pipe what songs I will.

(From the Eclogues)
 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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