Vergil - A Biography
by Tenney Frank
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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 nascitur.]

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 importance.]

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, Roem. 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 questioned.]

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 respite.

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 dulled.

[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 scazons.

[Footnote 3: Catalepton V (Edition, Vollmer). Birt, Jugendverse und Heimatpoesie Vergils, 1910, has provided a useful commentary on the Catalepton.]

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 lines:[5]

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 characters.



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, 4.]

[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 naively 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 ff.]

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 (340-48):

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 naivete 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 Fruehzeit, 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 studied.

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. 24.]

[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 Principia.

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 admiration.

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 positis-bellis.]

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.

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