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Virgil had not yet exhausted the stores of his affection to Pollio, and the eighth Eclogue (B. C. 39) bears a pleasant testimony to the poet's gratitude. From this time Pollio retired into private life, taking no part in the subsequent contests between Octavianus and Antony.
For some years Virgil seems to have divided his time between his farm and Rome. It must have been about this period (B.C. 39) that he introduced Horace to Maecenas. It was in this year also that the triumvirs concluded at Puteoli a peace with Sextus Pompeius, son of the great Pompey, who had long harassed the Italian coasts with his fleet, and intercepted the provisions sent the Romans by sea from abroad. After this, Antony, with his wife Octavia, went to Athens, and Octavianus returned to Rome. But the calm was not of long duration. Antony had failed to fulfil his engagements; Pompeius either would not remain quiet, or Octavianus invented tales of piratical attacks on Roman ships as a pretext for assailing him. Accordingly next year (B. C. 38) war was declared against him by Octavianus, who desired the co-operation of Antony. A meeting was fixed at Brundusium, whither Antony repaired; but as Octavianus had not arrived, he instantly, to the great surprise of all, returned to Athens. Maecenas, with Cocceius and others, and, what is more memorable, Horace and Virgil in his train, arrived at Brundusium, it may be conjectured, after Antony's abrupt departure. From the language of Horace in describing their journey,2 it is evident that Virgil and he were
under the administration of Pollio. When the party of Octavianus triumphed, the poet's fears were excited-hence Eclogue vi.-and justly. He was too well known to be under the protection of Pollio, for his former connection with Gallus and Varus to save him; though it is not unreasonable to suppose that they would have done so had they been able. Leaving his lands, he fled, and it was not till the Brundusian peace that he regained his lost property. No wonder that the terms of the fourth Eclogue are so rapturous; while the language of the first Eclogue will suit this period, to say the least of it, as well as the other. Thus we may account for the circumstance that, with the exception of the fact stated in the next paragraph of the text, we find no more notice of Pollio in all the subsequent writings of Virgil, though Pollio long survived him. Our author seems to have thrown himself entirely on the side of Octavianus and Maecenas. Is there no allusion to this in the lines Ecl. i. 28-36? There is nothing in the early commentators to oppose this view of the matter, while it is adequate to meet the historical facts known to us.
1 Horat. Sat. i. 6, 55, 61, compared with Sat. i. 5. Clinton (Fasti Hellenici, vol. iii. p. 221) conjectures that the introduction of Maecenas to Horace took place B.C. 41; but if the reasoning of the previous note be sound, this is too early a period. The friend and partisan of Pollio could hardly be so intimate at this time with Maecenas-not to mention the total silence of Virgil regarding Maecenas in the Eclogues.
2 Hor. Sat. i. 5. Arnold fixes the time of this excursion at the date
on the most friendly terms both with each other and with Maecenas. Nor is the year void of the labour of our author, if it be true that he then produced the seventh Eclogue, though there is no evidence, either internal or external, to prevent us from placing it in the previous year. To this year also some refer the tenth Eclogue, which others place in B.C. 37.
Virgil was now confirmed in his intimacy with Maecenas. The opinion that he was encouraged by Maecenas to his second great work, the Georgics, is founded not more on the opinions of the ancient grammarians than on his own express statement.1 It is said that the great object which Maecenas had in view in suggesting, and Virgil in executing the poem, was alike to stimulate to agricultural labour, and to instruct in its best methods. Italy had been so long devastated by civil wars, that its inhabitants were repeatedly exposed about this time to all the horrors of famine; and the inhabitants, trained to the excitements of active military life, had lost agricultural taste and skill. In these circumstances, it was of importance not more to instruct than to encourage. And assuredly he would deserve well of his country who could so direct the feelings of his countrymen, by popular strains, as should lead them to exchange the spear and the sword for the share and the pruning-hook. It is not unfrequently the case that men fail in subjects prescribed or suggested to them by others. But the case here was different. We can hardly doubt that the poet was self-directed to his theme, and that the suggestion was his own, but encouraged and fostered by Maecenas.
There seems little doubt that the Georgics were completed in B.C. 30. This appears both negatively and from positive evidence, for Virgil alludes to many occurrences preceding that year. When the Georgics were commenced, is not so clear. The older commentators state that they occupied a period of seven years. If so, they must have been begun B. C. 37. But little confidence is to be placed in their averments, though there is at least a probability that this theme was entered on before B. C. 35. Trusting to the lines at the end of the Georgics, we may conclude that the main part of this work was composed in the city of Naples. If, however, the poem actually occupied so long a time of the Brundusian peace (History of the Later Roman Commonwealth, vol. ii. p. 260), referring to Appian, v. 64. But his account of the transaction is manifestly inaccurate; and the view of Heyne, Jahn, and others, who refer it to the visit to Brundusium, mentioned by Appian, v. 78, has been adopted as the true one. Heyne, however, places the date of the visit in the year B. C. 39. Niebuhr seems to take the same view as the majority of the commentators. History of Rome, vol. v. p. 124, note.
1 Georg. iii. 40, 41.
as is generally ascribed to it, it is highly improbable that Virgil resided in that city at a period when the south of Italy was in commotion from the civil wars raging between Octavianus, Antony, and Sextus Pompeius. But there is no difficulty if we assume that the poet alludes to his occupations, as was natural, towards the conclusion of his work.
While engaged in the composition of the Georgics, Virgil appears to have meditated another and a greater work, a main object of which should be to exalt Octavianus Caesar. It is less easy to tell what truth there is in the narrative of Donatus, which is confirmed by Servius, that our author had commenced in his youth a poem founded on early Roman history, but that the hardness of the names deterred him. There are, however, sufficient indications in his earlier poems that some such design was entertained by him. And in the peace that the world now enjoyed, he at last commenced his great undertaking, which occupied him till the close of his life. He manifested in the Aeneid the same attention to the passing events connected with his exalted patron as he had done in the Georgics.
Donatus mentions that while Augustus was engaged in his Spanish expedition, B. C. 27, he wrote to Virgil expressing his anxiety to possess some specimens of his labour. We have an extract from the poet's letter in reply. After acknowledging the receipt of several letters from Augustus, he says, regard to my (poem on) Aeneas, if I had anything worthy of your ears, I should send it with pleasure. But I have only entered on the subject, which is of such a nature, that I seem to myself to have undertaken it almost from some fatuity of mind; especially as you know that I wish to bring to bear on that work other studies, and these of much greater moment.'1 There have been also referred to the same period the well-known lines of Propertius, celebrating the progress of the Aeneid, and ending
Cedite Romani scriptores, cedite Graii,
1 Macrob. Sat. i. 24.-2 The time at which this was written appears doubtful. Clinton (F. H. p. 237) places it at B. C. 24, from the allusion (91) to the recent death of Gallus. There arises, however, a suspicion from the words
'Actia Virgilium custodis litora Phœbi
that Propertius did not write it till the completion of the eighth book (see 675, &c. especially 704); which we should conjecture, for reasons regarding the seventh book, stated below, was not written till two years after this. It is certainly possible that Propertius may have
In the year B. C. 24, Augustus returned to Rome; and in the next year he had the misfortune to lose by death Marcellus, the son of his sister Octavia by her first husband. This young man, who died in his twentieth year, had been adopted by Augustus, who gave him his daughter Julia in marriage, and bestowed on him so many marks of favour, that he was universally regarded as his intended successor. Virgil, as usual, laid hold of this event in his patron's history, and thus enables us to fix the date of the sixth book as posterior to B. c. 23. The following incident is narrated by Donatus, and alluded to by Servius, in connection with the death of Marcellus. The poet, when his work was far advanced, read to the emperor the second, fourth, and sixth books-it is to be presumed not all at one sitting. While he was reading the last book, Octavia was present. When he came to the passage, Tu Marcellus eris, Octavia fainted away, and the poet received from her on her recovery the munificent gift of ten sestertia for each of the lines referring to Marcellus. We are told by the same authority that Virgil read with great sweetness, and imparted even to dull matter a charm which gave it a life not its own.
With this date assigned to the sixth book agrees a passage in the seventh. It has been mentioned that the Parthians, Phraates, then reigning as king, and Tiridates, whom a conspiracy, exasperated by the cruelty of the sovereign, had raised up as a competitor for the throne, had applied for aid to Octavianus while in Syria after the conquest of Egypt. The son of Phraates was at that time in the hands of Tiridates, who placed him in the hands of the Romans. He was taken to Rome, and application was made for him, B. C. 23, by ambassadors from Phraates, while Tiridates pleaded his own cause in person. Augustus sent back the youth, but on condition that the Roman prisoners and standards taken in the disastrous defeat of Crassus, thirty years before, should be restored. This was done B. C. 20, and afforded intense gratification to the Romans. But there was in the meantime an evident alternative of war, and to this Virgil alludes in the seventh book. If this suggestion of La Rue, sanctioned by Heyne, be correct, the six last books of the Aeneid were composed within a period of three years. During this time Augustus was engaged in some of those extensive excursions which led Suetonius to remark that Africa and Sardinia were the only
known that Virgil intended to celebrate the glories of the battle of Actium. But no one can look at the two passages without being struck by the almost certainty that Propertius had read or heard the passage. And we have the authority of Donatus for stating that Virgil recitavit pluribus.
This valuing the sestertium at L.7, 16s. 3d.-gives L.78, 2s. 6d. for each line, and L.2031, 5s. for the whole.
provinces of the Roman empire not visited by him, and which seems to have excited the admiration of our author.
It was while returning from one of these excursions that the emperor met Virgil, on what was destined to be the poet's last journey. He had contemplated, it is said, a tour through Greece and Asia, to furnish him with more copious materials, and more lifelike observation, so that the Aeneid, now blocked out, but all unpolished, might receive the last touches of his master hand. Augustus was returning from Samos, where he had passed the two preceding winters, and met Virgil in Athens. The latter, either feeling already the incipient weakness of disease, or willing to gratify his great friend, abandoned his first intention, and agreed to return with him. At Megara, his fatal illness developed itself, and increased during the voyage to Italy. A few days after his arrival at Brundusium, he died, on the 22d of September, B.C. 19, within twenty-three days of completing his fifty-first year, probably the same year that witnessed the death of the poet Tibullus.
According to Donatus, he had spent the later years of his life partly in Sicily, but chiefly in Campania. The delightful climate and scenery of Naples being associated with his greatest enjoyments, he directed that he should be buried there. Accordingly, Augustus ordered his bones to be transferred thither, and a tomb was erected over them near the via Puteolana on Mount Posilipo, less than two miles from Naples. A tomb (see tail-piece), almost universally believed to be that of Virgil, is still pointed out, in a situation corresponding to that mentioned by Donatus,1 and bearing this inscription, referring to the birth, death, and burialplace of the poet, as well as his threefold labours in the Eclogues, the Georgics, and the Aeneid :
'Mantua me genuit, Calabri rapuerc, tenet nunc
This epitaph Donatus credulously assigns to Virgil himself.
The subject of the site of Virgil's tomb is an interesting one, but cannot be discussed here. Cluverius first raised doubts on the subject, for universal tradition, so far back as it can be traced up to Petrarch, is in its favour; and Cluverius was followed by Addison (Remarks on Italy, p. 138). Holdsworth (Remarks and Dissertations on Virgil, p. 501) examines the matter at great length, and decides, it seems on good grounds, in favour of the received notion. This, too, is the opinion of Gibbon (Miscellaneous Works, vol. ii. p. 204, ed. 1796), Eustace, Cramer, and Niebuhr (History of Rome, vol. v. p. 159), who says 'It is adorned with a laurel-tree. I have visited the spot with the feelings of a pilgrim, and the branch I plucked from the laurel-tree is as dear to me as a sacred relic, although it never occurs to me to place him among the Roman poets of the first order.'