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idea till it clears itself of all alien matter, and assimilates to itself the impressions and interests of a life-time, that the vastest and most enduring monuments of genius are produced :'-such, for example, as the 'Aeneid,' the 'Paradise Lost,' and the 'Divina Commedia.'
4. In the year 41 B.C. occurred the ejection of Virgil from his paternal farm by one of the soldiers to whom the Triumvirs Antonius, Octavianus, and Lepidus had assigned grants of land in Cisalpine Gaul. Opinions differ, according to the view taken of the relative date and connection of Eclogues i. and ix, as to whether Virgil was once or twice dispossessed. I have followed Prof. Nettleship’ in regarding Ecl. ix. as the earlier poem, referring to the first and only ejection of the poet ; who then seems to have appealed in person to Octavianus at Rome, backed by Varus (addressed in Ecl. ix), Pollio and Gallus, then holding important posts in Gallia Cisalpina, and to have obtained the restitution of his lands. In gratitude to these friends, some three years afterwards, he published the Eclogues in their honour; Ecl. i. being a thankoffering to Octavianus for his restoration, and Ecl. vi. (perhaps) a mark of gratitude to Varus, while Ecl. iv. and viii. are complimentary to Pollio, and Ecl. x. to Gallus.
The composition of the Eclogues falls between the years 43-37 B.C. inclusive (Virg. aet. 27-33). No date can be assigned to Ecl. vii ; ii. and iii. must have been written before v, and v. before ix (see notes) ; iii. speaks of Pollio as encouraging the poet, and an old tradition referred ii. to a boy given him by Pollio; so possibly one or both of these may have been written in 43 B.C., the year of Pollio's appointment as ‘legatus' in Cisalpine Gaul. Ecl. v. probably alludes to the apotheosis of Julius Caesar, and may have been written 43-41 B.C. ; ix. being written (as stated above) in 41, i, iv, and possibly.vi, in 40, and viii. in 39 B.C., the year of Pollio's return in triumph from Illyria. Ecl. x, written in 37 B.C., the year when Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa crossed the Rhine, closes the series. Propertius seems to speak of Ecl. vii. as written near Tarentum :
• Tu canis umbrosi subter pineta Galaesi
Thyrsin et attritis Daphnin harundinibus' (iii. 26. 67); and Virgil himself (G. iv. 125 sqq.) has a reminiscence of that neighbourhood. Horace in the Journey to Brundisium' (Sat. i. 5. 40) 37 B.C. says, that Virgil joined the party at Sinuessa. And
1 Ancient Lives of Vergil,' pp. 41 sqq.
it has been remarked that some of the descriptions of scenery in the Eclogues, which are unsuitable to Mantua, and are generally regarded as Sicilian, would suit the country about Tarentum. All, however, that can be inferred is that Virgil may have spent some time there during this period.
5. In a quarrel with some soldier or soldiers, arising out of his ejection from his farm, Virgil had been assisted by C. Cilnius Maecenas, the famous patron and friend of his after years, in compliment to whom, and under whose encouragement, he undertook the Georgics : ' his attention being now turned to the didactic poetry of Hesiod, Nicander, and Aratus, as it had hitherto been to the pastoral poetry of Theocritus. The Georgics, we know, were read by Virgil and Maecenas to Augustus on his return from the East in 29 B.C. Suetonius tells us that the poet was engaged upon them for seven years, which would give 36 B.C. for their commencement; a date intrinsically probable from the completion of the Eclogues in 37 B.C., and incidentally confirmed by the allusion in G. ii. 161 to the Julian harbour constructed in 37—the earliest reference in the Georgics to any contemporary event.
They cannot, however, have been written continuously as we now read them? The end, for example, of G. i. (498-514), with its tone of doubt and apprehension, must have been written in 33-32 B.C. (see notes) ; while its opening lines, and those of G. iii, breathing a spirit of triumphant exultation at assured success and order restored, cannot well have been written before 30–29 B.C.possibly for the recitation in 29. The end of G. ii, again, seems to belong to the same period as the end of G. i. (see notes to ii. 496, 497, 504); while ii. 171-172 must allude to 31 B.C. From Virgil's own statement in iv. 563 it appears that much of the Georgics was written at Naples : and it is possible that before writing iii. 10 sqq. he had actually visited Greece. Such a visit: would agree with Hor. Od. i. 3, alluding to the visit to Attica of one Vergilius, a dear friend; an ode which cannot well refer to Virgil's only recorded visit to Greece at the end of his life (see Wickham, ad loc.).
6. The remaining ten years of Virgil's life (29–19 B.C.) were devoted to the “ Aeneid,' the most enduring monument not only of his own fame, but of the fortunes of Rome; the epic, as it has
1 For a detailed exposition of the chronology of the Georgics see Nettleship’s ‘Ancient Lives,' pp. 55 sqq.
been well called, of the Roman empire; the sacred book of the Roman religion, as summed up in the conception of 'Fortuna Urbis' with its visible embodiment in the Emperor'; the expression of all the varied beliefs of the time-national, religious, historical, mythological ; the “Gesta Populi Romani, as some called it on its first appearance. The idea of such a poem was not altogether new to him (above § 3), but can hardly have assumed definite shape in his mind before the year 29 B.C., in which year probably he writes (G. iii. 46-48) that he intends to celebrate Caesar's exploits?. Once begun, the poem must have proceeded steadily, if not rapidly (Quintilian, I. O. x. 3. 8 says, on the authority of Varius, that Virgil wrote very few lines in a day); for in the year 26 B.C. we find Augustus, then absent on a campaign in Spain, writing to ask for a sight of the first draft of the Aeneid or any passage out of it. Virgil's reply: is characteristic of the modesty and lofty standard of perfection which marked his own appreciation of his work :
'De Aenea quidem meo, si mehercule iam dignum auribus haberem tuis, libenter mitterem ; sed tanta inchoata res est ut paene vitio mentis tantum opus ingressus mihi videar, cum praesertim, ut scis, alia quoque studia ad id opus multoque potiora impertiar.
Friends, however, of the poet began to spread reports that a great work was coming to light; one of them being Propertius, whose often quoted lines
Cedite Romani scriptores, cedite Graii ;
Nescio quid majus nascitur Iliade' (iii. 26. 65, 66)— though dictated by friendly partiality, scarcely exaggerate the estimate which was actually formed of the Aeneid upon
1 'However variously expressed or shrouded, the religion of the Romans was Rome,' F. W. H. Myers in the 'Fortnightly Review' for February, 1879, p. 185. This brilliant and suggestive article, instinct with the feeling of a poet rather than of a critic, deserves to be enshrined in some less ephemeral form than the pages of a magazine. I gratefully commend it to admirers of Virgil's poetic genius.
2 Professor Nettleship thinks that this cannot refer to the Aeneid, but to some other projected work, of which the description of the battle of Actium (Aen. viii. 675 sqq.) may have been intended to form part. That description, however (see notes), is essentially in harmony with the scope
of the Aeneid, which may well, from one point of view, be regarded as a poem in honour of Augustus.
3 Preserved by Macrobius, Sat. i. 24. 11.
Three or four years after Augustus' letter, Virgil consented to read three books (iv, vi, and another) to the Emperor ; the date being approximately fixed by the death of young Marcellus B.C. 23, to whose memory the famous passage vi. 860-886 was inserted. According to Suetonius, Virgil first drafted the story in
and then wrote different parts in no certain order, as the fancy took him ; the division into twelve books being part of his original plan. Internal evidence bears out this statement; thus, e.g. Book ix. must have been finished before v, Nisus and Euryalus being there introduced as though for the first time, while in v. they take a leading part in the games. Book iii, again, was probably written before ii, at the end of which (776 sqq.) Creusa appears to Aeneas after her death with a prophecy which is wholly unnoticed in Book iii. Books iv. and vi, as we have seen, were in a finished state in the year 23 B.C. If to all this we add the fact that Virgil never carried out his intended correction and revision of the epic as a whole, the wonder is, not that inconsistencies are found in it, but that the story is, on the whole, as harmoniously and consistently worked out as, in the Introductions to the notes on each book, I have tried to show.
7. In the year 19 B.C. Virgil, then in his 52nd year, set out to travel in Greece and Asia, intending to devote three years to the completion and correction of the Aeneid. At Athens he met Augustus returning from the East, and decided to go back to Rome with the Emperor : but being seized with illness on a visit to Megara under a burning sun, and continuing his voyage in spite of the attack, he died at Brundisium on Sept. 21, a few days after landing. His ashes were taken to Naples and buried in a tomb on the road to Puteoli. On the tomb was inscribed a couplet (said to have been written by himself), into which is condensed almost all that is known of the uneventful life (“studiis forentem ignobilis otî' G. iv. 564) of the scholar and poet :
• Mantua me genuit; Calabri rapuere; tenet nunc
Parthenope; cecini pascua, rura, duces.' He is said to have acquired, from imperial and other benefactors, a considerable fortune (= £90,000), of which he left half to his half-brother, a quarter to Augustus, a twelfth to Maecenas, and the rest to his friends and literary executors, Varius and Tucca. Before leaving Italy he had directed Varius to burn the MS. of the Aeneid in the event of his death; and in his last hours he is said to have repeatedly asked for it, that he might burn it himself. Finally, he left all his writings to Varius and Tucca, on the understanding that they should publish nothing which he had not already published. Fortunately for literature, they saw that the truest friendship would be shown in disregarding such requests: and acting under the authority of Augustus, they edited the Aeneid, with only such corrections as were absolutely necessary, leaving unfinished lines and inconsistencies of detail exactly as they found them. In what they did, and in what they left undone, they were faithful to their friend's memory. Augustus, too, had sufficient insight to discern the real merits of the work, and its probable value as a testimony to his own renown : and there is nothing improbable in the tradition that Varius and Tucca acted, if not under the instructions, at least with the knowledge and sanction of the Emperor.
8. The poetical reputation accorded to Virgil was immediate and lasting. 'An undisputed place (writes Dr. Kennedy') at the head of Roman literature was given to the avowed rival of Homer and Hesiod, the master of the grandest Latin versification, the glorifier of Rome and of Augustus ... In all literary circles of Rome Virgil was extolled and quoted; in schools he was taught : his writings and the events of his life supplied material for lectures, essays, comments, to a long series of grammarians, and to collectors of literary gossip such as Aulus Gellius and Macrobius.' His work did not, indeed, escape criticism on points of detail. He was attacked for innovations in language, such as Horace stamps with approval in a passage (A. P. 45 sqq.) written while the Aeneid was in progress ; for defects in arrangement and handling of his materials ; for his close imitation of Homer; and for ignorance of religious antiquities. But from poets—who are perhaps the best judges of poetry—he won immediate and unanimous appreciation. Propertius, as has been mentioned, saw in the Aeneid
something greater than the Iliad,' and its immediate effect may be seen in the frequent allusions to the story of Aeneas in the 4th book of Horace's Odes, written within five or six years after Virgil's death. Ovid (Am. i. 15. 25) writes of him :
• Tityrus et fruges Aeneïaque arma legentur
Roma triumphati dum caput orbis erit:' and subsequent Roman poets, with the exception perhaps of Lucan (whose rivalry only brings out the greatness of Virgil), paid him the 'sincerest flattery' of undisguised imitation. Juvenal has
1 Introd. on “Life and Writings of Virgil,' $ 37.