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_A Biography_



_Professor of Latin
in the
Johns Hopkins University_






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

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

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

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






















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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 8: See British School _Cat. of the Mus. Capitolino_, p. 355;
Bernoulli, _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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 6: Martial, XIV. 185.]

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

The poem is of course not a masterpiece, nor was it intended to be
anything but a _tour de force_; but a comprehension of its purpose will
at least save it from being judged by standards not applicable to it. It
is not 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the morrow the girl pleads with her father to make peace, with
humorous 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divina est animi ac jucunda voluptas!

Men have wasted hours enough on trivialities (258):

Torquemur miseri in parvis, terimurque labore.

A worthier occupation is science (274):

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Animae quales neque candidiores
Terra tulit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Si patrio Graios carmine adire sales.

The sixth _Eclogue_ begins with an allusion to it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cum canerem reges et proelia,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 6: See Chapter VIII.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Fixit leges pretio atque refixit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sabinus ille, quem videtis, hospites
Ait fuisse mulio celerrimus,
Neque ullius volantis impetum cisi
Nequisse praeterire, sive Mantuam
Opus foret volare sive Brixiam.
Et hoc negat Tryphonis aemuli domum
Negare nobilem insulamve Caeruli,
Ubi iste post Sabinus, ante Quinctio
Bidente dicit attodisse forcipe
Comata colla, ne Cytorio iugo
Premente dura volnus ederet iuba.
Cremona frigida et lutosa Gallia,
Tibi haec fuisse et esse cognitissima
Ait Sabinus: ultima ex origine

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