Virgil Virgil[1†]

Virgil, also known as Publius Vergilius Maro, was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period[1†]. He was born on October 15, 70 BCE, in Andes, near Mantua, a city in what is now northern Italy[1†][2†][1†][3†]. Virgil is best known for his national epic, the Aeneid, which was unfinished at his death[1†][2†][1†]. The Aeneid tells the story of Rome’s legendary founder and proclaims the Roman mission to civilize the world under divine guidance[1†][2†].

Virgil was regarded by the Romans as their greatest poet, an estimation that subsequent generations have upheld[1†][2†]. His fame rests chiefly upon the Aeneid, which is considered a national epic of ancient Rome[1†]. His reputation as a poet endures not only for the music and diction of his verse and for his skill in constructing an intricate work on the grand scale but also because he embodied in his poetry aspects of experience and behavior of permanent significance[1†][2†].

Virgil’s work has had a profound influence on Western literature, most notably Dante’s Divine Comedy, in which Virgil appears as the author’s guide through Hell and Purgatory[1†]. His poetry is colored by his love of the Italian countryside and the people who cultivated it, reflecting his own peasant origins[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Virgil was born on October 15, 70 BCE, in a village named Andes, near Mantua, in Northern Italy[4†][1†]. His family was of a humble background[4†]. Despite the modest circumstances of his birth, Virgil would go on to become one of the most celebrated poets of his time and indeed of all time[4†][2†].

Virgil’s formal education began around the age of five[4†][1†]. He traveled to Cremona, Milan, and finally Rome to study rhetoric, medicine, and astronomy[4†][1†]. However, he later abandoned these subjects to take up philosophy[4†][1†]. It is known that one of his teachers was the Epicurean Siro, and the Epicurean philosophy is substantially reflected in his early poetry but gradually gives way to attitudes more akin to Stoicism[4†][2†].

During Virgil’s youth, the Roman Republic was nearing its end, and the political and military situation in Italy was confused and often calamitous[4†][2†]. The civil war between Marius and Sulla had been succeeded by conflict between Pompey and Julius Caesar for supreme power[4†][2†]. When Virgil was 20, Caesar with his armies swooped south from Gaul, crossed the Rubicon, and began the series of civil wars that were not to end until Augustus’ victory at Actium in 31 BCE[4†][2†]. These tumultuous times would have a profound influence on Virgil’s work, particularly his epic, the Aeneid[4†][2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Virgil’s career as a poet began with his first work, the ‘Eclogues’, which was published around 39-38 BCE[4†]. This collection of poems was inspired by the Greek poet Theocritus and was a dramatic interpretation of the revolutionary changes that occurred in Rome between 44 and 38 BCE[4†]. The work combined visionary politics and eroticism, making it an immediate success[4†].

Following the success of the ‘Eclogues’, Virgil wrote the ‘Georgics’, a poem in four books that is often considered his most passionate and accomplished work[4†][2†]. The ‘Georgics’ celebrates the Italian countryside and the people who cultivated it, reflecting Virgil’s own love for the land[4†][2†].

However, Virgil is best known for his epic, the ‘Aeneid’, which he began around 30 BCE and left unfinished at his death[4†][2†][4†]. The ‘Aeneid’ tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans[4†][2†][4†]. The epic is modeled after Homer’s ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’ and is considered the national epic of Rome[4†][5†].

Throughout his career, Virgil was regarded by the Romans as their greatest poet[4†][2†][4†]. His reputation endures not only for the music and diction of his verse and for his skill in constructing intricate works on a grand scale, but also because he embodied in his poetry aspects of experience and behavior of permanent significance[4†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Virgil is known for three major works of Latin literature: the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid[1†][6†][7†][8†]. Here is some detailed information about each of them:

In addition to these, a number of minor poems, collected in the Appendix Vergiliana, were attributed to him in ancient times, but modern scholars consider his authorship of these poems to be dubious[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Virgil’s works, particularly the Aeneid, have had a profound influence on Western literature. His works can be analyzed through their structure as well as their purposes[9†]. Virgil wrote the Aeneid, Georgics, and Eclogues as epic poems, a long poem that includes significant cultural aspects, stylized language, wonderful adventures, and superhuman acts[9†]. He used Dactylic Hexameter, a poetic meter, to write these works[9†].

The character that Virgil develops in his hero underscores the essential difference between his own works and those previous works that were attributed to Homer. These differences are rooted in the idea of the tragic hero and the quest to seek greatness that might ultimately end in failure[9†][10†].

His works can be compared on the basis of their writing structure and purpose, depiction of the underworld, and through their views and inclusion of war[9†]. Virgil’s main goal was to politically influence Rome[9†]. Careful reading of the Aeneid makes the political bend prominent. Virgil wrote to emphasize and legitimize Augustus as the leader of Rome[9†].

Virgil’s works were a huge popular success: the poems were performed on-stage, and more than four hundred years after publication they were recited in the streets of Rome by Christian priests who should have been reciting psalms[9†][8†].

Personal Life

Virgil, born Publius Vergilius Maro, was known for his reserved and solitary nature[4†]. Despite his fame and influence, he chose to live a life of seclusion[4†]. He was believed to have been extremely shy and reserved, and according to many sources, he suffered from poor health almost all his life[4†].

There is limited information about Virgil’s family background. Some scholars believe that Virgil was born into a family of humble means[4†]. His love for the Italian countryside, which is evident in all his poetry, suggests that he might have been born of peasant stock[4†][2†][11†].

Virgil never married and devoted his entire life to poetry and studies connected with it[4†]. Despite his reclusive lifestyle, as his poetry rose to fame, he gained a lot of influential friends in the Roman world[4†].

The details of Virgil’s personal life remain largely unknown, with scholars disagreeing on many aspects, such as his family’s social status and his exact relationship to the Roman emperor Augustus[4†][12†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Virgil’s influence on Western literature has been profound and enduring. His best-known work, the Aeneid, has served as a model for many epics that followed, including Dante’s Divine Comedy, where Virgil appears as Dante’s guide through Hell and Purgatory. His reputation as a poet endures not only for the music and diction of his verse and for his skill in constructing an intricate work on the grand scale but also because he embodied in his poetry aspects of experience and behavior of permanent significance.

Virgil’s masterful and meticulously crafted poetry earned him a legacy as the greatest poet in the Latin language3[3†]. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, his fame only grew3[3†]. His influence on English literature has been enormous. He was Edmund Spenser’s constant inspiration for the fanciful beauty of The Faerie Queene. The Aeneid was the model for John Milton’s Paradise Lost not only in epic structure and machinery but also in style and diction4[13†].

Despite his request to destroy the Aeneid, his friend Lucius Varius Rufus refused, and the poem was published posthumously2[11†]. This decision ensured that Virgil’s work would continue to influence generations of writers and thinkers, cementing his place in literary history2[11†].

Key Information

Virgil’s work, particularly the Aeneid, has had a profound influence on Western literature. His Aeneid is considered a national epic of ancient Rome and has held the title since its composition[2†][1†].

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Virgil [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Virgil: Roman poet [website] - link
  3. SparkNotes - Virgil Biography, Works, and Quotes [website] - link
  4. The Famous People - Virgil Biography [website] - link
  5. Famous Authors - Virgil [website] - link
  6. Goodreads - Author: [website] - link
  7. Poetry in Translation - Virgil (70 BC–19 BC) - The Major Works [website] - link
  8. Poetry Foundation - Virgil [website] - link
  9. Samplius - Comparative Analysis Of Homer’s And Virgil’s Works [website] - link
  10. WOWESSAYS™ - Literary Analysis On Virgil’s The Aeneid Research Paper Example [website] - link
  11. World History - Virgil [website] - link
  12. Mental Floss - 6 Mysteries Surrounding Virgil's Life and Work [website] - link
  13. Britannica - Virgil - Roman Poet, Aeneid, Epic [website] - link
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