Portrait bust of Roman poet Virgil.

Virgil

(70 BC - 19 BC)

Born to peasants near Mantua, Italy, in 70 BC, Virgil retained a sympathy for agricultural life, evident in his works the Eclogues and the Georgics, later described by Seneca the Younger as written “not to instruct farmers but to delight readers.” With his patron Maecenas in 29 BC, Virgil recited his Georgics for Octavian, who was returning from his victory over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium. It was around this time that Virgil began composing the Aeneid, not finished at the time of his death in 19 BC. Once released, the Aeneid achieved such success that it quickly became the standard text in Roman schools; it also produced a from of prognostication known as the Virgilian lottery, in which a passage from the poem was selected at random and read as an oracle.

All Writing

The tune I remember, could I but keep the words.

—Virgil, 38 BC

Miscellany

A common belief in antiquity was that bees were born of decaying ox flesh. Virgil instructs in his Georgics to stop up a young bullock’s nostrils and mouth, beat it “to a pulp through the unbroken hide,” shut the carcass in a small room to ferment, and await the bees that will burst out “like a shower pouring from summer clouds.”

Voices In Time

c. 30 BC | Lombardy

Work Ethic

Virgil on the relentless efforts of early man.More

I cannot bear a parent’s tears.

—Virgil, c. 25 BC

Issues Contributed