Classics Virgil
by
Elaine Fantham, Emily Fairey
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0068

Introduction

Many regard Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro, 70–19 BCE; also spelled Vergil in English) as the greatest of the Roman poets. His epic poem, the Aeneid, has been of continuing importance to Western literature. On its own merits, it is a masterpiece of epic poetry and the Latin language. Products of the chaos of the Roman civil war years, Virgil’s works show a longing for a more peaceful ordering of society. His major works, the Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid, emphasize different aspects of this desire. Virgil’s importance to world literature is difficult to underestimate. Later poets and writers, including Dante and Milton, have venerated and imitated him.

Life

Born the son of a small landowner on 15 October 70 BCE at Andes, near Mantua in northern Italy, Virgil was educated as a child at Cremona, then moved to Milan and, for advanced rhetorical studies, to Rome itself. He lived from choice on the Bay of Naples, where he studied with the Epicurean Siro and was friendly with the poet Philodemus, who addressed a treatise to him. He was very retiring and only ever pleaded one case. He never married, and our sources report vague tales of his love of boys. He nearly lost his family farm, but it was saved by the intervention of Asinius Pollio, whom he honors in his book of Theocritan Bucolics, commonly known as the Eclogues (“selections”). After he was fully reinstated with the new regime, Virgil grew to know the literary circle of Maecenas, including Horace and other poets of the “Golden Age” of Latin poetry. After he became more established, Augustus presented him a country estate. In this atmosphere he wrote his Georgics, ostensibly a didactic epic on farming in the style of Hesiod’s Works and Days, but full of complex literary allusions, and praise of his patron. He took eleven years over the Aeneid, composed “to praise Augustus in terms of his ancestors” (Servius on Aen. I.1) or “to contain the origins of Rome and Augustus” (VSD 21). Virgil was not satisfied with his efforts and retired to Greece to spend three years correcting his poem, but he contracted a fever in 19 BCE and died on 21 September at Brundisium. Virgil had left instructions for the Aeneid (or all his poetry) to be burned, but this request was overridden by his friend Varius on Augustus’s instructions (Pliny NH 7.114, Gellius 17.10.7). The chief authority for Virgil’s life is the Vita attributed to Donatus (abbreviated VSD) but believed to be Suetonius’s composition from De poetis virtually unchanged; with other later ancient lives, it is published in the Oxford Classical Text volume Vitae Vergilianae antiquae (Hardie 1966). Naumann and Brugnoli 1984 has a good entry, but the best discussion is by Horsfall 1995.

  • Hardie, Colin, ed. 1966. Vitae Vergilianae antiquae: Vita Donati, Vita Servii, Vita Probiana, Vita Focae, S. Hieronymi excerpta. Oxford Classical Texts. London: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Included in this book is the Life of Virgil believed to be excerpted from Suetonius’s De poetis, although it is attribulted to Donatus.

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    • Horsfall, Nicholas. 1995. A companion to the study of Virgil. Mnemosyne Supplement 151. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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      Chapter 1 of this Companion: “Virgil: His life and times,” pp. 1–25, supplies the best discussion of the life of Virgil. The Companion is more manageable in size than Horsfall’s other commentaries.

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      • Naumann, W., and G. Brugnoli. 1984. Vitae Vergilianae. In Enciclopedia Virgiliana vol. 5. Edited by Mario Geymonat, 573–588. Rome: Istituto della enciclopedia italiana.

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        This encyclopedia, as well as giving valuable reference material on many diverse aspects of Virgilian studies, also gives a short account of the life of Virgil.

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        • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 1953. Appendix Virgiliana. Edited by Colin Hardie; text and commentary by R. Giomini. Florence, Italy: La Nuova Italia.

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          Virgil’s alleged juvenilia are collected here.

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          Reference Works

          Enciclopedia Virgiliana (della Corte 1984–1991) provides articles in Italian by a host of international scholars. Hardie 1999 contains eighty-five papers discussing Virgil’s works.

          Bibliography

          The most convenient modern approach to bibliography is electronic. Several websites contain a variety of approaches to Virgilian bibliography. VRoma, compiled and annotated by Shirley Warner, contains English and international bibliography. Virgil.org is an excellent, thorough, and well-organized bibliography edited by David Wilson-Okamura. The page of the Vergilian Society contains bibliographies from Vergilius, prepared by Alexander McKay, and some compiled by Niklas Holzberg. German and international bibliography focusing on the Georgics can be found at the PSMS site. Finally a search of L’Année philologique provides access to decades of texts, commentaries, monographs, articles, and collections on Virgil.

          Eclogues

          Virgil’s earliest certain work is the Eclogues, a collection of ten pastoral poems composed between 42 and 37 BCE. Some of them are escapist, literary excursions to the idyllic pastoral world of Arcadia, based on the Greek poet Theocritus. The self-consciously beautiful cadences of the Eclogues depict shepherds living in a landscape half real, half fantastic; these allusive poems hover between the actual and the artificial. They are shot through with topical allusions. Stories circulated that Virgil had lost his family farm in the land confiscations: this may be an extrapolation, treating Eclogues 1 and 9 as autobiography; other typical anecdotes point to the early recognition of his genius. The Eclogues are a consciously designed collection of poems, each of which can also stand alone. Many ancient authors produced such books; it was a literary genre with its own history. There is now a fairly general consensus that Virgil arranged the Eclogues so as to alternate dialogue in the dramatic form of mime with songs framed by the poet’s own introduction (Eclogues 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10), and that besides this pattern he constructed the book around the pivotal Eclogue 5, which divides itself equally between nature’s grief at the death of Daphnis and its rejoicing at his apotheosis. (Both 5 and 10 offer developments from Daphnis’s death from love’s passion in Theocritus, Idyll 1). On either side come the least conventional of the poems: the prophecy of the Golden Age prince in Eclogue 4, and Silenus’s retrospective song from creation through metamorphoses to the consecration of Virgil’s immediate predecessor Gallus. To all these Eclogue 10 is an epilogue, a special tribute to Gallus, who is represented as trying in vain to abandon love elegy for the carefree world of pastoral.

          Texts and Commentary

          There are too many texts and commentaries of Virgil to enumerate here, but two recent ones that stand out are Clausen’s (Virgil 1994), which has some extremely useful notes on Virgil’s use of other poets as artistic models. It is not as useful for literary criticism, however. Coleman’s version (Virgil 1977) is a few years older and not quite so detailed. It reads much better, however, gives good background on the facts, and takes some interesting interpretive directions. Try using the two commentaries together to supplement each other.

          • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 1881. P. Vergili Maronis Opera: The Works of Vergil, Vol. 1, containing the Eclogues and Georgics. 4th ed. Edited by John Conington. London: Whittaker.

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            An old but scholarly commentary.

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            • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 1977. Eclogues. Edited by Robert Coleman. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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              Gives some useful interpretive direction and facts.

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              • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 1994. A commentary on Virgil’s Eclogues. Edited by Wendell Vernon Clausen. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                This text and commentary is not as good on literary criticism as it is on the models of other poets.

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                Translations

                For college students of Latin, there are several useful dual-language versions of the Eclogues. Alpers (Virgil 1979) is also valuable as literary criticism, with a discussion of the work as it fits into the genre of the poetic book. Ferry’s version (Virgil 1999) is smooth, but sometimes sacrifices proper nouns in order to convey their implications. See also Lee’s revised edition (Virgil 1984) of the Penguin translation.

                • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 1979. The singer of the Eclogues: A study of Virgilian pastoral, with a new translation of the Eclogues. Edited and translated by Paul J. Alpers. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                  This good study of the Eclogues as a poetic book includes a translation.

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                  • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 1984. The Eclogues. Edited and translated by Guy Lee. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.

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                    With Latin on facing pages.

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                    • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 1999. The Eclogues of Virgil: A translation. Translated by David Ferry. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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                      With Latin on facing pages. Not literal, but smooth and colloquial.

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                      Scholarship

                      In the mid-20th century there was a phase of good general studies of the Eclogues. Klingner (Virgil 1967) was the first part of his masterly three-part study of all Virgil’s works. In the 1970s Putnam 1970 was first of several monographs to study the Eclogues in individual discussions (only Eclogues 2 and 3 are grouped together), followed by Berg 1974. These studies made possible a series of specialized approaches that are better introduced by topics. An important element is song: see Fantuzzi and Hunter 2004, chapter 4, on the inspiring role of Pan and Apollo and the nymphs in Theocritus. Most recently, Habinek 2005, stressing that the Eclogues quickly won stage performance, has singled out the element of play associated with releasing the body in song and dance. He notes the reciprocal provocation of the improvised amoebic verse. Essential to understanding of the Eclogues is their relationship to Theocritus, for which see Clausen’s text and commentary (see Texts and Commentaries). For a general understanding of pastoral elements see Gutzwiller in Fantuzzi and Papanghelis 2006, and Fantuzzi and Hunter 2004, chapter 4. On bucolic and non-bucolic love, see especially Papanghelis 1999. Arcadia is a special kind of spiritual, pastoral landscape, according to Segal 1965. Other themes essential to understanding the Eclogues are the role of Virgil’s verbal landscape and its relationship with contemporary painting, on which see Leach 1974, well illustrated with contemporary wall paintings, and discussion of the new sacro-idyllic paintings featuring vignettes of shepherds with their flocks sheltering in shrines or under a tree.

                      • Berg, William. 1974. Early Virgil. London: Athlone.

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                        This general study enabled many topical approaches that followed.

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                        • Fantuzzi, Marco, and R. L. Hunter. 2004. Tradition and innovation in Hellenistic poetry. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                          Chapter 4, on Apollo, Pan, and Nymphs in Theocritus, is useful for an overview of the role of shepherds and their music and pastoral elements in Greek poetry.

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                          • Fantuzzi, Marco, and Theodore D. Papanghelis, eds. 2006. Brill’s companion to Greek and Latin pastoral. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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                            The first eight of the twenty-three chapters in this book focus on Alexandrian texts and Theocritus, offering a useful insight into Virgil’s expansion of the genre. See Gutzwiller on Hesiod’s encounter with the Muses while shepherding (Theogony 26f.), and Homer’s Shield of Achilles (Iliad 18, 525–26).

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                            • Habinek, Thomas N. 2005. The world of Roman song from ritualized speech to social order. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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                              Habinek focuses on the aspect of play that is associated with corporeal release in song and dance; he stresses that the Eclogues were performed on the stage. The verb ludere is connected with the reciprocity and provocation inherent in amoebic verse, similarly to Catullus 50, in his exchange of verses with Calvus.

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                              • Leach, Eleanor Winsor. 1974. Vergil’s Eclogues: Landscapes of experience. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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                                With interesting discussions and illustrations of Roman wall paintings.

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                                • Papanghelis, Theodore D. 1999. Eros pastoral and profane: On love in Virgil’s Eclogues. In Amor, Roma: Love and Latin literature. Edited by R. Mayer and S. J. Braund, 44–59. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Philological Society.

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                                  From a volume that contains many chapters on bucolic love, such as chapter 4, which concerns the prominence of love in the work of Bion and epigrammatists such as Meleager, as well as their influence on Virgil’s Eclogues and the elegiac poets such as Ovid and Propertius.

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                                  • Putnam, Michael C. J. 1970. Virgil’s pastoral art: Studies in the Eclogues. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                    One of the first monographs that studies the Eclogues individually.

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                                    • Segal, Charles. 1965. Tamen cantabitis Arcades: Exile and Arcadia in Eclogues One and Nine. Arion 4.2: 237–266.

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                                      Still relevant for its interpretation of the pastoral landscape.

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                                      • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 1967. Bucolica, Georgica, Aeneis (Interpretation der Werke Virgils). Edited by Friedrich Klingner. Zurich, Switzerland, and Stuttgart, Germany: Artemis.

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                                        This is a classic interpretive and wide ranging study in German.

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                                        Georgics

                                        The Life claims that Virgil spent seven years on the Georgics, reading them to Augustus on four successive days when the emperor was returning to Rome in August of 29. Its ostensible subject is a didactic approach to farming, but themes such as religion, poetics and Orpheus, the Golden Age and the Labor improbus of the age of Jupiter, and the parallel between beast and man, as well as parallels with historical characters such as Gallus, Aristaeus, Octavian, and Maecenas, are all vital to an understanding of this work.

                                        Texts and Commentaries

                                        Of a variety of choices among texts and commentaries, two that stand out are Thomas (Virgil 1988), whose definitive two-volume commentary is a landmark in the study of this work. On a manageable scale is Mynors (Virgil 1990), a fine text and commentary suitable for undergraduates.

                                        • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 1988. Georgics 1. Books I–II; III–V. Edited by Richard F. Thomas. 2 vols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                          A thoroughly detailed and exhaustive scholarly commentary.

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                                          • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 1990. Georgics. Edited by Roger A. B. Mynors. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                            A manageably scaled text and commentary, good for the undergraduate student.

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                                            Translations

                                            The most recent translations include Lembke’s (Virgil 2005) beautiful but problematic verse translation, Ferry’s (Virgil 2005) English and Latin edition, and Fallon’s (Virgil 2006) scholarly version with an introduction and notes by Elaine Fantham.

                                            • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 2005. Virgil’s Georgics: A new verse translation. Translated by Janet Lembke. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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                                              A fluid translation, good at provoking comparison for Latin readers of Virgil, but nevertheless problematic.

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                                              • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 2005 The Georgics of Virgil: A translation. Translated by David Ferry. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

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                                                Includes Latin text and English translation.

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                                                • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 2006. The Georgics. Translated by Peter Fallon; introduction by Elaine Fantham. Oxford World Classics. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                  In her introduction, Fantham examines the historical context of the life and poetry of Virgil, with notes that explain the mythological and classical allusions.

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                                                  Scholarship

                                                  For a general overview of subjects in the Georgics, see Volk 2008; she has also compiled a similar volume in the same series on the Eclogues. This collection of essays contains a variety of scholarly approaches to the Georgics since 1970; for instance, Griffin’s essay reprinted in Volk 2008 rightly includes the problems of understanding the bee community as a cautionary tale for Rome. See Perkell 1989, introduction pp. 14–16, for a summary of trends in scholarship up to Wilkinson 1978, representing the optimistic or pro-Caesarian reading of the poem, with Thomas 1999 for the reaction reading the poem as pessimistic or at best ambiguous. Wilkinson provides a detailed companion to the text in terms of Roman agriculture and Virgilian poetics, but steers away from allegorical or moral bias in interpretation. Thomas’s scholarship since 1983 has been so substantial that it seems best to single out as another landmark his collection of earlier articles, Thomas 1999, including his powerful exploration of Hellenistic allusion in the Georgics, in articles from 1983 and 1986. Kraggerud 1998 discusses the allusions to the Aeneid in the introduction to the Georgics Book 3. Farrell 1991 follows the development of Virgil’s program of allusion. Ross 1987 explains the Georgics in terms of wet and dry, hot and cold aspects, and denounces Virgil for extravagant claims, calling the praises of Italy, the Spring, and the ancient peasant’s life “the three lies.” See Lyne 1974 on Octavian (not yet Augustus, but already Caesar) as the culminating deity in Virgil’s opening invocation. Morgan 1999 makes an ambitious argument from allegorical readings of Homer (especially Proteus) for the constructive nature of Aristaeus’s destruction of the calf, and Octavian’s bloodshed in the civil wars.

                                                  • Farrell, Joseph. 1991. Vergil’s Georgics and the traditions of ancient epic: The art of allusion in literary history. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                    The author focuses on Hellenistic allusion in the Georgics in a full length study, following Virgil’s plan of allusion from book 1, with Hesiod and Aratus, to the Aristaeus epyllion, where we see an exploitation of Homeric allusion and related allegory.

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                                                    • Kraggerud, Egil. 1998. Virgil announcing the Aeneid: On Georgics 3.1–48. In Vergil’s Aeneid: Augustan epic and political context. Edited by Hans-Peter Stahl, 1–20. London: Duckworth, with Classical Press of Wales.

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                                                      In (10–39, 46–48) Virgil swears to build a temple in Octavian’s honor, and conduct games (or perhaps a triumph) in which the Greeks will leave the traditional Alpheus of the Olympic games to arrive at Minucius, his native river. By the time Octavian returns in the sphragis (Virgil’s signature verses), making noisy battle by the Euphrates, Virgil is singing in the shade, having reverted to his otiose behavior typical in the Eclogues.

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                                                      • Lyne, R.O.A.M. 1974. Scilicet et tempus veniet: Virgil Georgic 1, 463–514. In Quality and pleasure in Latin poetry. Edited by A. J. Woodman and David Alexander West, 47–66. London and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                        Interprets the both the final deity of Virgil’s invocation of Greek and Roman gods in Georgic 1, as well as the heroic charioteer who tries to stop civil war at the end of the book as Octavian.

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                                                        • Morgan, Llewelyn. 1999. Patterns of redemption in Virgil’s Georgics. Cambridge Classical Studies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                          Makes an ambitious case that Aristaeus’ destruction of the calf, and Octavian’s bloodshed in the civil wars were in fact constructive acts. Relies on cosmic elements and an allegorical reading of Homer (in particular Proteus).

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                                                          • Perkell, Christine G. 1989. The poet’s truth: A study of the poet in Virgil’s Georgics. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                            Takes the popular contemporary view that the poem is a meditation on the philosophical and moral dilemmas of Virgil’s era, rather than a poetic agricultural handbook.

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                                                            • Ross, David O. 1987. Virgil’s elements: Physics and poetry in the Georgics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                              Argues for an interpretation of the Georgics as philosophical discourse. The author is skeptical of literal interpretations of the old man with the fertile garden of book four, whom he views as unreal and isolated, dismissing attempts to identify him as the poet Philitas or a resettled pirate. He also thinks that the character of Orpheus has been lifted from the elegies of Gallus.

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                                                              • Thomas, Richard F. 1999. Reading Virgil and his texts: Studies in intertextuality. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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                                                                With many articles on Callimachean poetics and his negative views on apiculture.

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                                                                • Volk, Katharina, ed. 2008. Vergil’s Georgics. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                  Contains a variety of essays by different scholars on the Georgics. Griffin’s essay is particularly interesting (originally published as “The fourth Georgic, Virgil and Rome,” Greece and Rome 26 [1979]: 61–80). This addresses difficulties of comprehending the bee community in allegory. It could be either a cautionary tale against servile king-worship and the concomitant suppression of art and individuality, or perhaps a model for Rome to follow. The author also discusses how this illuminates the debate on Orpheus and Aristaeus.

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                                                                  • Wilkinson, Lancelot Patrick. 1969. The Georgics of Virgil: A critical survey. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                    The author avoids moral and allegorical interpretation, and concentrates on creating an exhaustive analysis of Virgilian poetics and Roman agriculture.

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                                                                    Aeneid

                                                                    The Aeneid is Virgil’s Roman response to the Greek literary tradition. In a sense, his task was doomed to failure, for how could one self-conscious literate poet, steeped in Hellenistic and Neoteric traditions, hope to equal the ancient epics, organic product of the oral tradition? In it he has created an epic hero, divinely born from Venus, whose fate foreshadows the events of Virgil’s world and confirms the political present in a way that Achilles or Odysseus never could. Yet the Aeneid is a wonderfully woven tale, and its allusions to current and recent events are entwined with the conscious tropes of epic and Hellenistic poetry in a way that is surprisingly effective, even when it is self-conscious. It is full of polished, dramatic effects of poetic language and rich, gorgeous detail. The first six books, which follow the “Odyssean” pattern, see the hero from the discussion of the gods concerning his fate, to his landing at Carthage in a storm, his tale of the fall of Troy and years of wandering, his unhappy love affair with Dido, the funeral games for his father, and, climactically, his visit to the underworld, where he sees the ghost of his father Anchises prophesy the future greatness of Rome. Books 7–12 owe their debt to the Iliad in their theme and portray the hero’s struggles to come to terms with his allotted bride, country, and destiny in the face of the fierce opposition of the goddess Juno, the mad queen Amata, and the intransigent Turnus. The impact of the Aeneid was enormous in its own time and for later generations of scholars, writers, poets, artists, and others.

                                                                    Texts and Commentaries

                                                                    Again, the texts, commentaries, and translations of the Aeneid are too numerous to include here. Mynors (Virgil 1969) is still the standard Oxford text, with introduction in Latin. The Vergil Project provides a modern “wiki” approach.

                                                                    Translations

                                                                    Recent useful translations of the Aeneid include Fagles (Virgil 2006), which contains notes and 60-page glossary, and Ahl (Virgil 2008), a paperback translation in English hexameter.

                                                                    • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 2006. Virgil’s Aeneid. Translated by Robert Fagles. New York: Viking.

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                                                                      Like Fagles’ Iliad and Odyssey, this translation is longer than the original, and very readable. Also available as a Penguin paperback.

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                                                                      • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro). 2008. Aeneid. Translated by Frederick M. Ahl. Oxford World Classics. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                        A poetic translation that uses a type of hexameter taken from antiquity. Each six-beat line contains between seventeen to twelve syllables, in order to reproduce the metrical force of the original poem with accuracy.

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                                                                        Scholarship

                                                                        The secondary scholarship on the Aeneid is so vast that it useful to break it down into categories that refer to approach: stylistic, mythological, and contextual.

                                                                        Stylistic Analysis: Language and Imagery

                                                                        Two older studies are Pöschl 1966 and Otis 1964. The former has made the best study of Virgil’s imagery, and the latter’s work contains his seminal discussion of “the subjective style—empathy and sympathy,” pp. 41–97, and an extended discussion of the Georgics, pp. 144–214; also Appendix 7 on the ending of the fourth Georgic. Williams 1983 has a good discussion of the anomalies in Aeneid Book 3, and a controversial reading of the gods in the Aeneid as mere tropes for human intent. Johnson 1976 is a good literary study for comparatists: attractive and thought-provoking. O’Hara 1996 contains a catalogue of etymological wordplay in the Aeneid, followed by Eclogues and Georgics, ordered by line numbers in Virgil’s text. Fowler 1991 is good on the ekphrasis in Aen. 1, 441–493, where Aeneas looks at the depiction of events from the Trojan war in the Temple of Juno at Carthage; this serves as the point from which to discuss narratological issues and the complexities of focalization. Finally, Conte 2007 deals in chapters 2 and 5 with multiple points of view adapted from the polyphony of Greek tragedy; and in chapter 3 enallage (alternations of fortune) and the new sublime.

                                                                        • Conte, Gian Biagio, and S. J. Harrison. 2007. The poetry of pathos: Studies in Virgilian epic. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                          This sequel to Conte’s two earlier books on Virgil complements and translates a 2002 collection of papers in Italian. Focuses mainly on Virgil’s detailed reworking of previous poets, such as Homer, to produce broad emotional and literary effects.

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                                                                          • Fowler, D. P. 1991. Narrate and describe: The problem of ekphrasis. Journal of Roman Studies 81:25–35.

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                                                                            Discusses the question of segmentation in the visual arts.

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                                                                            • Johnson, W. R. 1976. Darkness visible: A study of Vergil’s Aeneid. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                              Focuses upon the famous melancholy inherent in the Aeneid, with an original interpretation.

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                                                                              • O’Hara, James J. 1996. True names: Vergil and the Alexandrian tradition of etymological wordplay. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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                                                                                A comprehensive collection of examples of etymology in Virgil’s works, richly annotated. Includes a discussion of the role of etymology in illuminating the character and origins of the Romans and realizing Virgil’s poetic goals; also includes a lengthy introduction on his place in a historical literary context of etymology, as well as the style and form of his wordplay.

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                                                                                • Otis, Brooks. 1964. Virgil, a study in civilized poetry. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                  With the Aeneid as a starting and finishing point, the author also examines the Georgics and Bucolics. The main argument is that Virgil applied an ancient epic tradition with legendary and mythical figures to his own contemporary, sophisticated, and unmythical era.

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                                                                                  • Pöschl, Viktor. 1966. The art of Vergil: Image and symbol in the Aeneid. Translated by Gerda Seligson. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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                                                                                    Translation of Die Dichtkunst Virgils. The best study of Virgil’s imagery.

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                                                                                    • Williams, Gordon Willis. 1983. Technique and ideas in the Aeneid. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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                                                                                      A controversial interpretation of the gods of the Aeneid as only embodiments of human wishes, and a useful discussion of anomalies in Book 3. Contains indexes.

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                                                                                      Myth, Religion, and Prophecy

                                                                                      A leading exponent in this learned field is N. M. Horsfall, whose commentaries (Aeneid 7, 11 and 3 so far, 2 forthcoming) with their massive learning and oracular ambiguity are for experts. See his shorter articles mostly on the Aeneas legend and Italian myths (Horsfall 1986 and 1988). Hardie 1993 introduces modern concern with the ancient allegorical reading of Homer and Hesiod’s cosmogony, and the conflict of giants and Olympians; he also treats Hellenistic art and cosmic allegory in Lucretius. O’Hara 1990 argues for the incomplete and misleading nature of the prophecies. See Feeney 1991 on Virgil’s development of the traditional poetic role of the gods in epic. Coleman 1982 describes the gods as meddling in order to delay or hasten inevitable fate, attributing to them a burden of causation which their anthropomorphic qualities prevent them from bearing; it contains a description of the characteristics of each of the gods and their intervention.

                                                                                      • Bremmer, J. N., and Nicholas M. Horsfall. 1987. Roman myth and mythography. Bulletin 52. London: Institute of Classical Studies.

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                                                                                        With chapters on foundation legends, including Romulus and Aeneas.

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                                                                                        • Coleman, R.G. 1982. The gods in the Aeneid. Greece and Rome 29:143–168.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/S0017383500027509Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Describes the characteristics of each of the gods in the Aeneid, and how they “intervene,” delaying or hurrying otherwise inevitable fate. The anthropomorphic qualities they possess should limit this degree of causation.

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                                                                                          • Feeney, D. C. 1991. The gods in epic: Poets and critics of the classical tradition. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                            A survey of the impact of Hellenistic critics that looks at the role of the gods in the Aeneid and its Hellenistic and Roman predecessors. Develops Heinze’s ideas.

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                                                                                            • Hardie, Philip R. 1993. The epic successors of Virgil: A study in the dynamics of a tradition, Roman literature and its contexts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                              Looks at the Virgilian influence on supernatural elements (dirae, demons, etc.) in later authors, such as Lucan, Statius, and Ovid.

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                                                                                              • Horsfall, Nicholas. 1986. The Aeneas legend and the Aeneid. Vergilius 32:8–17.

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                                                                                                Relates the Virgilian epic to its literary and mythological background.

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                                                                                                • Horsfall, Nicholas. 1988. Camilla, o i limiti dell’invenzione. Athenaeum 66:31–51.

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                                                                                                  One of the author’s short, accessible, and valuable articles on Italian myth and the legend of Aeneas.

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                                                                                                  • O’Hara, James J. 1990. Death and the optimistic prophecy in Vergil’s Aeneid. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                    Deception of characters in the Aeneid is connected to the artifice of poetry as well as the deceptiveness of Roman religion, oratory and politics. In terms of optimism and pessimism, comes in the middle of the debate, suggesting that while Virgil is hopeful for a Golden Age, he fears that it may be an illusion.

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                                                                                                    Literary and Historical Context

                                                                                                    Quint 1993 follows the influence of Virgil and his attitude to the Roman Empire in Roman and European epic. Knauer 1964 contains in the index locorum a full record of Virgilian echoes of Homer. Nelis 2001 contains a detailed discussion of passages in Apollonius echoed and varied by Virgil. Rossi 2004 relates Virgil’s siege and warfare to Hellenistic historiography and Livy’s accounts. Wigodsky 1972 is an important study of echoes from Ennius and republican tragedy in Virgil’s language. Monti 1981 discusses the famous affair of Dido and Aeneas in light of Roman politics and values. Zetzel 1989 discusses the underworld in Aen. 6 as a framework drawn from the world of mystery cult to confront the problems of justice and morality in Augustan Rome, in which Virgil emphasizes the possibility and impossibility of true historical knowledge, and the uses of memory and its limitations. Cairns 1989 has three chapters on kingship, and good separate discussions of geography and nationalism (the representation of Italy), of Dido as colored by the values of elegy, of Lavinia in terms of the Greek partheneion, the Aeneid as Odyssey, and the games of Book 5. Wiltshire 1989 is useful on the conflict between private desires and public obligations.

                                                                                                    • Cairns, Francis. 1989. Virgil’s Augustan epic. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                      Uses Virgil’s contemporary Augustan literary and political ideology as a backdrop for an examination of the central characters of the Aeneid. Reevaluates Virgil’s relationship to contemporary elegy, Roman lyric, and Homer. Useful for scholars and students of Virgil and Augustan literature.

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                                                                                                      • Knauer, Georg Nicolaus. 1964. Die Aeneis und Homer: Studien zur poetischen Technik Vergils, mit Listen der Homerzitate in der Aeneis. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

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                                                                                                        Even for non-German readers, the index of Homeric echoes of Virgil is valuable. (cf. in English, Knauer’s Virgil’s Aeneid and Homer,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 5 [1965]: 61–84).

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                                                                                                        • Monti, Richard C. 1981. The Dido episode and the Aeneid: Roman social and political values in the epic. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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                                                                                                          Fides is one of the Roman sociopolitical values in light of which the author examines the affair.

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                                                                                                          • Nelis, Damien. 2001. Vergil’s Aeneid and the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius. Arca, Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers, and Monographs 39. Leeds, UK: Francis Cairns.

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                                                                                                            Requires prior knowledge of the Greek and Latin texts. With a new perspective on all the texts, examines and compares specific elements of the Aeneid, looking for Virgil’s rationale in choosing his sources.

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                                                                                                            • Quint, David. 1993. Epic and empire: Politics and generic form from Virgil to Milton. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                              Suggests that there are two essential types of epic: that of winners, and that of losers, and that the two varieties appear as early as the Iliad and Odyssey. The former claims to represent the manifest destiny of historical forces, and the latter criticizes the role of chance in history, and hopes for reparations in the future. The author believes that the Aeneid codifies this central balance and antithesis.

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                                                                                                              • Rossi, Andreola. 2004. Contexts of war: Manipulation of genre in Virgilian battle narrative. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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                                                                                                                Describes Virgil’s siege and warfare in light of Livy’s accounts and Hellenistic historiography.

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                                                                                                                • Wigodsky, Michael. 1972. Vergil and early Latin poetry. Hermes, Zeitschrift für klassische Philologie, Einzelschriften 24. Wiesbaden, Germany: Steiner.

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                                                                                                                  A revision of the author’s thesis (Princeton 1964), titled “Imitations of early Latin poetry in Vergil’s Aeneid.”

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                                                                                                                  • Wiltshire, Susan Ford. 1989. Public and private in Vergil’s Aeneid. Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press.

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                                                                                                                    Contains a useful index of the Vergil passages cited.

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                                                                                                                    • Zetzel, James E. G. 1989. Romane memento: Justice and judgment in Aeneid 6. Transactions of the American Philological Association 119:263–284.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/284275Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      In Aeneid 6, the structure of the underworld is based on mystery cult, through which Virgil depicts the limitations of memory and its uses, and draws the veracity of historical knowledge into question.

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                                                                                                                      Reception

                                                                                                                      The impact of Virgil was of crucial importance to both ancient and modern art and literature.

                                                                                                                      Ancient Reception

                                                                                                                      The main commentaries are those of Tiberius Claudius Donatus and of M. Servius Honoratus, both of the late 4th century CE. There exists an edition of a line-by-line commentary on the Aeneid written by Donatus (late 4th to early 5th century).The work of Servius was afterward expanded by another scholar, whose additions greatly added to its worth, as they are drawn from older commentators and give us very valuable information on the old Roman religion and constitution, Greek and Latin legends, old Latin and linguistic usages. In this enlarged form the commentary of Servius and the Saturnalia of Macrobius (also of the end of the 4th century) are both of great interest to the student of Virgil.

                                                                                                                      Ancient Texts and Commentaries

                                                                                                                      The standard edition of Donatus is the Teubner (Donatus 1905), updated by Brummer in 1969. The Harvard Servius is still incomplete; Books 1–5 are available. The commentary of Servius Book 4, by McDonough, Prior, and Stansbury (Servius 2002) is both translated and annotated. Willis (Macrobius 1970) is a good Latin edition of the Saturnalia, and Vaughn’s (Macrobius 1969) is translated with introduction and notes.

                                                                                                                      • Donatus, Aelius. 2008. Life of Virgil Translated by David Scott Wilson-Okamura.

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                                                                                                                        A translation, originally done in 1996 and subsequently revised, of Jakob Brummer’s edition (originally published by Teubner in 1912).

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                                                                                                                        • Donatus, Tiberius Claudius. 1905. Ad Tiberium Claudium Maximum Donatianum filium suum interpretationes vergilianae: Primum ad vetustissimorum codicum fidem recognitas. Edited by Heinrich Georges. Leipzig, Germany: Teubner.

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                                                                                                                          A commentary on every line of the Aeneid by Donatus (late 4th–early 5th century). Second edition, revised by Jakob Brummer, Stuttgart, Germany: Teubner, 1969.

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                                                                                                                          • Macrobius, Ambrosius Aurelius Theodosius. 1969. The Saturnalia. Edited and translated by Percival Vaughn Davies. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                            Translation of Macrobius’s Saturnalia.

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                                                                                                                            • Macrobius, Ambrosius Aurelius Theodosius. 1970. Saturnalia. Edited by James A. Willis. Leipzig, Germany: Teubner.

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                                                                                                                              Edition of Macrobius’s Saturnalia.

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                                                                                                                              • Servius (Maurus Servius Honoratus). 1946–. Servianorum in Vergili, carmina commentariorum editio Harvardiana. Edited by E. K. Rand, A. F. Stocker, A. H. Travis, et al. Lancaster, PA: American Philological Association.

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                                                                                                                                Published are vol.2, Aeneid 1–2, edited by Rand et al., and vol. 3, Aeneid 3–5, edited by Stocker and Travis; the series is incomplete.

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                                                                                                                                • Servius (Maurus Servius Honoratus). 2002. Servius’ commentary on Book four of Virgil’s Aeneid: An annotated translation. Edited and translated by Christopher Michael McDonough, Richard E. Prior, and Mark Stansbury. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci.

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                                                                                                                                  Translated and annotated. The most recent major work.

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                                                                                                                                  Scholarship on Ancient Reception

                                                                                                                                  The scholarship on the reception of Virgil in Antiquity, his place in a wider literary and historical context, is quite profuse. Fowler 1997 is a useful article on Servius. Hunter 2006 has broken new ground in his critical work on Hellenistic poetry, moderating the former orthodoxy that these poets represented a break with the past. The four case studies in this volume explore the ways in which some of the Roman poets sought not only to appropriate the Greek literary tradition, but also to incorporate themselves into it. Stok 1994 is an excellent discussion of the Servian Vita’s fortunes and permutations up to 1600.

                                                                                                                                  • Fowler, D. P. 1997. The Vergil commentary of Servius. In The Cambridge companion to Virgil. Edited by Charles Martindale, 73–78. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                    A useful article on the ancient commentary of Servius.

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                                                                                                                                    • Hunter, R. L. 2006. The shadow of Callimachus: Studies in the reception of Hellenistic poetry at Rome, Roman literature and its contexts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                      Contains four recent critical studies of Hellenistic poetry that examine the ways Roman poets tried to place themselves into the Greek literary tradition, as well as making it their own.

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                                                                                                                                      • Stok, Fabio. 1994. Virgil between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. International Journal of the Classical Tradition 1.2: 15–22.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1007/BF02678991Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Discusses the changes, for better and worse, in the transmission of the Vita of Servius, up to 1600.

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                                                                                                                                        Middle Ages to the Present

                                                                                                                                        Spargo 1934, although out of print, has been put online, and contains fascinating chapters. Comparetti 1997 offers valuable insights on the medieval period of reception. Putnam 1995 on the reception of the Aeneid contains an uncommonly passionate yet also uncommonly lucid and coherent argument. Thomas 2001, supporting the “pessimistic” approach to Virgilian interpretation, identifies anti-Augustan elements in the Aeneid and examines how the dominant Augustan reading of the poem has historically suppressed those subversive elements. Kallendorf 2007 brings Classical and Early Modern literary texts into dialogue with contemporary literary theory, and takes a fresh look at readings of Virgil by authors such as Shakespeare and Milton. The most recent and all-encompassing works are Ziolkowski 2008 and Putnam 1995, which gathers texts and translations on major aspects of the Virgilian tradition from the Roman poet’s own lifetime to the year 1500. The book presents a vast compendium of materials that illuminate how poets, teachers, students, and common folk responded to Virgil and his poetry. It offers a brief commentary on each text, many of which are translated into English for the first time.

                                                                                                                                        • Comparetti, Domenico. 1997. Vergil in the Middle Ages. Translated by E. F. M. Benecke. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                          Although the Italian original was published in 1966, it still has useful insights on the medieval reception of Virgil.

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                                                                                                                                          • Kallendorf, Craig. 2007. The other Virgil: “Pessimistic” readings of the Aeneid in Early Modern culture. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                            Using contemporary literary theory, creates a dialogue with Classical and Early Modern literature. For example, looks at how authors like Shakespeare and Milton used Virgil.

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                                                                                                                                            • Putnam, Michael C. J. 1995. Virgil’s Aeneid: Interpretation and influence. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

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                                                                                                                                              A clear, cogent and passionate argument.

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                                                                                                                                              • Spargo, John Webster. 1934. Virgil the necromancer: Studies in Virgilian legends. Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature 10. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                Although out of print, has been put online, and contains chapters such as “The First Four Hundred Years: The Talismanic Art,” “Saint Virgilius?,” “The Pneumatical Sage,” “Virgil in the Basket,” “The Mage’s Revenge,” “La bocca della verita,” “Caesar’s Sepulture,” “The Virgilius Romance,” “Iconography,” “Shades of Shadows,” and “Poeta doctus et magus.”

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                                                                                                                                                • Thomas, Richard F. 2001. Virgil and the Augustan reception. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                  Thomas adheres to the “pessimistic” school of interpretation of the Aeneid, examining the ways that the traditionally more prevalent pro-Augustan view has eclipsed the subversive aspects of the poem.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Ziolkowski, Jan M., and Michael C. J. Putnam, eds. 2008. The Virgilian tradition: The first fifteen hundred years. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                    Bringing together texts on Virgil from his own times up to the year 1500, containing many diverse materials that focus on the reception of his poetry in different epochs. With brief English commentaries on each text.

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