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The influence of poetry on the life of vergilius

No one knows how old it was then, but the town was once Etruscan.

By the time Virgil was born, it was part of the province called Cisalpine Gaul, which extended to the Alps and covered the Po valley where the god Silvanus, the Wood god, was very popular.

The Alps were free and independent, though they were quite thoroughly explored and well-known to the Greeks as well as the Romans. Greek influence and Greek works of art had penetrated beyond Ancona and Rimini and far into the Alps long ago, but in the early second century BC the Romans took over the entire region. Rimini Ariminum was founded in BC as a Roman colony, a strong garrison town where disbandoned legions of old soldiers were settled on the land, and in BC the border had reached Milan, and in the Romans put colonies at Piacenza and Cremona.

Quiet Mantua was on the richest part of the plain, in one of the wriggles of the river Mincio Minciuswhich runs down from Lake Garda to join greater rivers, dove il Po discende per aver pace con seguaci sui: On the southernmost tip of the vast Lake Garda lies Sirmio where Catullus lived, though the impressive ruins still to be seen there are those of a grander and later building, probably an imperial palace.

Not far east of Sirmio lies Verona whose name is Celtic which Catullus calls his town, but it appears to have been a dull place. Mantua was never huge and is now all but encircled by small lakes full of fish.

  • In a paroxysm of love and anger, he slaughters Turnus;
  • In the period 44-40 BC different views were possible certainly, and one might even like Pollio change one's side;
  • But from false inferences from what Virgil himself tells us, the commentaries have built a construction that looks as if it depended on separate evidence;
  • It is no pleasure to me to sneer at bad poems, though I do think it my duty to go through all of them, rubbing their nose one by one in the dust;
  • That is only one among many aspects of his settlement, but it is one that G;
  • On the other hand, many have again seen the poem's tragic elements as incompatible with a celebration of power.

Beyond Mantua in the plain of the Po Virgil was born in a village called Andes. No one knows now where that was, though tradition puts it at Pietole to the south-south-eastwhich Napoleon visited at midnight as a young officer, in awe of Virgil. He was a middle-class child and a Roman citizen by birth. His mother's and his father's family held office as magistrates in Rome.

Virgil's father may even have been an eques Romanus, a Roman knight or squire; but Miss Gordon JRS, cleverly suggested he was the offspring of an Etruscan pottery family from Ligurian Hasta, and perhaps he dug clay from his muddy fields and made pots near Mantua.

That would explain the story in Virgil's biography, that his father was an itinerant potter and a poor man who married his boss's daughter. That story is probably romantic moonshine all the same, invented hundreds of years after the poet's death to fill a gap left by ignorance; and the connection with Hasta is a guess.

Before we plunge into the morass of such traditions, we had better set out clearly what is known from history and from archaeological evidence. The name of a member of Virgil's family crops up much later as a grand priest whose office is recorded on stone, and when Virgil died he left money to his younger half-brother. He is also credited with two full brothers who died before him, but I do not believe they really existed at all.

The money, half his wealth, was a large amount, but the brother mentioned in Virgil's will was the son of his mother Magia, who must have been born by 86 BC to bear Virgil in 70 BC, so by the laws of nature Magia is unlikely to have had another son after about 36 BC. It happens that a poem in the Catalepton the collection of short poems ascribed to Virgil suggests that the poet's father was alive in the later forties BC, but this poem is a fantasy.

It need not detain us.

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So we should assume that the poet's father died at the normal age around 52 BC when his son was about eighteen, and his widow married again. Virgil looked after his half-brother, who was born about 50 BC, by leaving him money when he was thirty. Yet we would like to know more about Virgil's father and mother, and his first youth, and to do so we must take a circuitous route. Mantua was Etruscan, as Virgil tells us in verse in the course of his amazing catalogue of the allies of Aeneas, in book ten of the Aeneid.

Aeneas is at a meeting to get Etruscan allies through Evander, the old original Arcadian colonist of Rome. The allies set out in a half-magical fleet from the north of Italy and after the Clusians and the Ligurians and their mighty ship Centaur comes the curiously named Ocnus, son of Prophetic Manto and a Tuscan: He gave you walls and gave his mother's name, Mantua rich in blood, not one in race: Three races, and four peoples under each Head of the peoples, her strength Tuscan blood.

Mantua according to Virgil was an ancient settlement of mixed race. Mincius in a hat of the grey-green reeds of his father Benacus Lake Garda leads in his furious pine ship five hundred men that the legendary tyrant Mezentius armed against himself That does not tell us very much.

Mincius was the river that snaked across the plains emptying the oceanic Lake Garda into the Po. And Mezentius may be fiction: But the atmosphere reveals a good deal about Virgil's native place. Even the claim to a mere five hundred men from the margins of the world says something, and Ocnus is a Greek word for hesitancy, indolence or shrinking, that suits the endless windings of the Mantuan river.

It is plain that we are speaking of the remotest of the Italian provinces. This mixture of fantasy and mythology is confusing to modern readers, but it is worth noticing that Virgil insists on creating a part in the Aeneid for Mantua and the Ligurians. Furthermore, when Phaethon fell from heaven and his sisters lamented him inconsolably, they were turned into the amber-weeping poplar trees of the Po valley, and the crest-feathered Cunerus, Phaethon's brother, sang about him in their shadow to the stars until in white old age he was turned into the constellation The influence of poetry on the life of vergilius, the Swan Aen.

Cycnus and Ocnus are similar words, and perhaps for Virgil Ocnus is the name of some fabulously beautiful and shy heron of the river Mincius or the Po. On consideration I do not believe it has anything to do with the Oknos painted by Polygnotos, whose punishment in the underworld Paus.

Virgil loved Mantua passionately and mentioned it in all his books, but the mention in the Aeneid is the most intrusive and suggestive. As for the amber-weeping trees, amber is indeed the petrified gum of trees found in sea-sand: And as for the great river Po, the Romans identified it with the Greek mythical river Eridanos, where Phaethon fell and his sisters wept, as we have just seen.

Virgil names a river in the happiest part of the underworld where the poets sing for ever the Eridanus Aen. And in the first Georgic he is king of rivers, and the translator Ogilby the influence of poetry on the life of vergilius him: Brasse in the Temples sweats: In the fourth Georgic, Ogilby says: Golden Eridanus with a double horne, Fac'd like a Bull, through fertile fields of corne: Than whom none swifter of the Ocean's sons Down to the purple Adriatick runs.

Virgil says no river rushes more violent to the purple sea. To this day the Po has an alarming and uncontrollable appearance, and near Mantua, where the sea is still a hundred miles away, this great river is more untamed than the Rhine or the Rhone or the Loire or the Danube.

But Mantua huddles in a bend of the Mincius on a small hill among lakes. It is almost hidden, a defensive site. The Romans came late to the vast region of the Po Valley which they called Cisalpine Gaul as opposed to Transalpine Gaul, Gaul on the other side of the Alps and when Virgil was born the Alps were still free and independent.

The Romans extended into northern Italy for strategic reasons as well as economic greed, and the title of Cisalpine Gaul was used for political convenience as in fact geographically the place and most of the people were Italian by race.

The Po valley was still a frontier region, and the Po itself was a barrier to the Romans nearly as formidable as the Alps: For much of the second century BC the region was disputable ground, but the Romans then swiftly advanced into the mining areas of the Alps. Little by little they had become masters of the towns in the Po valley, including small Mantua. Cremona lay fifty miles to the west and Parma on the Via Aemilia fifty southeast: Verona the frontier town near Lake Garda was about forty north.

Mantua was about ten miles north of the Po, but a day's journey east or west from any crossing, and a hundred miles from the formidable Po delta. We first hear of Cisalpine Gaul as a Roman province with a governor or military dictator appointed by Rome, not long before Virgil was born, though its government as a province seems to date from about BC.

He made the the influence of poetry on the life of vergilius a Roman military province, refusing at the same time to grant rights of Roman citizenship because he despised its Gaulish inhabitants. Sallust and Tacitus bear witness to this prejudice -- which was of a type already causing trouble all over Italy. From 90 BC onwards all the Italians who were not Romans had demanded the rights of citizens. By 87 BC they almost all had these rights, only the territory north of the Po was unprivileged.

The fighting was over by 89 BC, but Pompey Squint-Eye strengthened the northern frontier, colonising Comum and Verona and creating a society tied to himself and his family interests.

That is only one among many aspects of his settlement, but it is one that G. Chilver chose to emphasise, since as a result Caesar wooed this northern province by promoting universal Roman citizenship there. It finally happened towards the end of his life when he gave the citizenship to every town in Cisalpine Gaul.

Most of these mountain border-towns had Latin rights, that is the rights of towns near Rome in Latium itself: The reader may wonder whether a Roman colony might exist in foreign, the influence of poetry on the life of vergilius territory, beyond the boundaries of a Roman province. Rome was both extending her frontiers, sometimes with alarming speed, and consolidating her frontier territories. Virgil's father was affected by all this disturbance of course, but we do not know that he had any serious interest in politics.

The vision of his generation was united Italy: It is interesting that Cicero could not stand the Celtic accent in Latin -- which seems to persist in Virgil's north-Italian accent. Cisalpine Gaul was in several ways unlike the south. There seem to have been fewer slaves. And there were certainly fewer ex-slaves, except at Bologna, where they were numerous and left rich tombs.

Scholars have imagined that is what really happened for a time after the civil wars, but if it did and I do not quite believe it the matter need not concern us, because by then Virgil had left home and was settled in the south.

the influence of poetry on the life of vergilius We know that the Po valley had many more woods or forests than it has now, but that Mantua was marshy. Later in history it had worse mosquitoes than anywhere else in Italy, and farming there is still a matter of clever draining.

The farms were not extensive: Knights were numerous, there were fifty in one town allotment. Much of the wealth was in wool and wool-combing, and the animals climbed into the Alps in summer as they still do. In the ninth Eclogue Virgil's Moeris who has lost his farm cries out: Varus, if our own Mantua shall survive, Mantua too close to unhappy Cremona, Singing swans will take your name to the stars.

What interests me about this obscurely bitter complaint is the swans, because for Virgil they are a recurring theme. We have already seen the crest-feathers and Cycnus and Ocnus in the Aeneid. But in the second Georgic we have Those meadows that unhappy Mantua lost Grazing on grass-green rivers swans of snow It will be seen that whenever Virgil has a piece of musical phrasing, or even an impression of colours that pleases him, he goes on working at it until he has it right. In the Aeneid twelve swans take off together from the fields and soar in circles; in the west of England, on the Severn near Berkeley Castle, one may still observe that, and Virgil learnt it and much else at Mantua.

Virgil, 70–19 BCE

The boldest is that of the Gonzaga family who decided that their renaissance stables for the breeding of horses a mile or so from Pietole, a few miles from Mantua, was the very spot the poet was born.

The poplar begot a story of its swift growth, and the ditch became the birthplace. Or was the potting to explain the boy's interest in legends? All these stories are charming and harmless enough, but quite worthless. Suetonius, of whose lost life of Virgil they were excretions, credited the child with a sweet new-born smile and a most fortunate horoscope, genitura.