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FOR some reason which it is not easy to understand, young students seem now to limit their reading of Virgil chiefly to the Aeneid, while his other writings are comparatively neglected. Yet, without entering on any comparison between the two works, it may certainly be stated with justice that there is nothing in the Aeneid—or indeed in Latin poetry—which surpasses the artistic perfection of the Georgics. They repay the most careful and loving study, and the First Book, for example, within the space of four hundred lines, illustrates almost every literary and poetic excellence. In the introduction which follows, and also in the notes, an attempt has been made to point out some of their chief merits, in the hope of directing more general attention to the rich ore which they everywhere contain, not always on the surface, but only awaiting the diligent explorer, who is sure of his reward.
Of commentators Conington seems to me to take a foremost place, and I feel pleasure in remembering that my native county-reputed the Boeotia of England— has in this century produced not only a poet who, for delicate accuracy of observation, fine felicity of phrase, and perfect mastery of rhythm, is the most
Virgilian of the moderns, but also a Virgilian critic who has scarcely an equal and certainly no superior. If at times he weighs minute possibilities in too sensitive a balance and so is led to disregard the more important facts on which a judgment should be formed, yet this scrupulous nicety of examination often throws new light upon the subject, and in the study of work so elaborate as Virgil's is always instructive, while, even where it is necessary to differ from his conclusions, it is impossible not to learn much from his arguments. Kennedy's notes on this part of Virgil are fuller than on the rest, and his discussion of many difficult passages is marked by rare insight and acumen. Martyn's edition, although defective in scholarship, is full of most valuable matter and still worthy of the high popularity it once enjoyed. Of foreign editions I have consulted a considerable number, but it has been my aim not to render the notes confusing by too many references to the numberless views which have been put forward, often needlessly, by a host of commentators. Notes which are merely brief dogmatic statements of a particular opinion are, in my judgment, of little educational value; on the other hand even a concise summary of what has been said on many passages of Virgil must be tedious and perplexing to all but specialists. To attain a happy mean and afford the average reader sufficient but not excessive information is difficult, but it has been the object which I have set before me.
T. E. PAGE,
P. VERGILIUS 1 MARO was born Oct. 15, B.C. 70, at Andes, a small village near Mantua in Cisalpine Gaul, five years before Horace and seven before C. Octavius, who later, under the names of Octavian and Augustus, was destined to become his great patron. His father was a yeoman, and cultivated a small farm of his own. The boy was educated at Cremona and Mediolanum (Milan), and is said to have subsequently studied at Neapolis (Naples) under Parthenius of Bithynia, from whom he learnt Greek, and at Rome under Siron, an Epicurean philosopher, and Epidius, a rhetorician. His works afford ample evidence of his wide reading, and he certainly merits the epithet of doctus to which all the poets of his age aspired; 2 a noble passage in the Georgics (2. 475-492) expresses his deep admiration for scientific and philosophic study, while throughout the Aeneid, and especially in the speeches of the fourth Book, there are marked traces of that rhetorical
1 The spelling Virgilius is wrong, but as an English word it seems pedantic to alter 'Virgil' established as it is by a long literary tradition.
2 3 Ellis, Cat. 35. 16 n.
training which has left such a profound impress on the literature of the succeeding century.
On completing his education he seems to have returned home, and some of the minor poems ascribed to him-Ciris, Copa, Culex, Dirae, Moretum-may be in reality youthful attempts of his composed during this period. Our first certain knowledge, however, of his poetic career begins in B.C. 42, when, after the defeat of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, the Roman world passed into the hands of the triumvirs Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus. They had promised their victorious veterans the lands of eighteen cities in Italy, among which was Cremona, and subsequently it became necessary to include the neighbouring district of Mantua. Virgil's father was threatened with the loss of his farm, but the youthful poet had secured the favour of C. Asinius Pollio, governor of Cisalpine Gaul, and of L. Alfenus Varus, his successor (B.c. 41), whose assistance he invokes in the sixth Eclogue. Pollio, himself a scholar and poet,3 accepted the dedication of his earliest Eclogues, and secured for him an introduction to Octavian at Rome,5 as a result of which he obtained the restoration of the farm. His gratitude to the youthful triumvir finds expression in the Ecloguc which he prefixed to the others, and which now stands at their head.
1 Ecl. 9. 28 Mantua vae miserae nimium vicina Cremonae.
2 The date of this is usually given as 41 B.C., but a year or two later (say B.C. 39) seems more probable: see Class. Rev. vi. p. 450. 3 Hor. Od. 2. I.
4 Ecl. 8. 11 a te principium.
5 Schol. Dan. on Ecl. 9. 10 carmina quibus sibi Pollionem intercessorem apud Augustum conciliaverat.