Image of Virgil


Lifetime: 70 BCE - 19 BCE Passed: ≈ 2042 years ago


Roman Poet




Publius Vergilius Maro usually called Virgil or Vergil in English, was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He composed three of the most famous poems in Latin literature: the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid. 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 as dubious.

Virgil's work has had wide and deep influence on Western literature, most notably Dante's Divine Comedy, in which Virgil appears as the author's guide through Hell and Purgatory.

Virgil has been traditionally ranked as one of Rome's greatest poets. His Aeneid is also considered a national epic of ancient Rome, a title held since composition.

Virgil's biographical tradition is thought to depend on a lost biography by the Roman poet Varius. This biography was incorporated into an account by the historian Suetonius, as well as the later commentaries of Servius and Donatus (the two great commentators on Virgil's poetry). Although the commentaries record much factual information about Virgil, some of their evidence can be shown to rely on allegorizing and on inferences drawn from his poetry. For this reason, details regarding Virgil's life story are considered somewhat problematic.

According to these accounts, Publius Vergilius Maro was born in the village of Andes, near Mantua[i] in Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy, added to Italy proper during his lifetime). Analysis of his name has led some to believe that he descended from earlier Roman colonists. Modern speculation, however, ultimately is not supported by narrative evidence from either his own writings or his later biographers. Macrobius says that Virgil's father was of a humble background, though scholars generally believe that Virgil was from an equestrian landowning family who could afford to give him an education. He attended schools in Cremona, Mediolanum, Rome, and Naples. After briefly considering a career in rhetoric and law, the young Virgil turned his talents to poetry.

According to the tradition, Virgil traveled to the senatorial province of Achaea in Greece in about 19 BC to revise the Aeneid. After meeting Augustus in Athens and deciding to return home, Virgil caught a fever while visiting a town near Megara. After crossing to Italy by ship, weakened with disease, Virgil died in Brundisium harbor on 21 September 19 BC. Augustus ordered Virgil's literary executors, Lucius Varius Rufus and Plotius Tucca, to disregard Virgil's own wish that the poem be burned, instead ordering it to be published with as few editorial changes as possible.  As a result, the text of the Aeneid that exists may contain faults which Virgil was planning to correct before publication. However, the only obvious imperfections are a few lines of verse that are metrically unfinished (i.e. not a complete line of dactylic hexameter). Some scholars have argued that Virgil deliberately left these metrically incomplete lines for dramatic effect. Other alleged imperfections are subject to scholarly debate.

Books by Virgil

Georgica Cover image


Poetry Fiction
Historical Fiction Tradition Poems Classics Antiquity

Vergil's Georgica is the culmination of a long tradition in antiquity of poems about agriculture, beginning with Hesiod in the eighth c. BC. His poem is a rich admixture of allusion to that tradition: didactic poem, eulogium of Augustus, the neoteric...

The Georgics: A Poem of the Land Cover image

The Georgics: A Poem of the Land

Divine Poems Myths Life Classics Antiquity Relationships Humanity

A poem by the Latin poet Virgil, the second of his three known works. "Georgic" means "to work the land," and on such matters of labour Virgil dwells and celebrates. In a dramatic survey of practices including agriculture, viticulture, animal husband...