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Virgil

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Virgil, Latin poet, was born in 70 B.C. and died in 19 B.C. His birthplace was Andes near Mantua (Mantova) in northern Italy. He seems to have been partly of Etruscan stock. His father was a farmer or a potter; his mother's name was Magia Polla. They were well enough off to send their son to be educated at Cremona and Mediolanum (Milan); later, he studied philosophy, rhetoric, and literary subjects at Rome, where he became a friend of the historian Pollio. Virgil made one appearance as speaker at the bar but soon abandoned public life - possibly when the civil war broke out in 49 B.C. - and moved to Neapolis (Naples) to study philosophy under the Epicurean Siro, whose property he subsequently inherited. When land in Italy was confiscated for settlement by ex-soldiers in 41 B.C., Virgil's father was one of those whose holdings were expropriated (perhaps permanently, despite ancient reports to the contrary) and he went to live with his son near Neapolis. At the time of the publication of the Eclogues (37 B.C.), however , Virgil was living Rome; he became a member of the literary circle of Maecenas, trusted counselor of Augustus and literary patron, to whom he dedicated the Georgics. He also recommended his friend Horace to Maecenas, whom the two poets accompanied on a journey to Brundusium (Brindisi) in 37.

Soon afterward Virgil withdrew again to Campania, where he spent most of the rest of his life, keeping away from Rome as much as possible: he had residences at Neapolis and Nola by favor of Augustus, to whom Maecenas had introduced him. After working for eleven years on the Aeneid, he left Italy in 19 B.C. to travel in Greece and Asia Minor, with the intention of staying away for three years while he polished the poem - after which he proposed to devote himself to philosophy. At Athens, however, he met Augustus, who asked him to return home to him. But Virgil, whose health was never good, fell ill at Megara and was brought back as far as Brundusium, where he died. His body was buried outside Neapolis, where his tomb was greatly revered in later ages. He left instructions that the Aeneid, which was still incomplete, should be burned, but Augustus ordered Virgil's friends Varius Rufus and Plotius Tucca to publish it, with excisions where necessary.

According to Suetonius' On Poets, Virgil had a tall, large figure and looked like a countryman; he was subject to frequent stomach and throat troubles and headaches, and often suffered from hemorrhages.

     
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