Among the greatest of the Roman poets, Virgil was the author of the 'Aeneid'.
Publius Vergilius Maro, known in English as Virgil (or sometimes Vergil) was born near Mantua in northern Italy in October 70 BC. He spent his early life in northern Italy. His first work was the 'Eclogues', published in the mid-30s BC. They give an artificial, idealised picture of a world of singing shepherds - the Arcadia of a later European pastoral ideal - but are also filled with references to contemporary political figures.
Virgil's next work was the 'Georgics', published in 29 BC and was a didactic poem, in four books, on farming. It looks back ultimately to the work of the archaic Greek poet Hesiod (c.700 BC). It was dedicated to Roman statesman Gaius Maecenas, who had become Virgil's patron. His support enabled Virgil to dedicate himself full time to study and writing. As well as Maecenas, Virgil's friends included Octavian, who became the Emperor Augustus after establishing himself in power in 27 BC, and many prominent writers and poets.
Virgil's last work was the 'Aeneid', an epic poem in 12 books which looks back to Homer's two epic poems the 'Odyssey' and the 'Iliad', of the eighth century BC. It describes the journey of the Trojan hero Aeneas to Italy and the wars he undertook once he had arrived there. But the poem does not merely give a version of Rome's earliest origins - it alludes to the whole course of Roman history, which will culminate in the reign of Augustus. Thus the tragedy of Dido, the queen of Carthage, who was driven to kill herself by her passion for Aeneas, is the ultimate origin of the Punic Wars - Rome's later wars against Carthage for control of the western Mediterranean. Similarly, the struggle of Aeneas, as he attempted to found a city for his people, also in some respects prefigures that of Augustus in re-establishing Rome.
Virgil himself died of a fever in 19 BC. On his deathbed he is supposed to have ordered the 'Aeneid' to be destroyed, but on Augustus's orders it was published.
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