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Introduction

Publius Vergilius Maro was born on October 15, 70 b.c., at Andes, a village near Mantua. Whether because of a local pronunciation or for some other circumstance his name was early punned with virgo and virga, and before the end of the Roman Empire his name was spelled and pronounced Virgilius, which even supplanted the correct spelling; up to the 20th century Virgil has been the spelling commonly used. Dante and Croce know him as Virgilio, Johnson and Tennyson, and likewise Goethe and Schiller, as Virgil. So there is much to be said for keeping Virgil as a historically naturalized form, like Jupiter for Iuppiter.

The Life of Virgil attributed to Donatus (given in volume II of the Loeb edition of Suetonius) certainly goes back to the biographer, but no less certainly contains much which is speculation or even fabrication. For one thing, whereas the Life says that Virgil came of modest parentage, his father must have been quite affluent to have him educated at Milan and then in Rome. He suffered from poor health, spoke with a rustic accent, and was abnormally shy. It is perhaps not surprising that we are not well informed about his early life, and in particular about his first poems. According to the Life he wrote the Catalepton, Priapea, Epigrams, Dirae, as well as the Ciris and Culex (when he was sixteen years old); the biographer admits

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