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'IRGIL was born on the 15th October, B.C. 70, in the commune of Andes,

which was somewhere in the territory attached to Mantua, then a small and comparatively unimportant provincial town. The precise situation of Andes is unknown. Its traditional identification with the hamlet of Pietola some three miles to the southeast of Mantua, though of long standing, and mentioned incidentally by Dante in the Purgatorio as an accepted belief, is inconsistent with the details given in the early life of Virgil by Probus the Grammarian, and with what little can be gathered or inferred from the allusions or descriptive touches in Virgil's own early poems.

His father is said to have been originally a servant, who throve in life by character and industry, and, like the father of Keats, married his employer's daughter and heiress. He settled down as a thriving yeoman-farmer, making a living particularly out of forestry and beekeeping. Of Virgil's mother, Magia Polla, noth

ing is known beyond the name. It is of interest, because long afterwards it became distorted into a mystical significance, as though it indicated possession of magical powers: and that baseless belief contributed largely towards the growth of the widespread and long-continued medieval tradition of Virgil, as himself a magician and miracle-worker, or even, like the Merlin of the Arthurian legend, an enchanter born of a maiden mother and occupying a position towards the Emperor Augustus like that of Merlin towards Arthur.

Whether Virgil was a Roman citizen by birth is uncertain. It is quite probable that his father, as a substantial freeholder who may very well have held small local magistracies, had obtained the citizenship before Virgil's birth. In any case the whole family would automatically come under the general extension of full citizenship to the Cisalpine province by Julius Caesar. Modern scholars have pleased themselves by fancying that Caesar himself, in the winter progresses through the Cisalpine proconsulate which intervened between his campaigns in Transalpine Gaul, may have received Virgil's father at an interview, and that Virgil himself may have seen him and been spoken

to by him, whether at Mantua, at Cremona, where he received his earlier education, or later when he was continuing it in the larger and better-equipped schools at Milan. Through some such chance meeting, it has been suggested, may have begun the acquaintance of Virgil with a boy seven years younger than himself, Caesar's orphan grandnephew and adopted heir, the future Emperor Augustus. An even more attractive fancy is that Virgil as a boy may have seen and known Catullus, whose home at Sirmio was only some five and twenty miles off. The Veronese poet's influence on the early work of Virgil is marked and profound. But it extended to the whole group of young poets to which Virgil belonged; and in any case, Catullus lived long enough-the exact date when his brief and brilliant life ended is uncertain for Virgil to have made his personal acquaintance. Another chronological link, this time a pure coincidence, attaches Virgil's name to that of the other great poet of the Ciceronian age. Lucretius died, according to a well-authenticated tradition, on Virgil's fifteenth birthday.

Virgil's racial ancestry has been the subject of much inconclusive and perhaps somewhat idle debate. Mantua had been one of the lead


ing cities of the old Etruscan League. The population of the town and neighbourhood was still largely of Etruscan blood. Of the Etruscan civilization and religion, both, factors of much importance in the earlier times of the Roman Republic, Virgil was certainly a diligent student. He repeatedly lays stress on the Etruscan origins of Mantua; and the tone of these passages, particularly of one in the Catalogue of the tenth book of the Aeneid, seems one of personal pride not only in his birthplace, but in an ancient race with a great past to which he felt himself to belong. The main population of the whole of Cisalpine Gaul, however, was, as the name of the province indicates, Celtic. The names Vergilius and Maro have both been traced, on very doubtful arguments, to Celtic roots; and the romantic strain in Virgil's own temperament has, even more arbitrarily, been held by some modern critics to indicate, or even to prove, that he was of Celtic blood. Nor is this all. Macrobius,3 at the end of the fourth century, speaks of him as a Venetian. Mantua was at no time within the district known as Venetia, though not far from its western border; and this statement accordingly must imply some further tradition of the origin of his family

from a third and totally different source, the race of the Veneti, who probably came of an Illyrian stock with Slavonic affinities. But here we are wandering in realms of pure conjecture: and no doctrine or theory of racial characteristics throws much light on the origins of individual genius. That Virgil was of mixed race is at least highly probable. The mixture or coalescence of strains in him, without laying undue stress on it, may be taken as a symbol of his share in the creation of a unified Italy, not merely as a theoretic ideal but as an actual nation, which has only in our own day fully realized itself.

From the schools of Milan, which corresponded broadly to a modern provincial university, Virgil passed on at about the age of eighteen to Rome. It was the centre of advanced studies for all the Latin-speaking world, and the nursery of a brilliant group of young poets. Several of these attained high distinction. Some, like Aemilius Macer of Verona and Quintilius Varus of Cremona, came from Virgil's own neighbourhood, and were his intimate friends. His closest intimacy of all was with Cornelius Gallus, who was a native of Fréjus, a Roman colony and naval station in Nar

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