Harvard Lectures on the Vergilian Age

Harvard Lectures on the Vergilian Age

Harvard Lectures on the Vergilian Age

Harvard Lectures on the Vergilian Age

Excerpt

The nine lectures in this volume may be regarded as a continuation of my New Studies of a Great Inheritance, published in 1921. They are concerned with the life of about forty years (55-17 B.C.), a period which, in spite of political vicissitudes, has a unity of its own, the true golden age of Roman literature; and they will, I hope, serve to show that its governing conceptions are represented most clearly by Vergil, so that it may be naturally called the Vergilian Age.

The purpose of this volume differs somewhat from that of the Great Inheritance. What I have here tried to do is to identify the elements in the feeling of the time which shaped, or coloured, the thought of its great writers. This involved some new study of its historical conditions, but my object was not to describe those conditions, which are, for the most part, well known, -- if one can use the phrase of anything in ancient history, -- but rather to discover what the poets and historians really felt about them. Thus the second lecture, though it is an essay in topographic research, suggests questions of another kind: What did Vergil feel about his first home? And how did he judge the events by which he lost it? It is the atmosphere round the authors which we ought to breathe again if we are to understand their work; and this may be often felt less clearly in what they wrote explicitly about the incidents of that day than in their reflections on other events, some of them remote in time, or even wholly imaginary. For example, the Hannibalic War, though it ended a century and a half before Vergil's generation, nevertheless was clearly present to it as a sombre historical picture. And what Vergil's contemporaries felt about the different aspects of that war was closely linked with their own experience. If this was so, we shall not fully understand what they wrote unless we have realised this connexion.

From this point of view the different chapters contribute to a single purpose; nevertheless they may be found useful, one by one, as in fact they were written. They are . . .

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