Vergil or Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) (both: vûr´jil), 70 BC–19 BC, Roman poet, b. Andes dist., near Mantua, in Cisalpine Gaul; the spelling Virgil is not found earlier than the 5th cent. AD Vergil's father, a farmer, took his son to Cremona for his education. Thereafter Vergil continued his studies in Milan, Naples, and Rome. The poet's boyhood experience of life on the farm was an essential part of his education. After his studies in Rome, Vergil is believed to have lived with his father for about 10 years, engaged in farm work, study, and writing poetry. In 41 BC the farm was confiscated to provide land for soldiers. Vergil went to Rome, where he became a part of the literary circle patronized by Maecenas and Augustus and where his Eclogues, or Bucolics, were completed in 37 BC In these poems he idealizes rural life in the manner of his Greek predecessor Theocritus. From the Eclogues, Vergil turned to rural poetry of a contrasting kind, realistic and didactic. In his Georgics, completed in 30 BC, he seeks, as had the Greek Hesiod before him, to interpret the charm of real life and work on the farm. His perfect poetic expression gives him the first place among pastoral poets.

For the rest of his life Vergil worked on the Aeneid, a national epic honoring Rome and foretelling prosperity to come. The adventures of Aeneas are unquestionably one of the greatest long poems in world literature. Vergil made Aeneas the paragon of the most revered Roman virtues—devotion to family, loyalty to the state, and piety. In 12 books, Vergil tells how Aeneas escaped from Troy to Carthage, where he became Dido's lover and related his adventures to her. At Jupiter's command, he left Carthage, went to Sicily, visited his father's shade in Hades, and landed in Italy. There he established the beginnings of the Roman state and waged successful war against the natives. The work ends with the death of Turnus at the hands of Aeneas. The verse, in dactylic hexameters, is strikingly regular, though Vergil's death left the epic incomplete and some of the lines unfinished. The sonority of the words and the nobility of purpose make the Aeneid a masterpiece. Vergil is the dominant figure in all Latin literature. His influence continued unabated through the Middle Ages, and many poets since Dante have acknowledged their great debt to him. Minor poems ascribed to Vergil are of doubtful authorship. For translations of the Aeneid see A. Mandelbaum (1981), R. Fitzgerald (1983, 1985), R. Fagles (2006), and S. Heaney (Book VI, 2016).

See biographies by F. J. H. Letters (1946), T. Frank (1922, repr. 1965), and B. Otis (1966); W. F. J. Knight, Vergil, Epic and Anthropology (1967); F. Cairns, Virgil's Augustan Epic (1989); K. W. Grandsen, Virgil (1990).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Aeneid: Selected full-text books and articles

Aeneid By Virgil; Stanley Lombardo Hackett, 2005
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Aeneid By Richard McDougall; Suzanne Pavlos Hungry Minds, 2001
Librarian's tip: This is the CliffsNotes on the Aeneid
An Introduction to Virgil's 'Aeneid' By W. A. Camps Oxford University Press, 1969
A Companion to Vergil's Aeneid and Its Tradition By Joseph Farrell; Michael C. J. Putnam Wiley-Blackwell, 2010
The Art of the Aeneid By William S. Anderson Bolchazy-Carducci, 2005 (2nd edition)
Virgil's Aeneid: Interpretation and Influence By Michael C. J. Putnam University of North Carolina Press, 1995
Vergil's Aeneid: Hero, War, Humanity By Virgil; G. B. Cobbold Bolchazy-Carducci, 2005
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Forms of Glory: Structure and Sense in Virgil's Aeneid By J. William Hunt Southern Illinois University Press, 1973
Aemulatio in Cold Blood a Reading of the End of the Aeneid By Nickbakht, Mehran A Helios, Vol. 37, No. 1, Spring 2010
The Primacy of Vision in Virgil's Aeneid By Riggs Alden Smith University of Texas Press, 2005
Fathers and Sons in Virgil's Aeneid: Tum Genitor Natum By M. Owen Lee State University of New York Press, 1979
Virgil's Gaze: Nation and Poetry in the Aeneid By J. D. Reed Princeton University Press, 2007
Public and Private in Vergil's Aeneid By Susan Ford Wiltshire University of Massachusetts Press, 1989
Reading Epic: An Introduction to the Ancient Narratives By Peter Toohey Routledge, 1992
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Virgil, Aeneid"
Ancient Epic Poetry: Homer, Apollonius, Virgil: With a Chapter on the Gilgamesh Poems By Charles Rowan Beye Bolchazy-Carducci, 2006
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "The Aeneid"
Roman Epic By A. J. Boyle Routledge, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. V "The Canonic Text: Virgil's Aeneid"
Somewhere I Have Never Traveled: The Hero's Journey By Thomas Van Nortwick Oxford University Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Deserts of the Heart: The Aeneid," Chap. 5 "Another Achilles: The Aeneid," and Chap. 6 "Buried Selves: The Aeneid"
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.