Calabria stole me
Parthenope holds me now
I sang of meadows, fields, and kings."
Publius Vergilius Maro (October 15th, 70 BC - September 21st, 19 BC) was a Roman poet, contemporary of Augustus and Ovid and admirer of Catullus. He composed The Aeneid, setting out how Trojan refugees founded the greatest Rome or, rather, founded the tribe that would later give birth to the founders. The poem itself is unfinished and as per legend, Virgil ordered the book to be burnt after his death, orders which were refused by his friends and Augustus.
Vergilius was one of the few Roman poets that remained popular and greatly admired throughout the Christian Middle Ages, because one of his Eclogues was interpreted as a prophecy of the coming of Christ. Because of this, he was considered something of a seer and a mediator between pagan Antiquity and Christianity. In this function, he is famously featured in Dante's The Divine Comedy, where he guides Dante through Hell and Purgatory.
The Middle Ages also developed a habit of spelling his name Virgilius.
Not to be confused with the other Vergil. Or that one. Though they were both named after him.
Virgil provides examples of:
- Ambiguously Gay: Virgil is believed to have been homosexual, as he created the tragic gay lovers Nisus and Euryalus in the Aeneid. He never married and was said to have loved a man named Alexander whom he writes of as Alexis in the Eclogues which has numerous references to homosexuality. He also had a close relationship with Caius Cornelius Gallus who appears in The Georgics and for whom he writes a loving eulogy for in The Eclogues.
- Blood from the Mouth: Virgil frequently suffered fevers and would cough up blood.
- Biography à Clef: Virgil was described as a magician and seer in many strange folkloric legends in the middle ages due to some of his work being interpreted as prophetic. Very little is known of his actual life.
- Call to Agriculture: Georgica, a cycle of poems about agriculture and the pastoral life.
- To Hell and Back: His story of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Georgics is about a man going into the underworld to save his true love. His hero Aeneas also makes a trip to the underworld in The Aeneid guided by the Sybil. In The Divine Comedy, Virgil himself guides Dante through Hell.
- Historical Domain Character: Most famously he serves as the guide for Dante in the first two parts of The Divine Comedy. He's also the protagonist of Hermann Broch's 1945 novel The Death of Virgil and the Alternate History Fantasy book series Vergil Magus by Avram Davidson.
- Nature Lover: Virgil held a strong love for nature, the woodland, and animals (especially bees and oxen) which is obvious in reading any of his works, but especially so in the Georgics. According to Warde Fowler, "there is no other Latin poet who felt in the same degree the beauty and the mystery of animals."
- The Perfectionist: His sense of perfectionism was extraordinary. He could spend a day writing one line of poetry, but his work has been called the stateliest measures ever moulded by the lips of man. His reason for wanting The Aeneid burned was because its' incompleteness did not live up to his standards.
- The Power of Love: "Love conquers all, let us all yield to love."
- Purity Personified: He held the nickname "Parthenias" (meaning "Maiden" or "Virgin") which was said to have reflected the purity and morality of his character in a time where vice was extremely common.
- Reclusive Artist: He was extremely shy; that, coupled with his poor health and his love of his studies gave him the life of a recluse. Whenever he was recognized in public, he would attempt to hide.