Who is Virgil?
Publius Vergilius Maro (Classical Latin: [ˈpuːbliʊs wɛrˈɡɪliʊs ˈmaroː]; traditional dates 15 October 70 – 21 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil (/ˈvɜːrdʒɪl/ VUR-jil) in English, was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He composed three of the most famous poems in Latin literature: the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid. A number of minor poems, collected in the Appendix Vergiliana, were attributed to him in ancient times, but modern scholars consider his authorship of these poems as dubious.
Virgil’s biographical tradition is thought to depend on a lost biography by the Roman poet Varius. This biography was incorporated into an account by the historian Suetonius, as well as the later commentaries of Servius and Donatus (the two great commentators on Virgil’s poetry). Although the commentaries record much factual information about Virgil, some of their evidence can be shown to rely on allegorizing and on inferences drawn from his poetry. For this reason, details regarding Virgil’s life story are considered somewhat problematic.: 1602
According to these accounts, Publius Vergilius Maro was born in the village of Andes, near Mantua in Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy, added to Italy proper during his lifetime). Analysis of his name has led some to believe that he descended from earlier Roman colonists. Modern speculation, however, ultimately is not supported by narrative evidence from either his own writings or his later biographers. Macrobius says that Virgil’s father was of a humble background, though scholars generally believe that Virgil was from an equestrian landowning family who could afford to give him an education. He attended schools in Cremona, Mediolanum, Rome, and Naples. After briefly considering a career in rhetoric and law, the young Virgil turned his talents to poetry.
According to Robert Seymour Conway, the only ancient source which reports the actual distance between Andes and Mantua is a surviving fragment from the works of Marcus Valerius Probus. Probus flourished during the reign of Nero (AD 54–68). Probus reports that Andes was located 30 Roman miles from Mantua. Conway translated this to a distance of about 45 kilometres or 28 miles.
Relatively little is known about the family of Virgil. His father reportedly belonged to gens Vergilia, and his mother belonged to gens Magia. According to Conway, gens Vergilia is poorly attested in inscriptions from the entire Northern Italy, where Mantua is located. Among thousands of surviving ancient inscriptions from this region, there are only 8 or 9 mentions of individuals called “Vergilius” (masculine) or “Vergilia” (feminine). Out of these mentions, three appear in inscriptions from Verona, and one in an inscription from Calvisano.
Conway theorized that the inscription from Calvisano had to do with a kinswoman of Virgil. Calvisano is located 30 Roman miles from Mantua, and would fit with Probus’ description of Andes. The inscription, in this case, is a votive offering to the Matronae (a group of deities) by a woman called Vergilia, asking the goddesses to deliver from danger another woman, called Munatia. Conway notes that the offering belongs to a common type for this era, where women made requests for deities to preserve the lives of female loved ones who were pregnant and were about to give birth. In most cases, the woman making the request was the mother of a woman who was pregnant or otherwise in danger. Though there is another inscription from Calvisano, where a woman asks the deities to preserve the life of her sister. Munatia, the woman whom Vergilia wished to protect, was likely a close relative of Vergilia, possibly her daughter. The name “Munatia” indicates that this woman was a member of gens Munatia, and makes it likely that Vergilia married into this family.
Other studies claim that today’s consideration for ancient Andes should be sought in the area of Castel Goffredo.