Dr. Mauro Lasagna, Dr. Rodolfo Signorini, Dr. Stefano Mangoni

Scientific content for the museum and for the promotion of the cultural value of the fort of Pietole by the comune of Borgo Virgilio (Mantua)



 1. Gaius Julius Caesar is murdered by conspirators on March 15, 44 BC. 

The plot fails to resolve the crisis engulfing the Roman republic. Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, delivers his personal papers to Mark Antony, Caesar’s designated consul and trusted lieutenant, who brings them before the Senate and has them ratified. In doing so, Antony seeks to position himself as the legitimate political heir to Caesar. 

The Rise of Octavian 

In his will, Caesar had named his very young great-nephew Gaius Octavius Thurinus (born in 63 BC) as his adopted son and trusted heir. As a result, Octavian – who had taken on the name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavius – inherits a large part of Caesar’s fortune. 

Octavian is able to deftly exploit his adoption to set in motion a complex and devious political ploy: he attempts to gain the trust of the Senate by cosying up to influential senators such as Cicero (who he does not hesitate to later disown), while on the other hand presenting himself to the people as an unwavering follower of Caesar’s path. He even donates money provided to him in Caesar’s will, drawing from his personal funds: the gift to the army veterans in particular is a form of political investiture, as they form the power base of the Caesarian faction. From within their ranks, Caesar Octavian forms his own private militia, in close alignment with the memory of Caesar. Like Antony, Octavian too seeks to position himself as the political heir to Caesar. 

2. The Second Triumvirate: Octavian, Antony and Lepidus 

Antony’s defeat at Mutina 

Antony lays siege to Mutina (present-day Modena) where Decimus Brutus is holed up, unwilling to cede control of Cisalpine Gaul. In the Senate, it is the voice of Cicero – Antony’s most ardent opponent – that carries the day. For months, the orator has been attacking Antony in a series of speeches known as the Philippics: Antony is declared an enemy of the state, and the consuls Aulus Hirtius and Vibius Pansa are tasked with leading a military force against him. Octavian does not hesitate to place himself at the service of the Senate with his personal militia, obtaining propraetor imperium – a military command – that enables him to see off his rival with the official seal of approval of the state. Antony is defeated at Mutina but is able to escape to Gallia Narbonensis (present-day Narbonne in France) with his army almost intact, where he joins forces with the legions of another of Caesar’s generals, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. 

Consul Octavian 

Both consuls had fallen in the battle at Mutina. Octavian returns to Rome with his army, where he is elected consul alongside his cousin, Quintus Pedius: the first successful step in his ascent to power. Octavian’s goal is to negotiate an agreement with his rival from a position of strength. 

The Second Triumvirate and the War on Caesar’s Assassins 

In Bologna, Octavian and Antony reach an agreement negotiated by Lepidus: The Second Triumvirate is founded, granting the three men a five-year rule over the state. The triumvirate decide to target those responsible for Caesar’s assassination: new lists of proscriptions are drawn up and Cicero – abandoned to Antony’s vindictive animosity by Octavian – becomes one of the highest-profile casualties. 

2.1 The End of Caesar’s Assassins: The Deaths of Brutus and Cassius 

The final blow lands near Philippi (in the province of Macedonia) in the autumn of 42: In two consecutive battles, the ringleaders of the plot against Caesar are defeated and commit suicide. At Philippi, the winners divide the lands among themselves: Antony takes the east, Octavian expands his territories in the west, and Lepidus is granted control of Africa. 

2.2 Octavian and Antony: An Increasingly Fragile Alliance 

The Peace of Brindisi 

The two rivals meet in Brindisi and renew their pact: the eastern territories are entrusted to Antony and those in the west to Octavian, relegating Lepidus to a position of marginal influence. The two leaders also assign a naval command to Sextus Pompey in exchange for a commitment on his part to cease all acts of piracy in the Mediterranean. The alliance is sealed by the wedding of Antony (widowed from his previous wife, Fulvia) to Octavia, the sister of Octavian, who had himself recently married a relative of Sextus Pompey, Scribonia. 

The Treaty of Tarentum and the Renewal of the Triumvirate 

In the east, Antony gains an initial victory over the Parthians and turns his attention to the question of Armenia and the territories in Asia Minor. In 37 BC, the two generals meet at Tarentum (present-day Taranto in southern Italy), where Octavian is able to mediate an agreement for the five-year renewal of the triumvirate and a mutual defence pact. Under the terms of the pact, Antony was to send his counterpart 120 ships for the battle against Sextus Pompey, while Octavian was to provide four legions for the Parthian campaign. 

2.3 The Defeat of Sextus Pompey: Octavian’s Political Victory 

With the requested fleet reaching Octavian, and without the four legions promised in exchange, Antony nonetheless launches an invasion of the Parthian Empire. Suffering heavy losses, he is quickly forced back. In the meantime, Octavian goes to war against Sextus Pompey with his trusted lieutenant Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa by his side, defeating him resoundingly in 36 BC. 

The Exclusion of Lepidus from the Triumvirate 

Victory over Sextus Pompey frees Rome from the constant threat of shortages. Octavian is able to use this success to portray himself as the saviour of the state and the protector of law and order. In honour of his achievement, Octavian is awarded tribunal immunity, further strengthening his grip on power. Octavian expels Lepidus from the triumvirate, leaving him only with the title of pontifex maximus (head of the college of priests). 

3. Civil War between Octavian and Antony 

The Relationship between Antony and Cleopatra 

Meanwhile, Antony, who has organised Asia Minor into a system of sovereign vassal states loyal to him, invades Armenia in 34 BC and declares his triumphant conquest. 

Back in Rome, however, for political purposes and to cast Antony in a negative light in the eyes of his countrymen, Octavian plays up the so-called “donation” of these territories – subject to Roman rule – to Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, with whom Antony had entered into a romantic and political alliance in 37 BC. The “donation” also applies to the children borne of their relationship, Helios and Selene (“sun” and “moon” in Greek). 

Between Propaganda and Historical Fact 

In truth, Cleopatra was not Antony’s silver-tongued despotic lover, as Octavian portrayed her. She worked with Antony on formulating Rome’s eastern policies: the territories of the east, with their proud Hellenistic tradition and ruled for centuries by monarchs with a power associated with the divine, could not be governed in the same way as the western provinces. It is no coincidence that the policy introduced by Antony, based on the eastern model, was later adopted by Octavian and his successors. Nonetheless, hostile propaganda 

depicted Antony as a lascivious philanderer, a traitor to the Roman uniform in the clutches of a depraved woman. 

The Ideological Foundations of the Civil War 

In 34 BC, Octavian turns to his close confidant, Maecenas, to formulate an ideological framework to justify the war that would ensure his absolute power. At the heart of his campaign is the “primacy” of Italy, a fertile land of industrious people, one worthy of preeminent status within the Roman Empire. Furthermore, in contrast to the frivolent opulence of the east personified by Antony, Octavian makes himself the standard-bearer of the mos maiorum, a return to the classical agricultural traditions of the society. By contrasting himself with the Hellenistic absolutism of Cleopatra, he seeks to demonstrate the superiority of the freedoms guaranteed by the institutions of the Republic. Octavian’s propaganda shows that it was necessary to construct a universal vision of empire with Rome and Italy at its heart, ready to defend against the threat to the east. The political outcome of this propaganda campaign is an oath sworn by the Italian cities to Octavian in 32 BC, empowering him to lead them to war against Cleopatra. He uses this as justification for a new civil war, presenting it as a war against an external threat. 

The Battle of Actium: Octavian’s Triumph 

The final showdown occurs in 31 BC at the Battle of Actium, a naval battle off the southern coast of Epirus (in present-day Greece and Albania) between Octavian’s fleet – led by Agrippa – and the Roman and Egyptian ships of Antony and Cleopatra. When Cleopatra decides to retreat from the battle and turns towards Egypt, Antony follows her and abandons his men. At that point, the remaining commanders on Antony’s side call off the fight and reach an agreement with Agrippa to join Octavian’s forces. Back in Alexandria in the summer of 30 BC, first Antony and then Cleopatra commit suicide. 

Octavian is now faced with the thorny issue of providing legal justification for his vast personal power, achieved in the name of defending the republican tradition. He had brought about a revolution, yet now there was a need to restore Rome’s traditional legality and to bring an end to years of civil war. 

4. From Republic to Principate: The Augustan Solution 

The Legal Foundations for Octavian’s Role 

In his Res Gestae Divi Augusti (“The Deeds of the Divine Augustus”), Augustus provides an official and authorised interpretation of the events that had brought him to the highest office in the land. In this text, he states that he exercised his absolute power through an abstract and ill-defined consensus universorum. In practice, Octavian’s position post-Actium did not rest on solid juridical foundations under the traditional governing system of the Roman state. 

Princeps Senatus and Augustus 

In 27 BC, the Senate, having regained its previous constitutional powers, confers upon Octavian command over all provinces with unrest, where the majority of the armies are located. Together with his position as consul, this forms the cornerstone of his individual power for several years. That same year, the Senate affords Octavian the title of “Augustus” and awards him a shield inscribed with the fundamental virtues they ascribe to him as the head of state: Iustitia, Pietas, Clementia, Virtus – “justice, piety, clemency and valor”. 

The Definitive Legitimisation: Imperium Proconsulare and Tribunicia Potestas 

Octavian’s juridical standing is definitively settled in 23 BC. Having stepped down from the role as consul that he had held uninterrupted since 31 BC, Octavian is given proconsular imperium over all the provinces, including those that had remained under the jurisdiction of the Senate in the 27 BC settlement. Furthermore, he was conferred with tribunicia potestas – the powers and privileges of a Tribune of the Plebs. Expanding his proconsular powers brought the entire territory of the Roman Empire and its legions under his direct control, while the tribunicia potestas gave him power over political life, including the power to convene the assemblies and to propose and to veto legislation. Octavian stands down from his position as consul, but in doing so he retains a bargaining tool that enables him to promote candidates from the Senate into that prestigious role, albeit one with increasingly limited powers. 

Formal Respect for the Institutions of the Republic and the Centralisation of Power 

The solution adopted by Augustus is founded in formal respect for the institutions of the republic while at the same time significantly centralising its powers: executing the functions of a magistrate without holding the position itself enabled him to amass powers that were irreconcilable with the pure form of republicanism. Such is the case with the tribunicia potestas, incompatible with military command and the proconsular imperium. Octavian is a monarch in all but title, yet beneath his legal standing he is but a princeps inter pares, a first among equals, without ever assuming the magistracy. It becomes common practice for the elected magistrates of the republic chosen in electoral assemblies to be those put forward by Augustus. 


5. The Augustan System and the Transformation of Society 

Senators and Knights: The Personal Connection with Augustus 

The Senate is gradually divested of its functions and the individual senators assigned a series of roles that fall under the jurisdiction of the princeps. In most of the provinces, for example, Augustus governs through individuals he selects from among the senators; other provinces he entrusts to procurators, taken from among the equestrian orders and who are also directly dependent upon him. The common thread is that of governors who are not subject to the authority of the Senate, rather to the whims of Augustus. 

6. Augustus and Literature 

6.1 The Augustan Age – A Historical-Literary Categorisation 

The literary output produced from the death of Caesar to the death of Augustus (or, more precisely, from the death of Cicero in 43 BC to the death of Ovid in 17 AD) is referred to by literary historians as the “Augustan Age”. 

Defining periods in this way offers advantages in terms of literary chronology. 44 BC and 43 BC see the deaths of Caesar and Cicero, the two leading figures of the political and cultural life of the late Roman Republic. Cicero’s voice is silenced for good in December 43 BC; by 42 BC, a young Virgil is already hard at work on his Eclogues. From that time onwards, all the leading lights in the new poetic movement have a clear and well-documented relationship with Augustus and his entourage. The poetic careers of Virgil and Horace lead us into the years of the principate. Horace’s final work even reaches the threshold of the Christian era. Ovid also comes into the picture at around the same time, maintaining his standing uninterrupted until his exile and subsequent passing, only three years after that of Augustus. Livy, the leading historian of the Augustan era, passes away only a few short months after Ovid. 

6.2 The Literati and the New Political Power 

The civil wars, including the latest one between Octavian and Antony, no longer impacted only Rome, which had long been riven by political vendettas. Now, their reach extended out to the previously quiet world of the Italian province. The devastating consequences of the civil war affected innocent farming communities which had previously been able to keep any political unrest at arm’s length, but which now found themselves oppressed and with their lands expropriated and distributed to veteran soldiers from the winning side. 

The Poets and the Historical Wounds 

Even poets such as Virgil and Horace, sons of small provincial landowners, are among the victims of the crisis: Virgil has lost the lands he had inherited, although he would later regain them in exceptional circumstances; a very young Horace had fought on the losing side at Philippi in 42 BC and spent the years following his return drifting aimlessly. Politics had brought them only disappointment and regret. These poets find protection and support in their fellow countryman, Octavian. Not only does he grant them peace and quiet to pursue their poetry, he also offers the promise of stability and national reconstruction. 

Augustus’ Rise to Power: Hopes of Peace 

After 31 BC, Octavian is no longer the lead of a warring faction: his powers herald the start of a new political dawn. On the one hand he seeks to revive certain traditions, while on the other he begins to lay down the very tangible foundations of the principate, characterised by the stable leadership of a single individual over public affairs. What part did the literati play in this process? Virgil and Horace’s position is fairly unambiguous: their hopes for Octavian are for someone who will bring peace and an end to the civil wars, a sentiment evoked in the Georgics

The days following Actium are the dawn of an era of reconstruction and harmony. It does not seem that Augustus and Maecenas exerted any meaningful control over the literary output of the day: the leading Roman poets of the day are instinctively sympathetic to Maecenas and to Octavian’s faction, and their interests dovetail with those of the princeps. They have no sympathy for the aristocratic res publica espoused by Cicero; they had first-hand experience of the bloodbath resulting from the actions of Caesar’s assassins. What comes next is a reflection on the nature of the political-cultural cooperation in which the poets often played a personal and proactive role. 

7. The Augustan Age: The Time of the Great Classics 

The new political and civil climate gives birth to works of extraordinary classical poise, such as Horace’s Odes and Virgil’s masterpieces: within them however, these texts still contain numerous subtle contrasts. Octavian draws his legitimacy from the need to end the civil wars; however before his newfound standing as a man of peace and the creator of a renewed harmony, Octavian was himself a protagonist in this apocalyptic struggle. In similar fashion, the new epic hero Aeneas conceals drastic contradictions within his tortured soul: the Fates task him with setting in motion the founding of Rome, but to do so he must bring about war, and he struggles with feelings of guilt. Virgil makes it clear that Aeneas does not instigate the war, yet he cannot shy away from it; in his toughest challenge of all, he must even murder a rival to whom he could have granted clemency, King Turnus of the Rutuli. 

On a strictly literary level, the defining feature of the literature produced during the Augustan Age is the unrivalled and inimitable quantity of masterpieces. Illustrious names such as Virgil, Horace, Propertius, Tibullus and Ovid are all active within a period spanning a mere two decades, a list to which we could add Livy for his historiography. They are all authors of texts that stand out as classics of Latin culture, each in its own field. 

7.1 The Goal of the Augustan Literati: Matching the Greek Writers 

For the Augustan poets, the great Greek literature lives on through its masterpieces: the grandiose ‘pathos’ of Homer, the powerful poetry of Archilochus, the perfect form of the Alexandrines. 

Yet the Augustan poets aim to produce works that rise to the same standards as the Greek models, creating a Roman equivalent that is able to offer its own collective contribution as a continuation and transformation of the model. Virgil works with relentless tenacity of form to create a new epic style infused with Homeric influences. His aim is not merely to emulate the form, however: he seeks to create an epic text that would serve as the same cultural touchstone in Rome that Homer had once produced for the Greeks. 

In the space of approximately four decades, various writers are able to succeed in their ambitious goal of building a body of work that stands up to comparisons with the classic Greek literature. They are driven by a shared dedication to cultural influence, but each of them has their own distinct literary preferences. They are bound by a shared pride in their mission, a pride that continues to grow with each completed work. The literature of the Augustan Age makes a conscious effort to formulate itself into a defined system of genres, contains a wide range of linguistic approaches and matures to the point where it covers all of the many contrasting needs for representation and expression. The well-established mastery of mature categories of form is further accompanied by the scale of ambition necessary to be able to take advantage of it. 

7.2 The “Poeta Vate”: Inspiration and Civic Duty 

For the Augustan poets, a new and keener awareness of the role of literature comes with a new understanding of their place in culture: they are no longer merely capable ‘authors’ of different kinds, no longer simple artists – they are vates, inspired epic poets destined for greatness. Both Virgil and Horace represent a high watermark for the “poeta vate”, a sign of the new place that Augustan culture seeks to ascribe to the poetic pursuits. This means tweaking the Alexandrine model of composing poetry (focused on technical ability and erudition) to make way for an ideal of poetry inspired by and deeply entrenched within its society. 

This process produces numerous texts that share a profound bond with the cultural and civic trends of the Augustan era. The desire to compete with the classics of Greek literature carries with it a drive to expand the work of the poet to engage with new subjects and experiences. 

Virgil gives substance to the great utopia of the Italian countryside in his Eclogues and expands on the theme in the Georgics; in his Odes, Horace discusses the great civic and moral matters of the time, appealing to the community of Roman citizens. 

7.3 Maecenas and his ‘Circle’ 

Maecenas is the centre of gravity for the entire Augustan generation of poets. A native of Arezzo, in the Etruscan lands, he is both an aristocrat and a member of the bourgeoisie: he hailed from high-status Etruscan nobility, but as a Roman citizen he never sought to rise above the rank of knight, eques, and never held any meaningful official positions. Throughout the explosive years of the civil wars, Maecenas served as an invaluable diplomatic and political advisor to Octavian; even after the latter’s rise to power, Maecenas continued to insistently refuse to integrate into the traditional Roman political system – the same system that Augustus guaranteed the status of, demonstrating great respect to the Senate and the traditional magistratures in keeping them going. Maecenas, a man of great influence who spurns the official and traditional offices, is a living symbol of the new age. His circle, founded on close private and individual relationships, promotes a “national” literature based on a powerful ideological and civic commitment: the Georgics and the Aeneid by Virgil, Odes and Epistles by Horace. Maecenas himself pursued a lighthearted, intimate and ironic brand of poetry, but met with little success as a man of letters, a pursuit which was not his life’s ambition regardless. 


The overview of his works can be found in the introduction to the individual texts: Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid 

1. Virgil and European Culture 

One of the most acclaimed writers since ancient times, Virgil represents a crucial turning point in European culture. By emulating and surpassing the Greek models, he sets the tone for some of the most important literary genres: in an expanding crescendo of style and content, the Augustan poet rewrites the genre of pastoral poetry in the Eclogues, didactic poetry in the Georgics, and the national epic in the Aeneid. His reflections on the crisis of the time in the Eclogues and in the Georgic short poem, and his acceptance of those on the losing side in the Aeneid reveals a sensitivity with highly pertinent modern implications: over two millenia later, Virgil still has much to teach us. 

2. A Life in the Service of Poetry 

Virgil lives a quiet life without any events of exceptional significance, devoted in its entirety to his poetic pursuits. 

Publius Vergilius Maro was born in Mantua (or perhaps in Andes – the precise location is the subject of controversy) on 15 October, 70 BC, the son of two small landowners. He was educated in Rome and Naples. 

The precise chronology of his childhood is the subject of heated debate. One clue of particular interest can be found in a poet attributed to Virgil; the fifth in the Catalepton collection (including the so-called Appendix Vergillana). There, the poet alludes to a school that the young Virgil attended in Naples, taught by the Epicurean philosopher Siro. The reliability of this testimony is questionable. While the quality of it could indeed mark it out as the work of a young Virgil, the autobiographical content could just as easily be the work of a forger desperate to fill a gap in the career of the young poet. The counterargument notes that in the first text definitively attributed to Virgil, Eclogues, the poet denounces the Epicureans in no uncertain terms. The chronological veracity of the Eclogues has generally been verified, but there is one detail that remains unclear. On several occasions, Virgil alludes to the terrible events of 41 BC, when lands were confiscated from the local landowners and allocated to veterans of the Battle of Philippi (42 BC): the drama surrounding the expropriations is revisited most notably in Eclogues I and IX. According to one story, Virgil himself lost the family’s small farm as part of this wave of expropriations, and later gained it back. Who intervened on his behalf? Sources from the time are unclear on the matter; some suggest it was the personal intervention of Octavian or perhaps of one of the influential individuals directly referenced in the Eclogues: Asinius Pollio, Cornelius Gallus, Alfenus Varus, all of them involved in the administration of the Transpadane region in one way or another. The question remains unresolved. 

The Eclogues make no mention of the man who would later act as Virgil’s great friend and protector, Maecenas. Pollio, on the other hand, comes up repeatedly in the text, only to disappear entirely from Virgil’s later works. 

Immediately following publication of the Eclogues, Virgil is accepted into Maecenas’ inner circle, and with it that of Octavian (38 BC). Throughout the long period of political uncertainty and tension that culminates in the Battle of Actium (31 BC), Virgil works on his Georgic poem, in full harmony with Maecenas and his environment. It does not appear that he had much love for Rome, however: at the end of the Georgics he speaks of Naples as his chosen homeland, a place with the tranquility and reflection necessary for his craft. 

In 29 BC, on his way back from victory in the east, Octavian stops off in Atella, in Campania, where Virgil recites the recently finished Georgics to him. From that point, the poet was fully immersed in writing the Aeneid, his progress closely followed by Augustus himself. Virgil lived long enough to read parts of the poem to Augustus, but not long enough to complete the project: the Aeneid was published posthumously at Augustus’ request and edited by Varius Rufus. The poet passed away on 21 September, 19 BC in Brindisi, on his way home from a journey to Greece. He was buried in Naples. The response to his final work, which was already highly anticipated within literary circles, was immediate. 

A series of Vitae (biographies) were written about Virgil in late antiquity and the medieval period. These most probably contained reliable information obtained from the historian Suetonius. The most famous of the Vitae was written by Aelius Donatus, the great 4th-century grammarian. All of his authentic works have been subjected to extensive commentaries, starting from the 1st century AD. Among the texts that are still preserved, perhaps the most noteworthy is the one offered by Servius (4th-5th century AD) which contains biographical information, albeit not entirely reliable. 


1) MANTOVA e il MINCIO nei versi di Virgilio 

The colours and the sounds that surrounded the Mincio 

ecl. 7, 12-13 

Here Mincius fringes his green banks with waving reeds, and from the hallowed oak swarm humming bees 

qui orla le verdi rive di canne flessuose il Mincio, e ronzano dalla sacra quercia gli sciami 

A lament on the expropriations suffered by the landowners of Mantua 

ecl. 9, 27-28 

Let but Mantua be spared us—Mantua, alas! too near ill-fated Cremona 

purché rimanga a noi Mantova, Mantova ah troppo vicina all’infelice Cremona. 

Re-evoking the homeland is always accompanied by a memory of the wounds inflicted 

georg. 2, 198-199 

Or to such a plain as unhappy Mantua lost, giving food to snowy swans with its grassy stream 

e una pianura come quella che Mantova, infelice, ha perduto – nutriva cigni nivei 

sull’erba dei fiumi. 

For Virgil, the works and the glory of poetry are a tribute to his homeland of Mantua 

georg. 3, 12-15 

First I will bring back to you, Mantua, the palms of Idumaea, and on the green plain will set up a temple in marble beside the water, where great Mincius wanders in lazy windings and fringes his banks with slender reeds. 


Primo ti porterò, o Mantova, le palme idumee e in una verde pianura alzerò un tempio di marmo vicino all’acqua, dove il vasto Mincio va errando in curve pigre e vela le rive di molle canna. 

The pride in the ancient alliance between Mantua and Aeneas 










Aen. 10,198-206 

Mantua, rich in ancestry, yet not all of one stock 


… child of Benacus, crowned with gray sedge, leads over the seas in their hostile ships of pine. 

Ocno…, lui che a te diede, o Mantova, mura e nome della madre, Mantova ricca d’avi; ma non tutti di un’unica gente… (le forze mantovane che) muovendo dal paterno Benaco, il Mincio, ombreggiato da glauche canne, guidava in mare su nave guerriera. 


2) dalle BUCOLICHE 

The serene beginning of the first eclogue in the seemingly joyful world of the Arcadia 

You, Tityrus, lie under the canopy of a spreading beech ecl. 1,1 

Ti tiro, tu disteso all’ampio riparo di un faggio 

The universal game of desire 

Each is led by his liking ecl. 2, 65 

Ognuno è spinto dalla sua propria passione 

The invitation to raise the level of the discussion Let us sing a somewhat loftier strain ecl. 4, 1 

Cantiamo argomenti un po’ più importanti! 

The condition for a full life is the affection shown towards one’s parents 

The child who has not won a smile from his parents, no god ever honoured with his table, no goddess with her bed ecl. 4, 62-63 

Chi non ha sorriso ai genitori non ha avuto l’amicizia di un dio o l’amore di una dea 

The disconsolate admission when faced with the evils of history 

ecl. 9, 5 

Chance rules all 

tutto è in dominio del Caso 

A recognition of the insurmountable power of love 

Love conquers all ecl. 10, 69 

Tutto vince Amore 


3) dalle GEORGICHE 

Human toil is able to overcome any difficulty 

Toil triumphed over every obstacle georg.1, 145 

Il lavoro ha domato tutto 

Maecenas’ invitation to compose the Georgics demands a great commitment 

No easy task that you have laid upon me georg.3, 41 

I tuoi non lievi comandi 

It is possible to compare things that appear unbalanced 

If we may compare small things with great georg.4, 176 

Se ciò che è piccolo si può confrontare con ciò che è grande 


4) dall’ENEIDE 

That which defines Aeneas 

The pious Aeneas passim 

Il pio Enea 

The effect of the shipwreck on the surface of the sea 

Here and there are seen swimmers in the vast abyss Aen. 1,118 

Qua e là pochi che nuotano sul vasto gorgo 

Neptune’s threat to the winds that blow without his approval 

Whom I... Aen.1, 135 

Quelli che io ho… 

Aeneas encourages his shipwrecked sailors who have washed up on the coast of Africa 

Perhaps even this distress it will some day be a joy to recall Aen.1, 203 

Forse anche questo un giorno sarà bello ricordare 

Jupiter assures Venus that that he has granted the Romans unlimited power [I] have given empire without end Aen. 1, 279 

Un impero senza fine ho assegnato 

Misfortune breeds compassion 

Here, too, are tears for misfortune Aen.1,462 

Le sventure trovano compianto 

The disconsolate words with which Aeneas begins to tell the story of his misadventures Too deep for words, O queen, is the grief you bid me renew Aen. 2, 3 

("Thou wilt that I renew / The desperate grief, which wrings my heart already), Dante, Inf.33, 4-5) Un indicibile dolore, regina, mi ordini di rinnovare 

Aeneas agrees to the request to narrate his tale 

Yet if such is your desire... Aen.2, 10 

Ma se così grande è la tua brama… 

Laocoonte’s warning not to trust the gift horse brought by the Achaeans 

I fear the Greeks, even when bringing gifts Aen.2,49 

Temo i Danai, anche se essi portano dei doni 

Aeneas’ despairing announcement to his companions, all of whom are ready to give their lives despite their homeland being lost 

One chance the vanquished have, to hope for none. Aen.2, 354 

Unica salvezza per i vinti: la disperazione di qualsiasi salvezza 

The beginning of the nights 

It was night… Aen.3, 147 + 4, 522 + 8, 26 

La notte regnava… 

Dido feels once more that passion that she believed to be extinguished I feel again a spark of that former flame Aen. 4, 23 

“I know the traces of the ancient flame”, Dante, Purg. 30, 48 

Dido invokes a descendent of hers (= Annibale) who will avenge her Arise from my ashes, unknown avenger Aen.4, 625 

Sorga qualcuno dalle mie ossa a vendicarle 

Pity for those who passed away before their time 

Plunged in bitter death Aen.6, 429 + 11, 28 

(un oscuro giorno) li consegnò ad un funerale precoce 

The representations of Icarus to his father Daedalus begins; overcome by the pain, he has no more strength to carry on 

Twice sank the hands Aen.6, 33 

Le mani ricaddero 

The duty of the Romans 

To spare the vanquished and to crush the proud Aen.6, 853 

Risparmiare chi s’arrende e sgominare chi si ribella 

The echo of a cavalry squadron galloping across the plains And with galloping tread the horse hoof shakes the crumbling plain Aen. 8, 596 

I quadrupedi battono i rombanti zoccoli sulla soffice campagna 

Empathising with Nisus and Euryalus 

Happy pair! If my poetry has any power, no day shall ever blot you from the memory of time 

Aen. 9, 446-447 

Fortunati entrambi! Se qualche potere hanno i miei carmi, nessun giorno mai vi strapperà alla memoria dei secoli 

The conviction that encourages bravery, in Turnus’ words to his men Fortune favours the brave Aen.10, 284 

La fortuna asseconda gli audaci 

A warning not to be misled by the fortune of the present moment 

O mind of man, knowing not fate or coming doom Aen.10, 501 

O mente degli uomini ignara del destino e della sorte futura! 



The epitaph on Virgil’s tomb 

Mantua gave me life, Calabria death, now in Naples I rest: I wrote of pastures, farms and heroes. 

Mantova mi ha generato, il Salento mi rapì la vita, ora mi accoglie Napoli: cantai i pascoli, i campi, gli eroi. 

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