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D. The Burning of the Aeneid
the aspect of my own fate can now be reckoned among those metamorphosed
ﬁgures. For that aspect has on a sudden become quite di√erent from what it
was before—a cause of tears now, though once a joy.
b. Tristia 1.7.15–26, 35–40
Haec ego discedens, sicut bene multa meorum,
ipse mea posui maestus in igne manu.
Utque cremasse suum fertur sub stipite natum
Thestias et melior matre fuisse soror.
Sic ego non meritos mecum peritura libellos
imposui rapidis viscera nostra rogis:
vel quod eram Musas, ut crimina nostra, perosus,
vel quod adhuc crescens et rude carmen erat.
Quae quoniam non sunt penitus sublata, sed extant—
pluribus exemplis scripta fuisse reor—
nunc precor ut vivant et non ignava legentem
otia delectent admoneantque mei.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
‘‘Orba parente suo quicumque volumina tangis,
his saltem vestra detur in urbe locus.
Quoque magis faveas, haec non sunt edita ab ipso,
sed quasi de domini funere rapta sui.
Quicquid in his igitur vitii rude carmen habebit,
emendaturus, si licuisset, eram.’’
 These verses [the Metamorphoses] upon my departure, like so much that
was mine, in sorrow I placed with my own hand in the ﬁre. Just as Thestius’s
daughter [Althaea] burned her own son, they say, in burning the branch, and
proved a better sister than mother, so I placed the innocent books consigned
with me to death,  my very vitals, upon the devouring pyre, because I had
come to hate the Muses as my accusers or because the poem itself was as yet
half grown and rough. These verses were not utterly destroyed; they still
exist—several copies were made, I think— and now I pray that they may
live, that thus my industrious leisure may bring pleasure to the reader and
remind him of me. . . .  ‘‘All you who touch these rolls [of the Metamorphoses] bereft of their father, to them at least let a place be granted in your
city [Rome]. And your indulgence will be all the greater because these were
not published by their master, but were rescued from what might be called his
funeral. And so whatever defect this rough poem may have  I would have
corrected, had it been permitted me.’’
D. THE BURNING OF THE AENEID
c. Tristia 2.63–64, 555–56
Inspice maius opus, quod adhuc sine ﬁne tenetur,
in non credendos corpora versa modos
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Dictaque sunt nobis, quamvis manus ultima coeptis
defuit, in facies corpora versa novas.
Examine[, Augustus,] the greater work [Metamorphoses], which is still kept
unﬁnished, the book of ﬁgures transformed in ways unbelievable. . . . I sang
also, though my attempt lacked the ﬁnal touch, of bodies changed into
d. Tristia 3.14.19–24
Sunt quoque mutatae, ter quinque volumina, formae,
carmina de domini funere rapta sui.
illud opus potuit, si non prius ipse perissem,
certius a summa nomen habere manu:
nunc incorrectum populi pervenit in ora,
in populi quicquam si tamen ore mei est.
There are also thrice ﬁve books on changing forms, verses snatched from the
funeral of their master. That work, had I not perished beforehand, might have
gained a more secure name from my ﬁnishing hand: but now unrevised it has
come upon men’s lips—if anything of mine is on their lips.
2. Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis 7.114
See above, I.C.8. (Text and translation: Pliny the Elder, Natural History, vol. 2,
ed. and trans. H. Rackham, LCL 352 )
Divus Augustus carmina Vergilii cremari contra testamenti eius verecundiam vetuit, maiusque ita vati testimonium contigit quam si ipse sua probavisset.
The divine Augustus overrode the modesty of Virgil’s will and forbade the
burning of his poems, and thus the bard achieved a stronger testimony than if
he had commended his own works himself. (modiﬁed by MP)
3. Gaius Sulpicius Apollinaris
(ﬁrst half of second century)
Sulpicius was a scholar and teacher among whose students were Aulus Gellius
and the emperor Pertinax. The metrical summaries of Terence’s plays that are
extant under Sulpicius’s name are agreed to be his work. The circumstances
surrounding the poems on the preservation and on the contents of the Aeneid
that have been ascribed to him are more embroiled. We have two versions of a
three-distich poem on the burning of the epic that is probably his.
a. Aelius Donatus, VSD 38
See above, II.A.1, and below, IV.D.2.
Donatus ascribes the three distichs to one Sulpicius of Carthage, who is
probably identical with Sulpicius Apollinaris. The same ascription recurs in
Donatus auctus (see above, II.A.37) as well as in the vitae by Domenico di
Bandino (see above, II.A.35) and Sicco Polenton II (see above, II.A.38). In
the Vita Probi (see above, II.A.7) the poem is ascribed to Servius Varus, which
is likely to be a mistake for Marius, or Maurus, Servius (see below, IV.B).
(Discussion: L. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius: An Antonine Scholar and His
Achievement, 2nd ed. [Oxford, 2003], 83–84) (Text: VVA 35) (JZ)
Iusserat haec rapidis aboleri carmina ﬂammis
Vergilius, Phrygium quae cecinere ducem.
Tucca vetat Variusque; simul tu, maxime Caesar,
non sinis et Latiae consulis historiae.
Infelix gemino cecidit prope Pergamon igni,
et paene est alio Troia cremata rogo [see below, II.D.3.b].
Virgil had given instructions that it was to be destroyed by consuming ﬁre, the
poem that sang of the Phrygian prince. Tucca and likewise Varius refuse; you,
greatest Caesar, do not allow the destruction; you look out for the narrative
about Latium. Luckless Pergamum nearly fell in a second ﬁre, and Troy was
almost consumed on another pyre. (DWO and JZ)
The ﬁrst two distichs are also quoted at the conclusion of the Vita Probi (see
above, II.A.7 [VVA 200]).
b. Anthologia Latina
For further details see D. R. Stuart, ‘‘The Source and the Extent of Petrarch’s
Knowledge of the Life of Vergil,’’ Classical Philology 12 (1917), 365–404, and
(on II.D.3.a–b as well as incipit ‘‘Diruta quae ﬂammis olim Maro Pergama
dixit’’) W. Schetter, ‘‘Drei Epigramme über die Rettung der Aeneis,’’ in idem,
Kaiserzeit und Spätantike: Kleine Schriften 1957–1992, ed. O. Zwierlein, Sonderband zur Zeitschrift Hermes und den Hermes-Einzelschriften (Stuttgart,
1994), 466–74. (Text: AL 1.2, 121, no. 653)
Carmina Vergilius Phrygium prodentia Martem
Secum fatali iusserat igne mori.
Tucca negat, Varius prohibet, superaddite Caesar
Nomen in Aenea non sinis esse nefas.
D. THE BURNING OF THE AENEID
O quam paene iterum geminasti funere funus,
Troia, bis interitus causa futura tui.
Virgil had ordered that his songs recording the war at Troy succumb along
with himself to the ﬁres of fate. Tucca says no; Varius forbids; you, Caesar, in
addition do not allow a crime to be committed against the name of Aeneas. O,
Troy, how nearly you again doubled death with death, to be twice the impetus
for your own destruction. (MP)
4. Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 17.10.5–7
See above, I.C.27, especially I.C.27.j (for 17.10.2–4).
The philosopher Favorinus is speaking. (Text and translation: Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, ed. and trans. J. C. Rolfe, vol. 3, LCL 212 )
‘‘Nam quae reliquit perfecta expolitaque quibusque inposuit census atque
dilectus sui supremam manum, omni poeticae venustatis laude ﬂorent; sed
quae procrastinata sunt ab eo, ut post recenserentur, et absolvi, quoniam
mors praeverterat, nequiverunt, nequaquam poetarum elegantissimi nomine atque iudicio digna sunt. Itaque cum morbo obpressus adventare mortem viderat, petivit oravitque a suis amicissimis inpense, ut Aeneida, quam
nondum satis elimavisset, adolerent.’’
‘‘For the parts that he left perfected and polished, to which his judgment and
approval had applied the ﬁnal hand, enjoy the highest praise for poetical
beauty; but those parts [of the Aeneid ] that he postponed, with the intention
of revising them later, but was unable to ﬁnish because he was overtaken by
death, are in no way worthy of the fame and taste of the most elegant of poets.
It was for that reason, when he was laid low by disease and saw that death was
near, that he begged and earnestly besought his friends to burn the Aeneid,
which he had not yet su≈ciently revised.’’
5. Aelius Donatus, VSD 39–40
See above, II.A.1, and below, IV.D.2. (Text: VVA 36–37)
Egerat cum Vario, priusquam Italia decederet, ut si quid sibi accidisset,
Aeneida combureret; [a]t is ita facturum se pernegarat. Igitur in extrema
valetudine assidue scrinia desideravit, crematurus ipse; verum nemine offerente, nihil quidem nominatim de ea cavit. Ceterum eidem Vario ac simul
Tuccae scripta sua sub ea conditione legavit, ne quid ederent, quod non a se
Before leaving Italy, Virgil had arranged with Varius to burn the Aeneid if
anything befell him; but [Varius] had insisted that he would not do so. For
this reason, when his health was failing, [Virgil] demanded his scroll cases
earnestly, intending to burn them himself; but no one brought them, and he
gave no precise stipulations in this matter. For the rest, he bequeathed his
writings to the aforementioned Varius and Tucca, on the condition that they
publish nothing that he himself had not revised. (DWO and JZ)
6. Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.24.6
See below, IV.C.
Evangelus is speaking to Symmachus. (Text: J. Willis, ed., 2nd ed. [Leipzig,
‘‘Immo pueri cum essemus, Symmache, sine iudicio mirabamur, inspicere
autem vitia nec per magistros nec per aetatem licebat. Quae tamen non
pudenter quisquam negabit, cum ipse confessus sit. Qui enim moriens
poema suum legavit igni, quid nisi famae suae vulnera posteritati subtrahenda curavit?’’
‘‘On the other hand, Symmachus[, said Evangelus], when we were boys we
had an uncritical admiration for Virgil, because our masters, as well as the
inexperience of our youth, did not allow us to investigate his faults. That he
had faults no one will honestly deny, for he himself admitted as much. As he
was dying he bequeathed his poem [the Aeneid] to the ﬂames; and why should
he have done this unless he was anxious to keep from posterity whatever might
be injurious to his reputation?’’ (Macrobius, The Saturnalia, trans. P. V. Davies
[New York, 1969], modiﬁed by MP)
E. AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPTS OF VIRGIL
1. Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis 13.83
See above, I.C.8.
By attesting to the prevalence of autographs of Virgil nearly a century after
his death, Pliny o√ers tangible proof of his popularity. (Text and translation:
Pliny the Elder, Natural History, vol. 4, ed. and trans. H. Rackham, LCL 370
Ita sint longinqua monimenta: Tiberi Gaique Gracchorum manus apud
Pomponium Secundum vatem civemque vidi annos fere post ducentos; iam
vero Ciceronis ac Divi Augusti Vergilique saepenumero videmus.
This process [of making paper] may enable records to last a long time; at the
house of the poet and most distinguished citizen Pomponius Secundus, I have
seen documents in the hand of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus written nearly
two hundred years ago; while as for autographs of Cicero, of the divine Augustus, and of Virgil, we see them repeatedly. (modiﬁed by MP)
E. AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPTS OF VIRGIL
2. Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 1.7.20
See above, I.C.19. (Text and translation: Quintilian, The Orator’s Education,
ed. and trans. D. A. Russell, vol. 1, LCL 124 )
Quo modo et ipsum et Vergilium quoque scripsisse manus eorum docent.
That [Cicero] himself and Virgil both used this spelling is shown by their
3. Aulus Gellius
See above, I.C.27. (Text and translation, items a and b: Aulus Gellius, Attic
Nights, ed. and trans. J. C. Rolfe, vol. 1, LCL 195 )
a. Noctes Atticae 1.21.1–2
Versus istos ex Georgicis Vergilii plerique omnes sic legunt
At sapor indicium faciet manifestus et ora
tristia temptantum sensu torquebit amaro [2.246–47].
Hyginus autem, non hercle ignobilis grammaticus, in Commentariis quae in
Vergilium fecit, conﬁrmat et perseverat, non hoc a Vergilio relictum, sed
quod ipse invenerit in libro qui fuerit ex domo atque ex familia Vergilii:
. . . et ora
Tristia temptantum sensus torquebit amaror . . . [Georgics 2.246–47]
Nearly everyone reads these lines from the Georgics of Virgil in this way:
At sapor indicium faciet manifestus et ora
tristia temptantum sensu torquebit amaro.
[But the taste will tell its tale full plainly, and with its bitter
ﬂavor will distort the testers’ soured mouths.]
Hyginus, however, on my word no obscure grammarian, in the Commentaries
that he wrote on Virgil, declares and insists that it was not this that Virgil left,
but what he himself found in a copy that had come from the home and family
of the poet:
et ora tristia temptantum sensus torquebit amaror . . .
[But the bitterness of the sensation will distort the testers’ soured mouths.]
b. Noctes Atticae 2.3.5
Sed quoniam ‘‘aheni’’ quoque exemplo usi sumus, venit nobis in memoriam
Fidum Optatum, multi nominis Romae grammaticum, ostendisse mihi librum Aeneidos secundum mirandae vetustatis, emptum in Sigillariis viginti
aureis, quem ipsius Vergili fuisse credebatur.
But apropos of the inclusion of ahenum among my examples [of authors’
insertion of the aspirate h], I recall that Fidus Optatus, a grammarian of