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A. Tradition of Commentary before the Fourth Century

A. Tradition of Commentary before the Fourth Century

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(Text: Suetonius, De grammaticis et rhetoribus, ed. R. Kaster [Oxford, 1995],

20–22)

Primus dicitur Latine extempore disputasse, primusque Vergilium et alios

poetas novos praelegere coepisse; quod etiam Domiti Marsi versiculus indicat: Epirota, tenellorum nutricula vatum.



He is said to have been the first to hold extempore discussions in Latin, and the

first to begin lecturing on Virgil [circa 25 b.c.e.] and other modern poets; the

latter point is also suggested by the line of Domitius Marsus: Epirota tenellorum nutricula vatum (Epirota, the dear nurse of delicate little bards). (The

Lives of the Caesars, vol. 2: The Lives of Illustrious Men, ed. and trans. J. C. Rolfe,

LCL 38 [1914], modified by MP)



2. Gaius Iulius Hyginus

(early–late first century b.c.e.)

Hyginus was a freedman of Augustus (Suetonius, Vita Augusti 20.1) and head

of the Palatine library. In Suetonius (De grammaticis 20) he is reported to have

written criticism of Virgil’s poetry (Grammaticae Romanae fragmenta, ed. G.

Funaiolo [Leipzig, 1907], 528–33, frags. 3–11). Suetonius leaves unclear

whether the criticism took the form of ‘‘a line-by-line commentary, or a work

dealing with discrete quaestiones (including textual problems), or (less likely)

both’’ (Suetonius, De grammaticis et rhetoribus, R. Kaster, ed. [Oxford, 1995],

24). In Noctes Atticae Gellius (see above, I.C.27) cites Hyginus’s work both as

commentaria in Vergilium (1.21.2, commentaries on Virgil) and as (at least

four) libri de Vergilio (16.6.14, books on Virgil). See also Noctes Atticae 10.16,

on Aeneid 6.365–66 and other instances of Virgil’s supposed chronological

errors.



3. Quintus Asconius Pedianus

(3–88 c.e.)

Asconius Pedianus wrote Contra obtrectatores Vergilii (Against the Detractors

of Virgil). See VSD 46 (see above, II.A.1) as well as Grammaticae Romanae

fragmenta, ed. G. Funaiolo (Leipzig, 1907), 544 (under Perellius Faustus).

He is singled out as the source for the anecdote, attributed to Virgil, that it

would be easier to snatch his club from Hercules than a verse from Homer.



4. Lucius Annaeus Cornutus

(born circa 20 b.c.e.; banished by Nero in 68)

A Stoic philosopher, Cornutus was a teacher of Persius and Lucan (see above,

I.C.9) and a friend of Silius Italicus (see above, I.C.18), to whom one of his

A. TRADITION BEFORE THE FOURTH CENTURY



627



Commentarii Aeneidos (Commentaries on the Aeneid) is addressed (Charisius

1, in GL 1, 125, lines 16–18). His commentaries are also mentioned by Gellius

(see above, I.C.27).



5. Marcus Valerius Probus

(circa 35–circa 100)

Suetonius devotes De grammaticis 24 to Probus, also mentioned often by

Gellius. For works on Virgil misattributed to him, see above, I.D.3; II.A.7; M.

Giose≈, Studi sul commento a Virgilio dello Pseudo-Probo, Pubblicazioni della

Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia dell’Università di Milano 143 (Florence, 1991);

and Suetonius, De grammaticis et rhetoribus, ed. R. Kaster (Oxford, 1995), 28,

no. 3.



6. Velius Longus

(early second century)

He wrote a commentary on the Aeneid (GL 7, 39–41).



7. Aulus Gellius

See above, I.C.27.

Gellius is included for his mentions of earlier commentators. Note in particular Noctes Atticae 2.6.1 (on Cornutus and other grammatici), 7.6 (on

Hyginus), and 6.20.1 (citing quodam commentario, a certain commentary).



8. Aemilius Asper

(late second–early third century)

Asper is not mentioned by Suetonius or Gellius. Jerome (see above, I.C.30),

Contra Rufinum 1.16 (Apologie contre Rufin, ed. and trans. P. Lardet [Paris,

1983], 46), speaks of Aspri in Vergilium commentarios (the commentaries of

Asper on Virgil); and Augustine (see above, I.C.31), De utilitate credendi (On

the Usefulness of Believing) 17 (J. Zycha, ed., CSEL 25 [1891]), lists him

among those who o√er necessary help so that quilibet poeta (a certain poet,

which is to say, Virgil) may be understood. (Discussion: A. Tomsin, Étude sur

le commentaire virgilien d’Aemilius Asper [Paris, 1952]; J. Zetzel, Latin Textual

Criticism in Antiquity [New York, 1981], 28 [Caecilius], 31–36 [Hyginus],

36–37 [Asconius], 38–41 [Cornutus], 41–54 [Probus], 55–74 [Gellius])

B. SERVIUS

(Marius, or Maurus, Servius Honoratus, late fourth–early fifth century)

Servius was roughly contemporary with Macrobius (see below, IV.C), who in

his Saturnalia introduces him as a young man at the time of its dramatic

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date, probably 383. Both authors manifest the penchant for antiquarianism,

and especially the interest in Virgil, of many contemporary Roman aristocrats.

Macrobius supplies our best portrait of him. At Saturnalia 1.2.15 he describes his interlocutor as ‘‘iuxta doctrina mirabilis et amabilis verecundia’’ (a

man remarkable for his learning and lovable for his modesty), and at 6.6.1 he

o√ers a more detailed account of his scholastic abilities. (Text: J. Willis, ed.,

2nd ed. [Leipzig, 1970]; translation: The Saturnalia, trans. P. V. Davies [New

York, 1969])

‘‘Figuras vero quas traxit de vetustate, si volentibus vobis erit, cum repentina

memoria suggesserit, enumerabo. Sed nunc dicat volo Servius quae in Vergilio notaverit ab ipso figurata, non a veteribus accepta, vel ausu poetico nove

quidem sed decenter usurpata. Cotidie enim Romanae indoli enarrando eundem vatem, necesse est habeat huius adnotationis scientiam promptiorem.’’



‘‘If it is your wish [continued Caecina=Publilius Caeionius Caecina Albinus],

I will hasten to search my memory to form a list of the figurative expressions

that Virgil has borrowed from ancient authors, but at present I should like

Servius to tell us of those which he has noted as being of the poet’s own

invention and not taken from old writers—or, if so taken, then taken with all a

poet’s daring and given a new but apt turn. For, thanks to his daily discourses

on our poet to Roman intellectuals, Servius is bound to have readier knowledge for a commentary of this kind than anyone else.’’ (modified by MP)

The judgment on his pedagogical prowess is rea≈rmed at Saturnalia

1.24.8, where we are told that Servius priscos . . . praeceptores doctrina praestat

(surpasses the teachers of former times in learning). His skill as a commentator on Virgil’s inventiveness and idiosyncracies of expression is confirmed at

Saturnalia 1.24.20:

Avienus, ‘‘Non adsumam mihi,’’ ait, ‘‘ut unam aliquam de Vergilianis virtutibus audeam praedicare, sed audiendo quaecumque dicetis, siquid vel de his

mihi videbitur vel iam dudum legenti adnotandum visum est, opportunius

proferam. Modo memineritis a Servio nostro exigendum ut quidquid obscurum videbitur quasi litteratorum omnium longe maximus palam faciat.’’



Avienus [see above, I.C.28] said: ‘‘I shall not take it upon myself to dare to

praise any single one of Virgil’s virtues, but, by listening to whatever you have

to say, if any remark of yours or anything in my long reading of the poet

suggests an observation, I shall make it, as the occasion for it may arise. Only

remember that it is to our friend Servius that we must go for an explanation of

any obscurity, since of all literary critics he is far the greatest.’’ (modified by MP)

Still extant among the works of Servius are treatises such as his Commentarius in artem Donati (Explanation of Donatus’s Art of Grammar), De centum

B. S E RV I U S



629



metris (On a Hundred Di√erent Meters), and De metris Horatii (On the Meters

of Horace); but best known is his commentary on Virgil, in the order Aeneid,

Eclogues, and Georgics. In all these commentaries he relied a great deal on earlier

Virgilian scholarship, especially that of Aelius Donatus (see below, IV.D.2),

whom he names only when he disagrees with him. In e√ect, Servius brought

together the work of earlier scholars who had studied Virgil for four centuries.

More than half of his notes are concerned with linguistic problems: the

meaning of di≈cult or unusual words, forms, and constructions. Others name

and clarify rhetorical figures. Only a third are non-linguistic. Many of these

identify historical and literary allusions (Servius quotes frequently from classical authors such as Terence, Cicero, Sallust, Lucan, Statius, and Juvenal).

Others explain philosophy, obsolete religious customs, and historical context.

Very isolated are those which could qualify as psychological, in trying to prove

consistency in Virgil’s portrayal of characters. Virtually none of the notes

discusses aesthetics or literary form.

His commentary on the Aeneid became standard early, and Virgilian scholarship remains deeply indebted to it. In the seventh or eighth century someone

supplemented Servius with additional material from another ancient commentary, perhaps that of Aelius Donatus. The expanded commentary has come to

be called Servius auctus or Servius Danielis. (Discussion: On the influence of

Servius in the Middle Ages, see VME 47–53 and below, IV.U) The samples of

Servius’s work that follow are of two types. The first is an overview of the

fourth book of the Aeneid that serves as an introduction to his line-by-line

commentary. The second examines various types of allegory that he finds in the

epic. (Discussion: R. Kaster, Guardians of Language: The Grammarian and

Society in Late Antiquity [Berkeley, 1988], 169–97; R. J. Starr, ‘‘Vergil’s Seventh ‘Eclogue’ and Its Readers: Biographical Allegory as an Interpretative

Strategy in Antiquity and Late Antiquity,’’ Classical Philology 90 [1995], 129–

38; D. P. Fowler, ‘‘The Virgil Commentary of Servius,’’ in The Cambridge

Companion to Virgil, ed. C. Martindale [Cambridge, 1997], 73–79; R. J. Starr,

‘‘Aeneas as the Flamen Dialis? Vergil’s Aeneid and the Servian Exegetical Tradition,’’ Vergilius 43 [1997], 63–70; Servius: Commentary on Book Four of Virgil’s

‘‘Aeneid’’: An Annotated Translation, trans. C. M. McDonough, R. E. Prior,

and M. Stansbury [Wauconda, Ill., 2004]; J. W. Jones Jr., ‘‘Allegorical Interpretation in Servius,’’ Classical Journal 56 [1961], 217–26) (MP and JZ)



1. Comment on Aeneid 4

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 1:459)

Apollonius Argonautica scripsit et in tertio inducit amantem Medeam; inde

totus hic liber translatus est. Est autem paene totus in affectione, licet in fine

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pathos habeat, ubi abscessus Aeneae gignit dolorem. Sane totus in consiliis

et subtilitatibus est; nam paene comicus stilus est; nec mirum, ubi de amore

tractatur. Iunctus quoque superioribus est, quod artis esse videtur, ut frequenter diximus; nam ex abrupto vitiosus est transitus. Licet stulte quidam

dicunt hunc tertio non esse coniunctum—in illo navigium, in hoc amores

exsequitur—non videntes optimam coniunctionem; cum enim tertium sic

clauserit factoque hic fine quievit [Aeneid 3.718], subsecutus at regina gravi iamdudum saucia cura [Aeneid 4.1], item paulo post nec placidam membris dat cura

quietem [Aeneid 4.5]; nam cum Aenean dormire dixerit, satis congrue subiunxit ut somno amans careret. [Servius auctus: Alii subitum transitum factum

tradunt, quia non ostendit convivium dissolutum; sed hoc subtiliter fecit,

quia etiam alia convivia eam habuisse describit post ubi degressi lumenque

obscura vicissim (Aeneid 4.80).]



Apollonius [of Rhodes, third century b.c.e., author of the Hellenistic era’s

great epic] wrote the Argonautica and in the third book introduces the lover

Medea: from that episode the book as a whole is transferred. It consists moreover almost entirely of love, although at the end it has su√ering, when the

departure of Aeneas engenders grief. It is quite entirely given over to counsels

and fineness of perceptions. The style is indeed almost comic—and small

wonder, when the topic is love. The book is also connected to its predecessors,

which seems to be the nature of poetic craft, as we have frequently observed;

for an abrupt transition is flawed. Although some people foolishly say that this

book is not connected to the third—for in the former he describes a sea

voyage, while in the latter, loves—they do not see the superb connection. For

when he closed the third, ‘‘and making an end was still,’’ he concluded: ‘‘But

the queen, long since smitten with a grievous pain’’ and likewise a little afterward: ‘‘and the pain does not grant calm rest to her limbs.’’ For since he said

that Aeneas was sleeping, quite aptly he added that the lover [Dido] was

deprived of sleep. Others report that the transition took place suddenly, because he did not show the party breaking up: but he did this with fine judgment, inasmuch as he describes that she held other dinner parties: ‘‘Then when

all have gone their ways and in turn the dim moon sinks her light . . .’’ (JZ)



2. Allegory

a. Historical

On Servius’s treatment of history, see D. B. Dietz, ‘‘Historia in the Commentary of Servius,’’ Transactions of the American Philological Association 125 (1995),

61–97.

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631



i. Comment on Eclogues 1.1: Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi

(Tityrus, you reclining under the protection of the spreading beech)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 3.1:4–5)

. . . et hoc loco Tityri sub persona Vergilium debemus accipere; non tamen

ubique, sed tantum ubi exigit ratio. . . . A lite, o Virgili, sub protectione

Augusti securus quiescis [Servius auctus].



. . . and here we should understand Virgil under the mask of Tityrus; nevertheless,

this is not the case everywhere but only when reason demands. . . . O Virgil, you

rest unthreatened, apart from strife, under the protection of Augustus. (MP)

Servius’s comment on Eclogues 10.31 also sees both Virgil and Gallus as love

poets allegorized as shepherds.

ii. Comment on Eclogues 1.4: in umbra (under the shade)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 3.1:5)

Allegorice sub tutela imperatoris Augusti.



Allegorically, under the guardianship of the emperor Augustus. (MP)

iii. Comment on Aeneid 1.292: Remo cum fratre Quirinus iura dabunt

(Quirinus [the deified Romulus] will give laws with his brother Remus)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 1:108)

Alii volunt per hos Romanos intellegi. Vera tamen hoc habet ratio, Quirinum Augustum esse, Remum vero pro Agrippa positum, qui filiam Augusti

duxit uxorem, et cum eo pariter bella tractavit . . . nam adulans populus

Romanus Octaviano tria obtulit nomina, utrum vellet Quirinus, an Caesar,

an Augustus vocari.



Others want Romans to be understood through these [Remus and Quirinus].

This surely can be reasoned as true: Quirinus is Augustus, and Remus is in the

stead of Agrippa, who married the daughter of Augustus and with whom he

waged war side by side . . . for the Roman people, in its adulation, o√ered

Octavian three names—whether he would wish to be called Quirinus, or

Caesar, or Augustus. (MP)

We may compare Suetonius, Vita Augusti (Life of Augustus) 7; and Dio

Cassius, Roman History 53.16. Both authorities o√er Romulus, not Quirinus,

as the title in question. The latter was applied only to the deified Romulus.

b. Physical

i. Comment on Aeneid 1.47: et soror et coniunx (both sister and wife)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 1:32)

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Physici Iovem aetherem, id est, ignem volunt intellegi, Iunonem vero aerem,

et quoniam tenuitate haec elementa paria sunt, dixerunt esse germana. Sed

quoniam Iuno, hoc est aer subiectus est igni, id est, Iovi, iure superposito

elemento mariti traditum nomen est.



Natural scientists wish Jupiter to be understood as ether, that is to say fire, and

Juno as air, and since these elements are equal in their thinness, [the physicists] have said that they are siblings. But since Juno, that is air, is located

beneath fire, that is Jupiter, rightly the title of husband is given to the element

that is placed on top. (MP)

ii. Comment on Aeneid 6.893: sunt geminae somni portae

(there are twin gates of sleep)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 2:122–23)

Physiologia vero hoc habet: per portam corneam oculi significantur, qui et

cornei sunt coloris et duriores ceteris membris: nam frigus non sentiunt,

sicut et Cicero dicit in libris de deorum natura. Per eburneam vero portam os

significatur a dentibus. Et scimus quia quae loquimur falsa esse possunt, ea

vero quae videmus sine dubio vera sunt. Ideo Aeneas per eburneam emittitur portam.



But there is a physiological reason for this: by the gate of horn are meant the

eyes that both are the color of horn and are hardier than the other parts of the

body, for they do not experience cold, as Cicero also says in his work on the

nature of the gods. But by the ivory gate is meant the mouth with its teeth.

And we know that what we say can be false, but the things that we see are

without a doubt true. And so it is that Aeneas is sent out through the gate of

ivory. (MP)

c. Moral

On the moral education of the soul for the present world with its complex

interlarding of virtues and vices.

i. Comment on Aeneid 6.127: noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis

(night and day the threshold of dark Dis lies open)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 2:27–28)

Ergo hanc terram in qua vivimus inferos esse voluerunt, quia est omnium

circulorum infima, planetarum scilicet septem . . . et duorum magnorum.

Hinc est quod habemus et novies Styx interfusa coercet [Aeneid 6.439]: nam

novem circulis cingitur terra. Ergo omnia quae de inferis finguntur, suis

locis hic esse conprobabimus.

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633



Therefore [Virgil’s words] mean that this earth on which we live is ‘‘below,’’

because it is lowest of all the circles, that is, of the seven planets . . . and of the

two great [circles]. It is from this that we have ‘‘and the ninefold Styx, poured

round, pens [the souls] in,’’ for the earth is girded by nine circles. Therefore

everything that is made up about the underworld we will prove to exist here

[in the world above] in their own locations. (MP)

ii. Comment on Aeneid 6.395: in vincla petivit (he sought to enchain)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 2:62)

Quod autem dicitur traxisse ab inferis Cerberum, haec ratio est, quia omnes

cupiditates et cuncta vitia terrena contempsit et domuit: nam Cerberus terra

est, id est, consumptrix omnium corporum.



This is the reason why [Hercules] is said to have dragged Cerberus from the

world below: since he scorned and subdued all earthly lusts and every vice: for

Cerberus is the earth, that is, the consumer of all bodies. (MP)

iii. Comment on Aeneid 6.596–97: per tota novem cui iugera corpus /

porrigitur (whose body is stretched over nine whole acres)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 2:82)

Quantum ad publicam faciem, magnitudinem ostendit corporis; sed illud

significat, quia de amatore loquitur, libidinem late patere.



On the surface this illustrates the hugeness of [Tityus’s] body, but that signifies,

given that [Virgil] is talking about a lover, that lust is widely rampant. (MP)

d. Euhemerism

Euhemerism is the understanding of the gods as human beings of outstanding

quality.

i. Comment on Aeneid 8.319: ab aetherio venit Saturnus Olympo

(Saturn came from heaven on high)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 2:245)

Hoc dicit secundum poeticum morem; nam Saturnus rex fuit Cretae, quem

Iuppiter filius bello pepulit. Hic fugiens ab Iano rege, qui urbem habuit, ubi

nunc Ianiculum, est susceptus, qui regnabat in Italia. Quem cum docuisset

usum vinearum et falcis et humaniorem victum, in partem est admissus

imperii et sibi oppidum fecit sub clivo Capitolino, ubi nunc eius aedes

videtur.



He says this according to poetic custom; for Saturn was a king of Crete whom

Jupiter, his son, expelled in war. After his flight he was received by King Janus,

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I V. C O M M E N T A R Y T R A D I T I O N



who possessed a city where the Janiculum is now, who was ruling over Italy.

When [Saturn] had taught him the use of vineyards and of the pruning hook

and a more humane way of living, he was admitted to a share of the ruling

power and built a town for himself under the slope of the Capitolium, where

now his shrine is to be seen. (MP)

ii. Comment on Aeneid 10.551: silvicolae Fauno Dryope quem nympha

crearet (whom the nymph Dryope bore to forest-dwelling Faunus)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 2:448)

Faunus hoc loco quidam rusticus intellegendus est, non deus, sicut supra

Anxyr, quem legimus Iovem.



In this section Faunus is to be understood as a certain man of the countryside,

not as a god, just as above on Anxyr [comment on Aeneid 7.799], whom we

read about as Jupiter. (MP)

e. Roman Religious Ritual

i. Comment on Aeneid 4.103: Phrygio servire marito

(to serve a Trojan husband)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 1:482)

Quoque omnis iste mos coemptionis et citra nominis nuncupationem dotis

datae taxatione expediretur, quae res in manum conventio dicitur, subiunxit

dotalesque tuae Tyrios permittere dextrae [Aeneid 4.104]. Quid est enim aliud

[’’permittere] dextrae,’’ quam in manum convenire? Quae conventio eo ritu

perficitur, ut aqua et igni adhibitis, duobus maximis elementis, natura coniuncta habeatur: quae res ad farreatas nuptias pertinet, quibus flaminem et

flaminicam iure pontificio in matrimonium necesse est convenire. Sciendum

tamen in hac conventione Aeneae atque Didonis ubique Vergilium in persona Aeneae flaminem, in Didonis flaminicam praesentare.



Also so that the whole custom of coemptio [fictive ‘‘sale’’ of the bride] might be

set forth without even explicitly naming it, by means of an estimation of the

dowry given—what [coemptio] is called conventio in manum [the passing of a

woman into the control of her husband]—he has added dotalesque tuae Tyrios

permittere dextrae [and (let her) yield her Tyrians to your right hand as a

dowry]. For what else is permittere dextrae than in manum convenire [to come

into the charge of]? This conventio is accomplished in that manner so that

nature—because fire and water, the two greatest elements, have been introduced—may be considered to share in the ceremony [see also Aeneid 4.160–

68]. This pertains to farreatas nuptias [marriage by confarreatio, during which

B. S E RV I U S



635



bride and groom apparently o√ered a loaf made of wheat], through which it is

necessary that, according to pontifical ritual, the flamen [priest] and flaminica

[priest’s wife] come together in marriage. In this conventio of Aeneas and Dido

it must be understood that in all details Virgil is presenting the flamen in the

person of Aeneas, the flaminica in the person of Dido. (MP)

Servius’s note on Georgics 1.31 presents a similar discussion. S. Treggiari

(Roman Marriage [Oxford, 1991]) o√ers detailed discussions of convenire in

manum (16–17) and confarreatio (21–24).

ii. Comment on Aeneid 4.262: laena (cloak)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 1:512–13)

Alii togam duplicam, in qua flamines sacrificant infibulati . . . veteri enim

religione pontificum praecipiebatur inaugurato flamini vestem, quae laena

dicebatur, a flaminica texi oportere . . .



Others [call the laena] the double-folded toga clothed in which the priests,

clasped with brooches [of bronze], o√er sacrifice . . . for according to ancient

priestly ritual it is ordained that, when a priest is chosen by augury, his cloak,

which is called a laena, should be woven by the priest’s wife. (MP)

C. MACROBIUS

(Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius, late fourth–early fifth century)

Macrobius is probably to be identified with the Theodosius who was pretorian

prefect of Italy in 430 (PLRE 2, s.v. Theodosius, nos. 8 and 20; see, in particular, A. Cameron, ‘‘The Date and Identity of Macrobius,’’ Journal of Roman

Studies 56 [1966], 25–38).

Apart from a fragmentary work, De di√erentiis (On Distinctions), on the

di√erences between Greek and Latin verbs, Macrobius is the author of two

books that well illustrate the intellectual vigor of contemporary Rome. The

first is a detailed commentary on the so-called Somnium Scipionis (Dream of

Scipio) that brilliantly concludes Cicero’s De re publica (On the Republic).

Neoplatonic in essence, it serves as a major vehicle for transmitting knowledge

of ancient sciences to the Western Middle Ages.

The second is the Saturnalia, a dialogue in seven books, some of which are

fragmentary, set during the Saturnalia (the festival of Saturn, held on December 17), probably of 383. It covers a wide variety of topics, but central among

them is the poetry of Virgil, which is cited more than seven hundred times.

Macrobius uses it primarily as an educational document of the highest authority, not as an historical epic of heroism with overtones of Roman hegemony.

At Saturnalia 1.24.5 Quintus Aurelius Symmachus makes the distinction

between the use of Virgil’s work instituendis . . . pueris (for the instruction of

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schoolboys) and alia illis altiora (higher ends than that), which is presumably

the goal of the Saturnalia itself. This is to say that the Saturnalia looks beyond

Virgil’s works as mere grammatical textbooks to teach us through a study of

both the technical skills and the erudition of a master poet.

At Saturnalia 1.16.12 Virgil is described as omnium disciplinarum peritus

(skilled in every discipline), and at 3.11.9 he is styled poeta aeque in rebus

doctrinae et in verbis sectator elegantiae (a poet in equal pursuit of learned subject

matter and of elegance of expression). For further comments by Macrobius on

Virgil’s prodigious wisdom and infallible learning, see Commentarii in somnium Scipionis (Commentary on the Dream of Scipio) 1.6.44: Vergilius nullius

disciplinae expers (Virgil schooled in all the arts), and 2.8.1: Vergilius, quem

nullius umquam disciplinae error involvit (Virgil, a poet who has never been

caught in error on any subject). (Discussion: J. Rauk, ‘‘Macrobius, Cornutus

and the Cutting of Dido’s Lock,’’ Classical Philology 90 [1995], 345–54)

The program of the work’s content is set out in Saturnalia 1.24, which is followed in the outline below, with further documentation from elsewhere in the

work. On the near contemporaries who are mentioned in items 1–7, see the

brief biographies of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (see above, III.E.3), Vettius

Agorius Praetextatus, Virius Nicomachus Flavianus, Eusebius, and Eustathius in

Macrobius, The Saturnalia, trans. P. V. Davies (New York, 1969), 4–10. (Text,

items 1–7: J. Willis, ed., 2nd ed., Bibliotheca Teubneriana [Leipzig, 1970];

translations: Macrobius, The Saturnalia, trans. P. V. Davies [New York, 1969])



1. Rhetorical Devices (Saturnalia 1.24.14)

See also Saturnalia 4.2–6.

‘‘. . . spondeo violentissima inventa vel sensa rhetoricae in Vergiliano me

opere demonstraturum . . .’’



‘‘ . . . I [Symmachus] propose to point out the most forcible of the rhetorical

devices and conceits that are to be found in Virgil’s work . . .’’



2. Oratorical Skill

a. Saturnalia 1.24.14

‘‘ . . . Eusebio autem, oratorum eloquentissimo, non praeripio de oratoria

apud Maronem arte tractatum, quem et doctrina et docendi usu melius

exsequetur.’’



‘‘ . . . I [Symmachus] do not take away from Eusebius [perhaps the Alexandrian rhetorician], that most eloquent of orators, the opportunity to deal

with Virgil’s skill in oratory, a theme that—thanks to his learning, and experience as a teacher—he will handle better than I.’’ (modified by MP)

C. MACROBIUS



637



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A. Tradition of Commentary before the Fourth Century

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