|The Ancient Lives of the poet Virgil, written
in prose or verse, are of great, though controversial, influence.
They have often been scorned by modern critics, for trying to construct
biography of the poet from allegorical reading of his poems. Yet
some elements of the Lives are trusted, and quietly adopted as canonical,
such as the dating of Virgil’s birth and death. Some vignettes
in the Lives have been cherished for their image of an emotive poet
(see jacket illustration). Less romantic detail in the Lives, as
of Virgil’s privileged material circumstances at the heart
of the Augustan regime, has been less regarded.
The present volume, from a distinguished international team, aims
to revalue the Ancient Lives of Virgil in a variety of scholarly
Allegory in the Lives is here studied for its own sake, as part of
a developed Graeco- Roman school of interpretation. The literary
character of the verse Life attributed to Phocas is respectfully
analysed. Certain political references within the best-known prose
Life, the `Suetonian-Donatan’, are shown to be apparently independent
of allegory, and to be worth examining for new information on the
poet’s personal history. And ideas about Virgil received and
developed with brio in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance are here
traced back to the Lives of the poet composed in Antiquity.