The Ancient Lives of Virgil
Edited by Phillip Hardie and Anton Powell
ISBN: 9781910589618 IHardback GB £64
 
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 genres.
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.
 



The editors Philip Hardie is Senior Research Fellow of Trinity College and Honorary Professor of Latin at the University of Cambridge.
An international authority on Classical Latin poetry and its reception, his most recent monograph is The Last Trojan Hero: A Cultural History of Virgil’s Aeneid (I.B.Tauris, 2014).
Anton Powell is a specialist on Sparta, Thucydides – and the literature of the Roman revolution. His monograph Virgil the Partisan: A Study in the Re-integration of Classics (CPW, 2008) was awarded the prize of the Vergilian Society of America for ‘the book which makes the greatest contribution toward our understanding and appreciation of Vergil’.
The contributors: Irene Peirano Garrison Nora Goldschmidt Stephen Harrison Ahuvia Kahane Andrew Laird Scott McGill Anton Powell Hans Smolenaars Fabio Stok