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The great epic (long narrative) poem known as the Aeneid was technically never finished by its Roman author Virgil (70–19 B.C.). He spent the last ten years of his life writing this text, which consisted of twelve books, each between 700 and 1,000 lines long. Virgil had planned to spend three more years gathering material and making revisions, but his mission was interrupted when he suddenly developed a fever and died. On his deathbed he requested that his friends burn the entire manuscript, since it remained unfinished. Emperor Gaius Octavius Augustus (63 B.C.–A.D. 14), however, asked Virgil's companions to edit the text rather than destroy it, specifying that they should not make significant alterations. The Aeneid was published in 17 B.C. and became an important source of information about the role of Rome in world history. Virgil remains the dominant figure in Latin literature; his work influenced such great writers such as the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265–1321).
Further Information: Knight, Jackson F. Virgil, Epic, and Anthropology. London: Allen and Unwin, 1967.
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