Who was Virgil, and why was he historically significant?

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Virgil's full name is Publius Vergilius Maro and he was born on October 15, 70 BC, and he died on September 21, 19 BC. There are so many things that we can say about Virgil, especially his literary works. So, I will have to be selective. Here are a few points about Virgil.

First, Virgil was arguably the most famous poet in Rome during the time of Augustus and one of the greatest poets of the Western world. His magnum opus is the Aeneid, but he wrote many other works of literary genius, such as the Eclogues and Georgics.

Second, his Aeneid was formative for Roman self-understanding. In this work, Virgil gave one of the most important stories of the origins of Rome. Aeneas fled Troy and by the promises of the gods he established Rome. Moreover, the gods, according to Virgil's Aeneid, gave the Romans the right to rule without end. Imperium sine fine. This was no small self-understanding, because it can be argued that Rome was one of the greatest, if not greatest empire in the history of the world.

Third, Virgil's literary genius far outlived him and his age. Even in the Medieval world he was influential. For example, in Dante's Divine Comedy, he makes Virgil into his guide.

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