Vergil (Publius Vergilius Maro) was born near Mantua in Northern Italy in what was then Cisalpine Gaul on October 15, 70 b.c.e. His father’s name is of Etruscan origin, a fact of some modest significance, perhaps, in one’s understanding of the Italian wars depicted in the Aeneid. His boyhood was spent in relatively simple surroundings, but when he reached fifteen (putting on the toga virilis on the day that his greatest Latin predecessor, Lucretius, is said to have died), he went to Milan and then Rome to study rhetoric (a journey passed in reverse direction by St. Augustine four centuries later). His public career was limited and unsuccessful, however, for philosophy and science were his true interests. He joined the cultural circle of the Epicurean philosopher, Siro, near Naples (it is important to note that the Aeneid in large measure supports the Stoic, not the Epicurean, view of life). The influence of other prominent Romans not only made amends for the confiscation of his family’s land following the Battle of Philippi (43 b.c.e.) but also introduced the poet, already in the midst of the composition of the Eclogues, to Octavian, the heir of Caesar, eventually to be called Caesar Augustus. Following the advice of Maecenas, the eponymous archetype of enlightened patronage, Vergil began the Georgics, a work which took seven years to complete, chiefly because of the care with which he composed, producing some lines in the morning and reducing them to a small number of perfected verses by the end of the day. Having celebrated first pastoral and then agricultural life, Vergil turned with the active encouragement of Octavian to the active life of the hero. The Aeneid slowly developed (with books 2, 4, and 6 the first to be completed) but it was never finished as Vergil hoped; he died with the request that the partly imperfect epic should be burned, but his executors and Augustus himself overrode his last wish and a central text of the Western imagination was thus preserved.