Chapter 4. Nostalgia and Virgil’s Pastoral Dream (On the Dangers of Playing Orpheus)

Virgil, we are told, “was given a house in Maecenas’ gardens on the Esquiline with the hope of enticing him to Rome.” [1] With this in mind, it would be tempting to identify the Esquiline villa in which the Odyssey Frieze was found with Virgil’s Roman house, particularly since the painting may, on many levels, be viewed as a reflection, a pictorial distillation, of the poet’s collected works. The artist responsible for the frieze’s conception and execution found him or herself within a structure, a house, presumably inscribing, framing, one or more gardens. [2] The painter’s illusionistic opening of the wall and fictive appropriation of an “external” landscape complemented the villa’s architectural domestication of Nature, its efforts to bring the countryside, rus, into the City. Among the bristling crags and luminous shores of this illusionistically “borrowed” Italianate landscape the artist has placed both pastoral figures, in whom the past, present, and future can find common ground, and Odysseus, an epic hero born in a remote Greek past but whose nostalgic journey symbolizes the eternal human quest for a utopian society. [3] Viewed in its original physical and cultural context, the Odyssey Frieze would have forcefully suggested that environmental reintegration, not urban sublimation, was the key to achieving human happiness. Not unlike the artist of the Esquiline frieze, Virgil fashioned landscapes: three gardens painted in words, populated with herdsmen and farmers, and formally contained or framed by the epic genre. These gardens, the landscapes of the Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid, constitute the loci of his utopian probings. Of these offerings, the Aeneid, the seminal work that more than any other would be associated with Rome’s glory, marked and defined what was Rome’s “great” utopian moment under Augustus, the Republic’s second founding and the birth of a new Saturnian Golden Age on Italian soil. Fittingly, it was at this historical moment that, in his tale of Aeneas’ travails, Virgil reiterated the wanderings of Odysseus in order to define Rome’s social dream.
While the identity of the painter of the Odyssey Frieze, whether Greek or Roman, slave or free, continues to elude us, we do know that Virgil was a farmer’s son born in a rural district near Mantua. In other words, Virgil was a true son of rural Italy, and an accordingly “deep and abiding affection” for the country pervades his poetry. [4] Virgil was born into what R. D. Williams eloquently describes as “a period of disastrous and appalling civil war, a period in which all that Rome had achieved through the long centuries of her history appeared likely to vanish in carnage and confusion.” [5] Virgil witnessed the birth and disintegration of the First Triumvirate, the invasion of Italy by Caesar and his assassination on the grounds—somewhere in the porticus gardens—of Pompey’s theater, the elevation of Antony and Octavian, the death of Cicero, the confiscation of large tracts of land throughout Italy earmarked as rewards for a loyal soldiery, and the exhausted collapse, at long last, of the Roman Republic. He also witnessed the metamorphosis of Octavian from a young man feared, at once sickly and ruthless, into a beacon of hope, divi filius ‘the son of a god’, savior of the Republic, and father alike of countrymen and country, pater patriae. This turbulent age, wavering constantly between hope and despair, was fertile ground for utopian musings, and it comes as no surprise that it produced one of Rome’s most ardent utopians. An Epicurean in his youth and certainly an Epicurean sympathizer in later years, Virgil, the farmer’s son, transported himself into a garden or gardens to reflect on the crises of his time—the troubling connotations of the transformation of Italy and of the larger world into Rome’s garden, the fact that as the great city grew, its inscription of the countryside became ever more aggressive. The world, it seemed, was in danger of becoming rus in Urbe, a landscape engulfed by and subordinated to the interests of the City. The very fine line between propriety and excess in the domestication of Nature to achieve the ideal of rus in urbe was becoming increasingly apparent. Any inscription of Nature, whether small or large in scale, whether aimed at the sustenance of the body or the soul, is an act of violence. Even the construction of a modest hut or the mere planting of a seedling violates a pre-existing environmental condition. Violation of environment and violence are not, however, unique to the human among the Earth’s myriad beasts; humans merely possess the greatest capacity for destruction. Nature, conceived in the most general terms, is herself both violent and bounteous, terrifying and beautiful. Constituting an integral part of Nature, humanity necessarily partakes of these qualities, all the while quite falsely believing “that we somehow stand outside, or apart from nature.” [6]
The absurd and profound question of humanity’s relationship to Nature occupied Virgil as he fashioned the tenuous pastoral landscapes of the Eclogues, the fields and pasturelands of the Georgics, and the vast geographic expanses of the Aeneid. Specifically, he grappled with the implications of the inauspicious birth of the Roman urbs; the descent of the Roman race from Venus and Mars, both deities associated with cultivated lands; the inextricable link of the Roman people with the wolf; wishes for a second Golden Age; and the dangers inherent in playing the role of Orpheus. As he embarked on his utopian journey, Virgil was fully aware that he was not treading virgin soil; the august Epicurean poet Lucretius, who reportedly died on the very day that a young Virgil assumed the toga virilis ‘garment of manhood’, had already forged a path through this metaphysical wilderness. [7] In Lucretius Virgil found not just a fellow Epicurean, a man of the Garden, but also a truly kindred spirit—a master poet, a keen and passionate observer of humankind and of the natural environment, a man able to join political assertiveness with political quietism, a man who combined a deep affection for the past with a sense of the imperative of evolution, nostalgia with progressivism—a utopian. [8] In other words, Virgil had found an ideal guide in his own search for a prescriptive means to calm the turbulence and anxiety that relentlessly undermined the potential for equanimity upon which the health of the Roman endeavor depended. In his impassioned, apocalyptic calculus, De Rerum Natura (fittingly composed as the Republican regime hurtled towards its cataclysmic end), Lucretius had plainly stated that his purpose was to help humanity by revealing the path to total peace of mind, a beatific state characterized by freedom from the anxieties of an unfounded fear of death, the tyranny of unchecked lust, and empty yearnings for fame and fortune. This untroubled state, which the Epicureans labeled ataraxy, could only be attained through a contemplative union and physical re-integration with Nature, by realizing that humankind is unquestionably part of the “great reciprocal web that is life on Earth.” [9]
Lucretius could not have signaled his ideal audience more directly, focusing on them particularly, the sons of Aeneas, as his didactic epos begins:
Aeneadum genetrix, hominum divumque voluptas,
alma Venus, caeli subter labentia signa
quae mare navigerum, quae terras frugiferentis
concelebras, per te quoniam genus omne animantum
concipitur visitque exortum lumina solis:

Mother of Aeneas’ sons, joy of men and gods,
nurturing Venus, beneath the gliding constellations of the sky,
you who the ship-bearing sea, who the crop-bearing lands
fill to teeming, since through you is every species of living thing
conceived and, upon its birth, beholds the light of the sun:
De Rerum Natura 1.1–5
Specifically, the poem begins with a reminder that the sons of Aeneas, all Romans, are descendants of Venus, who is not merely the mythological honey sweetening the bitter truths that must cure what ails the Roman psyche. More importantly, she is the Epicurean pleasure principle, hēdonē, the Earth, and Natura creatrix, the source of all life. It is she who populates the seas, rouses the crops, and conceives every animate being (De Rerum Natura 1.4), the speechless beast of the fields as well as the human beast, Roman, Greek, and otherwise. [10] Venus, Lucretius reveals, does not play favorites. Such is the first jarring truth presented to the Roman audience. The second is that even at her most munificent, nurturing, and benign, Venus/Nature is violent in her workings. This is immediately evidenced by the forceful verbs and participles that punctuate the remainder of the proem:
          te, dea, te fugiunt venti, te nubila caeli
          adventumque tuum, tibi suavis daedala tellus
          summittit flores, tibi rident aequora ponti
          placatumque nitet diffuso lumine caelum.
10      nam simul ac species patefactast verna diei
          et reserata viget genitabilis aura favoni,
          aeriae primum volucres te, diva, tuumque
          significant initum perculsae corda tua vi.
          inde ferae pecudes persultant pabula laeta
15      et rapidos tranant amnis: ita capta lepore
          te sequitur cupide quo quamque inducere pergis.
          denique per maria ac montis fluviosque rapaces
          frondiferasque domos avium camposque virentis
          omnibus incutiens blandum per pectora amorem
20      efficis ut cupide generatim saecla propagent.

          You, goddess, you do the winds flee, you the clouds of the sky
          and your coming; for you the wonder-working Earth
          puts forth sweet flowers, for you laugh the level stretches of the sea,
          and, calmed, the sky glows with spreading light.
10      For as soon as the vernal aspect of the day is unveiled
          and, unbarred, the life-giving breeze of the west wind blows strong,
          then first you, goddess, and your coming do the birds of the air
          signal, their hearts pierced with your might.
          Then herds wildly bound through lush pastures
15      and forge raging rivers; to such a degree captivated by your charm
          does each eagerly follow you wherever you set out to lead them.
          Finally, through the seas and mountains and sweeping rivers
          and the leafy haunts of the birds and verdant fields,
          striking sweet love through the hearts of all,
20      you bring it about that they eagerly propagate their breeds, each after its own kind.
De Rerum Natura 1.6–20
Venus drives the winds to flight, strikes the breasts of birds and beasts with her irresistible force, and brings about that all creatures, captive to her charm, eagerly join in the endless chain of being. Violence lies at the heart of Mother Nature, at her atomic core. Thus the brute power of stormy gales and rain-swollen torrents destroy the sylvan lairs of boars, lions, deer, and birds and sweep away even the most sturdily wrought human works. [11] Nature sustains cities but can and does bring even the most monumental to its knees, for everything that is created, even the Earth herself, must pass away. [12] So it is, Lucretius states, that the mighty walls of the universe will be stormed and tumble into ruin. In her violence too Nature does not discriminate.
There is an inherent violence, then, in the mother of the Roman race and, consequently, in her offspring. This fact is underlined by Venus’ embrace with Mars, whom the potency of her allure has rendered powerless—Mars the guardian of fields and protector of the Earth, Mars the father of Romulus and Remus. [13] In the union of the two, Mars represents the violence in Nature, in human nature, and in Roman nature. The embrace of Venus and Mars also exposes the fine balance that must be maintained between destructive ferocity and bountiful fecundity or nurturing cultivation. Venus is the calming influence on Mars and his irascibility while he, in turn, lends urgency and force to her dissemination of delight.
Ironically, it is the beast equipped with the greatest intellect, the human beast, that demonstrates the greatest inclination to disrupt this balance, ever tempted to tip the scales in favor of annihilating forces. As Lucretius asserts, the Earth is gradually decaying and is destined to pass away, but humanity has the capacity both to retard and to hasten her decline, however slightly. For instance, the cultivation of the soil, an activity necessarily harboring seeds of violence, is a means by which humanity can enhance the fertility of the steadily failing Earth. [14] Human nurturing becomes a gesture that the Earth reciprocates. At the same time, humanity is at greatest risk of negatively upsetting the cosmic balance through the inscription of Nature, the transformation of land to landscape, that urbanism involves. It is here, in the literal and figurative erection of barriers to safeguard against external threat, “environmental” or otherwise, that humankind is most susceptible to erroneously privileging itself over that from which it is attempting separation. Nothing conveys this message more clearly than Rome’s foundation myth itself, and although Lucretius does not himself recount the tale, the two appearances of Mars in the poem subtly alert the audience to the association. Mars appears first as lover of Venus, mother of the Aeneidae with whom the Roman race began, and later as metonym for the horror of sanguine, inter-species and “fraternal” or intra-species slaughter, which is the result of human experiments in warfare employing a variety of wild beasts and, as Lucretius declares, too awful for belief. [15] Such passionate excess, devolving into fraternal bloodshed, forever scarred the rising walls of Rome and, by extension, the urban endeavor of Aeneas’ sons. Had Romulus and Remus remained mindful of their debt to the wolf that had nurtured them and of the essential kinship of all life on Earth, rueful fratricide could have been avoided. False fears, resulting from the belief that humanity is somehow above or fundamentally different from other forms of life, foster avarice and ambition, the so-called vulnera vitae ‘wounds of life’ (De Rerum Natura 3.63) driving people to turn viciously even against those closest to them:
          unde homines dum se falso terrore coacti
          effugisse volunt longe longeque remosse,
70      sanguine civili rem conflant divitiasque
          conduplicant avidi, caedem caede accumulantes;
          crudeles gaudent in tristi funere fratris
          et consanguineum mensas odere timentque.

          Whence people, while they, goaded by false fear,
          wish to have escaped and have removed themselves afar,
70      amass a fortune through civil war, and riches
          do they multiply eagerly, heaping murder upon murder;
          cruelly do they rejoice in the sad death of a brother,
          and the tables of their kin do they abhor and fear.
De Rerum Natura 3.68–73
Ultimately, this was the grievous state of affairs when Athens, paragon of culture and urban accomplishment, fell victim to the plague. How quickly apparent utopias can mutate into dystopia, how perilous humanity’s urban quest! Lucretius’ dramatic demise of Athens, in which the physical represents a moral contagion spreading not only between humans but also from humans to animals (like the ever-faithful dog) that have special ties to humanity, vividly conveys what can happen if Nature’s balance is not maintained. [16] However, like every good utopographer, Lucretius counters his dystopian construct with an image of its opposite, a means by which Romans can meet the challenge of creating an urban experience in sync with the Natural balance of things. Just as every utopia is inherently frangible, containing the seeds of its own dissolution, every dystopia harbors mechanisms for its redemption. [17] Not surprisingly, then, Athens, however beleaguered and sorely tried, is also the source of Lucretius’ remedy for humanity’s dystopian tendencies in that it produces Epicurus, the Creator of the Garden. At various stages of its evolution, Athens serves both as dystopian and utopian paradigm.
As for the ideal that Lucretius presents, it is utopian in the truest sense, being located in a good place (eu-topos) that defies temporal and geographic boundaries (ou-topos). Where Roman society, and human society in general, can achieve a desirable and sublime state of mind defined by freedom from all commotive impulses, is in a pastoral locus amoenus. This pleasant place is “located” when- and wherever people embrace the considerable amenities offered freely by the natural world in place of vain materialistic delights:
cum tamen inter se prostrati in gramine molli
propter aquae rivum sub ramis arboris altae
non magnis opibus iucunde corpora curant,
praesertim cum tempestas arridet et anni
tempora conspergunt viridantis floribus herbas.

when, nevertheless, stretched out together in soft grass
by the water of a stream beneath the branches of a lofty tree,
they enjoy themselves without great expense,
especially when the weather smiles upon them and the season
scatters the green grass with flowers.
De Rerum Natura 2.29–33
In such a locus amoenus one may hope to find the means, on a metaphysical level, of returning to the blessed springtime of human existence, a time of relative innocence when people were still willing to be taught by Nature, before ambition, greed, and superstition grew rampant. [18] This place, like every other garden essentially a nostalgic, memory-based construct, bridges the gap between the past and present; it successfully combines the primitive and progressive. [19] For those who have set their sights on the attainment of this ideal, the temptation to aspire to mastery over Nature does not exist, nor do they long for the reconstitution of a postlapsarian Golden Age. They need only be mindful of the fact that they form an integral part of an organic whole. At its core, this ideal is quite literally pastoral, as it evokes and, further, reenacts the “historical” moment when inhabitants of the countryside forged the art of song by imitating clear-toned birds and the whistling of reeds inflated by the breezes:
          At liquidas avium voces imitarier ore
1380   ante fuit multo quam levia carmina cantu
          concelebrare homines possent aurisque iuvare.
          et zephyri, cava per calamorum, sibila primum
          agrestis docuere cavas inflare cicutas.
          inde minutatim dulcis didicere querelas,
1385   tibia quas fundit digitis pulsata canentum,
          avia per nemora ac silvas saltusque reperta,
          per loca pastorum deserta atque otia dia.

          Now to imitate with their mouths the clear-toned songs of the birds
1380   came much earlier than, in the singing of smooth-flowing songs,
          people could set themselves to practicing and delight their ears.
          And the whistling of the west wind, through the hollows of the reeds, first
          taught country dwellers to blow into hemlock stalks.
          Then, little by little, they learned the sweet plaints
1385   that the pipe pours forth when struck by the players’ fingers,
          discovered in the pathless woods, forests, and glades,
          in the solitary haunts of the shepherds and their lovely resting places.
De Rerum Natura 5.1379–1387
Lucretius’ protreptic, pacifistic cry for humanity to embrace its organic place in Nature resonated in Virgil’s creative psyche with tremendous force, a force that has been largely underestimated. Allusions to his work pervade the entire Virgilian corpus. Lucretius’ poem of the Earth informs the conception of the tenuous pastoral world of the Eclogues, influences the themes and rhythms of the Georgics, and underlies the strains of social theorizing that emerge from the magisterial Aeneid. [20] Simply put, the De Rerum Natura, the Republic’s seminal utopian epic, constitutes a primary hermeneutic parergon, a crucial intertextual frame, informing the interpretation of each Virgilian text.
Of the three epē that constitute the Virgilian oeuvre, the last-composed, as earlier noted, provides the closest or most readily apparent parallel to the Esquiline frieze. Virgil sings of “arms and a man” in an unambiguous activation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, together constituting Classical Greece’s utopian prescriptive, as fundamental parerga. Of the two Homeric works, the latter is structurally prevalent, as the Aeneid centers on a journey that is an Odyssean nostos, a homecoming that will culminate in a social restructuring and a new urban construct laboriously attained. [21] In the case of the Aeneid, it is not, of course, the polis generally at issue but a specific city, the great urban venture that was Rome. This fact is signified through the proem’s literal framing by Homeric allusion at its opening and by mention of Rome’s lofty walls at its close:
          Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
          Italiam fato profugus Laviniaque venit
          litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
          vi superum, saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram,
5        multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem
          inferretque deos Latio; genus unde Latinum
          Albanique patres atque altae moenia Romae.

          Of arms do I sing and of a man who first from the shores of Troy,
           fugitive by fate, came to Italy and Lavinian
          shores; much was he harassed both on land and sea
          by the might of the gods, because of savage Juno’s relentless anger,
5        and many things too did he suffer in war until he could found a city
          and bring his gods to Latium—whence the Latin race
          and Alban fathers and also the walls of lofty Rome.
Aeneid 1.1–7
As the proem reveals, the foundations of Rome’s walls were laid amid violence, amid unbridled passion and conflict introduced to Italy and the Lavinian shores by the Trojan refugees. Aeneas, the ancestor of the Roman race, bears the weapons that will ravage his rediscovered ancestral land. The city, violence, and landscape will be pivotal thematic concerns to Virgil as he avails himself of the medium of heroic epic to reflect on the viability and desirability of a rus in urbe ideal sought through force of arms and an excess of violence.
Figure 17. The Earth as Roman landscape. Reconstruction: The Shield of Aeneas. Concept by Donald Dunham and Annette Giesecke, drawing by Michael Monahan.
As the prominence of the Homeric epics within the Virgilian complex of parergonal texts would suggest, the Shield of Aeneas (Aeneid 8.626–731), like that of Achilles, functions as ergon, and the tale in which it is embedded as parergonal frame (Figure 17). [22] Just as the Shield of Achilles is, in essence, the Iliad, so the Shield of Aeneas is the Aeneid; like its Homeric counterpart, it condenses and sublimates the thematic content of its immediate textual frame, without which the act of interpretation would be severely compromised. In terms of general content, both shields provide a utopian prescriptive, but where Homer envisions the general concept of the polis, and therefore a “reality” of multiple poleis, as a model for ordering the Hellenic world, Virgil presents one city with a vast inscribed landscape as a model for ordering the world and, further, the Cosmos. That one city, Rome, is described not in physical or structural terms but in terms of the exemplary citizenry upon whom its foundation and continued existence depended. Briefly stated, Virgil’s description of the Shield opens with Romulus and Remus suckled by the wolf, a scene presaging the tenacity of the Roman people and their will to survive. Additionally, the rape of the Sabine women appears, together with the subsequent war and peace that marked the evolution of a Roman religious and social consciousness. The execution of the treasonous Mettus Fuffettius is balanced by the bravery of Cocles and Cloelia in their resistance against tyranny. Manlius, alerted by the sacred geese, defends Rome’s most sacred ground against the onslaught of the Gauls, and the Salii, as well as the Luperci, safeguard the city’s continued prosperity. Scenes in the House of Hades illustrate the fates both of sinners, exemplified by the heinous Catiline, and of the just, whom Cato embodies. [23] Finally, at the Shield’s center, the Battle of Actium, the rout of Cleopatra and Antony, and Augustus’ triple triumph, which symbolically marked the subjugation of the world, appear. These central themes have been characterized as “the most explicit version which Virgil gives of the goal enunciated by Jupiter in Book I: the establishment of order, peace, and empire. It is the victory of order over disorder, of West over East, of male over female, of civilization over barbarism.” [24] The Shield presents a vision that, together with all other Augustan monuments, formed part of a coordinated iconographic and ideological complex enabling the self-fashioning and fabrication of Rome’s new political system. [25] As these monuments so vividly reveal, Augustus’ victory heralds the advent of a new, divinely sanctioned Golden Age of peace, prosperity, and moral rejuvenation hinging on a reconnection with Rome’s rural, georgic past, a return to the garden. The new age would also bring imperium sine fine ‘empire without end’ (Aeneid 1.279), a goal unambiguously achieved through force of arms. The new Golden Age’s diverse associations are, for instance, encoded in the iconography of the Ara Pacis and the Prima Porta statue. The former, embellished with a profusion of flora, is a templum to Peace and her promise of universal fecundity (Figure 18). At the same time, it is “a sacred precinct carved out of the Field of Mars” that functioned as part of a colossal sundial with an obelisk, itself signifying dominion over Egypt, for the needle. [26] The Prima Porta statue, in turn, is an honorific representation of the Princeps in his military role (Figure 19). On his cuirass, Mars, accompanied by the famous wolf, retrieves the Roman standards shamefully lost to Parthia, and East and West acquiesce in the new Roman world order, with Sky, Sun, Dawn, and the bountiful Earth bearing witness. [27] A true counterpart to the Ara Pacis, the Prima Porta statue was found within the terrace garden of the villa renowned for its paradise garden fresco and sacred laurel grove. [28] Both monuments, then, sought to wed pastoralism with righteous militarism.
Figure 18. Universal fecundity. Marble relief panel from the Ara Pacis Augustae: goddess variously identified as Tellus, Pax, and Roma. Rome, ca. 13 BCE. Photo, © Art Resource.
Also characterizing both monuments, a conscious strain of “Attic” Classicism is readily detectable in their polysemic nexus of styles. The famed Doryphoros, the embodiment of the Polykleitan ideal, provided the model for the Prima Porta Augustus, and the friezes of the Ara Pacis bear no small resemblance to the Parthenon’s Panathenaic procession. The referential appropriation of Classical Greek art manifested in the Augustan period was no mere by-product of Athens’ absorption into the Roman world. Rather, for Augustan “image-makers” such appropriation was “instrumental, a means of achieving an authoritative public presence” by virtue of emanating “the requisite conventions of nobility.” [29] It was both “an expression of Roman cultivated taste” and “an exploitation of its image value for purposes of idealization.” [30] In particular, High Classical Athenian works were regarded as “paradigms of a New Golden Age.” [31] It follows, then, that the language of Augustan monuments cast Rome in the role of fifth-century Athens and the Princeps in the role of Pericles. As great a marvel as Periclean Athens was, and while it set sights on Olympian heights, Athens’ was not an empire without end. By distancing itself too far from what was not actually “other” and misguidedly approximating divinity, Athens sealed its own fate; the Periclean utopia was precisely that, an inherently frangible construct. Ironically, it was Actium that spelled the end both of the Roman Republic and Hellenistic Athens. That city, beloved by Antony and wooed by his consort Cleopatra, would, in Habicht’s words, “face harsh times under its new masters and new status as part of the imperium Romanum, until Roman philhellenism reached a new peak under Hadrian and Antoninus Pius a century and a half later, granting it one more era of late bloom.” [32] If Periclean Athens rose anew in the heart of Rome from the ashes of the Republic, would it not be destined to fall again, the gleam of its marbles dulled, when baser instincts inevitably surfaced?
Figure 19. Sanguinary Golden Age. Marble sculpture: the Augustus of Prima Porta. Early 1st century CE, after bronze original of ca. 20 BCE. Found near the Villa of Livia, Prima Porta, now in the Musei Vaticani, inv. no. 2290. Photo, © Art Resource.
Students of Lucretius—Virgil certainly among their number—could not help but be somewhat skeptical of the Augustan effort to combine pastoral and Atticizing, “Periclean” urban ideals. How could they reconcile the nostalgic inscription of Nature with the belief that a godlike superiority would enable control over her? There is no reason to doubt that Virgil, together with a good part of the war-battered citizenry, earnestly hoped for the fruition of the Augustan promise, but the high degree of intertextual referentiality in the poet’s works compels acknowledgement of the works’ polyphony. [33] In this throng of voices, the versified sentiments of the numerous poets to whom Virgil’s texts allude, those of Lucretius and, through him, of the Garden are among the most resonant. In a given Virgilian text, the voice of Lucretius may be heard in verbal echoes and “borrowed” verses alike, and while it is useful to evaluate individual instances of imitation in terms of having an intertextually validating or polemical effect locally, nevertheless, all allusion to the De Rerum Natura ultimately presents the teachings of that text as “alternatives” worthy of consideration. In other words, the importance of employing Lucretius as a hermeneutic guide to the weighty questions Virgil raises regarding the viability of the Augustan take on rus in urbe cannot be undervalued. [34] This notion is underscored by the prominence of Lucretius within the multi-faceted parergonal framework of Aeneas’ shield.
It is worth recalling here the seduction of Vulcan that initiates the Shield’s production. As Virgil nowhere indicates that Aeneas requires new armor, this scene, evoking Thetis’ entreaty in the eighteenth book of the Iliad, is curiously unmotivated by the narrative. Its function is certainly to signal the over-arching Iliadic framework of the battle books, but the language in which the seduction is couched signals a still deeper meaning:
          dixerat et niveis hinc atque hinc diva lacertis
          cunctantem amplexu molli fovet. ille repente
          accepit solitam flammam, notusque medullas
390     intravit calor et labefacta per ossa cucurrit,
          non secus atque olim tonitru cum rupta corusco
          ignea rima micans percurrit lumine nimbos;
          sensit laeta dolis et formae conscia coniunx.
          tum pater aeterno fatur devinctus amore:
404     … ea verba locutus
          optatos dedit amplexus placidumque petivit
          coniugis infusus gremio per membra soporem.

          So she spoke, and with her snowy white arms, on this side and on that, did the goddess
          caress him in her soft embrace as he hesitated. Immediately did he
          receive the wonted flame, and his marrow did the familiar heat
390     penetrate and raced through his relenting bones.
          Not other than when sometimes, burst in gleaming thunder,
          a fiery crack flies flashing with light through the clouds;
          his spouse sensed it, rejoicing in her deceit and fully aware of her beauty.
          Then her lord spoke, vanquished with everlasting love:
404     … having spoken such words
          he gave the desired embraces and sought tranquil
          sleep throughout his limbs, draped in the lap of his wife.
Aeneid 8.387–406
The audience attuned to Virgil’s propensity for multi-layered allusion is prompted to relive the seduction of Mars with which Lucretius’ prayer to Venus closes:
          effice ut interea fera moenera militiai
30      per maria ac terras omnis sopita quiescant.
          nam tu sola potes tranquilla pace iuvare
          mortalis, quoniam belli fera moenera Mavors
          armipotens regit, in gremium qui saepe tuum se
          reicit aeterno devictus vulnere amoris,
35      atque ita suspiciens tereti cervice reposta
          pascit amore avidos inhians in te, dea, visus,
          eque tuo pendet resupini spiritus ore.
          hunc tu, diva, tuo recubantem corpore sancto
          circumfusa super, suavis ex ore loquelas
40      funde petens placidam Romanis, incluta, pacem.

          Bring it to pass, meanwhile, that the savage works of war,
30      over all the seas and lands, slumber and rest.
          For you alone, with tranquil peace, are able to help
          humankind, since the savage works of war does Mars,
          the strong in battle, control, he who often upon your lap himself
          has cast utterly vanquished by the eternal wound of love,
35      and thus, gazing up at you with his shapely neck turned back,
          feeds his yearning eyes with love, agape, goddess, at you,
          and his breath hangs from your lips as he lies back.
          May you, goddess, as he reclines upon your hallowed body,
          enfolding him from above, from your lips sweet utterances
40      pour forth, celebrated one, seeking tranquil peace for the Romans.
De Rerum Natura 1.29–40
In both scenes the male deity readily succumbs to the goddess’ advances, and in both he is utterly subdued, defeated, by the “wound of love.” [35] Unlike her Lucretian counterpart, however, Virgil’s Venus seduces her mate not to put an end to war but to promote it, being the means by which Rome’s destiny would be won. The painful irony of Virgil’s allusion is underscored by the fact that the Lucretian Venus is asked to seek a tranquil and lasting peace, not simply an undisturbed sleep. [36] Virgil’s application of yet another Lucretian parergon, an empirical discourse on “Jovian” thunder and lightening, further heightens this irony, as it is Jove (denied even his thunder by Lucretius) whom the Aeneid presents as the guarantor of Roman glory. [37] From an Epicurean perspective, the destiny of Rome rested instead in its own hands, in the recognition of a collective global destiny. Such, then, is the introduction to Virgil’s Shield, an introduction that the ecphrastic verses admonish the audience to acknowledge in the course of interpretation.
It is that “most famous of all Rome’s pictorial emblems,” Romulus and Remus suckled by the she-wolf, with which Virgil commences his description of Vulcan’s wondrous creation: [38]
fecerat et viridi fetam Mavortis in antro
procubuisse lupam, geminos huic ubera circum
ludere pendentis pueros et lambere matrem
impavidos, illam tereti cervice reflexa
mulcere alternos et corpora fingere lingua.

He had fashioned also the mother wolf in Mars’ green cavern
reclining, and about her teats the twin
boys playfully hanging and mouthing their mother
fearlessly, [while] she, her shapely neck turned back,
caressed them in turn and licked their bodies into shape with her tongue.
Aeneid 8.630–634
Here the twin sons of Mars and Venus enjoy salvation from the threat of death at human hands. Fearlessly—the word is emphatically positioned—they nurse, “hang playfully about her teats” (Aeneid 8.631–632), as the mother wolf, now their mother, licks them tenderly in the welcome shelter of her verdant cave; only an external threat is likely to rouse this noble creature to a display of violence. A more idyllic or suitable beginning for an exposition of Rome’s destiny would be difficult to imagine. At this juncture, with Rome’s foundations grounded in harmonious Nature, the inclusion and retention of rus in Urbe would appear a natural development and a constant reminder of the city’s pastoral origins. In due recognition of its primal sanctity, Augustus, the City’s second Romulus, refurbished the wolf’s cave below the Palatine. Yet the multifaceted parergonal resonances within Virgil’s idyllic scene ripple the ideological canvas enough to blur its optimistically providential clarity, the effect of the subtle reappearance of the Lucretian seduction in the figure of the wolf: her smooth neck, like that of Lucretius’ love-struck Mars, turned back in a loving glance (tereti cervice reflexa, Aeneid 8.633). [39] This same effect occurs from the Shield’s intertextual echo of the praises of country life with which the second Georgic closes:
          interea dulces pendent circum oscula nati,
          casta pudicitiam servat domus, ubera vaccae
525     lactea demittunt, pinguesque in gramine laeto
          inter se adversis luctantur cornibus haedi.
          ipse dies agitat festos fususque per herbam,
          ignis ubi in medio et socii cratera coronant,
          te libans, Lenaee, vocat pecorisque magistris
530    velocis iaculi certamina ponit in ulmo,
          corporaque agresti nudant praedura palaestra.

          Meanwhile his sweet children hang about his kisses,
          his chaste house preserves its purity, udders do his
525     cows suspend full of milk, and in the thick grass, his fat
          kids spar with horns turned against each other.
          The master himself celebrates holidays, and lying in the grass
          where there is a fire in the middle and his friends wreathe the bowls of wine,
          pouring libation to you, Lenaeus, he calls upon you, and for herdsmen
530     he sets up targets on an elm for the contest of the flying javelin,
          and they bare their robust bodies for the rustic wrestling match.
Georgics 2.523–531
In the Georgics it is the farmer’s children who embrace their parent. They hang from his neck, showering him with grateful kisses, as it is his considerable, often less than gentle efforts, coordinated with the rhythms of Nature, that ensure the sustenance of homeland, family, and flocks. [40] Some form of violence may be part and parcel of agriculture, but it is in working the land that violence must stay. In this way rivalries could remain amicable, taking the form of sport. The farmer’s mode of life, marked by a Saturnian Golden Age innocence, was embraced by the Sabines as well as by Remus and his brother. Farming also offered the essentially pacifistic lifestyle that fortified Etruria and the walls of Rome:
          hanc olim veteres vitam coluere Sabini,
          hanc Remus et frater; sic fortis Etruria crevit
          scilicet et rerum facta est pulcherrima Roma,
535     septemque una sibi muro circumdedit arces.
          ante etiam sceptrum Dictaei regis et ante
          impia quam caesis gens est epulata iuvencis,
          aureus hanc vitam in terris Saturnus agebat;
          necdum etiam audierant inflari classica, necdum
540     impositos duris crepitare incudibus ensis.

          Such a life the Sabines of old once lived,
          such Remus and his brother, thus Etruria grew strong
          indeed, and so Rome became the fairest thing of all,
535     and as one city surrounded her seven hills with a wall.
          Even before the sovereignty of the Dictaean king and before
          an impious race feasted on slaughtered bullocks,
          such a life did Saturn lead on Earth;
          nor yet had people heard the trumpet calls be sounded, nor yet
540     sword blades ring out when placed upon hard anvils.
Georgics 2.532–540
The Shield, and the Aeneid as a whole, discloses the truth behind such noble fiction. Romulus and Remus, their young lives put at risk by the strife existing between their father and his brother, ultimately did not heed the lesson of the Lupercal. Instead they re-enacted and amplified their human legacy. Though both were herdsmen and wards of the goodly Faustulus, and therefore innately equipped to live a harmonious pastoral life, they followed in the footsteps of Aeneas’ Trojans: murderous discord attended, and followed, the erection of Rome’s walls. Remus did not survive to see the walls completed; the rape, sine more ‘in defiance of civilized behavior’ (Aeneid 8.635), of the Sabine women marked not the end but the beginning of centuries of blood shed in Rome’s struggle with its Italian brothers. The fleeting truce between Aeneas and Latinus and the rent body of Mettus vividly illustrate that what once was whole or sealed can all too easily be broken. [41] The flesh of the treacherous Alban befouled the forest, his blood spattering the foliage in place of morning’s welcome dew (Aeneid 8.644–645), but it was neither the first nor last indignity the innocent woods and fields would suffer as Rome inscribed its territory.
So, with an “in-organic,” misplaced display of violence, the Trojan prince ignites rural passions (Aeneid 7.482) and thereby prompts a harvest not of grain but of swords (Aeneid 7.526). He has violated a special bond between humanity and the natural environment that predated his arrival, described by Latinus as a “pre-lapsarian, pre-Trojan Eden,” and through his errant intervention, the “latent violence of man and nature is tugged to the surface and made the paramount motivator of events.” [42] The shooting of Silvia’s stag, a wild creature domesticated yet retaining still its soul-sustaining freedom, plants the seed of discord. [43] This stag had been emblematic of the Latins’ ideal harmony in Nature. [44] Now shepherds no longer recline on grassy riverbanks but, bearing the dead, stream into Latinus’ city in great floods. Ironically, one of the shepherds’ own is responsible: Aeneas, disrupting the primal Latin harmony, had been cast as a second Paris (Aeneid 7.363), that Phrygian pastor who most immediately prompted the demise of his own city. Ominously, Troy ultimately fell as the result of an affront to the natural order, its walls penetrated by a massive horse pregnant, not with foal or filly, but with hostile arms (feta armis, Aeneid 2.238), a perversion of georgic arts.
Herdsmen, embodying a timeless humanity, are no less susceptible to the violent impulses that pervade the Cosmos than any other beast. While, as Lucretius argues, they provide a direct link to a pre-urban age of greater global harmony, shepherds may also “introduce violence or become its conduit.” [45] With Paris and Aeneas as models, is it any wonder that the pastor Romulus slew his brother at the inception of the urban effort? Aeneas, after all, had slain his Italian “brother” Turnus. Would Augustus deviate from the path established by Aeneas and Romulus, his models, in some aspects yet not in others? Would he be a good shepherd, or turn against the countryside that sustained both the city and the rural populace?
Aeneas, the new Paris, is also the ignorant pastor whose arrow mortally wounds the doe-queen of Carthage (Aeneid 4.69–73) as that city’s walls are rising. Upon his arrival Aeneas marvels at the new Tyrian urban effort. What once had been a cluster of herdsmen’s huts is now an impressive mass of buildings linked by roads and in the process of fortification through mural inscription (Aeneid 1.421–425). [46] At this critical juncture, the balance between creativity and violence is upset by the ignorant shepherd Aeneas. The Tyrians had been likened to an industrious swarm of bees tending their young, gathering honey, and, indeed, resorting to military action when necessary, yet they abandon their noble tasks as their doe queen, infuriated by the pastor’s errant dart, introduces a grim sylvan bacchanal into a nascent urban space unsuited to its nefarious excesses (Aeneid 4.300–303). Pastor Aeneas in his error repeats the transgression of the Georgicspastor Aristaeus (Georgics 4.317), pastor Apollo’s son, who in ignorance has destroyed his once flourishing colony of bees and, in the process, the fine balance between creativity and violence embodied by Orpheus. [47] Through Aristaeus’ error, Orphic powers are perverted and the natural order reversed, in this case through the return, albeit briefly, of departed life. In the end, an impassioned Orpheus becomes, like Dido, the victim (in Orpheus’ case, literally) of a corrupted bacchanal, its celebrants possessed by their god in his most brutal incarnation. The laying of its walls is a critically vulnerable point in a city’s history, considering that the nature of the wall, its physical or ideological permeability, reflects the extent to which its architects wish to separate themselves from the environment. Romulus and Remus, herdsmen both, did not learn from Carthage or from Troy, its fate sealed when the hubristic Laomedon refused payment to Neptune and Apollo for the building of the Trojan walls. In his deficiency as a mentor, pater Aeneas, who should have learned from Dido’s Carthage and from Troy, fails his sons no less than Daedalus failed Icarus when the latter plied his waxen wings in flight. [48]
Apollo, Dido, and Dionysus all, either literally or symbolically, play a part in the Actian tableau, and therefore reside at the heart of Virgil’s Shield. On the surface, the iconography of the scene is clear enough: Apollo, the god of light and clarity, has arrived in support of Augustus, Agrippa, and the Olympian host in their cosmic struggle against Antony, Cleopatra, and the monstrous, hybrid deities of the barbarian East. The outcome will be world dominion for Augustus and victory for the forces of light over darkness, good over evil, and restraint over excess. But nothing is quite what it seems, and hermeneutic clarity is merely an illusion. As “world” conqueror, particularly of the East, Augustus would have been associated, or even identified, with Alexander. This the final image on the Shield reveals (Aeneid 8.728); here Augustus has restrained the indignant Araxes, its expanse once straddled by Alexander. However, it was primarily Antony who modeled himself after Alexander’s image. [49] Suddenly the distinction between Augustus and his great rival is blurred. Alexander, in turn, had represented himself as a new incarnation of Achilles, from whom he was allegedly descended, and of Dionysus, with whose orgiastic cult his snake-handling mother was particularly enamored. On the Shield, Antony, as consort of Cleopatra-Isis, has been cast as Osiris-Dionysus, but if Augustus is Alexander, he is likewise Dionysus, the (potentially) disorderly fraternal counterpart to the orderly Apollo. [50] Further, if Augustus is on any level a second Aeneas, he is also closely linked to, and indeed momentously affects the fate of, an Eastern queen who has a deep relationship with the land. So thoroughly is Cleopatra identified with her native landscape that she is shown on the Shield as retreating into the Nile’s embrace (Aeneid 8.711–713). The mighty river, deeply distraught, offers the vanquished queen the protection that might have been expected of a “moral” Roman conqueror. Cleopatra is meant to recall Dido, confirmed by the tag “blanching at her imminent death” (pallida/pallentem morte futura), applied to both as they are sacrificed to the Roman cause. [51] In facing Cleopatra, Augustus(-Aeneas) assumes the role both of nescius ‘ignorant’ pastor and of Apollo wrongfully pursuing his sister, since Dido, pursued by Aeneas(-Apollo), is herself likened to Diana, goddess of wild places. [52] In the assumption of either role, Augustus upsets a sacred balance. As Aeneas and Alexander, Augustus is also Achilles encountering his Penthesileia, the value of her life recognized too late. The snare of associations linking and subversively interchanging the actors within the Actium tableau is staggeringly dense, and a picture emerges that Aeneas is perhaps fortunate not to have comprehended. In his battle against Antony, Augustus will ultimately kill his Roman brother, true, in this sense, to the legacy of Romulus. In so doing, Augustus, issuing directly from Aeneas’ line, will have turned Troy against itself. This much is implied by the quotation of Ennius’ Andromache in the description of Antony’s forces, a reminder that empire and riches would not suffice to save a second Troy: [53]
O pater, o patria: o Priami domus,
Saeptum altisono cardine templum,
Vidi ego te adstantem ope barbarica
Tectis caelatis laqueatis
Auro ebore instructam regifice.
Haec omnia vidi inflammari,
Priamo vi vitam evitari,
Iovis aram sanguine turpari.

O father, o fatherland, o house of Priam,
sanctuary protected with hinge sounding on high;
I have seen you stand tall with barbarian wealth,
with embossed, paneled ceilings,
with gold, with ivory fitted regally.
All this I saw go up in flames,
the life from Priam by force removed,
Jove’s altar with blood defiled.
Andromache Fragment 5.92–99 [54]
Further, by presenting the Actian battle as parallel to battles between the Gods and Giants or Greeks and Amazon queens, the ecphrasis moves dangerously close to the iconographic program of the Parthenon, Augustus closer to Pericles. How could Augustus hope to duplicate or surpass the imperialistic feats of Pericles and Alexander while simultaneously advocating pastoralism and the georgic mode? How could cattle slaughtered by the triumphator be reconciled with a bloodless Golden Age? Miraculously, it was somehow possible in Evander’s “Rome,” but unlikely under a Romulean principate. This the characteristically succinct and polished Tibullus confirms: [55]
          Romulus aeternae nondum formaverat urbis
          moenia, consorti non habitanda Remo;
25      sed tunc pascebant herbosa Palatia vaccae
          et stabant humiles in Iovis arce casae.
          lacte madens illic suberat Pan ilicis umbrae
          et facta agresti lignea falce Pales,
          pendebatque vagi pastoris in arbore votum,
30      garrula silvestri fistula sacra deo,
          fistula cui semper decrescit harundinis ordo:
          nam calamus cera iungitur usque minor …
55      carpite nunc, tauri, de septem montibus herbas
          dum licet: hic magnae iam locus urbis erit.

          Of the eternal city had Romulus not yet traced
          the walls, destined not be inhabited by his brother Remus;
25      but then cows still grazed on a grassy Palatine
          and humble huts stood on Jove’s height.
          Dripping with milk, there was Pan beneath the shadow of the ilex
          and Pales fashioned in wood by a rustic’s knife,
          and on the tree hung the roaming herdsman’s offering,
30      a warbling pipe sacred to the sylvan god,
          a pipe whose array of reeds becomes smaller bit by bit;
          for each reed is joined with wax to a smaller…
55      Graze the grass now, bullocks, from the seven hills
          while you may; this will soon be the site of a great city.
Tibullus 2.5.23–56
In his view, there would be no cattle grazing and no shepherds piping in the Forum or on the Seven Hills after the construction of Rome’s walls.
While it is true that Virgil raises many questions about the viability of Augustan utopics, he does not retreat without providing answers for his audience. As the Shield and its textual frame, pervaded by Lucretian resonances, reveal, the key to rus in urbe lies at the heart of Rome. This key comprises the Lupercal, the grotto of Faunus-Lupercus at the foot of the Palatine, and the fig tree, identified with the Ficus Ruminalis, that was grouped with a sacred olive and vine in the Roman Forum. [56] Both the Lupercal and the Ficus provided shade and shelter for the twins and their lupine mother, and both memorialized a moment in Rome’s history in which a balance in Nature had been achieved. They were testimony of the common origins of all life, of beasts human and “wild.” The language in the Shield’s description of the Lupercal is, once again, telling:
fecerat et viridi fetam Mavortis in antro
procubuisse lupam, geminos huic ubera circum
ludere pendentis pueros et lambere matrem
impavidos, illam tereti cervice reflexa
mulcere alternos et corpora fingere lingua.

He had fashioned also the mother wolf in Mars’ green cavern
reclining, and about her teats the twin
boys playfully hanging and mouthing their mother
fearlessly, [while] she, her shapely neck turned back,
caressed them in turn and licked their bodies into shape with her tongue.
Aeneid 8.630–634
This verdant cavern recalls another, which once sheltered the Eclogues’ dispossessed herdsman Meliboeus: [57]
ite meae, felix quondam pecus, ite capellae.
non ego vos posthac viridi proiectus in antro
dumosa pendere procul de rupe videbo;
carmina nulla canam; non me pascente, capellae,
florentem cytisum et salices carpetis amaras.

Go along now my once fortunate flock, go my goats.
You, hereafter, I, reclining in a green cavern, will not
see hanging in the distance from a thorny crag.
No songs will I sing; not with me pasturing you, my goats,
will you graze the flowering clover and bitter willow.
Eclogue 1.74–78
A casualty of the Triumvirs’ land confiscations, Meliboeus will lose his lands to a soldier whom he describes as impious and barbarian, “impious” because he fought in a civil war, “barbarian” not because he is a foreigner but because he is a “brutal, bloodstained soldier” displacing a civilian from an inherently pacifistic and moral pastoral existence. [58]
The Eclogues advocate a gentler form of landscape inscription than Meliboeus’ nemesis, steeped in the arts of war, represents. Militarism here is barbarian and “other,” a thing to be excluded, and it is associated with the City. However, the first Eclogue also presents Rome, together with its First Citizen, as a “divine” source of salvation for the Italian countryside, its native arts, and its inhabitants. [59] Rather than imperialism and civil war, acts such as the restoration of Tityrus’ land, based on a true understanding of humanity’s place in Nature, are what will approximate Octavian to divinity. At this juncture, the pendulum can swing either way; Rome has reached a critical point in its evolution, having grown and evolved to such an extent that the herdsman Tityrus cannot immediately relate to it:
Urbem quam dicunt Romam, Meliboee, putavi
stultus ego huic nostrae similem, quo saepe solemus
pastores ovium teneros depellere fetus.
sic canibus catulos similes, sic matribus haedos
noram, sic parvis componere magna solebam.

The city that they call Rome, Meliboeus, I thought,
foolishly, to be like this village of ours, where often we
herdsmen are wont to drive the tender offspring of our sheep.
Thus I knew puppies are like dogs, thus kids like their mothers,
thus I used to compare large with small.
Eclogue 1.19–23
The City is in danger of losing its pastoral roots as it forges a new order. To preserve its pastoral underpinnings, that new order must not duplicate the ideals of Classical Athens, that magnificent exemplar of urbanism:
… Pallas quas condidit arces
ipsa colat; nobis placeant ante omnia silvae.

… the citadel that she has founded, let Pallas
herself inhabit; to us may forests above all give pleasure.
Eclogue 2.61–62
Rome’s utopian ideal, rus in urbe, will remain within grasp as long as Rome cherishes the lessons of the Lupercal and the shady Ficus. Both wolf and shade, like every other part of Nature, can be threatening or destructive, but are more likely to be so if approached in ignorance, if abused, or if misunderstood. So Dido regretfully laments her exposure to the Trojans’ brand of exclusive urbanism:
non licuit thalami expertem sine crimine vitam
degere more ferae, talis nec tangere curas;

It was not permitted me a life free from the marriage bed, untainted,
to lead, like a beast in the wild, and to experience not such agonies;
Aeneid 4.550–551
As long recognized, the essence of her sentiments is Epicurean. [60] Accordingly, her urban sensibility is fundamentally “inclusive,” as the topography of her city, which is built around a densely shaded grove (lucus in urbe fuit media, laetissimus umbrae ‘in the midst of the city was a grove abounding in shade’, Aeneid 1.441), suggests. Tityrus in his good fortune is able to experience the benefits of inclusive urbanism as he reclines in the shade of a spreading beech playing his rustic flute amid the modest, but sufficient, bounty of his fields:
          (Meliboeus): Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi
2        silvestrem tenui Musam meditaris avena; …
79      (Tityrus): Hic tamen hanc mecum poteras requiescere noctem
          fronde super viridi: sunt nobis mitia poma,
          castaneae molles et pressi copia lactis …

          (Meliboeus): Tityrus, you lying at ease under the cover of a spreading beech,
2         practice the woodland Muse on your slender reed; …
79       (Tityrus): Here, nevertheless, you could rest this night with me
          upon the green grass; we have ripe apples,
          mealy chestnuts, and an abundance of pressed cheese …
Eclogue 1.1–2, 79–81
The phrase “woodland Muse” (silvestrem Musam, Eclogue 1.2), which echoes Lucretius, betrays that the otium he has secured from the benign iuvenis ‘youth’ is Epicurean. [61] In fact, the situation of Tityrus replicates that happy state ascribed by the Epicurean poet to humanity at the time when music and poetry were born. [62] The otium enjoyed by both Tityrus and Lucretius’ “primitive” humanity depends on the availability of sufficient food and upon the possibility of relaxation and restoration, both mental and physical, under the shady cover of trees. In other words, it depends upon immersing oneself in the delights of the locus amoenus and embracing the landscapes of which one necessarily, biologically, forms a part. Virgil’s brand of pastoral otium, then, has much in common with ataraxy, the Epicurean utopian ideal. The opportunity of achieving this ideal is presented to Aeneas upon his arrival on Latin shores. The Lucretian resonances within Virgil’s description tell us this much: now the Trojans recline beneath the limbs of a lofty tree and spread their humble feast upon the grass:
Aeneas primique duces et pulcher Iulus
corpora sub ramis deponunt arboris altae,
instituuntque dapes et adorea liba per herbam
subiciunt epulis (sic Iuppiter ipse monebat)
et Cereale solum pomis agrestibus augent.

Aeneas and his chief captains and fair Iulus
recline their bodies beneath the branches of a lofty tree
and set up the meal on the grass and spelt wafers
do they place beneath the food—Jove himself advised them—
and heap their wheaten plates with the produce of the countryside.
Aeneid 7.107–110
This would prove to be but a fleeting moment of harmony. Soon the Trojans would fall victim to destructive passions, and their descendants would follow suit. [63] Again and again the sons of Aeneas rush to arms.
Judging from the substance of his works, Virgil believed in the resourcefulness of the human beast, and however grim the ending of the Aeneid, he was no pessimist, at least no more so than Lucretius, whose epic closes in a similar vein. In each case the ending is, above all, cautionary rather than prophetic. Both endings disclose a fundamental truth about utopian visions: as their socio-political frame changes with the passage of time, utopian visions may become obsolete. [64] Homer’s utopian vision, born with the polis itself, was not suitable for crisis-ridden Rome. Rus in urbe, the quasi-Epicurean ideal that emerged from an urban milieu, could never be reconciled with it.


[ back ] 1. Frank 1922:141.
[ back ] 2. For the sake of conceptual clarity I have referred to a single artist, though fully aware of the likelihood of both the involvement of multiple hands and the influence of the patron.
[ back ] 3. The journey is nostalgic in the sense that it is literally driven by painful yearning (algos) for homecoming (nostos).
[ back ] 4. Clausen 1994:xix.
[ back ] 5. Williams 1982:336.
[ back ] 6. Pollan 2001:xxv.
[ back ] 7. Bailey 1931:21–22 says of the anecdote (which is drawn from Donatus’ Life of Virgil) that, regardless of its truth, “there can hardly be anywhere in literary biography a more direct suggestion of the falling of the poet’s mantle.”
[ back ] 8. As argued in Giesecke 1999b:11.
[ back ] 9. Pollan 2001:xxv.
[ back ] 10. For recent critical and comprehensive discussions of the role of Venus in the De Rerum Natura, see Gale 1994:208–288 and Jenkyns 1998:214–292.
[ back ] 11. De Rerum Natura 1.271–294.
[ back ] 12. De Rerum Natura 2.606–607, 1144–1145.
[ back ] 13. De Rerum Natura 1.29–37.
[ back ] 14. De Rerum Natura 1.208–212.
[ back ] 15. De Rerum Natura 5.1302–1349. On the “use and abuse of animals,” see Shelton 1996, from whose title this quoted phrase is taken, and also Gale 1991.
[ back ] 16. The interpretations of Bright 1971, Commager 1957, Penwill 1996, and Stoddard 1996 have all informed my understanding of Lucretius’ Athenian plague.
[ back ] 17. The frangibility of utopia was noted by Goodman 2003.
[ back ] 18. This is indicated by the reappearance of the locus amoenus in the so-called anthropology at De Rerum Natura 5.1392–1396. For a fuller discussion, see Giesecke 1999b (especially 5–9).
[ back ] 19. See Schama 1995:6–16 and passim.
[ back ] 20. For further presentation of the text as ergon and intertexts as parerga reifying and directing the interpretation of the allusive (ergonal) text, see Giesecke 2002:127–148. Instances of Virgilian verbal imitation of the De Rerum Natura in the Eclogues and Aeneid have been catalogued in Giesecke 2000:183–192. For discussion of the presence of Lucretius in the Georgics, see, for instance: Bailey 1931, Farrell 1991, Gale 2000, Horsfall 1995:82–83, Mynors 1990, Nethercut 1973, Vallillee 1968, Wigodsky 1972, and Wöhler 1876:1–21.
[ back ] 21. This is also noted in Suerbaum 1993. For explicit reminders that the Trojans issue originally from Italy, see Aeneid 3.94–96 and Aeneid 7.206–208.
[ back ] 22. This diagram is a critical response to that of West 1990:298. The Shield of Aeneas is an unambiguous representation of Rome envisioned in terms of its inscription of the world by means of war; violence lies at Rome’s heart if the city’s history is to be viewed as culminating with Octavian’s triple triumph after the Battle of Actium. The powers of the East (Antony and Cleopatra) are juxtaposed here with the powers of the West (Octavian and Agrippa)—the “barbarian,” effeminate, Near East with Rome. Romulus and Remus, together with the Sabines, have been graphically aligned with the powers of the West, and Tarquin, together with Mettus, with the powers of the East. On the Shield’s rim, where Homer had depicted Ocean, I have shown all Rome’s wars fought in order, pugnata in ordine bella (Aeneid 8.629), the means by which Rome violently inscribed the entire Earth, the swelling sea included.
[ back ] 23. See Williams 1973:265–266 for a summation the Shield’s main scenes and themes.
[ back ] 24. Zetzel 1997:199.
[ back ] 25. For a concise survey of the Augustan political/cultural program and its physical manifestations, see Wallace-Hadrill 1993.
[ back ] 26. Galinsky 1996:142. For fuller discussions of the iconography of the Ara Pacis, see the following: Castriota 1995, Elsner 1995:192–209, Galinsky 1996:139–155, Simon 1968, and Zanker 1988: passim.
[ back ] 27. See Galinsky 1996:155–164, where it is remarked that Sol is to be identified with Apollo, Aurora with Venus, and Tellus with Ceres, Pax, Venus, and the Magna Mater. See also Elsner 1995:161–172.
[ back ] 28. For Augustus’ personal arboreal mythology and the prevalence of the laurel at this estate, see Kellum 1994. If it is true, as Klynne and Liljenstolpe 2000 propose, that the statue was originally situated in the atrium rather than the terrace, the fact remains that the statue would have formed part of an iconographic “program” extending throughout the villa and its grounds.
[ back ] 29. Brilliant 1994:110.
[ back ] 30. Brilliant 1994:107.
[ back ] 31. Brilliant 1994:97.
[ back ] 32. Habicht 1997:365.
[ back ] 33. On the polyphony of the Virgilian texts, see Lyne 1987.
[ back ] 34. Among the critics who view the hermeneutic complexity of Virgil as resulting from his posing questions rather than providing answers are Gale 2000, O’Hara 1994, and Perkell 2002.
[ back ] 35. De Rerum Natura 1.34 ~ Aeneid 8.394.
[ back ] 36. As I have noted briefly in a previous discussion: Giesecke 2000:76–77.
[ back ] 37. The parergonal passage in question is De Rerum Natura 6.279–395. The following contain verbal echoes that signal the parergon’s application: Aeneid 8.390–392 ~ De Rerum Natura 6.282–284.
[ back ] 38. Williams 1973:267 ad loc.
[ back ] 39. As in De Rerum Natura 1.35 cited above.
[ back ] 40. See also Georgics 2.514–515.
[ back ] 41. For the treaty between Aeneas and Latinus, see Aeneid 12.166ff.
[ back ] 42. Putnam 1998:102.
[ back ] 43. The “seeds of discord” is a reference to Aeneid 7.339.
[ back ] 44. As Putnam 1998:100 persuasively argues, and, similarly, Vance 1981 on the thematic import of Silvia’s stag. Moorton (1989), by contrast, views Italy even prior to Aeneas’ arrival as post-lapsarian and predisposed towards violence.
[ back ] 45. Chew 2002:625.
[ back ] 46. On the identification of the Tyrian magalia as shepherds’ huts, see Austin 1971:146 ad loc.
[ back ] 47. With regard to Apollo as pastor, I am referring to his experience as a shepherd in the service of Admetus. Here, Orpheus’ musicality, his ability to mimic Nature, is viewed primarily as a means to achieve a “perfect” harmony therein—similarly Bradley 1969. For the more common focus on Orpheus as a poet and his music/poetry as overly-sentimental, potentially subversive, excessively individualistic, sterile, and antiquated in Octavian’s new world order, see for example Conte 2001, Gale 2003, Habinek 1990, and Perkell 2001:38–39. The perversion of Orphic powers and reversal of the natural order occur when Orpheus succeeds, albeit briefly, in recalling Eurydice from the dead by virtue of the power of his song.
[ back ] 48. On the failure of Daedalus, see Putnam’s reading (1998:81–82) of the ecphrasis at Aeneid 6.14–37.
[ back ] 49. On Augustus and Antony as Alexander, see Gruen 1985:68–69.
[ back ] 50. See Weber 2002 (especially 338), who in this piece stresses Aeneas’ own Dionysian associations.
[ back ] 51. See Putnam 1998:148. Aeneid 4.644 ~ Aeneid 8.709.
[ back ] 52. On the similes in which Aeneas and Dido are likened to Apollo and Diana respectively, see Clausen 1987:15–25.
[ back ] 53. The reference is noted by Conington 1883:153 ad loc.
[ back ] 54. The text is from Vahlen’s 1903 Teubner edition.
[ back ] 55. Tibullus is described by Quintilian (10.1.93) as tersus atque elegans. The Tibullan reference is suggested by Eigler 2002:292.
[ back ] 56. On plantings in the Forum, see Andreae 1996:21–22.
[ back ] 57. Putnam 1998:182 makes the connection.
[ back ] 58. See Clausen 1994:58 ad loc.
[ back ] 59. The reference here is to lines 6–8 of the first Eclogue: O Meliboee, deus nobis haec otia fecit./ namque erit ille mihi semper deus, illius aram/ saepe tener nostris ab ovilibus imbuet agnus. “O Meliboeus, a god has created this peace for me;/ for indeed to me that man will always be a god, his altar/ often will a young lamb from our folds stain.”
[ back ] 60. See Clausen 1987:49.
[ back ] 61. De Rerum Natura 4.589: fistula silvestrem ne cesset fundere musam ‘lest the pipe cease to pour forth the woodland Muse.’
[ back ] 62. De Rerum Natura 5.1386–1396.
[ back ] 63. See Johnson 2001 and Lyne 1983 on Virgil’s politics of war and the Roman legacy of hostility.
[ back ] 64. Their essentially static nature is what Hansot 1974:9–10 presents as the key difference between Classical and modern utopias, for the latter “attempt to make change an integral part of utopian reality” (10).