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Virgil and the Conquest of Chaos1

  • N.M. Horsfall (a1)


The hunt for Virgil’s sources has been, by unspoken agreement among Latinists, largely abandoned. This regrettable development may in part have been a by-product of the justifiable revulsion against the excesses of Quellenforschung as practised c. 1880-c. 1930 (everyone read Posidonius and Varro; no-one else was read), in part by the opening of alluring new vistas in Virgilian studies, where apparent progress might be made without the need of painstaking consultation of HRR,GRF,FGH,FHG and similar collections. It has therefore escaped notice that just as the detailed examination of Virgil’s use of Homer (Knauer, Die Aeneis und Homer) or even of the Homer scholia (Schlunk, Virgil and the Homeric Scholia) can lead to immensely valuable advances in our understanding of the poet’s compositional techniques, so the survey of Virgil’s prose sources and the analysis of how he handles the material available to him can be employed to precisely comparable ends. It is the purpose of this paper to indicate some ways in which such a survey may be put into effect.



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2 Cf. Guillemin 47 who speaks specifically of the ‘chaos’ of contradictory legends.

3 Of rare Greek stories in Virgil, I give four examples: elements in the tale of Laocoon (Austin on 2.95);ion Orpheus, see Bowra, , CQ 1952, 113 ff.,Wilkinson, Georgics of Virgil (Cambridge 1969), 116 ff.; on 7.304, see Horsfall, CR 29 (1979), 222; Troilus: see Austin on 1.474. A certain delight in lesser-known versions emerges.

4 Sanders, H.A.CPh 3 (1908), 317 ff.;Horsfall, , CQ 24 (1974), 111 ff.

5 Sanders, H.A. in Roman History, Sources and Institutions (New York 1904), 1 ff.;Horsfall, in CJ 76 (1981), forthcoming.

6 For Imagines, see Horsfall, Anc. Soc. (Macquarie) 10(1980), 20 ff.; for de gente, id.,C et M 30 (1969), 299 and CR 28 (1978), 356 f.; de fam. tro., see Bartelink, G.J.M.Etymologisering bij Vergilius (Amsterdam 1965), 63 n. 1. Use of the de vita and of res hum. 2 and 8 is not, so far as I know, provable, just highly likely.

7 Horsfall, Prudentia 8 (1976), 77 f.

8 Boas, H.Aeneas’ Arrival in Latium (Amsterdam 1938), 27 ff.

9 Fordyce (ad loc.) is right to insist that Virgil’s source for the Italian leaders was not alphabetical, against Daly, L.W.AJPh 84(1963), 68 f.; res hum. 11, moreover, was not a list of people, nor was the book’s arrangement geographical (Reitzenstein, R.Hermes 20 [1885], 534).

10 Asilas: cf. Sil. 8.445; in Picene country. Cf. Holland, L.A.AJPh 56 (1935), 202 ff.Saunders, C.TAPhA 71 (1940), 544 ff. Names familiar from legends other than that of Aeneas are an extreme case: for Aero ‘the Greek’ at 10.719, see Horsfall, JRS 63 (1973), 69 n. 11.

11 Cf.H.A., HarrisPVS 8 (1968–9), 14 ff.

12 E.g. that at Dodona; cf.Horsfall, CQ 29 (1979), 378; likewise, Lloyd 384 on Arcadia.

13 Gnom. 47 (1975), 363. Through Miss Tilly’s recent death, we have lost a passionate and perceptive student of Virgil, a real lover of Italy and a true friend; this article should be taken as a tribute to her memory.

14 Heinze, R.Vergils epische Technik3 (Leipzig1928), 172 ff., cf. 340 ff.

15 One might refer also to the technique of hinting at a name by means of etymological play; for 7.182, cf. Bartelink (n. 6 above), 61 f.

16 Cf. Harrison, E.L.CPh 65 (1970), 241 ff.

17 Cf. Guillemin 60 ff.; see Horsfall, CQ 29 (1979), 381 f. for the widespread story of the burning of the ships, located by Virgil in Sicily.

18 Cf.Karl Galinsky, G.Aeneas, Sicily and Rome (Princeton 1969), 49; but see Horsfall, CQ 29 (1979), 384, 386.

19 Cf. TLL 7.1.1708.73; Fordyce characteristically misses the antiquarian point. This whole area of Virgilian allusion has been, up till now, barely explored. I have given, therefore, a rather wider range of instances.

20 There is no certainty, though, that Naev. Bell. Pun. fr. 23 silvicolae homines bellique inertes refers to Latium (see e.g. Bell. Pun. ed. Strzelecki [1959], 63 f.).

21 So elsewhere too Virgil alludes to the warlike condition of early Latium (cf. 8. 146 ff., 492 ff.; 9.603 ff.); this latter conception seems to have been widely attested: Liv. 1.1.5; D.H. 1.57.2; O.G.R. 13.1.

22 Laurentes too, 11.909; 12.240; see Carcopino, J.Virgile et les origines d’Ostie2 (Paris 1968), 245 f.: they are irrelevant to this discussion.

23 D.H. 1.43, etc.: see Schwegler, Römische Geschichte (Tübingen 1867), 1.405, 216 n. 21, etc.

24 Schwegler 1.214 ff.; Wissowa, G., Religion und Kultus2 (München 1912), 66.

25 Of which the most striking and familiar aspect is Virgil’s entirely original vision of events in Latium in Homeric terms: Knauer, G.N.GRBS 5 (1964), 61 ff.; for example, the familiar Lavinia of the antiquarian tradition acquired the roles — in part — both of Helen and Penelope: Knauer, Aeneis u. Homer 327 ff., 343.

26 Aug. CD 6.3;Macr. 3.16.12; Ritter, R.diss. Phil. Halenses 14.4(Halle 1901); Rehm, op. cit. 84 ff. (a brilliant discussion).

27 Aetia fr. 190; cf.Horsfall, JRS 65 (1975), 228 f. and CR 29 (1979), 223.

28 Cf.Timpanaro, S.Contributi di Filologia (Roma 1978), 317.

29 Ritter, Timaei fabulis (diss. Halle 1901), 40 ff.

30 Knaack in Roscher 3. 2187.15 ff., Eur. Phaethon, ed. Diggle, 8.

31 Serv. on Aen. 1.270; 6.270 (falsely attributed to Cato; see Ogilvie, R.M.CR 24 [1974], 64 f.; the parallel with Livy is decisive against Catonian authorship) and D.H. 1.70.2, where Tyrrhenus is called superintendent of the royal swineherds.

32 CR 29 (1979), 223.

33 Schulze, W.Kl. Schr. (Göttingen 1934), 176.

1 I am grateful to audiences in Cambridge, University of Southern California and ANU Canberra for their comments on versions of this paper; more generally, I gladly record my wannest thanks to Australian audiences who cheerfully excoriated my lectures for six months in 1980. After I had completed and revised this paper, I became aware that some of the same ground had been lightly covered in Guillemin, A.M.L’originalité de Virgile (Paris 1931); some cross-references to that uneven but stimulating book are included.

Virgil and the Conquest of Chaos1

  • N.M. Horsfall (a1)


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