The Georgics

VirgilVirgil's first full-scale poem - four books ostensibly about farming, which he wrote during the terrible civil war following the murder of Julius Caesar. Although Virgil's family had suffered during the fighting, he is supposed to have presented the completed Georgics (which he'd worked on at approximately a line a day) to the victorious Octavian. Its predominant theme shows agriculture as a metaphor for politics. Jupiter deliberately made life hard for man, so that he could redeem himself through hard work.

Sample the Georgics

The Aeneid

Greek warrior Virgil's mighty epic in 12 books, which occupied the rest of his life. It was commissioned by Augustus, through his minister Maecenas. His ambition was no less than to fill for Roman civilisation and culture the role that Homer - half Bible half Shakespeare - filled for the Greeks. The first half mirrors the Odyssey - Aeneas struggles to return home from Troy: the second half is Virgil's Iliad - a series of battles between Aeneas and the Italians, culminating in the defeat and cold-blooded killing of their attractive champion, Turnus. Rome has no place for an Achilles figure: Aeneas is preoccupied by duty - to the gods, his father, and his destiny: a new-found home in the west. Those ruled by passion - like Turnus, and earlier, Dido must be sacrificed so that the new state may prevail. So the ruthless Augustus triumphed over his enemies. But we are never sure how committed Virgil is to the view that this is actually a good thing for the human race!

Savour the Aeneid