(Publius Vergilius Maro)

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

(70–19 bc), Latin poet and good, if unoriginal, source of information on viticulture in Ancient rome. Like horace, Virgil benefited from the patronage of the Emperor Augustus, and much of his poetry was written in praise of Roman and Italian virtues. The rural virtues are expounded in the Georgics, a didactic poem about agriculture, published in 37 bc. The second of the four books is devoted mainly to vine-growing. Although it is of little use as a practical manual, it does give a lively and colourful picture of the life and problems of the vine-grower. Like hesiod, Virgil’s purpose was moral, and his main concern is to describe the farmer’s virtues of austerity, integrity, and hard work, which made Rome great. Although Virgil is from a literary point of view a more interesting writer than his chief source varro, he is not an independent authority, and it is to his predecessors cato and Varro, and to the later columella and pliny, that we must turn for first-hand information about Roman viticulture.