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The Lyfe of Virgilius is perhaps the most curious production of an age which waving dubbed the heroes of antiquity with the characters of knight-errants, with equal judgment and consistency transformed the ancient poets and philosophers into necromancers and magicians. They who could not recognize valour in any
other form than in the institutions of chivalry, might well be supposed to consider genius and learning as identical with a knowledge of the magical sciences. Accordingly, while the romantic histories of Hercules and of Jason, of Alexander and of Cæsar, delighted the world by their details of the valorous exploits of those redoubted champions, we find the poet Virgil*
* There can be little doubt but the poet of the Augustan Age, and the necromancer of the dark ages is one and the same person. Similar honors have been conferred upon Horace, in the neighbourhood of Palestrina, where he is still revered by the people as a powerful and benevolent wizard.---Warton's Hist. of Eng. Poetry, vol. 3. p. 62. note by the Editor.
no less an object of renown and admiration, for his consummate skill in the craft of necromancy, and for the wonders which he was thereby enabled to perform.
Two causes have been supposed to have exerted their influence in procuring for the Mantuan bard the character of a magician; the first is that which is with great plausibility advanced by Ruæus in his Life of the Poet.
“ Maium illum, avum Virgilii exemplaria vitæ omnia Magum vocant at cùm ejus filia, Virgilių mater, juxta omnes Maia dicta sit : omninò Maiæ pater fuit Maius, non Magus : indeque ortum existimo, ut Virgilius magicis artibus imbutus fuisse creditus sit ab Elinando monacho, aliisque sequioris seculi scriptoribus : quòd et Eclogâ septimâ quadam sacra descripsisset et peritus esset multarum artium, et precipuè avum habuisse Magum diceretur:" the second, that knowledge of the mathematical sciences which has always been attributed to him, the learned discussion on magical subjects contained in his eighth eclogue; and says Mr. Dunlop in his History of Fiction, “ This belief in the magical powers of Virgil, may have received confirmation from the sixth book of the Æneid in which the secrets of the world unknown are so mysteriously revealed :
“ Di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbræque silentes ;
But' to whichever of these causes the Poet may have been indebted for his necromantic fame, he appears to have been in the full enjoyment of it previous to the beginning of the thirteenth century, at which time the legends concerning him were inserted in the Otia Imperialia of Gervase of Tilbury, who having visited Naples was a witness of many of those wonders which were then to be seen, and was informed by his host the Archdeacon Pinatellus concerning the remainder.* In this extravagant compilation we are told that Virgil set up a brazen fly on one of the gates of Naples which remained there eight years, during which time it did not permit any other fly to enter the city. That in the same place he caused a shambles to be erected, wherein meat never smelt or was the least tainted. That on another gate of the same city he placed two immense images of stone, one of which was handsome and merry, the other sad and deformed, and which were indued with such magical power that if any one came in by the side of the former all his affairs
pros* For a specimen of this extraordinary production, vide Appendix,
pered, while if he approached by the latter he was disappointed and unfortunate: that he set up on a high mountain near Naples a brazen statue, having in its mouth a trumpet which sounded so loud when the north wind blew, that the fire and smoke issuing out of those forges of Vulcan which are at this day seen near the city of Puossola, were forced back towards the sea, without doing any hurt or injury to the inhabitants. That it was he made the baths capable of removing every disorder, with fair inscriptions in letters of gold, defaced since by the physicians of Salerna who were troubled that men should thereby know what diseases every bath could cure.
That the same Virgil took a course that no man could be hurt in that miraculous vault cut through the mountain of Pausilippo, to go to Naples ; and lastly that he made a public fire, whereat every one might freely warm himself; near which he had placed a brazen archer with his arrow drawn out, and this inscription, “ If any one strike me, I will shoot off my arrow.” Which at length happened, when a certain fool, striking the said archer, he immediately shot him with his arrow and sent him into the fire, which was presently extinguished.*
These fables were transcribed by Gervase's contem* Vide Davies translation of Naudæus. p. 289. et seq.