Cover image for Virgil : his life and times
Virgil : his life and times
Levi, Peter.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
vii, 248 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Duckworth, 1998.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PA6825 .L48 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Peter Levi teases a remarkably vivid life from Virgil's poems, a life-long study of poetry and the few facts that have come down to us through Suetonius.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Here is yet another book on grizzly bears, but it is almost impossible to write too much about one of our largest and most endangered animals. Busch spent four years in a remote river valley in British Columbia (an area he assigns a pseudonym for fear of attracting poachers), alternating between two camera blinds while he observed and photographed the bears. Grizzlies will congregate in the fall to feed on salmon making their spawning runs, and the author was able to view many aspects of the bears' behavior from a relatively close vantage point. He writes in the first person of his times sitting in his blinds, watching "The Terror Twins" (a pair of rambunctious cubs) fight over a dead salmon or as a male grizzly grazed on the fresh blades of spring grasses. He also writes of the relationship between grizzlies and humans, which often ends up with the bear as the loser. This nice overview of bears and their lives will fit well into libraries with large natural history collections. --Nancy Bent

Publisher's Weekly Review

More than a biography, this is an account of the people, places and events that influenced Virgil (70-19 B.C.), placing the reader in the Augustan world of the great poet. Classicist Levi (Horace; Tennyson) takes the reader through the Eclogues (42-37 B.C.), Georgics (37-30 B.C.) and the Aeneid (from 30 B.C.), in the order in which Virgil wrote them, commenting on surrounding literary and political events. Levi shows off his erudition in references to various canonical writers whom Virgil influenced, enlivening the text with personal observations. Levi is at his best as he presents the works verse by verse, letting the reader see the first century B.C. through Virgilian eyes. The armchair traveler will be delighted by accounts of the Italian countryside and folklore in Virgil's poetry: the golden honey drizzling down an oak tree (Virgil's "obsession," according to Levi); the "rivers of silver, bronze and gold" that flow near groups like the Ligurians, described as "mutton-eaters and drinkers of a barley brew"; the aversion of Virgil's beloved bees to the odor of vineyard fires kindled with crabs and ox horns; the "imaginary cheesy smell" of marine seals. Equally enjoyable are Levi's attempts to connect the Latin texts to modern knowledge. For example, the Harpies, those mythological flying monsters, may have acquired a trait from the Indian fruit bat, while the chant of the mountain-dwelling Marsians has reportedly made snakes burst open as recently as 1969. Levi also believes that Venus' healing herb, dittany, may still be in use through some 16 types of "mountain tea" he once saw in Crete. On the whole, this book will provide new fodder for the serious reader of Virgil. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Virgil was the Latin poet, writes Levi, formerly a professor of poetry at Oxford and a lecturer in the classics. As such, he fundamentally shapes our literature, our culture, and even our conception of natural identity. Therefore, the challenge to us as modern readers is to understand our inheritance. With this in mind, Levi unfolds the life and world of Virgil through a close reading and extended paraphrasing of the Eclogues, the Georgics, and the Aeneid, attempting to extract and reconstruct the poet and his life from his lines. The result is an old-fashioned sort of biography that eschews psychological speculation, instead drawing on the author's deeply personal response to the subject informed by years of study and erudition. An able companion to Levi's recent Horace (LJ 3/15/98).‘Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Fans of Levi may be pleased with this work, but students of Virgil will almost inevitably be disappointed. Despite the subtitle and the author's claim that he is writing for (Latinless) "readers of a life of Virgil," almost the entire book is a loose running paraphrase of the Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid. Despite Levi's learning and affection, scholars will find little that is new; readers not familiar with Virgil's work would find the poetry itself more interesting and more intelligible. Levi's style is discursive, his tone dismissive (Cinna's poetry was idiotic, Statius's pitiful, Seneca's revolting; Gallus was an idiot engineer, Ovid an ass, Servius a clown). Rather than a biography, this is chiefly a kind of memoir of Levi's lifelong study of Virgil. However, since Latin is mostly off limits, the author gives the reader Dryden (and occasionally Ogilby); the few words of Latin cited are not always correct. In fact, editing and proofreading as a whole are very poor. There is no bibliography, and full references to authorities cited (overwhelmingly British) are nowhere given. Recommended for general readers only. W. W. de Grummond; Florida State University