Why Virgil Did Not Write the Æneid

APROPOS of the interminable BaconShakespeare controversy there may be interest for the curious and combative in the ingenious case made out by Père Jean Hardouin, a seventeenth-century Jesuit scholar, to prove that Virgil did not write the Æneid. It may be added that he succeeds as well as do the Baconians.

Père Hardouin’s theory is preserved in a book entitled Pseudo-Virgilius, Observationes in Æneiden. The author begins by saying that it never entered the head of Virgil to write the ÆEneid. He had considered the idea of writing a poem, after finishing the Georgics, in praise of the achievements of Augustus, but not of those of Æneas. The evidence of this intention may be found in the third Georgic, verse 46. This Georgic was written Anno Urbis 735, while Augustus was campaigning on the Euphrates. The Æneid could not have been written before this, because Virgil speaks of his intention to write an epic poem. But Virgil died, according to Pliny, Anno Urbis 740. Can any one believe that he wrote the Æneid in the space of five years ? The shortest time within which the Æneid could have been written is estimated at twelve years, — one year for each book : is it to be believed that Virgil accomplished the task in five years, when, too, he was in failing health ? Again, could any one believe that Virgil would change his mind, break his promise to Augustus, and write during the lifetime of that prince a poem in honor of another person ?

If Virgil had written the Æneid, he would not have selected Marcellus for his highest praises. Marcellus was only the nephew of Augustus ; and, moreover, he was dead. Caius Cæsar, the grandchild of Augustus, was yet alive. Is it not far more probable that Virgil should have chosen the living grandson of Augustus as the one to laud, rather than the dead nephew ? — more especially as there had been times when Augustus suspected the fidelity of Marcellus. Yet there is not a word about Caius in the Æneid from beginning to end.

Both Horace and Pliny, at various times, mention the carmina of Virgil; but all commentators agree that the Georgics or Bucolics are referred to, and that the words do not apply to the Æneid. There is nothing in either writer’s works about the Æneid. Is it possible to believe that, if this poem had existed in their time, they would not have referred to it ?

The poem contains internal evidence that it could not have been written in the time of Augustus, by Virgil. In several places the author teaches the doctrine of metempsychosis; but Virgil, in the Georgics, condemns and rejects that doctrine. In the Georgics the leadership of the Trojan immigrants into Italy is correctly ascribed to Tithonus ; but the author of the Æneid gives that honor to Æneas. Certainly, the author of the Georgies and the author of the Æneid could not have been the same person.

If the Æneid had been published in Pliny’s time, — and it must have been, if Virgil wrote it, — Pliny would not have failed to notice and correct two serious blunders in natural history: first, the author puts bears and deer in northern Africa so near the seacoast as to be visible from a ship ; and again, he speaks of the seed, calyx, and flower of the dictarnum, which plant has neither seed, calyx, nor flower.

If the Æneid had been written by Virgil, Latinus would not have been portrayed tearing his garments for grief; for rending the garments in sign of grief was a Jewish and not a Roman or Trojan custom. Nor would Virgil have described any prince as wearing a crown ; he would have used the word “ diadem.” The word “ crown ” (corona) was not used in that sense until long after Virgil’s time.

If Virgil had written the Æneid, he would have described different ceremonies ; for the ceremonies performed by priest and king, as recounted in that poem, are plainly drawn from the Christian Church, and belong to later times. Besides, the poem is so full of Gallicisms as to furnish a sufficient reason in that fact alone, if there were no other, for believing that its author could not have been a Roman of the time of Augustus. It is plain to see that the poem was born in a Gallic mind. This appears from the Æneid itself : see I. 296, IV. 229, and X. 166. Indeed, it is impossible to resist the conclusion that it was composed after the year 1230 of our era.

The Æneid is a religious allegory. In it everything occurs and exists by and in subjection to the will of God. This the poet calls Fate. It is above the decrees of Jupiter, and all the gods yield obedience to it. The action of the poem includes the victory of the Christian religion over the Mosaic and heathen religions ; the introduction of Christianity into Italy and Europe; its growth and development; the rise to supremacy of the Holy See; the wars with the Turks and Infidels ; the gradual pacification of the world as men and nations acknowledged the power and authority of the Church ; and the final triumph, when wars should cease, dissensions should come to an end, and the Holy Pontiff should rule over a peaceful, prosperous, happy, and pious world.

The author did not dare to treat these things openly. He wrote them after the manner of a fable, but the real intent and meaning are not so darkly hidden as to be indistinguishable. The Trojans were the Christians ; the burning of Troy was the destruction of Jerusalem; the coming of the Trojans into Italy was the spread of Christianity over Europe; Æneas was Christ; the various adventures of the Trojans were the early struggles of the Church; Turnus stood for the Turks, battles with him for the crusades, etc.

Following this interpretation there are many pages of quotations, in which Hardouin presents what he considers to be ample proof of all his allegations. And it is to be remembered that Hardouin was a man of great intellectual power and erudition. His illustrious contemporary, Louis Dupin, the French ecclesiastical historian, places him among the most learned of his order.

His Pseudo-Virgilius was written in Latin, and, I believe, has never appeared in any other language.