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R.B. Hardy III: Vergil's Epitaph for Pastoral29 Vergil's Epitaph for Pastoral: Remembering and Forgetting in Eclogue 9 Robert B. Hardy III The word for "memory" in Latin, memoria, is related linguistically both to the verb memini ("to remember") and to the verb memoro ("to say, relate, mention"). The connection suggests that we can only be remembered as long as our names and our deeds continue to be mentioned. Ennius recognized this when he wrote in his own epitaph: volito vivus per ora virum (var. 18 Vahlens). Only by being mentioned, does Ennius continue to be remembered. At the beginning of the Third Géorgie, Vergil "mentions"—and "remembers"—Ennius through an allusion to this epitaph: temptanda via est, qua me quoque possim tollere humo victorque virum volitareper ora. (3.8-9) Vergil's me quoque (itself an epitaphic phrase),1 followed by the reminiscence of Ennius, suggests a connection between the two poets. By "mentioning" Ennius, and paying tribute to the endurance of his memory, Vergil expresses the hope that he, too, will continue to be "mentioned" and, thereby, "remembered." In poetic epitaphs, both Greek and Roman, the dead often address the living through the medium of the poem. When the poem is read, the dead are given a living voice which ensures their memory. At the same time, epitaphs frequently stress the connections—familial or patriotic—that exist between the living and the dead.2 Thus, in Simonides' famous epigram on the dead at Thermopylae (fr. 92D), the dead Spartans are made to say ? ?&?', ??????e?? ?a?eda?µ??????. The stress is placed on the living reader of the epigram, and the living Spartans who have benefitted from 1 On the phrase me quoque, see R. Merkelbach, "Aeneia Nutrix," AAAf 114 (1971) 349-51. Merkelbach compares Vergil's "epitaph" for Aeneas's nurse Caieta (Aeneid 7.1-4) with the literary "epitaphs" of Cicero (fr. 2) and Caesar (fr, 1) for Terence, and that of Domitius Marsus for Tibullus: "Diese Anrede dürfte der traditionellen Form römischen Totenlobes entsprechen" (351). See also N. Horsfall, "Virgil and the Inscriptions: A Reverse View," LCM 11(1986)44-45. 2 On the Greek sepulchral epigram and Simonides in particular, see CM. Bowra, Early Greek Elegists (Cambridge 1938) 173-203; and R. Lattimore, Themes in Greek andLatin Epitaphs (Uibana 1942). 30Syllecta Classica 2 (1990) the fame of the dead warriors, and who will continue to keep the memory of that fame alive. In the Greek Anthology there are a number of epigrams which are stylized as epitaphs for famous poets.3 By writing an epitaph for a famous predecessor, a living poet is able to connect his own poetry to the tradition which that predecessor represents. So, for example, the epigrammatist Philip4 memorializes the iambic poet Hipponax with an epigram in iambic trimeters, a meter employed by Hipponax himself. The epitaph, which serves as a memorial for the dead, comes to serve also as a vehicle for "poetic memory." In the Ninth Eclogue Vergil draws upon a number of epigrams from the Greek Anthology, as well as from Theocritus and other poems in Vergil's own book ofEclogues. These references are incorporated into a poem in which the speakers, Lycidas and Moeris remember the absent poet Menalcas. The shepherds' quotations from Menalcas's poetry often constitute, simultaneously, Vergil's own quotations from his poetic models. Poetic memory in this poem works on two levels, as Vergil and the shepherd-poets within his poem remember their models. In the Ninth Eclogue Vergil continually plays these two levels off against each other. While the shepherd-poets in the poem become resigned to their loss ofmemory, Vergil suggests that memory does in fact survive. Lycidas and Moeris gradually forget the pastoral songs of the absent Menalcas, but Vergil suggests that pastoral song will be remembered, even when it has been left behind. The scene of the Eclogue is set along the road that leads the two shepherds, Moeris andLycidas, toward the city, away from the rural landscape ofpastoral:5 Quo te, Moeri, pedes? an, quo via ducit, in urbem? (1) Commentators note that this opening line establishes a connection between Vergil's poem and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5157
Print ISSN
1040-3612
Pages
pp. 29-38
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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