Vergil as Magus Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein The poet Vergil (also spelled Virgil) was another of those famous men about whom myths developed because of the larger than life quality of his art and life. His birth was said to have been miraculous, and, when you compare it to the supposed birth of the god Hermes/Mercury, you might think Vergil was a reincarnation of that god. The following is from “The Secret History of Virgil” by Alexander Neckam, said to be based on a history by Gaius Asinius Pollio, from a manuscript in the Old Royal Library of the British Museus, and edited and translated by Joannes Opsopoeus Brettanus, 1996 and available on the web at Biblioteca Arcana. Vergil’s father Stimichon was a magus and an astrologer who worked for a courier of the state called Magius (a name that also means “magician”). He fell in love with Magius’ daughter Magia Pollia, also called Maia (as was the mother of Hermes), meaning “she who is great.” In fact, Vergil’s mother was believed to be the goddess Maia, or one of the fates, or a Dryad. She was very beautiful, so her father kept her locked up in his villa. The god Jove, also called Maius, meaning “he who is great,” nevertheless saw her and fell in love with her. He changed himself into a shower of gold flakes and and blew himself into her window, settling in the cup of wine she was about to drink. She thought the wine quite beautiful with the gold in it, so she drank it and experienced an incredible sensation in her womb and then her whole body. She fell asleep, and when she woke she knew she was pregnant. Stimichon was her doctor, and when she confided in him what had taken place, he through astrology, etc., discovered the miracle that had occurred. He convinced her they should marry so they could care for the child together. And she began having many miraculous dreams about the child she was carrying, especially about giving birth to a laurel twig. Her brother was supposed to have been the poet and philosopher Lucretius; he told her the child would be a famous poet or artist, with gifts from Apollo, and that he should be called Vergil after the laurel branch (virgula laurea). Shortly thereafter, on October 15 in 70 BCE, Maia and Stimichon were traveling when she experienced the onset of labor. She moved into a ditch, leaned against a tree, and the child was delivered, with many miraculous signs—flowers bloomed where he touched the ground; he walked immediately; he had a full set of teeth at birth; and he had a swarthy complexion, which was considered very auspicious. He was attended at birth by three Dryads, including the Queen of Dryads, and the four Elements brought him blessings and gifts. Hence, the birth of Vergil was virtually the same as that of Hermes/Mercury, born to Maia and Zeus/Jupiter/Jove. And of course, it was a virgin birth. The point of this story is that many men, especially when they were well-known, charismatic, popular, and creative, would in that time have commanded a history that was magical, semi-divine, and miraculous. However, no religion grew up around the person of Vergil, though he was supposedly a great magician, and though the story of his birth survived to the Middle Ages to attest to the power of his name during his lifetime, his reputation as a god did not. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily