The introduction establishes the importance of the assertion by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (c.70–c.130 CE) that the freedman and grammarian Quintus Caecilius Epirota (first century BCE) had started teaching Virgil's poetry at Rome in 26 BCE. If Suetonius is correct, Virgil would have spent the last years of his life knowing that he had written (and, in the Aeneid, was still writing) schoolbooks. Against the backdrop of this inaugural scene of Virgilian instruction, the introduction surveys late antique, medieval, and Renaissance interest in Virgil's own educational profile, arguing that this interest is in part generated by enigmatic moments in the poems themselves. However strange the forms the ascription will assume, the mixed voices of the Virgilian tradition are not wrong when they ascribe to Virgil canny, intense, and even theoretically adventurous meditations on instruction. Biographers, commentators, and schoolmasters perceive in Virgil's poems more than a simple aspiration to teach readers. They also locate in ‘the book of Maro’ a series of close studies of pedagogical diction (in the Eclogues), of the unfathomable currents that connect poetry to precept and action (in the Georgics), and of the counterintuitive relationship between mastery and forgetting (in the Aeneid).
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