“Omnia Vincit Amor” – On Virgil’s Eclogue X

“omnia vincit Amor”
(translated as “Love conquers all” Eclogue X, line 69)

Virgil’s “Eclogue X” (or “Bucolic”) entitled “Gallus” is a re-imagining of Theocritus’s first idyll about the death of lovesick Daphnis, the Sicilian shepherd and patron poet of classical pastoral poetry. In it, Virgil honors friend, fellow student, and Roman elegiac poet Gaius Cornelius Gallus who is pining for his lover, Lycoris, who has run off with another. Daphnis is replaced by Gallus, memorialized as an Arcadian poet as a variety of gods gather, such as Pan, god of Arcady, to cure him of his lovesickness. In his exchange with Pan, Gallus defends love against the charge that it does not satisfy a man:

“Love conquers all; let us, too, yield to Love!”

While written during a turbulent time, Roman pastoral poetry reminds readers of the quiet romance of the Arcadian wilderness while also addressing the politics of the time. They were written as an imitation of the Bucolica by the Greek poet Theocritus, who wrote his verses almost two hundred years earlier, the Greek title Bucolica means “On the Care of Cattle” named for the poetry’s rustic subjects. However, while Theocritus’s “idylls” were simple country vignettes, Virgil’s Eclogues (meaning something like “draft) are each a series of ten pastoral poems taking place in the Roman political context. Apparently Virgil’s Eclogues were performed to great popularity on the Roman stage.

For this reading I used the Loeb edition, translated by H.R. Fairclough.

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