M = reading of the whole MS tradition
m = reading of part of the MS tradition
P = reading on a papyrus
Vita Virgilii incipit a Foca grammatico urbis Romae uersibus edita. The Vita Focae is preserved in a single 9th-century manuscript (in the Bibliotheque nationale, Paris, 8093), which appears to be missing the poem’s ending.
o uetustatis memoranda custos,
regios actus simul et fugaces
temporum cursus docilis referre,
tu nihil magnum sinis interire, 5
nil mori clarum pateris, reseruans
posteris prisci monumenta saecli
sola fucatis uariare dictis
paginas nescis, set aperta quicquid 10
ueritas prodit, recinis per aeuum
tu senescentes titulos auorum
flore durantis reparas iuuentae,
militat uirtus tibi, te notante 15
tu fori turbas strepitusque litis
effugis dulci moderata cantu,
nec retardari pateris loquellas
compede metri. 20
his faue dictis! retegenda uita est
uatis Etrusci modo, qui perenne
Romulae uoci decus adrogauit
Maeonii specimen uatis ueneranda Maronem 25
Mantua Romuleae generauit flumina linguae.
quis facunda tuos toleraret Graecia fastus,
quis tantum eloquii potuisset ferre tumorem,
aemula Vergilium tellus nisi Tusca dedisset?
huic genitor figulus Maro nomine, cultor agelli, 30
ut referunt alii, tenui mercede locatus,
sed plures figulum. quis non miracula rerum
haec stupeat? diues partus de paupere uena
enituit: figuli suboles noua carmina finxit.
mater Polla fuit Magii non infima proles, 35
quem socerum probitas fecit laudata Maroni.
haec cum maturo premeretur pondere uentris,
ut solet in somnis animus uentura repingens
anxius e uigili praesumere gaudia cura,
Phoebei nemoris ramum fudisse putauit. 40
o sopor indicium ueri! nil certius umquam
cornea porta tulit. Facta est interprete lauro
certa parens onerisque sui cognouerat artem.
consule Pompeio uitalibus editus auris
et Crasso tetigit terras quo tempore Chelas 45
iam mitis Phaethon post Virginis ora receptat.
infantem uagisse negant. Nam fronte serena
conspexit mundum, cui commoda tanta ferebat.
ipse puerperiis adrisit laetior orbis:
terra ministrauit flores et munere uerno 50
herbida supposuit puero fulmenta uirescens.
Praeterea, si uera fides, set uera probatur,
laeta cohors apium subito per rura iacentis
labra fauis texit dulces fusura loquellas.
hoc quondam in sacro tantum mirata Platone 55
indicium linguae memorat famosa uetustas.
set Natura parens properans extollere Romam
et Latio dedit hoc, ne quid concederet uni.
Insuper his genitor, nati dum fata requirit,
populeam sterili uirgam mandauit harenae, 60
tempore quae nutrita breui, dum crescit, in omen
altior emicuit cunctis, quas auxerat aetas.
haec propter placuit puerum committere Musis
et monstrare uiam uicturae in saecula famae.
tum Ballista rudem lingua titubante receptum 65
instituit primus, quem nox armabat in umbris
grassari solitum: crimen doctrina tegebat.
mox patefacta uiri pressa est audacia saxis.
incidit titulum iuuenis, quo pignera uatis
edidit. auspiciis suffecit poena magistri: 70
‘monte sub hoc lapidum tegitur Ballista sepultus:
nocte die tutum carpe uiator iter.’ Anth. Lat. 261
nos tamen hoc breuius, si fas simulare Maronem:
‘Ballistam sua poena tegit, uia tuta per umbras umbras Heinsius: auras M.’
‘hic Ballista iacet: certo pede perge uiator.’ 75
‘carcere montoso clausus Ballista tenetur:
securi fraudis pergite nocte uiri’
‘quid trepidas tandem gressu pauitante uiator?:
nocturnum furem saxeus imber habet.’
‘Ballistae uitam rapuit lapis: ipse sepulcrum 80
intulit. umbra nocens pendula saxa tramit.’
’crimina latronis dignissima poena coercet:
duritiam mentis damnat ubique lapis.’ 75-83 susp. Reifferscheid et al.
hinc culicis tenui praelusit funera uersu:
‘parue culex, pecudum custos tibi tale merenti 85
funeris officium uitae pro munere reddit.’ Cul. 413-4
tum tibi Sironem, Maro, contulit ipsa magistrum
Roma potens, proceresque suos tibi iunxit amicos:
Pollio Maecenas Varus Varus Weichert: uarius M.Cornelius ardent,
te sibi quisque rapit, per te uicturus in aeuum. 90
Musa refer quae causa fuit componere libros.
sumpserat Augustus rerum moderamina princeps.
iam necis ultor erat patriae, iam caede priorum
perfusos acies legitur uisura Philippos.
Cassius hic Magni uindex et Brutus in armis 95
intereunt. uictor nondum contentus opimis
emeritas belli spoliis ditasse cohortes cohortes Brugnoli: choortes M: cohortis edd..
proscripsit miserae florentia rura Cremonae,
totaque militibus pretium concessa laborum
praeda fuit. uiolenta manus bacchata per agros. 100
non flatus non tela Iouis non spumeus amnis
non imbres rapidi quantum manus impia uastant.
Mantua, tu coniuncta loco, sociata periclis:
non tamen ob meritum miseram uicinia fecit.
iam Maro pulsus erat, set uiribus obuius ibat 105
fretus amicorum clipeo, cum paene nefando
ense perit. quid dextra furis? quid uiscera Romae
sacrilego mucrone petis? tua bella tacebit
posteritas ipsumque ducem nisi Mantua dicat!
Non tulit hanc rabiem doctissima turba potentum. 110
Itur ad auctorem rerum: quid Martius horror
egerit, ostendunt, qui tam miseranda tulisset.
Caesaris huic placido nutu repetuntur agelli.
his auctus meritis cum digna rependere uellet,
inuenit carmen, quo munera uincere posset: 115
praedia dat Caesar, quorum breuis usus habendi:
obtulit hic laudes, quas saecula nulla silescunt.
Pastores cecinit primos: hoc carmine consul
Pollio laudatur ter se reuocantibus annis
composito. post haec ruris praecepta colendi 120
quattuor exposuit libris, et commoda terrae
edocuit geminis anno minus omnia lustris.
inde coturnato Teucrorum proelia uersu
et Rutulum tonuit: bissena uolumina sacro
formauit donata duci trieteride quarta. 125
sed loca quae uulgi memorauit tradita fama
aequoris et terrae statuit percurrere uates,
certius ut libris oculo dictante notaret.
pergitur. ut Calabros tetigit, liuore nocenti
Parcarum uehemens laxauit corpora morbus. 130
hic ubi languores et fata minacia sensit,
Here begins the life of Virgil written in verse by Focas, grammarian of the city of Rome.
O memorable guardian of the past, ready to recount kingly acts and the flying courses of time, Golden Clio,
You allow nothing great to pass away , you suffer nothing famous to perish, keeping the monuments of a former age archived in books for those to come.
You alone do not think to tinge pages with colourful words, but through the ages you recite  with a clear tongue whatever clear truth brings forth.
You restore with the flower of lasting youth the ageing honours of our ancestors. Courage campaigns for you and, under your gaze,  crimes turn pale.
You recoil from the crowds of the forum and the rowdiness of lawsuits, keeping the measure to your sweet song, without allowing your utterances to be impeded by the fetters of metre .
Show favour to these words, the life of the Etruscan bard is now to be revealed, he, who, with his sacred song, brought enduring glory to Romulus’ language.
Life of Virgil
Maro, the image of the Maeonian bard, 25
the river of Romulus’ tongue, has been brought forth by venerable Mantua.
Who would put up with your boasts, eloquent Greece?
Who could bear such a swelling of eloquence,
if the envious Tuscan land had not given life to Virgil?
His father was a potter named Maro, or a keeper of a small farm, 30
as some report, retained by a small salary.
But more say he was a potter. At such wonders
who would not be amazed? A rich offspring from a poor vein
has shone forth: the offspring of a potter has fashioned new poems.
His mother Polla was the far from unworthy offspring of Magius 35
whom celebrated virtue made the father–in-law to Maro.
When she was weighed down by ripe burden of her womb,
as the mind is prone to picture things to come in dreams,
and, anxious from wakeful care, to anticipate joys
she thought she has brought forth a branch from the grove of Phoebus 40
O Sleep, harbinger of truth! Never has anything more true been brought forth
by the gate of horn. Through the mediation of the laurel
his mother was made aware, and came to know the art of her offspring.
Brought out into life’s breezes when Pompey was consul
with Crassus, he touched the earth in the season 45
when the sun, mild now, withdraws into the arms of Scorpio behind the face of Virgo.
They say that the infant did not cry. Instead with a serene expression
he beheld the world, to which he was bringing so many good things.
The world itself, now happier, smiled at his birth:
the earth supplied flowers and as the gift of spring 50
turned her green she set a grassy cushion beneath the child.
Moreover if the belief is true, as it was later shown to be,
a happy company of bees suddenly swarming through the countryside
covered his lips with honeycombs so that they would pronounce sweet utterances.
Having seen this happen before, in the case of holy Plato, 55
famous antiquity records proof of his eloquence.
But Mother Nature, hastening to extol Rome
also gave this prodigy to Latium, so the region need not yield to any.
In addition to these prodigies, his father, enquiring about the fate of his son,
entrusted the shoot of a poplar to the sterile sand. 60
It was nourished for a brief time as it grew into an omen:
the branch stood out higher than all the others which age had increased.
Because of these things, they preferred to entrust the boy to the Muses
and show him the way to a reputation that would prevail for centuries.
Then as an uncultivated charge with a stammering tongue he was first 65
taught by Ballista – one whom night equipped with arms in the shadows
to go prowling around, and whose learning covered his crimes.
But the man’s audacity was soon discovered and crushed by stoning.
The youth cut an inscription through which a sign of the poet to come
was made known: the teacher’s punishment provided a sufficient auspice: 70
‘Under this heap of stones Ballista is buried,
By night or day, traveller, safely make your way.’
We though can do this more briefly, if it is allowed to take the part of Maro:
‘His own punishment covers up Ballista: the route through the shadows is safe.’
‘Here lies Ballista: traveller, press on with a firm foot.’75
‘Enclosed in this mountainous prison, Ballista is held.
Safe from any tricks, carry on your journey at night, gentlemen.’
‘Traveller, why after so long do you tremble with an anxious step?
A rain of rocks holds the nocturnal thief.’
‘A stone took Ballista’s life: the same provided his tomb 80
The guilty shade passes over the hanging rocks.’
‘A very deserving penalty constrains the crimes of this thief
Everywhere a stone condemns his hardness of heart.’
From there he made the death of a gnat a prelude for his lighter verse:
‘Little Gnat, a shepherd renders to you, as you merit it, 85
the rite of burial in return for the gift of life.’
Then, Maro, you were provided with Siro as a teacher by
Powerful Rome herself, and she allied her nobles to you as friends:
Pollio, Maecenas, Varius, Cornelius are all on fire,
each grasps you for himself, to conquer time through you. 90
Muse, relate what was the cause of the books he composed.
Augustus had taken up the reins of power as emperor.
Now he was the avenger of his father’s death, now an army is chosen
to see Philippi soaked in the blood of his forefathers
Here Cassius defender of Pompey’s name, and Brutus perish in their arms. 95
But the victor not yet content with enriching
his veteran cohorts with the glorious spoils of war,
proscribed the flowering countryside of unhappy Cremona,
all to be granted as booty to his soldiers, a reward for their toils.
A violent band raged through the fields. 100
No winds, no weapons of Jove, no foaming river,
no fierce rains wreak as much havoc as that impious band.
Mantua, you are adjacent to that place, you shared in the dangers:
that proximity brought you misery, without deserving it.
Now Maro had been driven out, but he went to confront this might 105
relying on his friends as a shield, when he almost perished
by a wicked sword? Why does your right hand rage? Why are the vitals of Rome
sought by your sacrilegious blade? Posterity will keep silent
your wars and even your leader, unless Mantua may speak!
A very learned throng among the powerful could not bear this madness. 110
They made an approach to the author of these events: they show
what the horror of Mars has done, and the man who has endured such pitiful things.
His estates are restored to him with Caesar’s calm nod.
Since he was restored to his due, he wanted to make a worthy repayment,
he thought up a poem which could surpass the gifts he had received: 115
the benefit of possessing the farm estates Caesar gives out is shortlived,
but Virgil has offered praises, which no ages could silence.
He sang first of shepherds: the consul Pollio was praised in this poem,
three times had years run their course in the time it was composed.
After that he set out the principles of rural cultivation 120
in four books, and the benefits of the earth
all of which he taught in two lustra of five years, less one.
From there he thundered forth in tragic verse the battles
between the Trojans and the Rutulians: twice six volumes
he shaped to give to his sacred leader within twelve years. 125
But the locations on land and sea which repute of common tradition
recorded, the poet decided to tour himself
to set things down more certainly in his works as his eyes dictated.
The journey was undertaken. As he set foot in Calabria, the noxious envy
of the Fates caused a raging disease to loosen his body. 130
Here, when he became aware of his weakness and looming fate…