Virgil makes no secret that he attempts to justify the new imperial order established by Augustus Caesar in several of his works. In his Aeneid, Trojan ancestry, a voyage to the underworld, the great shield of Aeneas forged by Vulcan, and wars in Latium all bear elements leading inevitably to the triumph and sole rule of Augustus. In his earlier Georgics, however, it is not great movements led by the gods which ring in a new golden age. Instead, it is the small movements of honeybees in the hive, set at the end of a tale of pastoral prosperity and disruption which carries the weight of the new Roman world on its back. The format of the Georgics is itself remarkable, containing scientific knowledge and agricultural advice in a high poetic language, blended with mysticism and legends. Here, it will be shown how the honeybees of Virgil are deeply entangled in the complexities of this poem. Ultimately, Virgil uses the honeybee to explain how disorder – shown in the Georgics as storms, urbanization, and plague and fresh in the minds of the readers who had recently endured many years of civil war – returns to prosperity through the bees’ natural order in association with the human and the divine. But first the stage must be set, and the context established.
A Marvelous Scene of Little Things: Honeybees and the Natural Order in the Fourth Georgic of Virgil.
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