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Virgil and Medicine

John H. Dirckx, MD
JAMA. 1981;246(12):1326-1329. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320120030021.
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SCHOLARS of all ages, including the current one, have agreed in ranking Publius Vergilius Maro first among Latin poets. Virgil (the misspelling is traditional in English) was born in the village of Andes, near Mantua, in 70 BC and died at Brundisium in 19 BC. He belonged to a privileged circle of literary men who enjoyed the favor of the emperor Augustus and the patronage of Maecenas. Horace, Propertius, and Catullus also won the friendship and protection of the emperor, but to Virgil alone fell the privilege and the challenge of writing a semimythical account of the origins and destinies of the Roman people. His Aeneid stands as the supreme achievement of Latin poetry and one of the great epics of all time.

The connections of Virgil with medicine are slight—far more so than spurious ancient biographies would suggest. But on the occasion of the 2,000th anniversary (Sept 21, 1981)


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