Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Vergil of Naples

Publius Vergilius Maro
October 15, 70 BC – September 21, 19 BC

A famed Roman poet from the first century BC. His most famous work is the epic Aeneid, which relates the story of Aeneas as he sails from Greece and founds Rome. The early chroniclers used material from Aeneid to form their story of Aeneas and his son, Brutus, the founder of Britain.

Around Naples a tradition started in the 12th century, which in time spread widely throughout Europe, that Virgil had been a great magician. This stayed popular for over 200 years and in medieval Wales his name in Welsh, Fferyllt or Pheryllt, became a generic term for magic-worker – which in turn has survived in the modern Welsh word for pharmacist, fferyllydd.

Wolfram von Eschenbach, who uses metaphors from Aeneid heavily, says that Vergil “of Naples” was the maternal uncle of the sorcerer Clinschor (Klingsor), whose enchantments challenge Gawain Parzival.

Vergil was the subject of numerous legends in the Middle Ages – most of them false – which are reflected in Wolfram’s Clinschor character. Wolfram’s assertion that Vergil was from Naples is only marginally accurate: he probably studied in Naples, and may have written part of his Georgics there.

Parzival | Wolfram von Eschenbach, 1200–1210