Haunting and enigmatic, Virgil's Eclogues combined a Greek literary form with scenes from contemporary Roman life to create a work that inspired a whole European tradition of pastoral poetry. For despite their rustic setting and the beauty of their phrasing, the poems in Virgil's first collection are also grounded in reality. Shepherds are overwhelmed by the torments of poetic love - but they must also endure such real-life events as the tragic consequences of Julius Caesar's murder in 44 bc and a civil war. In giving unforgettable expression to the disasters of the day through poetry, the Eclogues paved the way for the Georgics and the Aeneid, the two greatest works of Latin literature, and are also a major masterpiece in their own right.
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