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From the Middle Ages onward, in different ways at different times, Western Europe defined itself as the heir of Greece and Rome. Just as "Captive Greece captured her rude conqueror" (Rome) according to the Roman poet Horace, so Rome captured her barbarian successor states.
Nobody sees it quite like that now, of course, but some knowledge of the classical past is still needed to understand our own culture, and as the classical world’s foremost “virtuous pagan,” no figure is more central to that succession than Virgil.
His Aeneid is literally a continuation of the Iliad and Odyssey, being the story of a great hero who escaped the destruction of Troy to reach Italy and found the future Rome.
The epic’s first six “books” are modelled on the wanderings of Odysseus, the second six on the warfare of the Iliad — only with the Trojans winning this time!
Also in the Aeneid, the West is given its first great love story.  
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[Virgil’s earliest poetry was set in Arcadia where poetry and love meet, and in his Fourth Eclogue he announced a child’s birth in messianic terms widely taken later as a foretelling of Christ’s nativity. Clearly he was a prophet and wizard as well as a poet, so the practice soon started of fortune-telling by picking random lines from his verse (the sortes vergilianae). Hadrian is said to have stuck his pin in line 851 of the Aeneid Book 6 to predict his adoption by Trajan and eventual succession as emperor!]
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