Eclogue 6 of the Roman poet Virgil (70-19 BC) is one of the most famous poems in Latin pastoral poetry. It has an individuality of its own. In this poem, Virgil, as a poet with a sophisticated and philosophical mentality, forms a new kind of pastoral poetry. He merely employed the pastoral genre as a frame to allow him to touch upon intellectual, philosophical and literary subjects of the day.
Silenus, who was one of the old rural deities, is here the bard of Virgil's song. He could surpass Apollo and Orpheus by his charming song. There is not one common theme in all the stories Silenus touches upon in his song.
The song starts with a non-pastoral context, a piece of Epicurean philosophy, which reveals Virgil's early and real interest in philosophy. Then it moves from didactic description to human race and mythology. What concerns me in this paper is Silenus' talk about the origin of the universe (Eclogue 6. 31-40), the creation of the world, and the beginnings of life, with echoes of scientific poetry. In order to gain a better understanding of Virgil's poetry in general, and the song of Silenus as a particular, not only a knowledge of philosophy and cosmology is essential, but also a perception of Alexandria as a centre of sciences. I give Virgil credit for a real interest in Alexandria, both as a matter of poetical technique, and as sharing the scientific interests of Hellenistic Alexandria.