Vitae Vergilianae antiquae, recc. G. Brugnoli et F. Stok, Romae 1997, 201-207.
About thirty medieval codices contain a brief Vita Vergili that is conventionally called the Vita Bernensis due to its presence in two famous 9th c. manuscripts: Bern, Bürgerbibliothek 167 and Bern, Bürgerbibliothek 172. Sometimes, this life is called Vita Bernensis I in order to differentiate it from two more recent Vitae Bernenses that were published by Bayer 1970: 328-9, 348-51. The name came into favor because the Vita is transmitted by codices that also contain the Scholia Bernensia, a fact that led some to speculate that the Vita Bernensis was originally an introduction to that commentary. Vollmer 1908, however, demonstrated that the Vita Bernensis is related to a lost manuscript from the Carolingian period that also transmitted the Iuvenalis ludi libellus, a collection of works from the Appendix Vergiliana that spawned many apographs that are still extant (Naumann 1974: 212-23 thus proposed the title ‘Libellus-Vita’).
The Vita Bernensis was favored for its brevity and enjoyed a wide diffusion. In the 12th c. it was joined to the Excerptum and the Vita Donatiana, an abbreviated version of Donatus’ Vita Vergili that survives in six manuscripts (cf. Stok 1991: 123-39; Brugnoli and Stok 1994: 57-70). Conrad of Mure used the Excerptum, including the Vita Bernensis, in writing a biography of Vergil for his Fabularius (on which see the edition of Sabbadini 1899: 37-8).
In general outline the Vita Bernensis appears to presuppose the Lives of Donatus and Servius, even if its brevity does not allow for certain reconstruction. Compared to the late-antique Vitae, however, one may observe the following additions in the Bernensis: that Vergil attended the school of the rhetorician Epidius together with Octavian; that he was a member of the equites; and that Eclogue 1.6 commemorates the favor Octavian afforded to Vergil as a result of their experiences in school. The notice about the school of Epidius, which must be wholly unfounded given the age difference between Vergil and Octavian, appears to be based on Suetonius’ claim that both Octavian and Mark Antony attended it (Suet. De grammaticis 28.1). The connection of Vergil to Epidius probably arose through identification of the ‘Octavius’ addressed at Culex 1 with Octavian.
The attribution of the Vita Bernensis to a medieval compiler, as proposed by Vollmer 1908: 19-21, is problematic: Suetonius’ De grammaticis was unknown in the middle ages even though the Codex Hersfeldensis, on which the work’s humanistic tradition depends, was present at Fulda. Lohmeyer 1930: 67-79 attributed the Vita to Lupus Servatus on the grounds that he had spent time at Fulda from 828 to 836 and would have had access to the Suetonian codex during that period, but the identification of Lupus as the compiler of the Libellus seems forced. The notice that Vergil was a member of the equites is likewise perplexing as it seems unlikely to go back to a medieval compiler (the claim goes against the common story that Vergil was born “parentibus modicis,” and while Donatus’ Vita claims that Vergil was wealthy, it clearly states that this was the result of gifts from Maecenas and Augustus). More generally, it would be odd to attribute this development to a compiler who ignored the various late-antique and medieval Vitae Vergilianae despite being active in a culture where they circulated (even if the other notices provided by the Vita Bernensis presuppose the late-antique tradition anyway). In this framework one cannot exclude the possibility that the medieval compiler utilized a late-antique source, perhaps one that had already been adapted as an introduction to Vergil’s juvenalia.
On the Vita Bernensis, see also Suerbaum 1981: 1168-9; Bayer 1970: 709-13; Naumann and Brugnoli 1990: 575; Brugnoli and Stok 2002: 62.
Editions of the text include: Schneidewin 1841: 42; Reifferscheid 1860: 53n; Hagen 1866: 745; Nettleship 1879: 24; Vollmer 1908: 80-1; Diehl 1911: 44-5; Brummer 1912: 66-7; Bayer 1958: 654-7 (= 1970b: 248-9); Brugnoli and Stok 1991: 456; id. 1997: 201-7; Ziolkowski and Putnam 2008: 249-50. [F. Stok; tr. C. L. Caterine].