The earliest pastoral poetry of which there is record was written by the Greek poet Theocritus in the 3d cent. B.C. It is in his idyls, which celebrate the beauty and simplicity of rustic life in Sicily, that the well-known pastoral characters Daphnis, Lycidas, Corydon, and Amaryllis are first encountered. Theocritus was followed by Bion and Moschus in the 2d cent. B.C. and by Vergil, whose Bucolics appeared in 37 B.C. In these polished and literary verses, which were later called eclogues, Vergil describes an imaginary Arcadia in which the pastoral scenes are allegorical: they celebrate the greatness of Rome, express thanks to the emperor, and prophesy a golden age. In the 3d cent. A.D. a Greek poet, probably Longus, wrote Daphnis and Chloë, a pastoral romance that also influenced later European literature.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.