The Lives of the
C. Suetonius Tranquillus
Lives of the Grammarians and the Historians
I. The science of grammar was in ancient times far from being in
vogue at Rome; indeed, it was of little use in a rude state of society,
when the people were engaged in constant wars, and had not much time to
bestow on the cultivation of the liberal arts. At the outset, its
pretensions were very slender, for the earliest men of learning, who
were both poets and orators, may be considered as half-Greek: I speak of Livius
[Livius, cognomen Andronicus, was born of Greek parents. He began to teach at Rome in the
consulship of Claudius Cento, A.U.C. 514] and Ennius
[Ennius was a native of Calabria], who are acknowledged to have taught both
languages as well at Rome as in foreign parts [Porcius Cato found Ennius
in Sardinia, when he conquered that island during his praetorship, and brought him to Rome
on his return]. But they only
translated from the Greek, and if they composed anything of their own in
Latin, it was only from what they had before read. For although there
are those who say that this Ennius published two books, one on "Letters
and Syllables," and the other on "Metres," Lucius Cotta has
satisfactorily proved that they are not the works of the poet Ennius,
but of another writer of the same name, to whom also the treatise on the
"Rules of Augury" is attributed.
II. Crates of Mallos [Mallos was near Tarsus, in Cilicia. Crates was the son of
Timocrates, a Stoic philosopher], then, was, in our opinion, the first who
introduced the study of grammar at Rome. He was cotemporary with
Aristarchus [Aristarchus flourished at Alexandria,
in the reign of Ptolemy Philometer, whose son he educated], and having
been sent by king Attalus as envoy to the
senate in the interval between the second and third Punic wars,
soon after the death of Ennius [Cicero (De Clar. Orat. c. xx., De Senect. c. v. 1)
places the death of Ennius A.U.C. 584], he had the misfortune to fall into
an open sewer in the Palatine quarter of the city, and broke his leg.
After which, during the whole period of his embassy and convalescence,
he gave frequent lectures, taking much pains to instruct his hearers, and
he has left us an example well worthy of imitation. It was so far followed,
that poems hitherto little known, the works either of deceased friends
or other approved writers, were brought to light, and being read and
commented on, were explained to others.
Thus, Caius Octavius Lampadio edited the Punic War of Naevius [The
History of the first Punic War by Naevius is mentioned
by Cicero, De Senect, c. 14], which having been written in one
volume without any break in the manuscript, he divided into seven books.
After that, Quintus Vargonteius undertook the Annals of Ennius, which he
read on certain fixed days to crowded audiences. So Laelius Archelaus,
and Vectius Philocomus, read and commented on the Satires of their
friend Lucilius [Lucilius, the poet, was born about A.U.C.
605], which Lenaeus Pompeius, a freedman, tells us he studied
under Archelaus; and Valerius Cato, under Philocomus. Two others also
taught and promoted grammar in various branches, namely, Lucius
Aelius Lanuvinus, the son-in-law of Quintus Aelius, and Servius
Claudius, both of whom were Roman knights, and men who rendered great services
both to learning and the republic.
III. Lucius Aelius had a double cognomen, for he was called Praeconius,
because his father was a herald; Stilo, because he was in the habit of
composing orations for most of the speakers of highest rank; indeed, he
was so strong a partisan of the nobles, that he accompanied Quintus
Metellus Numidicus in his exile. [Q. Metellus obtained
the surname of Numidicus, on his
triumph over Jugurtha, A.U.C. 644. Aelius, who was Varro's tutor,
accompanied him to Rhodes or Smyrna, when he was unjustly banished,
A.U.C. 653.] Servius [Servius Claudius (also called Clodius)
is commended by Cicero, Fam. Epist. ix. 16, and his singular death mentioned by Pliny,
xxv. 4] having clandestinely obtained his father-in-law's book before it
was published, was disowned for the fraud, which he took so much to heart, that,
overwhelmed with shame and distress, he retired from Rome; and being
seized with a fit of the gout, in his impatience, he applied a poisonous
ointment to his feet, which half-killed him, so that his lower limbs
mortified while he was still alive.
After this, more attention was paid
to the science of letters, and it grew in public estimation, insomuch,
that men of the highest rank did not hesitate in undertaking to write
something on the subject; and it is related that sometimes there were no
less than twenty celebrated scholars in Rome. So high was the value, and
so great were the rewards, of grammarians, that Lutatius Daphnides,
jocularly called "Pan's herd" [Daphnis, a
shepherd, the son of Mercury, was said to have been brought up by Pan]
by Lenaeus Melissus, was purchased by
Quintus Catullus for two hundred thousand sesterces, and shortly
afterwards made a freedman; and that Lucius Apuleius, who was taken into
the pay of Epicius Calvinus, a wealthy Roman knight, at the annual
salary of ten thousand crowns, had many scholars.
Grammar also penetrated into
the provinces, and some of the most eminent amongst the learned taught
it in foreign parts, particularly in Gallia Togata. In the number of these,
we may reckon Octavius Teucer, Siscennius Jacchus, and Oppius
Cares [Oppius Cares is said by Macrobius to have written a book
on Forest Trees], who persisted in teaching to a most advanced period of his life,
at a time when he was not only unable to walk, but his sight failed.
IV. The appellation of grammarian was borrowed from the Greeks; but at
first, the Latins called such persons literati. Cornelius Nepos, also,
in his book, where he draws a distinction between a literate and a
philologist, says that in common phrase, those are properly called
literati who are skilled in speaking or writing with care or accuracy,
and those more especially deserve the name who translated the poets, and
were called grammarians by the Greeks. It appears that they were named
literators by Messala Corvinus, in one of his letters, when he says,
"that it does not refer to Furius Bibaculus
[Quintilian enumerates Bibaculus among the Roman poets in
the same line with Catullus and Horace, Institut. x. 1], nor even to Sigida, nor to
Cato, the literator," meaning, doubtless, that Valerius Cato was
both a poet and an eminent grammarian.
Some there are who draw a
distinction between a literati and a literator, as the Greeks do between
a grammarian and a grammatist, applying the former term to men of real
erudition, the latter to those whose pretensions to learning are
moderate; and this opinion Orbilius supports by examples. For he says
that in old times, when a company of slaves was offered for sale by any
person, it was not customary, without good reason, to describe either of
them in the catalogue as a literati, but only as a literator, meaning
that he was not a proficient in letters, but had a smattering of
The early grammarians taught rhetoric also, and we have many of their
treatises which include both sciences; whence it arose, I think, that in
later times, although the two professions had then become distinct, the
old custom was retained, or the grammarians introduced into their
teaching some of the elements required for public speaking, such as the
problem, the periphrasis, the choice of words, description of character,
and the like; in order that they might not transfer their pupils
to the rhetoricians no better than ill-taught boys. But I perceive that
these lessons are now given up in some cases, on account of the want of
application, or the tender years, of the scholar, for I do not believe
that it arises from any dislike in the master.
I recollect that when I
was a boy it was the custom of one of these, whose name was Princeps, to
take alternate days for declaiming and disputing; and sometimes he would
lecture in the morning, and declaim in the afternoon, when he had his
pulpit removed. I heard, also, that even within the memories of our own
fathers, some of the pupils of the grammarians passed directly from the
schools to the courts, and at once took a high place in the ranks of the
most distinguished advocates. The professors at that time were, indeed,
men of great eminence, of some of whom I may be able to give an account
in the following chapters.
V. SAEVIUS NICANOR [probably Suevius, of whom
Macrobius informs us that he was
the learned author of an Idyll, which had the title of the Mulberry
Grove] first acquired fame and reputation by his
teaching: and, besides, he made commentaries, the greater part of which,
however, are said to have been borrowed. He also wrote a satire, in
which he informs us that he was a freedman, and had a double cognomen,
in the following verses;
Saevius Nicanor Marci libertus negabit,
Saevius Posthumius idem, sed Marcus, docebit.
What Saevius Nicanor, the freedman of Marcus, will deny,
The same Saevius, called also Posthumius Marcus, will assert.
It is reported, that in consequence of some infamy attached to his
character, he retired to Sardinia, and there ended his days.
VI. AURELIUS OPILIUS [Aurelius Opilius is
mentioned by Symmachus and Gellius. His contemporary and friend, Rutilius
Rufus, having been a military tribune
under Scipio in the Numantine war, wrote a history of it. He was consul
A.U.C. 648, and unjustly banished, to the general grief of the people,
A.U.C. 659], the freedman of some Epicurean, first taught
philosophy, then rhetoric, and last of all, grammar. Having closed
his school, he followed Rutilius Rufus, when he was banished to Asia,
and there the two friends grew old together. He also wrote several volumes
on a variety of learned topics, nine books of which he distinguished by
the number and names of the nine Muses; as he says, not without reason,
they being the patrons of authors and poets. I observe that its title is
given in several indexes by a single letter, but he uses two in the
heading of a book called Pinax.
VII. MARCUS ANTONIUS GNIPHO [Quintilian
mentions Gnipho, Instit. i. 6. Cicero was among his pupils], a free-born native of Gaul, was
exposed in his infancy, and afterwards received his freedom from his
foster-father; and, as some say, was educated at Alexandria, where
Dionysius Scytobrachion [this strange cognomen is
supposed to have been derived
from a cork arm, which supplied the place of one Dionysius had lost. He
was a poet of Mitylene] was his fellow pupil. This, however, I am
not very ready to believe, as the times at which they flourished
scarcely agree. He is said to have been a man of great genius, of singular
memory, well read in Greek as well as Latin, and of a most obliging and
agreeable temper, who never haggled about remuneration, but generally
left it to the liberality of his scholars.
He first taught in the house
of Julius Caesar, when the latter was yet but a boy, and,
afterwards, in his own private house. He gave instruction in rhetoric
also, teaching the rules of eloquence every day, but declaiming only on
festivals. It is said that some very celebrated men frequented his
school,— and, among others, Marcus Cicero, during the time he held the praetorship
[A.U.C. 687]. He wrote a number of works, although he did not live
beyond his fiftieth year; but Atteius, the philologist, says, that
he left only two volumes, "De Latino Sermone;" and, that the other works
ascribed to him, were composed by his disciples, and were not his,
although his name is sometimes to be found in them.
VIII. M. POMPILIUS ANDRONICUS, a native of Syria, while he professed to
be a grammarian, was considered an idle follower of the Epicurean sect,
and little qualified to be a master of a school. Finding,
therefore, that, at Rome, not only Antonius Gnipho, but even other
teachers of less note were preferred to him, he retired to Cumae, where
he lived at his ease; and, though he wrote several books, he was so
needy, and reduced to such straits, as to be compelled to sell that
excellent little work of his, "The Index to the Annals," for sixteen
thousand sesterces. Orbilius has informed us, that he redeemed this work
from the oblivion into which it had fallen, and took care to have it
published with the author's name.
IX. ORBILIUS PUPILLUS, of Beneventum, being left an orphan, by the death
of his parents, who both fell a sacrifice to the plots of their enemies
on the same day, acted, at first, as apparitor to the magistrates. He
then joined the troops in Macedonia, when he was first decorated with
the plumed helmet, and, afterwards, promoted to serve on horseback.
Having completed his military service, he resumed his studies, which he
had pursued with no small diligence from his youth upwards; and, having
been a professor for a long period in his own country, at last, during
the consulship of Cicero, made his way to Rome, where he taught with
more reputation than profit.
For in one of his works he says, that "he was
then very old, and lived in a garret." He also published a book with the
title of Perialogos; containing complaints of the injurious treatment to
which professors submitted, without seeking redress at the hands of
parents. His sour temper betrayed itself, not only in his disputes with
the sophists opposed to him, whom he lashed on every occasion, but also
towards his scholars, as Horace tells us, who calls him "a flogger;"
[Horace speaks feelingly on the subject: "Memini quae plagosum mihi parvo
Orbilium tractare." Epist. xi. i. 70; "I remember well when I was young,
How old Orbilius thwacked me at my tasks."] and Domitius Marsus
[Domitius Marsus wrote epigrams; he is mentioned by Ovid
and Martial], who says of him:
Si quos Orbilius ferula scuticaque cecidit.
If those Orbilius with rod or ferule thrashed.
And not even men of rank escaped his sarcasms; for, before he
became noticed, happening to be examined as a witness in a crowded
court, Varro, the advocate on the other side, put the question to him, "What he
did and by what profession he gained his livelihood?" He replied, "That
he lived by removing hunchbacks from the sunshine into the shade,"
alluding to Muraena's deformity. He lived till he was near a hundred
years old; but he had long lost his memory, as the verse of Bibaculus
Orbilius ubinam est, literarum oblivio?
Where is Orbilius now, that wreck of learning lost?
His statue is shown in the Capitol at Beneventum. It stands on the left
hand, and is sculptured in marble [this is not the
only instance mentioned by Suetonius of
statues erected to learned men in the place of their birth or celebrity.
Orbilius, as a schoolmaster, was represented in a sitting posture, and
with the gown of the Greek philosophers], representing him in a sitting
posture, wearing the pallium, with two writing-cases in his hand. He
left a son, named also Orbilius, who, like his father, was a professor
X. ATTEIUS, THE PHILOLOGIST, a freedman, was born at Athens. Of him,
Capito Atteius [Tacitus (Annal. cxi. 75) gives the character of
Atteius Capito. He was consul A.U.C. 758], the well-known jurisconsult, says that he was a
rhetorician among the grammarians, and a grammarian among the
rhetoricians. Asinius Pollio, in the book in which he finds fault
with the writings of Sallust for his great affectation of obsolete
words, speaks thus: "In this work his chief assistant was a certain Atteius, a
man of rank, a splendid Latin grammarian, the aider and preceptor of
those who studied the practice of declamation; in short, one who claimed
for himself the cognomen of Philologus." Writing to Lucius Hermas, he
says, "that he had made great proficiency in Greek literature, and some
in Latin; that he had been a hearer of Antonius Gnipho, and his Hermas,
and afterwards began to teach others. Moreover, that he had for
pupils many illustrious youths, among whom were the two brothers, Appius
and Pulcher Claudius; and that he even accompanied them to their
He appears to have assumed the name of Philologus, because,
like Eratosthenes [Eratosthenes, an Athenian
philosopher, flourished in Egypt, under three of the Ptolemies successively],
who first adopted that cognomen, he was in high
repute for his rich and varied stores of learning; which, indeed, is
evident from his commentaries, though but few of them are extant.
Another letter, however, to the same Hermas, shows that they were very
numerous: "Remember," it says, "to recommend generally our Extracts,
which we have collected, as you know, of all kinds, into eight hundred
books." He afterwards formed an intimate acquaintance with Caius
Sallustius, and, on his death, with Asinius Pollio; and when they
undertook to write a history, he supplied the one with short annals of
all Roman affairs, from which he could select at pleasure; and the
other, with rules on the art of composition.
I am, therefore, surprised that Asinius Pollio should have supposed that he was in the habit of
collecting old words and figures of speech for Sallust, when he must
have known that his own advice was, that none but well known, and common and
appropriate expressions should be made use of; and that, above all
things, the obscurity of the style of Sallust, and his bold freedom in
translations, should be avoided.
XI. VALERIUS CATO was, as some have informed us, the freedman of one
Bursenus, a native of Gaul. He himself tells us, in his little work
called "Indignatio," that he was born free, and being left an orphan,
was exposed to be easily stripped of his patrimony during the licence of
Sylla's administrations. He had a great number of distinguished pupils,
and was highly esteemed as a preceptor suited to those who had a
poetical turn, as appears from these short lines:
Cato grammaticus, Latina Siren,
Qui solus legit ac facit poetas.
Cato, the Latin Siren, grammar taught and verse,
To form the poet skilled, and poetry rehearse.
Besides his Treatise on Grammar, he composed some poems, of which,
his Lydia and Diana are most admired. Ticida mentions his "Lydia."
Lydia, doctorum maxima cura liber.
"Lydia," a work to men of learning dear.
Cinna [Cornelius Helvius Cinna was an epigrammatic poet, of the
same age as Catullus. Ovid mentions him, Tristia, xi. 435] thus notices the "Diana."
Secula permaneat nostri Diana Catonis.
Immortal be our Cato's song of Dian.
He lived to extreme old age, but in the lowest state of penury, and
almost in actual want; having retired to a small cottage when he gave up
his Tusculan villa to his creditors; as Bibaculus tells us:
Si quis forte mei domum Catonis,
Depictas minio assulas, et illos
Custodis vidit hortulos Priapi,
Miratur, quibus ille disciplinis,
Tantam sit sapientiam assecutus,
Quam tres cauliculi et selibra farris;
Racemi duo, tegula sub una,
Ad summam prope nutriant senectam.
"If, perchance, any one has seen the house of my Cato, with marble slabs
of the richest hues, and his gardens worthy of having Priapus
[worshipped as the protector of gardens] for
their guardian, he may well wonder by what philosophy he has gained so
much wisdom, that a daily allowance of three coleworts, half-a-pound of
meal, and two bunches of grapes, under a narrow roof, should serve for
his subsistence to extreme old age."
And he says in another place:
Catonis modo, Galle, Tusculanum
Tota creditor urbe venditahat.
Mirati sumus unicum magistrum,
Summum grammaticum, optimum poetam,
Omnes solvere posse quaestiones,
Unum difficile expedire nomen.
En cor Zenodoti, en jecur Cratetis!
"We lately saw, my Gallus, Cato's Tusculan villa exposed to public sale
by his creditors; and wondered that such an unrivalled master of
the schools, most eminent grammarian, and accomplished poet, could solve
all propositions and yet found one question too difficult for him to
settle,—how to pay his debts. We find in him the genius of Zenodotus
[the grammarian and librarian to the first
Ptolemy at Alexandria, and tutor to his sons],
the wisdom of Crates."ot;
XII. CORNELIUS EPICADIUS, a freedman of Lucius Cornelius Sylla, the
dictator, was his apparitor in the Augural priesthood, and much beloved
by his son Faustus; so that he was proud to call himself the freedman of
both. He completed the last book of Sylla's Commentaries, which his
patron had left unfinished. [We find from Plutarch
that Sylla was employed two days
before his death, in completing the twenty-second book of his
Commentaries; and, foreseeing his fate, entrusted them to the care of
Lucullus, who, with the assistance of Epicadius, corrected and arranged
XIII. LABERIUS HIERA was bought by his master out of a slave-dealer's
cage, and obtained his freedom on account of his devotion to learning.
It is reported that his disinterestedness was such, that he gave
gratuitous instruction to the children of those who were proscribed in
the time of Sylla.
XIV. CURTIUS NICIA was the intimate friend of Cneius Pompeius and Caius
Memmius; but having carried notes from Memmius to Pompey's wife
[Plutarch, in his Life of Caesar, speaks of the
loose conduct of Mucia, Pompey's wife, during her husband's absence],
when she was debauched by Memmius, Pompey was indignant, and forbad him
his house. He was also on familiar terms with Marcus Cicero, who thus
speaks of him in his epistle to Dolabella [Fam.
Epist. 9]: "I have more need of
receiving letters from you, than you have of desiring them from me. For
there is nothing going on at Rome in which I think you would take any
interest, except, perhaps, that you may like to know that I am appointed
umpire between our friends Nicias and Vidius. The one, it appears,
alleges in two short verses that Nicias owes him money; the other,
like an Aristarchus, cavils at them. I, like an old critic, am to decide
whether they are Nicias's or spurious."
Again, in a letter to Atticus [Cicero ad Att.
xii. 36], he says: "As to what you write about
Nicias, nothing could give me greater pleasure than to have him with me,
if I was in a position to enjoy his society; but my province is to me a
place of retirement and solitude. Sicca easily reconciled himself to
this state of things, and, therefore, I would prefer having him.
Besides, you are well aware of the feebleness, and the nice and
luxurious habits, of our friend Nicias. Why should I be the means of making him
uncomfortable, when he can afford me no pleasure? At the same time, I
value his goodwill."
XV. LENAEUS was a freedman of Pompey the Great, and attended him in most
of his expeditions. On the death of his patron and his sons, he
supported himself by teaching in a school which he opened near the
temple of Tellus, in the Carium, in the quarter of the city where the house of
the Pompeys stood. Such was his regard for his patron's memory,
that when Sallust described him as having a brazen face, and a shameless
mind, he lashed the historian in a most bitter satire], as "a
bull's-pizzle, a gormandizer, a braggart, and a tippler, a man whose
life and writings were equally monstrous;" besides charging him with being "a
most unskillful plagiarist, who borrowed the language of Cato and other
old writers." [Lenaeus was not singular in his censure of Sallust.
Lactantius, 11. 12, gives him an infamous character; and Horace says of
him, "Libertinarum dico;
Sallustius in quas Non minus insanit; quam qui moechatur."--Sat.
i. 2. 48] It is related, that, in his youth, having escaped from
slavery by the contrivance of some of his friends, he took refuge in his
own country; and, that after he had applied himself to the liberal arts,
he brought the price of his freedom to his former master, who, however,
struck by his talents and learning, gave him manumission gratuitously.
XVI. QUINTUS CAECILIUS, an Epirot by descent, but born at Tusculum, was
a freedman of Atticus Satrius, a Roman knight, to whom Cicero
addressed his Epistles [the name of the well known
Roman knight, to whom Cicero
addressed his Epistles, was Titus Pomponius Atticus]. He became the tutor of his patron's
daughter [Pomponia], who was contracted to Marcus Agrippa, but being
suspected of an illicit intercourse with her, and sent away on that account, he
betook himself to Cornelius Gallus, and lived with him on terms of the
greatest intimacy, which, indeed, was imputed to Gallus as one of his
heaviest offences, by Augustus. Then, after the condemnation and death
of Gallus, he opened a school, but had few pupils, and those very
young, nor any belonging to the higher orders, excepting the children of
those he could not refuse to admit. He was the first, it is said, who
held disputations in Latin, and who began to lecture on Virgil and the
other modern poets; which the verse of Domitius Marcus points out.
Epirota tenellorum nutricula vatum.
The Epirot who,
With tender care, our unfledged poets nursed.
XVII. VERRIUS FLACCUS [Verrius Flaccus is mentioned by St. Jerome, in
conjunction with Athenodorus of Tarsus, a Stoic philosopher, to have flourished
A.U.C. 759; A.D. 9], a freedman, distinguished himself by a new
mode of teaching; for it was his practice to exercise the wits of his
scholars, by encouraging emulation among them; not only proposing the
subjects on which they were to write, but offering rewards for those who
were successful in the contest. These consisted of some ancient,
handsome, or rare book. Being, in consequence, selected by Augustus, as
preceptor to his grandsons, he transferred his entire school to the Palatium,
but with the understanding that he should admit no fresh
scholars. The hall in Catiline's house, which had then been added
to the palace, was assigned him for his school, with a yearly allowance
of one hundred thousand sesterces. He died of old age, in the reign of
Tiberius. There is a statue of him at Praeneste, in the semi-circle at
the lower side of the forum, where he had set up calendars arranged by
himself, and inscribed on slabs of marble.
XVIII. LUCIUS CRASSITIUS, a native of Tarentum, and in rank a freedman,
had the cognomen of Pasides, which he afterwards changed for Pansa. His
first employment was connected with the stage, and his business was to
assist the writers of farces. After that, he took to giving lessons in a
gallery attached to a house, until his commentary on "The Smyrna"
[Cinna wrote a poem, which he called "Smyrna," and was
nine years in composing, as Catullus informs us, 93. 1]
so brought him into notice, that the following lines were written on
Uni Crassitio se credere Smyrna probavit.
Desinite indocti, conjugio hanc petere.
Soli Crassitio se dixit nubere velle:
Intima cui soli nota sua exstiterint.
Crassitius only counts on Smyrna's love,
Fruitless the wooings of the unlettered prove;
Crassitius she receives with loving arms,
For he alone unveiled her hidden charms.
However, after having taught many scholars, some of whom were of high
rank, and amongst others, Julius Antonius, the triumvir's son, so that
he might be even compared with Verrius Flaccus; he suddenly closed his
school, and joined the sect of Quintus Septimius, the philosopher.
XIX. SCRIBONIUS APHRODISIUS, the slave and disciple of Orbilius, who was
afterwards redeemed and presented with his freedom by Scribonia,
the daughter of Libo who had been the wife of Augustus, taught in the
time of Verrius; whose books on Orthography he also revised, not without
some severe remarks on his pursuits and conduct.
XX. C. JULIUS HYGINUS, a freedman of Augustus, was a native of Spain,
(although some say he was born at Alexandria,) and that when that
city was taken, Caesar brought him, then a boy, to Rome. He closely and
carefully imitated Cornelius Alexander [who
was born at Miletus, and being taken prisoner, and bought by Cornelius,
was brought to Rome, and becoming his teacher, had his freedom given
him, with the name of his patron], a Greek grammarian, who,
for his antiquarian knowledge, was called by many Polyhistor, and by
some History. He had the charge of the Palatine library, but that did not
prevent him from having many scholars; and he was one of the most
intimate friends of the poet Ovid, and of Caius Licinius, the historian,
a man of consular rank, who has related that Hyginus died very
poor, and was supported by his liberality as long as he lived. Julius
Modestus [in whom the name of the Julian family
was still preserved; mentioned with approbation by Gellius, Martial,
Quintilian, and others], who was a freedman of Hyginus, followed the footsteps of
his patron in his studies and learning.
XXI. CAIUS MELISSUS [mentioned by Ovid, De Pontif.
iv 16-30], a native of Spoletum, was free-born, but
having been exposed by his parents in consequence of quarrels between
them, he received a good education from his foster-father, by whose care
and industry he was brought up, and was made a present of to Mecaenas,
as a grammarian. Finding himself valued and treated as a friend, he
preferred to continue in his state of servitude, although he was claimed
by his mother, choosing rather his present condition than that which his
real origin entitled him to. In consequence, his freedom was speedily
given him, and he even became a favorite with Augustus. By his
appointment he was made curator of the library in the portico of Octavia; and, as
he himself informs us, undertook to compose, when he was
a sexagenarian, his books of "Witticisms," which are now called "The
Book of Jests." Of these he accomplished one hundred and fifty, to which he
afterwards added several more. He also composed a new kind of
story about those who wore the toga, and called it "Trabeat"
[the trabea was a white robe, with a purple border, of a
different fashion from the toga].
XXII. MARCUS POMPONIUS MARCELLUS, a very severe critic of the Latin
tongue, who sometimes pleaded causes, in a certain address on the
plaintiff's behalf, persisted in charging his adversary with making a
solecism, until Cassius Severus appealed to the judges to grant an
adjournment until his client should produce another grammarian, as he
was not prepared to enter into a controversy respecting a solecism, instead
of defending his client's rights. On another occasion, when he had found
fault with some expression in a speech made by Tiberius, Atteius Capito
affirmed, "that if it was not Latin, at least it would be so in
time to come;" "Capito is wrong," cried Marcellus; "it is certainly in
your power, Caesar, to confer the freedom of the city on whom you
please, but you cannot make words for us." Asinius Gallus tells us that he
was formerly a pugilist, in the following epigram.
Qui caput ad laevam deicit, glossemata nobis
Praecipit; os nullum, vel potius pugilis.
Who ducked his head, to shun another's fist,
Though he expound old saws,—yet, well I wist,
With pummelled nose and face, he's but a pugilist.
XXIII. REMMIUS PALAEMON [contemporary with
Pliny and Quintilian, who speak highly of him], of Vicentia
[now Vicenza], the offspring of a
bond-woman, acquired the rudiments of learning, first as the companion
of a weaver's, and then of his master's, son, at school. Being afterwards
made free, he taught at Rome, where he stood highest in the rank of the
grammarians; but he was so infamous for every sort of vice, that Tiberius
and his successor Claudius publicly denounced him as an improper person
to have the education of boys and young men entrusted to him. Still, his
powers of narrative and agreeable style of speaking made him very
popular; besides which, he had the gift of making extempore verses. He
also wrote a great many in various and uncommon metres. His
insolence was such, that he called Marcus Varro "a hog;" and bragged
that "letters were born and would perish with him;" and that "his name was
not introduced inadvertently in the Bucolics, as Virgil divined that a Palaemon
would some day be the judge of all poets and poems." He also
boasted, that having once fallen into the hands of robbers, they spared
him on account of the celebrity his name had acquired.
He was so luxurious, that he took the bath many times in a day; nor did
his means suffice for his extravagance, although his school brought him
in forty thousand sesterces yearly, and he received not much less from
his private estate, which he managed with great care. He also kept a
broker's shop for the sale of old clothes; and it is well known that a
vine he planted himself, yielded three hundred and fifty bottles
of wine. But the greatest of all his vices was his unbridled
licentiousness in his commerce with women, which he carried to the
utmost pitch of foul indecency ["Usque
ad infamiam oris."]. They tell a droll story of some one who
met him in a crowd, and upon his offering to kiss him, could not escape
the salute, "Master," said he, "do you want to mouth every one you meet
with in a hurry?"
XXIV. MARCUS VALERIUS PROBUS, of Berytus [Now Beirut,
on the coast of Syria. It was one of the
colonies founded by Julius Caesar when he transported 80,000 Roman
citizens to foreign parts], after long aspiring to
the rank of centurion, being at last tired of waiting, devoted himself
to study. He had met with some old authors at a bookseller's shop in the
provinces, where the memory of ancient times still lingers, and is not
quite forgotten, as it is at Rome. Being anxious carefully to re-peruse
these, and afterwards to make acquaintance with other works of the same
kind, he found himself an object of contempt, and was laughed at
for his lectures, instead of their gaining him fame or profit.
Still, however, he persisted in his purpose, and employed himself in
correcting, illustrating, and adding notes to many works which he had collected,
his labors being confined to the province of a grammarian, and nothing more.
He had, properly speaking, no scholars, but some few followers. For he
never taught in such a way as to maintain the character of a master; but
was in the habit of admitting one or two, perhaps at most three or four,
disciples in the afternoon; and while he lay at ease and chatted freely
on ordinary topics, he occasionally read some book to them, but that did
not often happen. He published a few slight treatises on some subtle
questions, besides which, he left a large collection of observations on
the language of the ancients.
Lives of Eminent Rhetoricians
I. Rhetoric, also, as well as Grammar, was not introduced amongst us
till a late period, and with still more difficulty, inasmuch as we find
that, at times, the practice of it was even prohibited. In order to
leave no doubt of this, I will subjoin an ancient decree of the senate,
as well as an edict of the censors:—"In the consulship of Caius Fannius
Strabo, and Marcus Palerius Messala [this senatus consultum
was made A.U.C. 592]: the praetor Marcus Pomponius
moved the senate, that an act be passed respecting Philosophers and
Rhetoricians. In this matter, they have decreed as follows: 'It shall be
lawful for M. Pomponius, the praetor, to take such measures, and make
such provisions, as the good of the Republic, and the duty of his
office, require, that no Philosophers or Rhetoricians be suffered at Rome.'"
After some interval, the censor Cnaeus Domitius Aenobarbus and Lucius
Licinius Crassus issued the following edict upon the same subject: "It
is reported to us that certain persons have instituted a new kind of
discipline; that our youth resort to their schools; that they have
assumed the title of Latin Rhetoricians; and that young men waste their
time there for whole days together. Our ancestors have ordained what
instruction it is fitting their children should receive, and what
schools they should attend. These novelties, contrary to the customs and
instructions of our ancestors, we neither approve, nor do they appear to
us good. Wherefore it appears to be our duty that we should notify our
judgment both to those who keep such schools, and those who are in the
practice of frequenting them, that they meet our disapprobation."
However, by slow degrees, rhetoric manifested itself to be a useful
and honorable study, and many persons devoted themselves to it, both as
a means of defense and of acquiring reputation. Cicero declaimed in
Greek until his praetorship, but afterwards, as he grew older, in Latin
also; and even in the consulship of Hirtius and Pansa
[consuls A.U.C. 710], whom he
calls "his great and noble disciples." Some historians state that Cneius
Pompey resumed the practice of declaiming even during the civil war, in
order to be better prepared to argue against Caius Curio, a young man of
great talents, to whom the defense of Caesar was entrusted. They say,
likewise, that it was not forgotten by Mark Antony, nor by Augustus,
even during the war of Modena. Nero also declaimed even after he became
emperor, in the first year of his reign, which he had done before in
public but twice. Many speeches of orators were also published. In
consequence, public favor was so much attracted to the study of
rhetoric, that a vast number of professors and learned men devoted
themselves to it; and it flourished to such a degree, that some of them
raised themselves by it to the rank of senators and the highest offices.
But the same mode of teaching was not adopted by all, nor, indeed, did
individuals always confine themselves to the same system, but each
varied his plan of teaching according to circumstances. For they were
accustomed, in stating their argument with the utmost clearness, to use
figures and apologies, to put cases, as circumstances required, and to
relate facts, sometimes briefly and succinctly, and, at other times,
more at large and with greater feeling. Nor did they omit, on occasion, to
resort to translations from the Greek, and to expatiate in the praise,
or to launch their censures on the faults, of illustrious men. They also
dealt with matters connected with every-day life, pointing out such as
are useful and necessary, and such as are hurtful and needless. They had
occasion often to support the authority of fabulous accounts, and to
detract from that of historical narratives, which sort the Greeks call
"Propositions," "Refutations" and "Corroboration," until by a gradual
process they have exhausted these topics, and arrive at the gist of the
Among the ancients, subjects of controversy were drawn either from
history, as indeed some are even now, or from actual facts, of
recent occurrence. It was, therefore, the custom to state them
precisely, with details of the names of places. We certainly so find
them collected and published, and it may be well to give one or two of
them literally, by way of example:
"A company of young men from the city, having made an excursion to Ostia
in the summer season, and going down to the beach, fell in with some
fishermen who were casting their nets in the sea. Having bargained with
them for the haul, whatever it might turn out to be, for a certain sum,
they paid down the money. They waited a long time while the nets were
being drawn, and when at last they were dragged on shore, there was no
fish in them, but some gold sewn up in a basket. The buyers claim the
haul as theirs, the fishermen assert that it belongs to them."
Again: "Some dealers having to land from a ship at Brundusium a cargo of
slaves, among which there was a handsome boy of great value, they, in
order to deceive the collectors of the customs, smuggled him ashore in
the dress of a freeborn youth, with the bullum hung about his
neck. The fraud easily escaped detection. They proceed to Rome; the affair
becomes the subject of judicial inquiry; it is alleged that the boy was
entitled to his freedom, because his master had voluntarily treated him
Formerly, they called these by a Greek term, syntaxeis, but of late
"controversies;" but they may be either fictitious cases, or those which
come under trial in the courts. Of the eminent professors of this
science, of whom any memorials are extant, it would not be easy to find
many others than those of whom I shall now proceed to give an account.
II. LUCIUS PLOTIUS GALLUS. Of him Marcus Tullius Cicero thus writes to
Marcus Titinnius: "I remember well that when we were boys, one Lucius Plotius
first began to teach Latin; and as great numbers flocked
to his school, so that all who were most devoted to study were eager to
take lessons from him, it was a great trouble to me that I too was not
allowed to do so. I was prevented, however, by the decided opinion
of men of the greatest learning, who considered that it was best to
cultivate the genius by the study of Greek." This same Gallus, for he
lived to a great age, was pointed at by M. Caelius, in a speech which he
was forced to make in his own cause, as having supplied his accuser,
Atracinus [see Cicero's Oration, pro Caelio, where Atracinus is
frequently mentioned, especially cc. i. and iii], with materials for his charge.
Suppressing his name, he says that such a rhetorician was like barley bread
["hordearium rhetorem."] compared to a
wheaten loaf,—windy, chaffy, and coarse.
III. LUCIUS OCTACILIUS PILITUS is said to have been a slave, and,
according to the old custom, chained to the door like a watch-dog;
until, having been presented with his freedom for his genius and devotion
to learning, he drew up for his patron the act of accusation in a cause
he was prosecuting. After that, becoming a professor of rhetoric, he
gave instructions to Cneius Pompey the Great, and composed an account of
his actions, as well as of those of his father, being the first
freedman, according to the opinion of Cornelius Nepos, who ventured to write
history, which before his time had not been done by any one who was not
of the highest ranks in society.
IV. About this time, EPIDIUS [Pliny
mentions with approbation C. Epidius, who wrote
some treatises in which trees are represented as speaking; Plin. xvii.
25] having fallen into disgrace for
bringing a false accusation, opened a school of instruction, in which he
taught, among others, Mark Antony and Augustus. On one occasion Caius Canutius
jeered them for presuming to belong to the party of the consul
Isauricus [consul with Julius Caesar II., A.U.C. 705,
and again with L. Antony, A.U.C. 712] in his administration of the republic; upon which he
replied, that he would rather be the disciple of Isauricus, than of
Epidius, the false accuser. This Epidius claimed to be descended from
Epidius Nuncio, who, as ancient traditions assert, fell into the
fountain of the river Sarnus [a river in the
ancient Campania, now called the Sarno, which discharges itself into the
bay of Naples] when the streams were overflown, and
not being afterwards found, was reckoned among the number of the gods.
V. SEXTUS CLODIUS, a native of Sicily, a professor both of Greek and
Latin eloquence, had bad eyes and a facetious tongue. It was a saying of
his, that he lost a pair of eyes from his intimacy with Mark Antony, the
triumvir. Of his wife, Fulvia, when there was a swelling in one of
her cheeks, he said that "she tempted the point of his style;"
[the direct allusion is to the "style" or probe
used by surgeons in opening tumors] nor did Antony think any the
worse of him for the joke, but quite enjoyed it;
and soon afterwards, when Antony was consul [Mark
Antony was consul with Julius Caesar, A.U.C. 709], he even made him a
large grant of land, which Cicero charges him with in his Philippics
[Philipp. xi. 17].
"You patronize," he said, "a master of the schools for the sake
of his buffoonery, and make a rhetorician one of your pot-companions;
allowing him to cut his jokes on any one he pleased; a witty man, no
doubt, but it was an easy matter to say smart things of such as you and
your companions. But listen, Conscript Fathers, while I tell you what
reward was given to this rhetorician, and let the wounds of the republic
be laid bare to view. You assigned two thousand acres of the Leontine
territory [Leontium, now called Lentini, was a town
in Sicily. Polybius describes the Leontine fields as the most fertile part
of Sicily. Polyb. vii. 1. And see Cicero, contra Verrem, iii. 46, 47]
to Sextus Clodius, the rhetorician, and not content with
that, exonerated the estate from all taxes. Hear this, and learn from
the extravagance of the grant, how little wisdom is displayed in your
VI. CAIUS ALBUTIUS SILUS, of Novara [a
town of the Milanese], while, in the execution of the office of aedile
in his native place, he was sitting for the
administration of justice, was dragged by the feet from the tribunal by
some persons against whom he was pronouncing a decree. In great
indignation at this usage, he made straight for the gate of the town,
and proceeded to Rome. There he was admitted to fellowship, and lodged, with
Plancus the orator [St. Jerome in Chron. Euseb. describes Lucius Munatius
Plancus as the disciple of Cicero, and a celebrated orator. He founded
Lyons during the time he governed that part of the Roman provinces in
Gaul], whose practice it was, before he made a speech
in public, to set up some one to take the contrary side in the argument.
The office was undertaken by Albutius with such success, that he
silenced Plancus, who did not venture to put himself in competition with him.
This bringing him into notice, he collected an audience of his own, and
it was his custom to open the question proposed for debate, sitting; but
as he warmed with the subject, he stood up, and made his peroration in
His declamations were of different kinds; sometimes
brilliant and polished, at others, that they might not be thought to savor
too much of the schools, he curtailed them of all ornament, and
used only familiar phrases. He also pleaded causes, but rarely, being
employed in such as were of the highest importance, and in every case
undertaking the peroration only.
In the end, he gave up practicing in the forum, partly from shame,
partly from fear. For, in a certain trial before the court of the One Hundred,
having lashed the defendant as a man void of natural affection for
his parents, he called upon him by a bold figure of speech, "to swear by
the ashes of his father and mother which lay unburied;" his adversary
taking him up for the suggestion, and the judges frowning upon it, he
lost his cause, and was much blamed.
At another time, on a trial for
murder at Milan, before Lucius Piso, the proconsul, having to defend the
culprit, he worked himself up to such a pitch of vehemence, that in a
crowded court, who loudly applauded him, notwithstanding all the efforts
of the lictor to maintain order, he broke out into a lamentation on the
miserable state of Italy [Cisalpine Gaul, which,
though geographically a part of Italy, did not till a late period enjoy the
privileges of the other territories united to Rome], then in danger of being again reduced,
he said, into the form of a province, and turning to the statue of
Marcus Brutus, which stood in the Forum, he invoked him as "the founder
and vindicator of the liberties of the people." For this he narrowly
escaped a prosecution. Suffering, at an advanced period of life, from an
ulcerated tumor, he returned to Novara, and calling the people together
in a public assembly, addressed them in a set speech, of considerable
length, explaining the reasons which induced him to put an end to
existence: and this he did by abstaining from food.
Lives of the Poets
The Life of Terence
Publius Terentius Afer, a native of Carthage, was a slave, at Rome, of
the senator Terentius Lucanus, who, struck by his abilities and handsome
person, gave him not only a liberal education in his youth, but his
freedom when he arrived at years of maturity. Some say that he was a
captive taken in war, but this, as Fenestella [Lucius
Fenestella, an historical writer, is mentioned by
Lactantius, Seneca, and Pliny] informs us, could by
no means have been the case, since both his birth and death took place
in the interval between the termination of the second Punic war and the
commencement of the third [the second Punic war
ended A.U.C. 552, and the third began A.U.C. 605. Terence was probably
born about 560]; nor, even supposing that he had been
taken prisoner by the Numidian or Getulian tribes, could he have fallen
into the hands of a Roman general, as there was no commercial
intercourse between the Italians and Africans until after the fall of Carthage
[Carthage was laid in ruins A.U.C. 606 or 607, six
hundred and sixty seven years after its foundation].
Terence lived in great familiarity with many persons of high station,
and especially with Scipio Africanus, and Caius Delius, whose favor he is
even supposed to have purchased by the foulest means. But Fenestella
reverses the charge, contending that Terence was older than either of
them. Cornelius Nepos, however, informs us that they were all of
nearly equal age; and Porcias intimates a suspicion of this criminal
commerce in the following passage:—
"While Terence plays the wanton with the great, and recommends himself
them by the meretricious ornaments of his person; while, with greedy
ears, he drinks in the divine melody of Africanus's voice; while he
thinks of being a constant guest at the table of Furius, and the handsome
Laelius; while he thinks that he is fondly loved by them, and often
invited to Albanum for his youthful beauty, he finds himself stripped of
his property, and reduced to the lowest state of indigence. Then,
withdrawing from the world, he betook himself to Greece, where he met his
end, dying at Strymphalos, a town in Arcadia. What availed him the
friendship of Scipio, of Laelius, or of Furius, three of the most
affluent nobles of that age? They did not even minister to his
necessities so much as to provide him a hired house, to which his slave
might return with the intelligence of his master's death."
He wrote comedies, the earliest of which, The Andria, having to be
performed at the public spectacles given by the aediles
[these entertainments were given by the aediles M. Fulvius
Nobilior and M. Acilius Glabrio, A.U.C. 587], he was
commanded to read it first before Caecilius [St. Jerome
also states that Terence read the "Andria" to Caecilius who was
a comic poet at Rome; but it is clearly an
anachronism, as he died two years before this period]. Having been
introduced while Caecilius was at supper, and being meanly dressed, he
is reported to have read the beginning of the play seated on a low stool
near the great man's couch. But after reciting a few verses, he was
invited to take his place at table, and, having supped with his host,
went through the rest to his great delight. This play and five others
were received by the public with similar applause, although Volcatius,
in his enumeration of them, says that "The Hecyra ['The
Mother-in-law,' one of Terence's plays] must not be reckoned
The Eunuch was even acted twice the same day [the
"Eunuch" was not brought out till five years after the Andria, A.U.C.
592], and earned more
money than any comedy, whoever was the writer, had ever done before,
namely, eight thousand sesterces; besides which, a certain sum
accrued to the author for the title. But Varro prefers the opening of
The Adelphi [first acted A.U.C. 593] to that of Menander.
It is very commonly reported that
Terence was assisted in his works by Laelius and Scipio
[this report is mentioned by Cicero (Ad Attic, vii.
3), who applies it to the younger Laelius. The Scipio here mentioned is Scipio
Africanus, who was at this time about twenty-one years of age], with whom
he lived in such great intimacy. He gave some currency to this report
himself, nor did he ever attempt to defend himself against it, except in
a light way; as in the prologue to The Adelphi:
Nam quod isti dicunt malevoli, homines nohiles
Hunc adjutare, assidueque una scribere;
Quod illi maledictun vehemens existimant,
Eam laudem hic ducit maximam: cum illis placet,
Qui vobis universis et populo placent;
Quorum opera in bello, in otio, in negotio,
Suo quisque tempore usus est sine superbia.
Which malice tells that certain noble persons
Assist the bard, and write in concert with him,
That which they deem a heavy slander, he
Esteems his greatest praise: that he can please
Those who in war, in peace, as counsellors,
Have rendered you the dearest services,
And ever borne their faculties so meekly.
He appears to have protested against this imputation with less
earnestness, because the notion was far from being disagreeable to
Laelius and Scipio. It therefore gained ground, and prevailed in
Quintus Memmius, in his speech in his own defense, says "Publius
Africanus, who borrowed from Terence a character which he had acted in
private, brought it on the stage in his name." Nepos tells us he found
in some book that C. Laelius, when he was on some occasion at Puteoli,
on the calends [the first] of March [the calends of
March was the festival of married women], being requested by his wife to
rise early, begged her not to suffer him to be disturbed, as he
had gone to bed late, having been engaged in writing with more than usual
success. On her asking him to tell her what he had been writing, he
repeated the verses which are found in the Heautontimoroumenos:
Satis pol proterve me Syri promessa—Heauton. IV. iv. 1.
I'faith! the rogue Syrus's impudent pretences—
Santra [Santra, who wrote biographies of celebrated characters,
is mentioned as "a man of learning," by St. Jerom, in his preface to the
book on the Ecclesiastical Writers] is of opinion that if Terence required any assistance in
his compositions [the idea seems to have prevailed that
Terence, originally an African slave, could not have attained that purity
of style in Latin composition which is found in his plays, without some assistance],
he would not have had recourse to Scipio and Laelius,
who were then very young men, but rather to Sulpicius Gallus
[Cicero (de Clar. Orat. c. 207) gives Sulpicius Gallus a
high character as a finished orator and elegant scholar. He was consul
when the Andria was first produced], an
accomplished scholar, who had been the first to introduce his plays at
the games given by the consuls; or to Q. Fabius Labeo, or Marcus
Popilius [Q. Fabius Labeo was consul with M. Claudius
Marcellus, A.U.C. 570 and Popilius with L. Postumius Albinus, A.U.C. 580],
both men of consular rank, as well as poets. It was for this
reason that, in alluding to the assistance he had received, he did not
speak of his coadjutors as very young men, but as persons of whose
services the people had full experience in peace, in war, and in the
administration of affairs.
After he had given his comedies to the world, at a time when he had not
passed his thirty-fifth year, in order to avoid suspicion, as he found
others publishing their works under his name, or else to make himself
acquainted with the modes of life and habits of the Greeks, for the
purpose of exhibiting them in his plays, he withdrew from home, to which
he never returned. Volcatius gives this account of his death:
Sed ut Afer sei populo dedit comoedias,
Iter hic in Asiam fecit. Navem cum semel
Conscendit, visus nunquam est. Sic vita vacat.
When Afer had produced six plays for the entertainment of the
He embarked for Asia; but from the time he went on board ship
He was never seen again. Thus he ended his life.
Q. Consentius reports that he perished at sea on his voyage back from
Greece, and that one hundred and eight plays, of which he had made a
version from Menander, were lost with him. Others say that he died
at Stymphalos, in Arcadia, or in Leucadia, during the consulship of Cn.
Cornelius Dolabella and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior [consuls
A.U.C. 594. Terence was, therefore, thirty-four years old at the time of
his death], worn out with a
severe illness, and with grief and regret for the loss of his baggage,
which he had sent forward in a ship that was wrecked, and contained the
last new plays he had written.
In person, Terence is reported to have been rather short and slender,
with a dark complexion. He had an only daughter, who was afterwards
married to a Roman knight; and he left also twenty acres of garden
ground [hortulorum, in the plural number; this term, often found
in Roman authors, not inaptly describes the vast number of little enclosures, consisting of
vineyards, orchards of fig-trees, peaches, etc.,
with patches of tillage], on the Appian Way, at the Villa of Mars. I, therefore, wonder the
more how Porcius could have written the verses,
Scipio profuit, nihil et Laelius, nihil Furius,
Tres per idem tempus qui agitabant nobiles facillime.
Eorum ille opera ne domum quidem habuit conductitiam
Saltem ut esset, quo referret obitum domini servulus.
Afranius places him at the head of all the comic writers, declaring, in
Terentio non similem dices quempiam.
Terence's equal cannot soon be found.
On the other hand, Volcatius reckons him inferior not only to
Naevius, Plautus, and Caecilius, but also to Licinius. Cicero pays him
this high compliment, in his Limo—
Tu quoque, qui solus lecto sermone, Terenti,
Conversum expressumque Latina voce Menandrum
In medio populi sedatis vocibus offers,
Quidquid come loquens, ac omnia dulcia dicens.
"You, only, Terence, translated into Latin, and clothed in choice
language the plays of Menander, and brought them before the public, who,
in crowded audiences, hung upon hushed applause—
Grace marked each line, and every period charmed."
So also Caius Caesar:
Tu quoque tu in summis, O dimidiate Menander,
Poneris, et merito, puri sermonis amator,
Lenibus atque utinam scriptis adjuncta foret vis
Comica, ut aequato virtus polleret honore
Cum Graecis, neque in hoc despectus parte jaceres!
Unum hoc maceror, et doleo tibi deesse, Terenti.
"You, too, who divide your honors with Menander, will take your place
among poets of the highest order, and justly too, such is the purity of
your style. Would only that to your graceful diction was added more
comic force, that your works might equal in merit the Greek
and your inferiority in this particular should not expose you to
This is my only regret; in this, Terence, I grieve to say you are
The Life of Juvenal
D. JUNIUS JUVENALIS, who was either the son
[Juvenal was born at Aquinum, a town of the Volscians, as
is intimated by himself. Sat. iii. 319] of a wealthy freedman,
or brought up by him, it is not known which, declaimed till the middle
of life [he must have been therefore nearly forty
years old at this time, as he lived to be eighty], more from the bent
of his inclination, than from any desire
to prepare himself either for the schools or the forum. But having
composed a short satire [the seventh of Juvenal's
Satires], which was clever enough, on Paris,
the actor of pantomimes, and also on the poet of Claudius Nero, who
was puffed up by having held some inferior military rank for six months
only; he afterwards devoted himself with much zeal to that style of
writing. For a while indeed, he had not the courage to read them even to
a small circle of auditors, but it was not long before he recited his
satires to crowded audiences, and with entire success; and this he did
twice or thrice, inserting new lines among those which he had originally
Quod non dant proceres, dabit histrio, tu Camerinos,
Et Bareas, tu nobilium magna atria curas.
Praefectos Pelopea facit, Philomela tribunos.
Behold an actor's patronage affords
A surer means of rising than a lord's!
And wilt thou still the Camerino's [Sulpicius
Camerinus had been proconsul in Africa; Bareas
Soranus in Asia. Tacit. Annal. xiii. 52; xvi. 23] court,
Or to the halls of Bareas resort,
When tribunes Pelopea can create
And Philomela praefects, who shall rule the state?
[The "Pelopea," was a tragedy founded on the story of the
daughter of Thyestes; the "Philomela," a tragedy on the fate of Itys,
whose remains were served to his father at a banquet by Philomela and
her sister Procne.]
At that time the player was in high favor at court, and many of those
who fawned upon him were daily raised to posts of honor. Juvenal
therefore incurred the suspicion of having covertly satirized
occurrences which were then passing, and, although eighty years old at that time
[Juvenal, who wrote first
in the reigns of Domitian and Trajan, composed his last Satire but one
in the third year of Adrian, A.U.C. 872], he was immediately removed from the city, being sent into
honorable banishment as praefect of a cohort, which was under orders to
proceed to a station at the extreme frontier of Egypt
[Syene, the frontier station of the imperial troops
in that quarter of the world]. That sort of punishment was selected, as it appeared severe enough for an
offence which was venial, and a mere piece of drollery. However, he died
very soon afterwards, worn down by grief, and weary of his life.
The Life of Persius
AULUS PERSIUS FLACCUS was born the day before the Nones of December [4th
Dec.] [A.U.C. 786, A.D. 34], in the consulship of Fabius Persicus and L. Vitellius. He
died on the eighth of the calends of December [24th Nov.]
[A.U.C. 814, A.D. 62] in the
consulship of Rubrius Marius and Asinius Gallus. Though born at
Volterra, in Etruria, he was a Roman knight, allied both by blood and
marriage to persons of the highest rank [Persius was one of the few men of rank and affluence
among the Romans, who acquired distinction as writers; the greater part of
them having been freedmen, as appears not only from these lives of the poets,
but from our author's notices of the grammarians and rhetoricians]. He ended his days at an
estate he had at the eighth milestone on the Appian Way. His father, Flaccus, who died
when he was barely six years old, left him under the
care of guardians, and his mother, Fulvia Silenna, who afterwards
married Fusius, a Roman knight, buried him also in a very few years.
Persius Flaccus pursued his studies at Volterra till he was twelve years old,
and then continued them at Rome, under Remmius Palaemon, the grammarian, and
Verginius Flaccus, the rhetorician. Arriving at the age of twenty-one,
he formed a friendship with Annaeus Cornutus [Persius
addressed his fifth satire to Annaeus Cornutus.
He was a native of Leptis, in Africa, and lived at Rome in the time of
Nero, by whom he was banished], which lasted through
life; and from him he learned the rudiments of philosophy. Among his
earliest friends were Caesius Bassus [a lyric poet
who flourished during the reigns of Nero and Galba. Persius dedicated his
sixth Satire to him], and Calpurnius Statura; the
latter of whom died while Persius himself was yet in his youth.
Servilius Numanus, he reverenced as a father. Through Cornutus he was introduced
to Annaeus, as well as to Lucan, who was of
his own age, and also a disciple of Cornutus. At that time Cornutus was
a tragic writer; he belonged to the sect of the Stoics, and left behind
him some philosophical works.
Lucan was so delighted with the writings
of Persius Flaccus, that he could scarcely refrain from giving loud
tokens of applause while the author was reciting them, and declared that
they had the true spirit of poetry. It was late before Persius made the
acquaintance of Seneca, and then he was not much struck with his natural
endowments. At the house of Cornutus he enjoyed the society of two very
learned and excellent men, who were then zealously devoting themselves
to philosophical enquiries, namely, Claudius Agaternus, a physician from
Lacedaemon, and Petronius Aristocrates, of Magnesia, men whom he held in
the highest esteem, and with whom he vied in their studies, as they were
of his own age, being younger than Cornutus. During nearly the last ten
years of his life he was much beloved by Thraseas, so that he sometimes
travelled abroad in his company; and his cousin Arria was married to
Persius was remarkable for gentle manners, for a modesty amounting to
bashfulness, a handsome form, and an attachment to his mother, sister,
and aunt, which was most exemplary. He was frugal and chaste. He left
his mother and sister twenty thousand sesterces, requesting his mother,
in a written codicil, to present to Cornutus, as some say, one hundred
sesterces, or as others, twenty pounds of wrought silver, besides
about seven hundred books, which, indeed, included his whole library.
Cornutus, however, would only take the books, and gave up the legacy to
the sisters, whom his brother had constituted his heirs.
He wrote seldom, and not very fast; even the work we possess he
left incomplete. Some verses are wanting at the end of the book,
but Cornutus thoughtlessly recited it, as if it was finished; and
on Caesius Bassus requesting to be allowed to publish it, he delivered
it to him for that purpose., In his younger days, Persius had written a
play, as well as an Itinerary, with several copies of verses on Thraseas'
father-in-law, and Arria's [there were two Arrias, mother and daughter, Tacit. Annal.
xvi. 34. 3] mother, who had made away with herself
before her husband. But Cornutus used his whole influence with the
mother of Persius to prevail upon her to destroy these compositions. As
soon as his book of Satires was published, all the world began to admire
it, and were eager to buy it up. He died of a disease in the stomach, in
the thirtieth year of his age. But no sooner had he left school
and his masters, than he set to work with great vehemence to compose
satires, from having read the tenth book of Lucilius; and made the
beginning of that book his model; presently launching his invectives all
around with so little scruple, that he did not spare cotemporary poets
and orators, and even lashed Nero himself, who was then the reigning
prince. The verse ran as follows:
Auriculas asini Mida rex habet;
King Midas has an ass's ears;
but Cornutus altered it thus;
Auriculas asini quis non habet?
Who has not an ass's ears?
in order that it might not be supposed that it was meant to apply to
The Life of Horace.
HORATIUS FLACCUS was a native of Venusium [Venusium stood
on the confines of the Apulian, Lucanian,
and Samnite territories], his father having been,
by his own account [Sat. i. 6. 45], a freedman and collector of taxes, but, as it
is generally believed, a dealer in salted provisions;
for some one with whom Horace had a quarrel, jeered him, by saying; "How often have I
seen your father wiping his nose with his fist?" In the battle of
Philippi, he served as a military tribune [Horace mentions his being in
this battle, and does not
scruple to admit that he made rather a precipitate retreat, "relicta non
bene parmula."--Ode xi. 7-9], which post he filled at
the instance of Marcus Brutus, the general; and having obtained a
pardon, on the overthrow of his party, he purchased the office of scribe
to a quaestor. Afterwards insinuating himself first, into the good
graces of Mecaenas, and then of Augustus, he secured no small share in
the regard of both. And first, how much Mecaenas loved him may be seen
by the epigram in which he says:
Ni te visceribus meis, Horati,
Plus jam diligo, Titium sodalem,
Ginno tu videas strigosiorem.
["If I love you not, Horace, to my very
may you see the priest of the college of Titus
leaner than his mule."]
But it was more strongly exhibited by Augustus, in a short sentence
uttered in his last moments: "Be as mindful of Horatius Flaccus as you
are of me!" Augustus offered to appoint him his secretary, signifying
his wishes to Mecaenas in a letter to the following effect: "Hitherto I
have been able to write my own epistles to friends; but now I am too
much occupied, and in an infirm state of health. I wish, therefore, to
deprive you of our Horace: let him leave, therefore, your luxurious table
and come to the palace, and he shall assist me in writing my letters."
And upon his refusing to accept the office, he neither exhibited the
smallest displeasure, nor ceased to heap upon him tokens of his regard.
Letters of his are extant, from which I will make some short extracts to
establish this: "Use your influence over me with the same freedom as you
would do if we were living together as friends. In so doing you will be
perfectly right, and guilty of no impropriety; for I could wish that our
intercourse should be on that footing, if your health admitted of it."
And again: "How I hold you in memory you may learn from our friend Septimius,
for I happened to mention you when he was present. And
if you are so proud as to scorn my friendship, that is no reason why I
should lightly esteem yours, in return." Besides this, among other
drolleries, he often called him, "his most immaculate penis," and "his
charming little man," and loaded him from time to time with proofs of
He admired his works so much, and was so convinced of their
enduring fame, that he directed him to compose the Secular Poem, as well
as that on the victory of his stepsons Tiberius and Drusus over the Vindelici;
and for this purpose urged him to add, after a long
interval, a fourth book of Odes to the former three. After reading his
"Sermones," in which he found no mention of himself, he complained in
these terms: "You must know that I am very angry with you, because in
most of your works of this description you do not choose to address
yourself to me. Are you afraid that, in times to come, your reputation
will suffer; in case it should appear that you lived on terms of
intimate friendship with me?" And he wrung from him the eulogy which begins with,
Cum tot sustineas, et tanta negotia solus:
Res Italas armis tuteris, moribus ornes,
Legibus emendes: in publica commoda peccem,
Si longo sermone morer tua tempora, Caesar.—Epist. ii. i.
While you alone sustain the important weight
Of Rome's affairs, so various and so great;
While you the public weal with arms defend,
Adorn with morals, and with laws amend;
Shall not the tedious letter prove a crime,
That steals one moment of our Caesar's time.—Francis.
In person, Horace was short and fat, as he is described by himself in
his Satires, and by Augustus in the following letter: "Dionysius has
brought me your small volume, which, little as it is, not to blame you
for that, I shall judge favorably. You seem to me, however, to be
afraid lest your volumes should be bigger than yourself. But if you are
short in stature, you are corpulent enough. You may, therefore, if
you will, write in a quart, when the size of your volume is as large
round as your paunch."
It is reported that he was immoderately addicted to venery. [For he is
said to have had obscene pictures so disposed in a bedchamber lined with
mirrors, that, whichever way he looked, lascivious images might present
themselves to his view.] He lived for the most part in the
retirement of his farm [the works of Horace abound
with references to his Sabine farm], on the confines of the Sabine and Tiburtine
territories, and his house is shown in the neighborhood of a little
wood not far from Tibur. Some Elegies ascribed to him, and a prose Epistle
apparently written to commend himself to Mecaenas, have been handed down
to us; but I believe that neither of them are genuine works of his; for
the Elegies are commonplace, and the Epistle is wanting in perspicuity,
a fault which cannot be imputed to his style.
He was born on the sixth of
the ides of December [27th December], in the consulship of Lucius Cotta
[Aurelius Cotta and L. Manlius Torquatus were consuls
A.U.C. 688] and Lucius Torquatus; and died on the fifth of the calends of
December [27th November], in the consulship of Caius Marcius Censorinus
and Caius Asinius Gallus [A.U.C. 745]; having completed his fifty-ninth year.
He made a nuncupatory will, declaring Augustus his heir, not being able,
from the violence of his disorder, to sign one in due form. He was
interred and lies buried on the skirts of the Esquiline Hill, near the
tomb of Mecaenas. [Horace died under the
hospitable roof of his patron Mecaenas, whose villa and gardens stood on
the Esquiline hill.]
M. ANNAEUS LUCANUS, a native of Corduba
[Cordova. Lucan was the son of Annaeus Mella, Seneca's
brother], first tried the
powers of his genius in an encomium on Nero, at the Quinquennial games.
He afterwards recited his poem on the Civil War carried on between
Pompey and Caesar. His vanity was so immense, and he gave such liberty to his
tongue, that in some preface, comparing his age and his first efforts
with those of Virgil, he had the assurance to say: "And what now remains
for me is to deal with a gnat." In his early youth, after being long
informed of the sort of life his father led in the country, in
consequence of an unhappy marriage, he was recalled from Athens by
Nero, who admitted him into the circle of his friends, and even gave him
the honor of the quaestorship; but he did not long remain in favor.
Smarting at this, and having publicly stated that Nero had withdrawn,
all of a sudden, without communicating with the senate, and without any
other motive than his own recreation, after this he did not cease to assail
the emperor both with foul words and with acts which are still notorious. So
that on one occasion, when easing his bowels in the common privy, there
being a louder explosion than usual, he gave vent to the nemistych of
Nero: "One would suppose it was thundering under ground," in the hearing
of those who were sitting there for the same purpose, and who took to
their heels in much consternation. In a poem also, which was in
every one's hands, he severely lashed both the emperor and his most
At length, he became nearly the most active leader in Piso's conspiracy;
and while he dwelt without reserve in many quarters on the glory
of those who dipped their hands in the blood of tyrants, he
launched out into open threats of violence, and carried them so far as
to boast that he would cast the emperor's head at the feet of his neighbors.
When, however, the plot was discovered, he did not exhibit
any firmness of mind. A confession was wrung from him without much
difficulty; and, humbling himself to the most abject entreaties, he even
named his innocent mother as one of the conspirators; hoping that
his want of natural affection would give him favor in the eyes of a
parricidal prince. Having obtained permission to choose his mode of
death [St. Jerom (Chron. Euseb.) places Lucan's death in the
tenth year of Nero's reign, corresponding with A.U.C. 817], he wrote notes
to his father, containing corrections of
some of his verses, and, having made a full meal, allowed a physician to
open the veins in his arm [Lucan expired while
pronouncing some verses from his own Pharsalia: for which we have the
authority of Tacitus, Annal. xv. 20. 1]. I have also heard it said that his
poems were offered for sale, and commented upon, not only with care and
diligence, but also in a trifling way.
The Life of Pliny
PLINIUS SECUNDUS, a native of New Como, having served in
the wars with strict attention to his duties, in the rank of a knight,
distinguished himself, also, by the great integrity with which he
administered the high functions of procurator for a long period in the
several provinces entrusted to his charge. But still he devoted so much
attention to literary pursuits, that it would not have been an easy
matter for a person who enjoyed entire leisure to have written more than
he did. He comprised, in twenty volumes, an account of all the various
wars carried on in successive periods with the German tribes. Besides
this, he wrote a Natural History, which extended to seven books.
He fell a victim to the calamitous event which occurred in Campania. For, having
the command of the fleet at Misenum, when Vesuvius was throwing up a
fiery eruption, he put to sea with his gallies for the purpose of
exploring the causes of the phenomenon close on the spot
[Mount Vesuvius erupted A.U.C. 831, A.D. 79]. But
being prevented by contrary winds from sailing back, he was suffocated
in the dense cloud of dust and ashes. Some, however, think that he was
killed by his slave, having implored him to put an end to his
sufferings, when he was reduced to the last extremity by the fervent