Cornelius Nepos, (born c. 110 bce--died c. 24 bce), Roman historian, the earliest biographer to write in Latin. He was a correspondent and friend of Cicero and Atticus, and he was the friend (or patron) to whom Catullus dedicated his poems.Nepos came, like Catullus, from Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy). His principal writings were De viris illustribus ("On Famous Men"; in at least 16 books), comprising brief biographies of distinguished Romans and foreigners; Chronica (in 3 books), which introduced to the Roman reader a Greek invention, the universal comparative chronology; Exempla (in..
Seneca, in full Lucius Annaeus Seneca, byname Seneca the Younger, (born c. 4 bce, Corduba (now Cordoba), Spain--died 65 ce, Rome [Italy]), Roman philosopher, statesman, orator, and tragedian. He was Rome's leading intellectual figure in the mid-1st century ce and was virtual ruler with his friends of the Roman world between 54 and 62, during the first phase of the emperor Nero's reign.Early life and familySeneca was the second son of a wealthy family. His father, Seneca (Seneca the Elder), had been famous in Rome as a teacher of rhetoric. His mother, Helvia, was of excellent character and education...
Juvenal, Latin in full Decimus Junius Juvenalis, (born 55-60? ce, Aquinum, Italy--died probably in or after 127), most powerful of all Roman satiric poets. Many of his phrases and epigrams have entered common parlance--for example, "bread and circuses" and "Who will guard the guards themselves?"LifeThe one contemporary who ever mentions Juvenal is Martial, who claims to be his friend, calls him eloquent, and describes him as living the life of a poor dependent cadging from rich men. There are a few biographies of him, apparently composed long after his death; these may contain some nuggets..
Marcus Tullius Cicero, English byname Tully, (born 106 bce, Arpinum, Latium [now Arpino, Italy]--died December 7, 43 bce, Formiae, Latium [now Formia]), Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and writer who vainly tried to uphold republican principles in the final civil wars that destroyed the Roman Republic. His writings include books of rhetoric, orations, philosophical and political treatises, and letters. He is remembered in modern times as the greatest Roman orator and the innovator of what became known as Ciceronian rhetoric.Early life and careerCicero was the son of a wealthy family..
Horace, Latin in full Quintus Horatius Flaccus, (born December 65 bc, Venusia, Italy--died Nov. 27, 8 bc, Rome), outstanding Latin lyric poet and satirist under the emperor Augustus. The most frequent themes of his Odes and verse Epistles are love, friendship, philosophy, and the art of poetry.LifeHorace was probably of the Sabellian hillman stock of Italy's central highlands. His father had once been a slave but gained freedom before Horace's birth and became an auctioneer's assistant. He also owned a small property and could afford to take his son to Rome and ensure personally his getting..
Virgil, also spelled Vergil, Latin in full Publius Vergilius Maro, (born October 15, 70 bce, Andes, near Mantua [Italy]—died September 21, 19 bce, Brundisium), Roman poet, best known for his national epic, the Aeneid (from c. 30 bce; unfinished at his death).Virgil was regarded by the Romans as their greatest poet, an estimation that subsequent generations have upheld. His fame rests chiefly upon the Aeneid, which tells the story of Rome’s legendary founder and proclaims the Roman mission to civilize the world under divine guidance. His reputation as a poet endures not only for the music and..
Ovid, Latin in full Publius Ovidius Naso, (born March 20, 43 bce, Sulmo, Roman Empire [now Sulmona, Italy]—died 17 ce, Tomis, Moesia [now Constanṭa, Romania]), Roman poet noted especially for his Ars amatoria and Metamorphoses. His verse had immense influence both by its imaginative interpretations of Classical myth and as an example of supreme technical accomplishment.LifePublius Ovidius Naso was, like most Roman men of letters, a provincial. He was born at Sulmo, a small town about 90 miles (140 km) east of Rome. The main events of his life are described in an autobiographical poem in the..
Cicero, pseudonym of Elyesa Bazna, (born 1904, Pristina, Ottoman Empire [now in Kosovo]--died December 21, 1970, Munich, West Germany), one of the most famous spies of World War II, who worked for Nazi Germany in 1943-44 while he was employed as valet to Sir Hughe Montgomery Knatchbull-Hugessen, British ambassador to neutral Turkey from 1939. He photographed secret documents from the embassy safe and turned the films over to the former German chancellor Franz von Papen, at that time German ambassador in Ankara. For this service the Hitler government paid Cicero large sums in British money,..
Phaedrus, (born c. 15 bc, Thrace--died ad 50, Italy), Roman fabulist, the first writer to Latinize whole books of fables, producing free versions in iambic metre of Greek prose fables then circulating under the name of Aesop.A slave by birth, Phaedrus went to Italy early in life, became a freedman in the emperor Augustus' household, and received the usual education in Greek and Latin authors.The poets Ennius, Lucilius, and Horace had introduced fables into their poems, but Phaedrus considered himself a genuine, pioneering artist whose poems, combining charm with a serious didactic purpose,..
Decimus Magnus Ausonius, (born c. 310, Burdigala, Gaul [now Bordeaux, France]--died c. 395, Burdigala), Latin poet and rhetorician interesting chiefly for his preoccupation with the provincial scene of his native Gaul.Ausonius taught in the famous schools of Burdigala (now Bordeaux, Fr.), first as a grammarian and then as a rhetorician, so successfully that Valentinian I called him to Trier to tutor Gratian, who, on his accession, elevated Ausonius to the prefecture of Africa, Italy, and Gaul and to the consulship in 379. After Gratian's murder, in 383, Ausonius returned to his estates..
Statius Caecilius, (born c. 219 bce--died 168 bce, Rome [Italy]), Roman comic poet who was ranked by the literary critic Volcatius Sedigitus at the head of all Roman writers of comedy.Aulus Gellius says that he was a slave and "therefore" called Statius--a name given to slaves. Jerome says that he was an Insubrian Gaul, that some said his birthplace was Milan, that at first he lived with the poet Quintus Ennius, and that he died a year later than Ennius (who died in 169) and was buried near the Janiculum Hill in Rome. Suetonius's life of the dramatist Terence states that the aediles (magistrates who..
Lucan, Latin in full Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, (born ad 39, Corduba [now Cordoba], Spain--died 65, Rome [Italy]), Roman poet and republican patriot whose historical epic, the Bellum civile, better known as the Pharsalia because of its vivid account of that battle, is remarkable as the single major Latin epic poem that eschewed the intervention of the gods.Lucan was the nephew of the philosopher-statesman Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger). Trained by the Stoic philosopher Cornutus and later educated in Athens, Lucan attracted the favourable attention of the emperor Nero owing to..
Marcus Terentius Varro, (born 116 bc, probably Reate, Italy--died 27 bc), Rome's greatest scholar and a satirist of stature, best known for his Saturae Menippeae ("Menippean Satires"). He was a man of immense learning and a prolific author. Inspired by a deep patriotism, he intended his work, by its moral and educational quality, to further Roman greatness. Seeking to link Rome's future with its glorious past, his works exerted great influence before and after the founding of the Roman Empire (27 bc).Varro studied with a prominent Latin scholar and with the philosopher Antiochus of Ascalon..
Quintus Ennius, (born 239 bc, Rudiae, southern Italy--died 169 bc), epic poet, dramatist, and satirist, the most influential of the early Latin poets, rightly called the founder of Roman literature. His epic Annales, a narrative poem telling the story of Rome from the wanderings of Aeneas to the poet's own day, was the national epic until it was eclipsed by Virgil's Aeneid.Because of the place of his birth, Ennius was at home in three languages and had, as he put it, "three hearts": Oscan, his native tongue; Greek, in which he was educated; and Latin, the language of the army with which he served in..
Quintilian, Latin in full Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, (born ad 35, Calagurris Nassica, Hispania Tarraconensis--died after 96, Rome), Latin teacher and writer whose work on rhetoric, Institutio oratoria, is a major contribution to educational theory and literary criticism.Quintilian was born in northern Spain, but he was probably educated in Rome, where he afterward received some practical training from the leading orator of the day, Domitius Afer. He then practiced for a time as an advocate in the law courts. He left for his native Spain sometime after 57 but returned to Rome in 68 and began..
Terence, Latin in full Publius Terentius Afer, (born c. 195 bc, Carthage, North Africa [now in Tunisia]--died 159? bc, in Greece or at sea), after Plautus the greatest Roman comic dramatist, the author of six verse comedies that were long regarded as models of pure Latin. Terence's plays form the basis of the modern comedy of manners.Terence was taken to Rome as a slave by Terentius Lucanus, an otherwise unknown Roman senator who was impressed by his ability and gave him a liberal education and, subsequently, his freedom.Reliable information about the life and dramatic career of Terence is defective...
Plautus, (born c. 254 bce, Sarsina, Umbria? [Italy]--died 184 bce), great Roman comic dramatist, whose works, loosely adapted from Greek plays, established a truly Roman drama in the Latin language.LifeLittle is known for certain about the life and personality of Plautus, who ranks with Terence as one of the two great Roman comic dramatists. His work, moreover, presents scholars with a variety of textual problems, since the manuscripts by which his plays survive are corrupt and sometimes incomplete. Nevertheless, his literary and dramatic skills make his plays enjoyable in their own right,..
Sextus Propertius, (born 55-43 bce, Assisi, Umbria [Italy]--died after 16 bce, Rome), greatest elegiac poet of ancient Rome. The first of his four books of elegies, published in 29 bce, is called Cynthia after its heroine (his mistress, whose real name was Hostia); it gained him entry into the literary circle centring on Maecenas.Very few details of the life of Sextus Propertius are known. His father died when he was still a boy, but he was given a good education by his mother. Part of the family estate was confiscated (c. 40 bce) to satisfy the resettlement needs of the veteran troops of Octavian,..