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 p143  Introduction
to Grattius

The period of Grattius is fixed as Augustan by one of Ovid's pentameters, Ep. ex Ponto, IV.16.34, "aptaque venanti Grattius arma daret." This is a specific reference to Grattius' twenty-third line, whether the reading there be venanti or venandi, and it places him in a list of Ovid's contemporaries before A.D. 8. It is possible, though not certain, that his work was known to Manilius: otherwise, antiquity is silent about him. If it were as certain that he borrowed from the Aeneid as it is that he borrowed from the Georgics, then his work could be placed between the limits 19 B.C. and A.D. 8. His title to the epithet Faliscus, reported to have been in a manuscript now vanished, is not admitted by all. Nostris Faliscis of l. 40 does not necessarily imply that he was a native of Falerii:​1 any Italian or even Sicilian might have used the phrase; and indeed there is a possibility that he was connected with Sicily; for he mentions (435‑436) that he had frequently seen ailing dogs dipped in the bituminous pools of Sicily. Silvis nostris of 137, though taken by Curcio to mean "our Roman woods," may not imply more than "our western woods" in contrast  p144 with the East which Grattius had just mentioned. There is more of the Roman note in the allusion to the simple board of ancient heroes of Rome (321); but it must always be remembered how, from Ennius onwards, Latin authors born far from the capital itself tended to speak and write as Romans. If, then, we cannot add the descriptive Faliscus to his name, it is left "Grattius"​2 without cognomen or praenomen.

If Grattius ever wrote lyric poetry,​3 it is long since lost. His sole surviving work is his Cynegetica, of which we have one book of about 540 hexameters mutilated towards its end. Here, like several other writers of antiquity, he treats of the chase and especially of the rearing and training of dogs for hunting purposes. The sources of his material are not easy to trace.​4 Some authorities affirm, while others deny, his debt to the Cynegeticus of Xenophon (or pseudo-Xenophon) and to Plutarch. It seems at least likely that some Greek author of the Alexandrian period lay behind his list of dogs, in which the Asiatic breeds come before the European, with the "Celtae"​5 sandwiched between "Medi" and "Geloni" (155‑57). The Latin influence which is most noticeable upon Grattius is that of Virgil, especially his Georgics.

The debt of subsequent writers to Grattius was of the slightest; largely for the reason that a  p145 didactic poem on so restricted a subject had little chance of a great vogue. Even upon Nemesianus, who handled the same theme in the third century, his influence has been doubted. But while Schanz, Curcio and others hold that Grattius was unknown to Nemesianus, Enk has made out a good case to support the belief that the earlier author was consulted by the later.6

Grattius' method of treatment is, after his proem (1‑23), to treat first (24‑119) of the huntsman's equipment in the means of catching and killing game, and secondly (150‑541) of his companions in the chase, dogs and horses, with a brief sub-section on the dress to be worn by hunters. The longest portion is that devoted to dogs (150‑496) and it thus justifies the title of the poem; but, besides handling their breeds and breeding, their points and diseases, it is, on the whole fortunately, broken by episodes. These episodes, although in them rhetoric contends with poetry, are enlivening additions or insertions. They are four, and concern a renowned hunter Hagnon (213‑62); the miserable effects of luxury on human beings (310‑25), somewhat quaintly appended to the prescription of plain fare for dogs; a grotto in Sicily (430‑66); and a sacrifice to Diana (480‑96). The earlier part on nets, devices for frightening game, on snares, springes, spear and arrows, is also diversified with episodes, namely, a eulogy of the chase (61‑74) and of the ingenious hunter Dercylus (95‑110). Many readers will welcome these digressions as pleasant side-paths; for it is not everyone to whom the methods of the ancient hunter can make appeal. At the same time  p146 the subject has decidedly antiquarian interest, and it is only fair to remember that great scholars of the past, including Julius Caesar Scaliger and Nicolaus Heinsius, awarded high praise to Grattius' elegance.

His well-turned hexameters show that he was an apt student of Virgil; and his alliteration may indicate admiration for still older poets of Rome. There is also an independent turn in him which shows itself in his employment of words in unusual senses, e.g. nodus32, of a mesh; vellera77, of feathers; verutus110, of a weapon's teeth; caesaries273, of a dog's hair; populari376, of spoiling; dulcedo, 408, of scratching. There are several ἅπαξ εἰρημένα in his poem: plagium24; cannabius47 (? cannabinus, Vollmer); praedexter68; apprensat239; perpensare299; delecta from delicio303 (if that be the reading and not dilecta or even de lacte); nardifer314; offectus406; termiteus447.


G. Logus (de Logau): Editio princeps (with Ovid's Halieutica, Nemesianus and Calpurnius). Venice, 1534.​a

J. Ulitius (van Vliet): In Venatio Novantiqua. Leyden, 1645, 1655.

Thos. Johnson: Gratii Falisci Cynegeticon (cum poematio Nemesiani). London, 1699.

R. Bruce and S. Havercamp: In Poetae latini rei venaticae scriptores et bucolici antiqui (cum notis Barthii, Ulitii, Johnsonii). [Elaborate commentary at end.] Leyden, 1728.

P. Burman: In Poetae latini minores I. Leyden, 1731.

 p147  C. A. Küttner: Gratii Cynegeticon et Nemesiani Cyneg. (cum notis selectis Titii, Barthii, Ulitii, Johnsonii et Burmanni integris). Mitaviae (= Mitau), 1775.

J. C. Wernsdorf: In Poetae latini minores I. Altenburg, 1780.

R. Stern: Gratii et Nemesiani carmina venatica . . . Halle, 1832.

M. Haupt: Ovidii Halieutica, Gratii et Nemesiani Cynegetica. [Important as a critical edition.] Leipzig, 1838.

E. Baehrens: In Poetae latini minores I. Leipzig, 1879.

G. Curcio: In Poeti latini minori I. Acireale, 1902.

J. P. Postgate: In Corpus poetarum latinorum II. London, 1905.

F. Vollmer: In Poetae latini minores II.1. Leipzig, 1911.

P. J. Enk: Gratti Cynegeticon quae supersunt (cum proleg., not. crit., comm. exeget.). [A learned edition showing genuine appreciation of Grattius.] Zutphen, 1918.


Grati Falisci Cynegeticon, or a poem on hunting by Gratius the Faliscan, Englished and illustrated by Chris. Wase, w. commendatory poem by Edmund Waller, London, 1654.

Relevant Works

Th. Birt: Ad historiam hexametri latini symbola, diss. Bonn, 1876.

 p148  Fr. Buecheler: Coniectanea in Rhein. Mus. 35 (1880), p407 [defends spelling "Grattius"].

Robinson Ellis: Ad Grattii Cyneg. in Philolog. 52 (1894).

H. Schenkl: Zur Kritik und Ueberlief. des Grattius u. anderen lateinischen Dichtern, Teubner (= Fleck. Jahrb. Suppl. xxiv. 1898 pp387‑480).

L. Radermacher: Interpretationes latinae in Rhein. Mus. 60 (1905), pp246‑49.

G. Pierleoni: Fu poeta Grattius? in Riv. fil. 1906, pp580‑97. [A deprecatory criticism on Grattius' style, answered by P. J. Enk in the Prolegomena to his edition.]

F. Vollmer: art. Grattius in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-encycl.

J. Herter: Grattianum in Rhein. Mus. (N. F. 78), 1929, pp361‑70.

A. J. Butler: Sport in Classic Times. London, 1930. [A fuller list is given in P. J. Enk's edn., 1918.]


A = codex Vindobonensis lat. 277: saec. IX.

B = ex A descriptus:​7 Parisinus lat. 8071: saec. IX.

Sann. = emendationes factae a Giacomo Sannazaro in apographis quae extant in codice Vindob. lat. 277 fol. 74‑83 et in codice Vindob. lat. 3261 fol. 43‑72.

Ald. = editio princeps, anno 1534 a Georgio de Logau curata.

Thayer's Note: The following paragraph remains under copyright (© Harvard University Press 1982). It is so brief as surely to fall under fair use.

 p149  Bibliographical addendum (1982)

Il Cinegetico (introduction, text, Italian translation, notes), ed. M. Cacciaglia, Rome 1970.

The Author's Notes:

1 Among recent writers Vollmer and P. J. Enk are convinced that he was Faliscan.

2 The spelling Gratius in Ovid is less correct. Buecheler, Rh. Mus. 35 (1880), p407: cf. CIL VI.19‑117 sqq.

3 This hypothesis is briefly discussed by Enk, proleg. pp2‑3.

4 Enk, op. cit. pp31‑32.

5 Can his Greek original have meant "Galatian" instead of "Gaulish"? Radermacher, Rh. Mus. 60 (1905), p249.

6 Mnemos. 1917, pp53‑68.

7 L. Traube, in Berlin. philol. Wochenschrift, 1896, p1050. As a copy of A, B does not give independent evidence. It contains lines 1‑159.

Thayer's Note:

a Dr. Harm-Jan van Dam has alerted me to an immediate reprint ("pirated?") of the Logau edition, thus also of 1534, at Augsburg. The dedication, repeated in this Augsburg edition, is dated Venice 18 January 1534; the colophon of the reprint is dated Augusta Vindelicorum 20 July 1534.

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