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 p451  Introduction
to Nemesianus

Towards the end of the third century A.D., M. Aurelius Olympius Nemesianus wrote bucolic and didactic poetry. He has already been mentioned in the introductions to Calpurnius Siculus and Grattius. His four eclogues for long passed under Calpurnius' name, and of his hexameter poem on the chase 325 verses have survived. He belonged to Carthage, as his designation Carthaginiensis in MSS. implies; and, when he says of the Spanish people gens ampla iacet trans ardua Calpes culmina (Cyn. 251‑252), his attitude is that of an African author. It is recorded​1 that he won fame in poetic contests and in several kinds of literature. A love for the open air fitted him to attempt pastoral poetry, and it is in keeping with this that at the outset of his didactic poem he should echo the almost conventional renunciation of mythology to be found in Virgil, Martial and Juvenal, and should disdain it as something hackneyed, preferring to "roam the glades, the green tracts and open plains."​2 But he contemplates a more epic task when, in addressing Numerianus and Carinus, the brother emperors who were the sons of Carus, he announces his intention​3 to compose a narrative of their triumphant exploits. Of the two, Numerianus  p452 was at least a good speaker and had himself entered the field of poetry. The Cynegetica may be assigned to the period which elapsed between the death of Carus in 283 A.D. and that of Numerianus in 284; and, if we decide that in Cynegetica 58‑62 Nemesianus is referring to his eclogues as lighter performances than his ambitious literary voyage into didactic poetry, then we may date his pastorals as earlier.

The four pastoral poems, traditionally coupled with the seven by Calpurnius, are now by general consent separated from them. In the first, Tityrus declines on the ground of age Timetas' invitation to show his poetic skill, but instead prevails on him to repeat a song inscribed by Timetas on the bark of a tree. This takes the form of a eulogy on the dead Meliboeus, who is introduced as a sort of analogue to the Meliboeus honoured by Calpurnius as his patron. But the real cue is taken from the praises of Daphnis in Virgil's fifth eclogue. Nemesianus' second eclogue, in which two shepherd lads complain that their sweetheart Donace is shut up at home by her parents, has drawn elements from Calpurnius' second and third poems. Nemesianus' third eclogue introduces Pan surprised by three rustics, who, after trying his pipe in vain, are entertained by Pan's own minstrelsy in praise of Bacchus. This eclogue is modelled on Virgil's sixth, where Silenus, caught asleep, had to pay the forfeit of a song. In the last eclogue, attractive for its glimpses of country scenes, Lycidas and Mopsus deplore the pains of unreturned affection. This is the one pastoral in which Nemesianus employs the prettily recurrent burden or refrain of the Theocritan tradition which Virgil followed in his Pharmaceutria  p453 or eighth eclogue. Here, then, the Virgilian influence acts directly on him; for the refrain is not one of Calpurnius' devices.

In the incomplete Cynegetica of 325 hexameters the first 102 lines are introductory: the remainder handles needful preliminaries to the chase rather than the chase itself — first hunting-dogs, their rearing, feeding, training, diseases and breeds; then horses, their qualities, breeds and maintenance; finally implements such as nets and snares. It will be noted that the order here is not the same as in Grattius.​4 Though Grattius was more expert in hunting than the Carthaginian poet was, it may be felt to be an advantage for Nemesianus that he enters less into details, and, if not so concentrated on imparting instruction as Grattius was, for this very reason has more chance of giving pleasure to a reader.

The diction and the metre of Nemesianus benefit undoubtedly in standard from the conscious imitation of Virgil as a model. Among the more noticeable metrical points, some of them due to his late period, are the shortened -o in devotiŏ (Cyn. 83) and exercetŏ (Cyn. 187),​5 the single occurrence of hiatus catuli huc (Cyn. 143) and the close of a hexameter in fervida zonae (Cyn. 147). Elision is not overdone: some 52 elisions (very many of them in ‑que or atque) occur in the 325 lines of the Cynegetica.6  p454 There are in it a few rare words such as inocciduus (105) and cibatus (160); but in the main the diction is classical. And, in respect of both language and metre, broadly similar features characterise the pastoral and the didactic poetry of Nemesianus.



E. Baehrens' text: P. L. M. III pp176‑190.

H. Schenkl's text is given in Postgate's Corp. Poet. Lat., 1905, II pp565‑568.


For editions, which usually combine Nemesianus with Grattius, see the list given under Grattius, pp146‑147.

E. Baehrens' text: P. L. M. III pp190‑202.

J. P. Postgate's text is given in Corp. Poet. Lat., II 1905, pp569‑571.

D. Martin. Cynegetica of Nemesianus (with comment.). Cornell Univ., U.S.A., 1917.

Relevant Works

M. Fiegl. Des Grattius Faliskus Cynegetica: seine Vorgänger u. seine Nachfolger. [Holds that Nemesianus borrowed from Grattius: P. J. Enk in his ed. of Grattius and in Mnemos. 45 (1917)  p455 supports this: so does F. Muller in Mnemos. 46 (1918). G. Curcio in his ed. of Grattius opposes the view.]

P. Monceaux. Les Africains: Étude sur la littérature latine d'Afrique. Paris, 1894.


For the Eclogues see the Sigla for Calpurnius Siculus, pp216‑217.

For the Cynegetica:

A = Parisinus 7561, saec. X.

[B = Parisinus 4839: saec. X.]

This codex, disfigured by many worthless readings, was collated by Baehrens out of respect for its age: it is ignored by Postgate in C. P. L. and its readings are not recorded in this edition.

C (Baehrens) = σ (Postgate) Vindobonensis 3261, saec. XVI.

This codex contains Nemesianus after Ovid's Halieutica and before Grattius' Cynegetica. σ denotes that it was written by Sannazarius, as shown by H. Schenkl, Supplementband der Jahrbücher für klass. Philol. XXIV, 1898, pp387‑480.

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

Bibliographical addendum (1982)

Nemesianus: Oeuvres, ed. P. Volpilhac (Budé series), Paris 1976.

The Author's Notes:

1 Vopiscus, Carus, Numerianus et Carinus, xi.

2 Cyn. 48‑49.

3 Cyn. 63‑78.

4 It has been pointed out in the Introduction to Grattius that according to some he did, according to others he did not, influence Nemesianus.

5 Cf. such shortenings in Nemesianus' eclogues as exspectŏ (II.26), coniungŏ (III.14), mulcendŏ (I.53), laudandŏ (II.80).

6 Keene counts 39 elisions in the four eclogues, i.e. in 319 lines. Elision is much less frequent in Calpurnius.

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