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This webpage reproduces a work of
C. Suetonius Tranquillus

published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


 p495  Suetonius
The Life of Aulus Persius Flaccus

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Aulus Persius Flaccus was born the day before the Nones of December in the consul­ship of Fabius Persicus and Lucius Vitellius, and died on the eighth day before the Kalends of December, when Publius Marius and Afinius Gallus were consuls. He was born at Volaterrae in Etruria, was a Roman knight, but was connected by blood and by marriage with men of the senatorial order. He died on his estate near the eighth milestone of the Appian Way.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] His father Flaccus died when his son was about six years old, leaving him to the care of a guardian. His mother, Fulvia Sisennia, afterwards married a Roman knight named Fusius, but buried him also within a few years.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Flaccus studied until the twelfth year of his age at Volaterrae, and then at Rome with the grammarian Remmius Palaemon​1 and the rhetorician Verginius Flavus. When he was sixteen years old he became so intimate a friend of Annaeus Cornutus that he never left his side; and from him he obtained some knowledge of philosophy.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] From early youth he enjoyed the friendship of Caesius Bassus, the poet, and of Calpurnius Statura, who died in youth, while Persius still lived. Servilius Nonianus he revered as a father. Through Cornutus he came to know Annaeus Lucanus also, a  p497 pupil of Cornutus and of the same age as himself. Lucan so admired the writings of Flaccus, that when the author read them in the usual way,​2 he could hardly wait until he finished before saying that they were true poems, and his own mere child's play. Towards the end of his life he made the acquaintance also of Seneca, but was not impressed by his talents.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] At the house of Cornutus he enjoyed the society of two learned and venerable men, who were then eagerly pursuing philosophical studies: Claudius Agathurnus, a physician of Lacedaemon, and Petronius Aristocrates of Magnesia, whom he admired exceedingly and emulated, although they were of the same age as Cornutus, while he was a younger man. He was also for nearly ten years so great a favourite of Paetus Thrasea that he sometimes even travelled abroad with him; and Paetus's wife, Arria, was a relative of his.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] He was very gentle in manner, of virginal modesty and very handsome; and he showed an exemplary devotion to his mother, sister, and aunt.

He was good and pure.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] He left about two million sesterces to his mother and sister, and a letter addressed only to his mother. He requested her to give Cornutus a hundred thousand, as some say, or according to others, fifty thousand sesterces, and twenty pounds of silver plate, besides about seven hundred volumes of Chrysippus, or his entire library. But Cornutus, while accepting the books, turned over the money to the sisters​3 whom their brother had made his heirs.

 p499  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] He wrote rarely and slowly. This very volume​4 he left unfinished, and some verses were taken from the last book, that it might have the appearance of completion. Cornutus made some slight corrections, and on the request of Caesius Bassus that he might publish it, turned it over to him for that purpose.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] In his boyhood Flaccus had written a praetexta,​5 one book describing his travels, and a few verses on the mother-in‑law of Thrasea,​6 who had killed herself before her husband. All these Cornutus advised the poet's mother to destroy.

As soon as his book appeared, men began to admire it and to buy it up rapidly.

He died of a stomach trouble in the thirtieth year of his age.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] As soon as he left school and his teachers, he conceived a strong desire to write satires from reading the tenth book of Lucilius. The beginning of this he imitated with the intention at first of criticizing himself; but presently turning to general criticism,​7 he so assailed the poets and orators of his day, that he even attacked Nero, who was at that time emperor. His verse on Nero read as follows: "King Midas has ass's ears," but Cornutus by merely changing the name, and writing "Who has not an ass's ears?" so altered it that Nero might not think that it was said of him.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 See Gr. xxiii.

2 That is, gave a public reading.

3 There is clearly something wrong here; elsewhere but one sister is mentioned.

4 The collection of six satires, for which this Life was used as an introduction.

5 A Roman tragedy.

6 The elder Arria.

7 Text and meaning are uncertain; see Marx, Lucilius, 2, p145.

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Page updated: 16 Jul 08