The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

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, (515) 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 [873] 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 [874] 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 (516)
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
[875], the wisdom of Crates.” [876]

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. [877]

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 [878],
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 [879]: “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 (517) 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 [880], 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 [881]. 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 [882], 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 unskilful plagiarist, who borrowed the language of Cato and other
old writers.” 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 (518) knight, to whom Cicero
addressed his Epistles [883]. He became the tutor of his patron’s
daughter [884], 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 [885], 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 [886] points out.

Epirota tenellorum nutricula vatum.

The Epirot who,
With tender care, our unfledged poets nursed.

XVII. VERRIUS FLACCUS [887], 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, (519) 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” [888] so brought him into notice, that the following lines were written on him:

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 [889],
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,) (520) and that when that
city was taken, Caesar brought him, then a boy, to Rome. He closely and
carefully imitated Cornelius Alexander [890], 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 [891], who has related that Hyginus died very
poor, and was supported by his liberality as long as he lived. Julius
Modestus [892], who was a freedman of Hyginus, followed the footsteps of
his patron in his studies and learning.

XXI. CAIUS MELISSUS [893], 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 favourite with Augustus. By his
appointment he was made curator of the library in the portico of Octavia
[894]; 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 (521) also composed a new kind of
story about those who wore the toga, and called it “Trabeat.” [895]

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
[896] 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 [897] 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 [898], of Vicentia [899], 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 (522) 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 [900], 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 [901], 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 [902]. 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 [903], 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 reperuse
these, and afterwards to make acquaintance with other works of the same
kind, he found himself an object of contempt, and was laughed (523) 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
labours 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.

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