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Cornelius Nepos

Cornelius Nepos

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Cornelius Nepos was a Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 biographer. He was born at Hostilia, a village in Cisalpine Gaul
Cisalpine Gaul
Cisalpine Gaul, in Latin: Gallia Cisalpina or Citerior, also called Gallia Togata, was a Roman province until 41 BC when it was merged into Roman Italy.It bore the name Gallia, because the great body of its inhabitants, after the expulsion of the Etruscans, consisted of Gauls or Celts...

 not far from Verona
Verona
Verona ; German Bern, Dietrichsbern or Welschbern) is a city in the Veneto, northern Italy, with approx. 265,000 inhabitants and one of the seven chef-lieus of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of North-Eastern Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona...

. His Gallic origin is attested by Ausonius
Ausonius
Decimius Magnus Ausonius was a Latin poet and rhetorician, born at Burdigala .-Biography:Decimius Magnus Ausonius was born in Bordeaux in ca. 310. His father was a noted physician of Greek ancestry and his mother was descended on both sides from long-established aristocratic Gallo-Roman families...

, and Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 calls him Padi accola ('a dweller on the River Po
Po River
The Po |Ligurian]]: Bodincus or Bodencus) is a river that flows either or – considering the length of the Maira, a right bank tributary – eastward across northern Italy, from a spring seeping from a stony hillside at Pian del Re, a flat place at the head of the Val Po under the northwest face...

, Natural History III.22). He was a friend of Catullus
Catullus
Gaius Valerius Catullus was a Latin poet of the Republican period. His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art.-Biography:...

, who dedicates his poems to him (I.3), Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 and Titus Pomponius Atticus
Titus Pomponius Atticus
Titus Pomponius Atticus, born Titus Pomponius , came from an old but not strictly noble Roman family of the equestrian class and the Gens Pomponia. He was a celebrated editor, banker, and patron of letters with residences in both Rome and Athens...

. Eusebius places him in the fourth year of the reign of Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, which is supposed to be when he began to attract critical acclaim by his writing. Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 notes he died in the reign of Augustus (Natural History IX.39, X.23).

His simple style of writing has made him, in the UK at least, a standard choice for passages of unseen translation in Latin exams, from prep school
Preparatory school (UK)
In English language usage in the former British Empire, the present-day Commonwealth, a preparatory school is an independent school preparing children up to the age of eleven or thirteen for entry into fee-paying, secondary independent schools, some of which are known as public schools...

, even up to degree level. (See external links)

Works


Chronica, to which Catullus
Catullus
Gaius Valerius Catullus was a Latin poet of the Republican period. His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art.-Biography:...

 seems to allude in his dedication to Nepos. Ausonius
Ausonius
Decimius Magnus Ausonius was a Latin poet and rhetorician, born at Burdigala .-Biography:Decimius Magnus Ausonius was born in Bordeaux in ca. 310. His father was a noted physician of Greek ancestry and his mother was descended on both sides from long-established aristocratic Gallo-Roman families...

 also mentions it in his sixteenth Epistle to Probus, as does Aulus Gellius
Aulus Gellius
Aulus Gellius , was a Latin author and grammarian, who was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome. He was educated in Athens, after which he returned to Rome, where he held a judicial office...

 in the Noctes Atticae (XVII.21). It is thought to have been written in three books.

Exemplorum libri, of which Charisius
Charisius
Flavius Sosipater Charisius was a Latin grammarian.He was probably an African by birth, summoned to Constantinople to take the place of Euanthius, a learned commentator on Terence...

 cites the second book, and Aulus Gellius
Aulus Gellius
Aulus Gellius , was a Latin author and grammarian, who was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome. He was educated in Athens, after which he returned to Rome, where he held a judicial office...

 the fifth (VII.18).

De Viris Illustribus, from which Aulus Gellius draws an anecdote of Cato
Cato the Elder
Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman, commonly referred to as Censorius , Sapiens , Priscus , or Major, Cato the Elder, or Cato the Censor, to distinguish him from his great-grandson, Cato the Younger.He came of an ancient Plebeian family who all were noted for some...

 (IX.8).

De Vita Ciceronis. Aulus Gellius corrects an error in this work (XV.28).

Epistulae ad Ciceronem, an extract of which survives in Lactantius
Lactantius
Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius was an early Christian author who became an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, guiding his religious policy as it developed, and tutor to his son.-Biography:...

 (Divinarum Institutionum Libri Septem III.15). It is unclear whether they were ever formally published.

Pliny the Younger
Pliny the Younger
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo , better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him...

 mentions verse written by Nepos, and in his own Life of Dion, Nepos himself refers to a work of his own authorship, De Historicis. He also mentions a longer Life of Cato at the end of the extant Life of Cato, written at the request of Titus Pomponius Atticus
Titus Pomponius Atticus
Titus Pomponius Atticus, born Titus Pomponius , came from an old but not strictly noble Roman family of the equestrian class and the Gens Pomponia. He was a celebrated editor, banker, and patron of letters with residences in both Rome and Athens...

.

His only surviving work is the Excellentium Imperatorum Vitae, which appeared in the reign of Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

, as the work of the grammarian Aemilius Probus, who presented it to the emperor with a dedication in Latin verse. He claims it to have been the work of his mother or father (the manuscripts vary) and his grandfather. Despite the obvious questions (such as why is the preface addressed to someone named Atticus when the work was supposedly dedicated to Theodosius), no one seemed to have doubted Probus's authorship. Eventually Peter Cornerus discovered in a manuscript of Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

's letters the biographies of Cato and Atticus. He added them to the other existing biographies, despite the fact that the writer speaks of himself as a contemporary and friend of Atticus, and that the manuscript bore the heading E libro posteriore Cornelii Nepotis ('from the last book of Cornelius Nepos') At last Dionysius Lambinus's edition of 1569 bore a commentary demonstrating on stylistic grounds that the work must have been of Nepos alone, and not Aemilius Probus. This view has been tempered by more recent scholarship, which agrees with Lambinus that they are the work of Nepos, but that Probus probably abridged the biographies when he added the verse dedication. The Life of Atticus, however, is considered to be the exclusive composition of Nepos.

External links