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Cornūtus, L. Annaeus

A Greek philosopher, born at Leptis in Africa, who lived and taught at Rome during the reign of Nero. The appellation L. Annaeus appears to indicate a client or freedman of the Seneca family. His tenets were those of the Stoic sect, and his name was not without distinction in that school of philosophy. He excelled in criticism and poetry; but his principal studies were of a philosophical character. His merit as a teacher of the Stoic doctrine sufficiently appears from his having been the preceptor of the satirist Persius. Persius, dying before his master, left him his library, with a considerable sum of money; but Cornutus accepted only the books, and gave the money to the sisters of his pupil. The poet Lucan was also one of his students. Under Nero, Cornutus was driven into exile (A.D. 68) for his freedom of speech. The emperor having written several books in verse on the affairs of Rome, and his flatterers advising him to continue the poem, the honest Stoic had the courage to remark that he doubted whether so large a work would be read; and when it was urged that Chrysippus had written as much, he replied, “His writings were useful to mankind.” After so unpardonable an offence against imperial vanity, the only wonder is that Cornutus escaped with his life. He composed some tragedies, and a large number of other works, the only one of which that has come down to us is the “Theory concerning the Nature of the Gods” (Θεωρία περὶ τῆς τῶν Θεῶν Φύσεως); or, as it is entitled in one of the MSS., “Concerning Allegories” (Περὶ Ἀλληγορίων). Cornutus, in fact, in this production seeks to explain the Greek mythology on allegorical and physical principles. It has been edited by Lang (Leipzig, 1881). See Jahn's prolegomena to his Persius, p. viii.

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