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Fronto, M. Cornelius


A Latin writer, born at Cirta, in Africa, of an Italian family, about A.D. 100. After studying in his own country, he came to Rome in the reign of Hadrian, and acquired great reputation as a rhetorician and grammarian. Antoninus Pius appointed him preceptor to his two adopted sons, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, whose confidence and affection he gained, as is proved by their letters. After being consul (A.D. 143), Fronto was appointed to a government in Asia, which his bad health prevented him from filling. His learning and conversation are mentioned with praise by Aulus Gellius, the historian Appian, and others of his contemporaries. He died in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, at an advanced age. Until this century we had nothing of Fronto's works, except fragments of his treatise De Differentia Verborum, being a vocabulary of the socalled synonyms; but in 1815, Angelo Mai, having discovered in the Ambrosian Library at Milan a palimpsest MS., on which had been originally written some letters of Fronto to his two pupils, deciphered the text wherever the writing was not entirely obliterated, and published it with notes. It happened, by singular good fortune, that Mai, being some years after appointed librarian of the Vatican, discovered in another palimpsest volume another part of Fronto's letters, with the answers of Marcus Aurelius and Verus. Both the volumes came originally from the monastery of St. Columbanus, at Bobbio, the monks having written them over with the Acts of the First Council of Chalcedon, and it had happened that one of the volumes was transferred to Milan and the other to Rome. Mai published the whole in a new edition (Rome, 1823 and 1846). The MSS. have been subsequently collated by Du Rieu (revision by Naber, Leipzig, 1867). These letters are very valuable, as throwing additional light on the age of the Antonines, confirming what we know of the excellent character of Marcus Aurelius, and also showing his colleague Verus in a more favourable light than he had been viewed before. Two or three short epistles of Antoninus Pius are also interesting. There are, besides, many letters of Fronto to various friends, some of which are in Greek. Fronto's style is excessively mannered, monotonous, and pedantic; he mixes Latin and Greek in a macaronic fashion; and shows himself to be a conceited prig. He was, however, an admirer of the early Roman literature and a man of upright and independent character. See Droz, De M. Corn. Frontonis Institutione Oratoria (Besançon, 1885); and on the diction, the treatise of Priebe (Stettin, 1885).


A native of Emesa, a rhetorician, who lived at Rome in the time of Alexander Severus. He taught eloquence also at Athens, and was the rival of the first Philostratus. The critic Longinus was his nephew. He has left two epigrams on points of grammar (Jacobs, Anth. Graec. iii. 56; xiii. 398).

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