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Publilius Syrus

A Roman writer of mimes (see Mimus), a younger contemporary and rival of Laberius. He flourished about B.C. 43. Probably born at Antioch, in Syria, he came to Rome in early youth as a slave. On account of his wit he was liberated by his master, and received a careful education. As a writer of mimes and as an improviser, he was exceedingly popular, and, after the death of Laberius, held sole sway on the stage. His mimes contained, in addition to the farcical humour of this sort of writing, a great number of short, witty sayings. These were so much admired that they were excerpted at an early date, and used in schoosl, while the pieces themselves were soon forgotten.

In the Middle Ages these sayings were popular under the name of Seneca. We have an alphabetical collection of nearly seven hundred of these single-line apophthegms, bearing the title Publilii Syri Mimi Sententiae, though not all of them are certainly the work of their alleged author. Among them are many of much pungency and pith—e. g. Necesse est multos timeat, quem multi timent; Beneficium accipere, libertatem est vendere; (the motto of the Edinburgh Review) Iudex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur; and many others that find their parallels in the saws and maxims of modern times. They are collected by Ribbeck in his edition of the comic fragments (1873), and are separately edited by O. Friedrich (Berlin, 1880); and with English notes by Gray (1895).

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