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Biba'culus, M. Fu'rius

who is classed by Quintilian (10.1.96) along with Catullus and Horace as one of the most distinguished of the Roman satiric iambographers, and who is in like manner ranked by Diomedes, in his chapter on iambic verse (p. 482, ed. Putsch.) with Archilochus and Hipponax, among the Greeks, and with Lucilius, Catullus, and Horace, among the Latins, was born, according to St. Jerome in the Eusebian chronicle, at Cremona in the year B. C. 103.


From the scanty and unimportant specimens of his works transmitted to modern times, we are scarcely in a condition to form any estimate of his powers.

Light or sarcastic poetry

A single senarian is quoted by Suetonius (de Illustr. Gr. 100.9), containing an allusion to the loss of memory sustained in old age by the famous Orbilius Pupillus; and the same author (100.11) has preserved two short epigrams in hendecasyllabic measure, not remarkable for good taste or good feeling, in which Bibaculus sneers at the poverty to which his friend, Valerius Cato [VALERIUS CATO], had been reduced at the close of life, as contrasted with the splendour of the villa which that unfortunate poet and grammarian had at one period possessed at Tusculum, but which had been seized by his importunate creditors. In addition to these fragments, a dactylic hexameter is to be found in the Scholiast on Juvenal (8.16), and a scrap consisting of three words in Charisius (p. 102, ed. Putsch.).

We have good reason, however, to believe that Bibaculus did not confine his efforts to pieces of a light or sarcastic tone, but attempted themes of more lofty pretensions. It seems certain that he published a poem on the Gaulish wars, entitled Pragmatia Belli Gallici, and it is probable that he was the author of another upon some of the legends connected with the Aethiopian allies of king Priam. The former is known to us only from an unlucky metaphor cleverly parodied by Horace, who takes occasion at the same time to ridicule the obese rotundity of person which distinguished the composer. (Hor. Serm. 2.5. 41, and the notes of the Scholiast; comp. Quint. Inst. 8.6.17.) The existence of the latter depends upon our acknowledging that the "turgidus Alpinus" represented in the epistle to Julius Florus (1. 103) as "murdering" Memnon, and polluting by his turbid descriptions the fair fountains of the Rhine, is no other than Bibaculus. The evidence for this rests entirely upon an emendation introduced by Bentley into the text of the old commentators on the above passage, but the correction is so simple, and tallies so well with the rest of the annotation, and with the circumstances of the case, that it may be pronounced almost certain. The whole question is fully and satisfactorily discussed in the dissertation of Weichert in his Poet. Latin. Reliqu. p. 331, &c. Should we think it worth our while to inquire into the cause of the enmity thus manifested by Horace towards a brother poet whose age might have commanded forbearance if not respect, it may perhaps be plausibly ascribed to some indisposition which had been testified on the part of the elder bard to recognise the merits of his youthful competitor, and possibly to some expression of indignation at the presumptuous freedom with which Lucilius, the idol and model of the old school, had been censured in the earlier productions of the Venusian. An additional motive may be found in the fact, which we learn from the well-known oration of Cremutius Cordus as reported by Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 4.34), that the writings of Bibaculus were stuffed with insults against the first two Caesars--a consideration which will serve to explain also the hostility displayed by the favourite of the Augustan court towards Catullus, whose talents and taste were as fully and deservedly appreciated by his countrymen and contemporaries as they have been by modern critics, but whose praises were little likely to sound pleasing in the ears of the adopted son and heir of the dictator Julius.

Lastly, by comparing some expressions of the elder Pliny (Praef H. N.) with hints dropped by Suetonius (de Ilustr. Gr. 100.4) and Macrobius (Saturn. 2.1), there is room for a conjecture, that Bibaculus made a collection of celebrated jests and witticisms, and gave the compilation to the world under the title of Lucubrationes.

Confusion with Aulus Furius Antias

We must carefully avoid confounding Furius Bibaculus with the Furius who was imitated in several passages of the Aeneid, and from whose Annals, extending to eleven books at least, we find some extracts in the Saturnalia. (Macrob. Saturn. 6.1; Compare Merula, ad Enn. Ann. p. xli.) The latter was named in full Aulus Furius Antias. and to him L. Lutatius Catulus, colleague of M. Marius in the consulship of B. C. 102, addressed an account of the campaign against the Cimbri. (Cic. Brut. 100.35.)

To this Furius Antias are attributed certain lines found in Aulus Gellius (18.11), and brought under review on account of the affected neoterisms with which they abound. Had we any fair pretext for calling in question the authority of the summaries prefixed to the chapters of the Noctes Atticae, we should feel strongly disposed to follow G. J. Voss, Lambinus, and Heindorf, in assigning these follies to the ambitious Bibaculus rather than to the chaste and simple Antias, whom even Virgil did not disdain to copy.

Further Information

Weichert, Poet. Latin. Reliqu.


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