a Roman comic poet, the immediate predecessor of Terence, was, according to the accounts preserved by Aulus Gellius (4.20
) and Hieronymus (in Euseb. Chron. Olymp. 150.2), by birth an Insubrian Gaul, and a native of Milan. Being a slave he bore the servile appellation of Statius,
which was afterwards, probably when he received his freedom, converted into a sort of cognomen, and he became known as Caecilius Statius. His death happened B. C. 168, one year after that of Ennius and two years before the representation of the Andria, which had been previously submitted to his inspection and had excited his warm admiration. (Sueton. Vit. Terent.
The names of at least forty dramas by Caecilius have been preserved, together with a considerable number of fragments, but all of them are extremely brief, the two longest extending one (ap. Aul. Gel. 2.23
) to seventeen lines, and the other (Cic. de N. D.
xxix.) to twelve only. Hence we must rest satisfied with collecting and recording the opinions of those who had the means of forming an estimate of his powers, without attempting to judge independently. The Romans themselves, then, seem to agree in placing Caecilius in the first rank of his own department, classing him for the most part with Plautus and Terence. " Caecilius excels in the arrangement of his plots, Terentius in the development of character, Plautus in dialogue ;" and again, " None rival Titinnius and Terentius in depicting character, but Trabea and Atilius and Caecilius at once command our feelings," are the observations of Varro (ap. Non. s. v. Poseere;
Charis. lib. ii. sub fin.).--" We may pronounce Ennius chief among epic poets, Pacuvius among tragic poets, perhaps Caecilius among comic poets," says Cicero (De Optim. Dic.
i.), although in other passages he censures his latinity as impure. (Ad Att.
The dictum of the fashionable critics of the Augustan age is embodied by Horace in the line (Ep.
2.1. 59), " Vincere Caecilius gravitate, Terentius arte." Velleius declares (2.17), that the " charms of Latin wit were brilliantly displayed by Caecilius, Terentius, and Afranius." " We are most lame in comedy, although the ancients extol Caecilius," is the testimony of Quintilian (x. 1.99), while Vulcatius Sedigitus in an epigram preserved in the Noctes Atticae (15.24) pronounces Caecilius first among the nine comic poets there enumerated, the second place being assigned to Plautus, and the sixth to Terence.
This popularity, however, was not acquired at once, for the speaker of the prologue to the Hecyra, while he apologises for reproducing a piece which had already twice failed, reminds the audience that although the works of Caecilius were now listened to with pleasure, several had at first been driven off the stage, while others had with difficulty kept their ground.
The whole of the forty plays alluded to above, as far as we can gather from their titles, belong to the class of Palliatae,
that is, were free translations or adaptations of the works of Greek writers of the new comedy.
There is a curious chapter in Aulus Gellius (2.23
), where a comparison is instituted between certain passages in the Plocium
of Caecilius and the corresponding portions of the drama by Menander, from which it was derived. We here gain some knowledge of the manner in which these transfusions were performed, and we feel strongly impressed with the poorness, flatness, and vapid heaviness of the Latin imitation when placed in juxtaposition with the sparkling brilliancy of the rich and racy original. To adopt the quaint simile of the grammarian, they resemble each other in the same degree as the bright and precious armour of Glaucus resembled the dull and paltry harness of Diomede.