5. L. Cornificius
, probably, from his praenomen, the son of No. 4, was the accuser of M. Brutus in the court by which the murderers of Caesar were tried.
He afterwards commanded the fleet of Octavianus in the war against Sex. Pompey, and by his boldness and bravery saved the fleet when it was in great danger off the coast of Sicily (B. C. 38), and took the ship of Demochares, the admiral of the Pompeian squadron. Cornificius again distinguished himself in the canmpaign of B. C. 36.
He had been left by Octavianus with the land forces at Tauromenium, where they were in circumstances of the greatest peril; but by a most bold and dangerous march he arrived at Mylae, and united his army with Agrippa's. For these services he was rewarded with the consulship in the following year, B. C. 35; and he considered himself entitled to such honour from saving the lives of the soldiers, that he was accustomed afterwards at Rome to ride home upon an elephant whenever he supped out. Like the other generals of Augustus, Cornificius was obliged afterwards to expend some of his property in embellishing the city, and accordingly built a temple of Diana. (Plut. Brut. 27
; Appian, App. BC 5.80
; D. C. 49.5
; Vell. 2.79
; D. C. 49.18
; Suet. Aug. 29
Quintilian speaks (3.1.21, 9.3. §§ 89, 98) of one Cornificius as the writer of a work on Rhetoric ; and, as some of the extracts which Quintilian gives from this work agree in many respects both in form and substance with the "Rhetorica ad Herennium," several critics have ascribed the authorship of the latter treatise to Cornificius.
But the difficulties in which this matter is involved are pointed out under CICERO, p. 727b. ; and even if the " Rhetorica ad Herennium" were written by Cornificius, there is no reason to identify him either with Q. Cornificius, the father, or the son [No. 2 or 3], as is usually done.
There are also chronological difficulties in this supposition which are pointed out in the Prolegomena to the first volume (p. lv.) of the complete edition of Cicero's works by Schütz. (Lips. 1814.)
The author of the work on Rhetoric referred to by Quintilian may be (though the matter is quite uncertain) the same as the writer of the " Etyma," of which the third book is quoted by Macrobius (Macr. 1.9
), and which must have been composed at least subsequently to B. C. 44, as it contained a quotation from Cicero's "De Natura Deorum," which was published in that year.
The etymologies of Cornificius, frequently quoted by Festus, were taken undoubtedly from this work, and are rather worse than the usual wretched etymologies of the ancients. Thus, for instance, nare
is derived from navis,
because "aqua feratur natans ut avis ;" oscillare
and caelure; nuptiae
" quod nova petantur conjugia," the word for marriage being of course of no consequence !
Poetry by a Cornificius
Again, there is a poet Cornificius mentioned by Ovid (Ov. Tr. 2.436
), and also by Macrobius, who has preserved an hexameter line and a half of a poem of his, entitled "Glaucus." (Sat.
6.5.) Donatus, in his life of Virgil (§§ 67, 76), likewise speaks of a Cornificius who was an enemy and a detractor of the Mantuan bard; and Servius tells us, that Cornificius is intended under the name of Amyntas in two passages of the Eelogues. (Serv. ad Virg. Ecl.
2.39, 5.8.) Now, it seems probable enough that the poet mentioned by Ovid and Macrobius are the same; but his identity with the detractor of Virgil is rendered doubtful by the statement of Hieronymus (Chron. Euseb. Ol. 184. 4), that the poet Cornificius perished in B. C. 41, deserted by his soldiers. Heyne, who is followed by Clinton, remarks, that, if the date of Hieronymus is correct, the poet Cornificius must be a different person from the detractor of Virgil, as the latter had not risen to eminence so early as B. C. 41; but Weichert (Poetarum Latinorum Reliquiae,
p. 167) observes, that as the "Culex" was written in B. C. 44 and some of the Eclognes before B. C. 41, the rising fame of Virgil may have provoked the jealousy of Cornificius, who is described by Donatus as a man " perverse naturee" At all events, it is likely enough that the poet Cornificius is the same as the Cornificius to whom Catullus addresses his 38th poem.