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Calpu'rnius or Calpu'rnius Siculus

surnamed SICULUS, a Roman pastoral poet.

The author is generally believed to have lived towards the end of the third century, and the person to whom the work is addressed is supposed to be the Aurelius Olympius Nemesianus whose poem on hunting is still extant. It will be found, however, upon a careful investigation of authorities, that we not only know nothing whatsoever with regard to the personal history of Calpurnius, but that every circumstance connected with his name, his age, his works, and his friends, is involved in obscurity and doubt. In several MSS. he is designated as Titus, in others as Caius, in a great number the praenomen is altogether wanting, while the only evidence for the determination of the epoch when he flourished rests upon the gratuitous assumption that he is identical with the Junius or Julius Calpurnius commemorated by Vopiscus in the life of Carus. In like manner we are left in uncertainty whether we ought to consider the term Siculus as a cognomen, or as an appellation pointing out his native country, or as an epithet bestowed upon him because he cultivated the same style of composition with the Syracusan Theocritus. Some have sought to prove, from internal evidence, that, like the Mantuan bard, he was raised from a humble station by the favour of some exalted patron, but this hypothesis receives no support from the passages referred to, and those who have attempted in a similar manner to ascertain the precise epoch when he flourished have arrived at conflicting conclusions. Even if the dedication to Nemesianus is genuine, and this is far from certain, it does not necessarily follow, that this must be the same Nemesianus who was contemporary with Numerianus.


Pastoral Poems

Among the works of the Latin poets we find eleven pastorals which usually bear the title T. Calpurnii Siculi Bucolicon Eclogae, to which is sometimes added Ad Nemesianum Carthaginiensem.


The literary merits of Calpurnius may be briefly discussed. In all that relates to the mechanism of his art he deserves much praise. His versification is smooth, flowing, and sonorous, and his diction for the most part pure and elegant, although from being too elaborately finished it is sometimes tinged with affectation. In all the higher departments he can advance no claim to our admiration. He imitates closely the Eclogues of Virgil, and like Virgil is deficient in the simplicity, freshness, and reality which lend such a charm to the Idylls of Theocritus--a deficiency which he awkwardly endeavours to supply by occasionally foisting harsh and uncouth expressions into the mouths of his speakers. He evidently was a careful student of Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, Juvenal, and Statius, for we can often detect their thoughts and even their expressions, unless, indeed, we are disposed to adopt the absurd notions advocated by Ascensius, that he belonged to the Augustan age, and might thus have been copied by the others instead of borrowing from them.


In the oldest MSS. and editions the whole eleven eclogues are attributed to Calpurnius. Ugoletus, upon the authority of a single MS., separated the last four from the rest, assigning them to Nemesianus; but independent of the feeble authority upon which this change was introduced, the tone and spirit of the whole eleven is so exactly uniform, that we might at once conclude with confidence that they were productions of the same pen, and this has been satisfactorily established by Wernsdorf.


The Editio Princeps is without place or date, but is usually found appended to the Silius Italicus printed at Rome in 1471, by Sweynheim and Pannartz. The next in antiquity is that of Venice, 1472. The most valuable modern editions are those contained in the Poetae Latini Minores of Burmann (Leida, 1731), and in the Poetae Latini Minores of Wernsdorff (Altenb. 1780), and in Lemaire's Classics (Paris, 1824). The text has been recently revised with much care by Glaeser, (Gotting. 1842.)


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