That a poet bearing this appellation ought to be included in a list of the more obscure Roman writers is generally admitted, but wherever the name appears in the received text of an ancient author it will invariably be found that some of the MSS. exhibit either Livius, or Laelius, or Naevius, or Novius, or Pacuvius, or several of these, or similar variations. On the other hand, a considerable number of fragments quoted by grammarians from Ennius, Livius (Andronicus), Naevius, and the earlier bards, must, as internal evidence clearly proves, belong to a later epoch; and many of them, it has been supposed, are in reality the property of Laevius; but every circumstance relating to his works and the age when he flourished is involved in such thick darkness that Vossius (De Poet. Lat.
c. viii.) declared himself unable to establish any fact connected with his history except that he lived before the reign of Charlemagne; while one or two scholars have called his very existence in question.
There are in all perhaps only four passages in the classics from which we can be justified in drawing any conclusion. Two are in Aulus Gellius (2.24
, comp. 7), one in Apuleius (Apolog.
p. 294, ed. Elmenhorst), and one in Ausonius (Parecbas. Cent. Nupt.
praef.) From these we may infer, with tolerable security, that Laevius flourished during the first half of the century before the Christian era, being the contemporary of Hortensius, Memmius, Cinna, Catullus, Lucretius, and Cicero; and that he was the author of a collection of lyrical pieces of a light amatory stamp, styled Erotopaegnia,
which were pronounced by critics to be deficient in simplicity (implicata
), and in no way comparable to the easy flowing graces (fluentes carminum deliciae
) of the Teian Muse.
A fragment extending to six lines has been preserved by Apuleius (l.c.
), another of two lines by Gellius l.c.
), and many which may possibly belong to the same or different works have been brought together by Weichert, whose assumptions are, however, in some instances, in the highest degree arbitrary and fanciful. (Weichert, Poetarum Latinorum Reliquiae,
8vo. Lips. 1830; Wiillner, De Laevio Poeta,
4to. Rocklingh. 1830.)