a Roman grammarian and schoolmaster, best known to us from his having been the teacher of Horace, who gives him the epithet of plagosus
from the severe floggings which his pupils received when they were poring over the crabbed verses of Livius Andronicus. (Hor. Ep. 2.1. 71
.) Orbilius was a native of Beneventum, and had from his earliest years paid considerable attention to the study of literature; but in consequence of the death of his parents, who were both destroyed by their enemies on the same day, he was left destitute, and in order to obtain a living, first became an apparitor, or servant of the magistrates, and next served as a soldier in Macedonia. On returning to his native town he resumed his literary studies, and after teaching there for a long while, he removed to Rome in the fiftieth year of his age, in the consulship of Cicero, B. C. 63. Here he opened a school; but although he obtained a considerable reputation, his profits were small, and he was obliged to live in his old age in a sorry garret. His want of success would not contribute to the improvement of his temper as he grew older, and since he must have been upwards of sixty when Horace became his pupil, we can easily imagine that the young poet found him rather a crabbed and cross-grained master. His flogging propensities were recorded by other poets besides Horace, as for instance in the following line of Domitius Marsus: --
"Si quos Orbilius ferula scuticaque cecidit."
But Orbilius did not, like some schoolmasters, vent all his ill temper upon his pupils, and exhibit a bland deportment to the rest of the world.
He attacked his rival grammarians in the bitterest terms, and did not spare the most distinguished men in the state, of which an instance is given by Suetonius and Macrobius (2.6), though they differ in the name of the Roman noble whom he made game of, the former calling him Varro Murena, and the latter Galba. Orbilius lived nearly a hundred years, but had lost his memory long before his death.
As he was fifty in B. C. 63, he must have been born in B. C. 1 13, and have died shortly before B. C. 13.
A statue was erected to him at Beneventum in the Capitol.
He left a son Orbilius, who followed the profession of his father; and a slave and pupil of his, of the name of Scribonius, also attained some celebrity as a grammarian. Orbilius was the author of a work cited by Suetonius under the title of Perialogos,
but the name is evidently corrupt. Oudendorp proposed to read Paedagogus,
and Ernesti Periautologos.
(Suet. de Illustr. Gramm.
9, 19; comp. 4.)