one of the most celebrated of the early Roman tragedians, was born about B. C. 220, since he was fifty years older than the poet Accius or Attius (Cic. Brut. 64
), who was born in B. C. 170 [ACCIUS].
This agrees with the statement of Jerome (in Euseb. Chron.
Olymp. 156. 3) that Pacuvius flourished about B. C. 154, since we know from various sources that Pacuvius attained a great age, and accordingly the time understood by the indefinite term flourished
may properly be placed in B. C. 154, though Pacuvius was then about sixty-five years old. Jerome further relates that Pacuvius was almost ninety years of age at the time of his death, which would therefore fall about B. C. 130. Pacuvius was a native of Brundisium, and accordingly a countryman of Ennius, with whom he was connected by ties of blood, and whom he is also said to have buried.
According to the accounts of most ancient writers he was the son of the sister of Ennius, and this is more probable than the statement of Jerome, that he was the grandson of Ennius by his daughter, since Ennius was only nineteen years older than Pacuvius. Pacuvius appears to have been brought up at Brundisium, But he. afterwards repaired to Rome, though in what year is uncertain. Here he devoted himself to painting and poetry, and obtained so much distinction in the former art, that a painting of his in the temple of Hercules, in the forum boarium, was regarded as only inferior to the celebrated painting of Fabius Pictor (Plin. Nat. 35.4. s. 7
After living many years at Rome, for he was still there in his eightieth year (Cic. Brut. l.
c.), he at last returned to Brundisiltm, on account of the failure of his health, and died in his native town, in the ninetieth year of his age, as has been already stated. We have no further particulars of his life, save that his talents gained him the friendship of Laelius, and that he lived on the most intimate terms with his younger rival Accius, of whom he seems to have felt none of that jealousy which poets usually entertain towards one another.
After his retirement to Brundisium Pacuvius invited his friend to his house, and there they spent some time together, discoursing upon their literary pursuits.
These notices, brief though they are, seem to show that Pacuvius was a man of an amiable character; and this supposition is supported by the modest way in which he speaks of himself, in an epigram which he composed for his tombstone, and which, even if it be not genuine, as some modern writers have maintained, indicates at least the opinion which was entertained of him in antiquity.
The epigram runs as follows (Gel. 1.24
Adulescens, tametsi properas, te hoc saxum rogat,
Uti sese aspicias, deinde, quod scripture est, legas.
Hic sunt poetae Pacuvi Marci sita
Ossa. Hoc volebam, nescius ne esses. Vale.
Pacuvius was universally allowed by the best writers in antiquity to have been one of the greatest of the Latin tragic poets. Horace regarded him and Accins (Ep.
2.1. 56) as the two most important of the early tragedians; and he is especially praised for the loftiness of his thoughts, the vigour of his language, and the extent of his knowledge. Hence we find the epithet doctus
frequently applied to him, and the great critic Varro apud Gell.
7.14) praises him for the ubertas
of his style.
He was at the same time an equal favourite with the people, with whom his verses continued to be esteemed in the time of Julius Caesar (comp. Cic. de Amic.
7; Suet. Jul. 84
The tragedies of Pacuvius continued, like those of his predecessors on the Latin stage, to be taken from Sophocles, Euripides, and the great Greek writers; but he did not confine himself to a mere translation of the latter, as most of the previous Latin writers had done, but worked up his materials with more freedom and independent judgment, of which we have an example in his Dulorestes,
which was an adaptation to the Latin stage of the Iphiqeneia in Tauris
of Euripides. Some of the plays of Pacuvius were not based upon the Greek tragedies, but belonged to the class called Praetextatae,
in which the subjects were taken from Roman story. One of these was entitled Paullus,
and had as its hero the celebrated L. Aemilius Paullus who conquered Perseus, king of Macedonia (Gel. 9.14
The following titles of his tragedies have come down to us:--Anchises
; Armorurum Judicium
. Of these the Antiopa
and the Dulorestes
were by far the most celebrated
Although the reputation of Pacuvius rested almost exclusively on his tragedies, yet he seems to have written other kinds of poetry.
He is expressly mentioned as having composed Saturae,
according to the old Roman meaning of the word (Diomedes, iii. p. 482, ed. Putschius), and there seems no reason for doubting, as some modern writers have done, that he also wrote comedies. The Pseudo
is expressly mentioned as a comedy of Pacuvius (Fulgentius, p. 562), and the Tarentilla
may also have been a comedy.
The fragments of Pacuvius are published in the collections of Stephanus, Fragmenta Vet. Poet., Paris, 1564
, of Scriverius, Tragicorum Vet. Fragm. Lugd. Batav. 1620
, and of Bothe, Poet. Latii Scenic. Fragm. vol. i. Lips. 1834.
The principal ancient authorities respecting Pacuvius are: Hieronym. in Euseb. Chron.
Olymp. 156. 3; Plin. Nat. 35.4. s. 7
; Vell. 2.9
; Quint. Inst. 10.1
; Gel. 7.14
; Cic. de Optim. Gen. Orat. 1.6, Brut.
64, 74, de Amic. 7.
2.2], de Orat.
1.58, ad Herenn.
4.4; Hor. Ep. 2.1. 55
; Pers. 1.77.
The chief modern writers are: Delrio. Syntagm. Trag. Lat.
Antv. 1594, and Paris, 1620; Sagittarius, De Vita et Scriptis Livii Andronici, M. Pacuviii, &c.,
Altenb. 1672; Annibal di Leo, Memorie di M. Pacuvio Anticissimo Poeta Tragico,
Napoli, 1763; Lange, Vindiciae Trag. Rom.
Lips. 1822; NäkeComment. de Pacuvii Duloreste,
Ind. Lect. Bonn. 1822; Stieglitzde Pacuvii Duloreste,
Lips. 1826 : Vater, in Ersch and Gruber's Encyklopädie,