previous next

Fronti'nus, Sex. Julius

of whose origin and early career we know nothing, first appears in history under Vespasian, at the beginning of A. D. 70, as praetor urbanus, an office which he speedily resigned in order to make way for Domitian, and it is probable that he was one of the consules suffecti in A. D. 74. In the course of the following year he succeeded Cerealis as governor of Britain, where he distinguished himself by the conquest of the Silures, and maintained the Roman power unbroken until superseded by Agricola in A. D. 78. In the third consulship of Nerva (A. D. 97) Frontinus was nominated curator aquarum, an appointment never conferred, as he himself informs us, except upon the leading men of the state (de Aq. 1; comp. 102); he also enjoyed the high dignity of augur, and his death must have happened about A. D. 106, since his seat in the college was bestowed upon the younger Pliny soon after that period. From an epigram in Martial we might conclude that he was twice elevated to the consulship; but since his name does not appear in the Fasti, we are unable to determine the dates, although, as stated above, we may infer that this honour was bestowed upon him, for the first time at least, before his journey to Britain, since the generals despatched to command that province were generally consulars.


Two works undoubtedly by this author are still extant:--


Strategematicon Libri IV. or, if we observe the distinction drawn by the author, Strategematicon Libri III. and Strategicon Liber unus, forming a sort of treatise on the art of war, developed in a collection of the sayings and doings of the most renowned leaders of antiquity. The anecdotes in the first book relate to the various contingencies which may precede a battle, those in the second to the battle itself and its results, those in the third to the forming and raising of sieges, while those in the fourth, or the Strategica, comprehend various topics connected with the internal discipline of an army and the duties of the commander. This compilation, which presents no particular attractions in style, and seems to have been formed without any very critical investigation of the authorities from which some of the stories are derived, must have been published about A. D. 84, soon after the return of Frontinus from Britain, for we find Domitian named more than once with the title of Germanicus, together with frequent allusions to the German war, but no notice whatsoever of the Dacian or other subsequent campaigns.


The Editio Princeps of the Strategematica was printed by Euch. Silber, 4to. Rom. 1487. The best editions are that of F. Oudendorp, 8vo. Lug. Bat. 1731, reprinted, with additions and corrections, by Con. Oudendorp, 8vo. Lug. Bat. 1779, and that of Schwebel, 8vo. Lips. 1772.

The Strategematica will be found in the various collections of the Veteres de Re Militari Scriptores, of which the most complete is that published by Scriverius, 4to. Lug. Bat. 1607.


There is an early translation into our own language dedicated to Henry VIII., entitled The Stratagems, Sleyghtes, and Policies of Warre, gathered together by S. Julius Frontinus, and translated into English by Rycharde Morysine, 8vo. Lond. 1539; and another by M.D. A.B.D. 121no. Lond. 1686, to which is added a new collection of the most noted stratagems and brave exploits of modern generals; with a short account of the weapons offensive and defensive, and engines commonly used in war.

There are also translations into German by Schöffer, fol. Meyntz, 1582, by Motschidler, 8vo. Wittemberg, 1540; by Tacius, fol. Ingolst. 1542, including Vegetius, reprinted fol. Frank. 1578; and by Kind, 8vo. Leips. 1750, along with Polyaenus: into French by Remy Rousseau, about 1514; by Wolkir, fol. Paris, 1536, along with Vegetius; by Perrot, 4to. Paris, 1664; and anonymous, 8vo. Paris, 1772 : into Italian by Fr. Lucio Durantino, 8vo. Vineg. 1537; by Com. de Trino, 8vo. Venet. 1541; by Alov. de Tortis, 8vo. Venet. 1543; by Ant. Gandino, 4to. Venet. 1574 : into Spanish by Didac. Guillen. de Avila, 4to. Salamanca, 1516; a list which forcibly indicates the interest excited by such topics in the sixteenth century.


De Aquaeductibus Urbis Romae Libri II., a treatise, composed, as we have already pointed out, after the year 97. The language is plain and unpretending, while the matter forms a valuable contribution to the history of architecture.

We learn from the preface to the Strategematica, that Frontinus had previously written an essay De Scientia Militari, and Aelian speaks of a disquisition on the tactics employed in the age of Homer, both of which are lost.


The Editio Princeps of the De Aquaeductibus, in folio, is without date, but is known to have been printed at Rome, by Herolt, about 1490. The best edition is that of Polenus, 4to. Patav. 1722, to which we may add the translation by Rondelet, 4to. Paris, 1820.

The De Aquaeductibus is included in the Thesaurus Antiquitatum Romanarum of Graevius, where it is accompanied by the voluminous dissertations of Fabretti.


The collected works were edited with the notes of the earlier commentators, by Keuchen, 8vo. Amst. 1661.


Tac. Hist. 4.38, Agric. 17; Plin. Ep. 4.8 ; 10.8; Mart. Epigr. 10.4, 8, but we cannot be certain that he alludes to our Frontinus; Aelian, Tact.]; Veget. 2.3.)


Doubtful works

In the collection of the Agrimensores or Rei Agrariae Auctores are preserved some treatises usually ascribed to Sex. Julius Frontinus. The collection consists of fragments connected with the art of measuring land and ascertaining boundaries. It was put together without skill, pages of different works being mixed up together, and the writings of one author being sometimes attributed to another. For an account of the collection we must refer to Niebuhr (Hist. of Rome, vol. ii. p. 634-644), and to Blume (Rheinisches Museum für Jurisprudenz, vol. vii. p. 173-248).


In the edition of this collection by Goesius (Amst. 1674) there is a fragment (p. 28-37) attributed to Frontinus, which gives an account of measures of length and geometric forms. In Goesius it is erroneously headed, De Agrorum Qualitate--a title which properly belongs to the following fragment. The writer states that, after having been diverted from his studies, by entering on a military life, his attention was again turned to the measurement of distances (as the height of mountains and the breadth of rivers), from the connection of the subject with his profession. Mention is made in this fragment of the Dacian victory, by which is probably meant the conquest of Dacia under Trajan, in A. D. 104. This fragment is wrongly attributed to Frontinus. Although some of the circumstances of the author's history seem to fit Hyginus (compare Hygin. De Limit. Constit. p. 209, ed. Goes.), it is more likely that the author was Balbus, who wrote a treatise, De Asse, which is inserted in the collections of Antejustinian Law. In the principal manuscript (codex Arcerianus) of the Agrimensores, the fragment is entitled Balbi Liber ad Celsum.


In p. 38-39, Goes. is an interesting fragment of Frontinus De Agrorum Qualitate, in which are explained the distinctions between ager assignatus, ager mensura comprehensus, and ager areifinius. These are the three principal distinctions as to quality, but there is also an explanation of other terms, as ager subsecivus, ager extraclusus (Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, vol. ii. app. i.). Professor C. Giraud, in his Rei Agrariae Scriptorum nobiliores Reliquiae, Paris, 1843, p. 7, n. 2, doubts whether the fragment De Agrorum Qualitate is properly attributed to Frontinus, and seems inclined to refer it to Balbus. In support of this doubt he cites the Prolegomena of Polenus, p. 16. prefixed to the edition by Polenus of Frontinus, De Aquaeduct. 4to. Patav. 1722. It should be observed that the fragment to which these doubts apply is not (as Giraud seems to suppose) the fragment De Agrorum Qualitate (p. 38, Goes., p. 12, Giraud), but the fragment which we have already treated of in the preceding paragraph, addressed to Celsus, and wrongly headed in Goesius, p. 28.

De Controversiis

Next follows (p. 39) the fragment headed De Controversiis, which consists of short and mutilated extracts from the beginnings of chapters in the work of Frontinus on the same subject. The Controversiae Agrorum, which were fifteen in number, were disputes connected with land, most of which were decided not jure ordinario, but by agrimensores, who gave judgment according to the rules of their art. In other cases, or, perhaps, in earlier times three arbitri, appointed under a law of the Twelve Tables, or a single arbiter, appointed under the Lex Mamilia (Cic. de Leg. 1.21), pronounced a decision, after having received a report from agrimensores. Some account of these controversiae may be found in Walter, Gesch. des Röm. Rechts. p. 784-8, ed. 1840. In natural arrangement, the treatise De Controversiis follows the treatise De Qualitate, because upon the quality of the land depend the rules for deciding disputes. The fragments De Controversiis are followed by commentaries (p. 44-89, Goes.) bearing the names of Aggenus Urbicus and Simplicius. The former seems to have been a Christian, who lived about the middle of the fifth century, and the so-called Liber Simplici owes its name to the absurd mistake of some hasty reader, who met with the following remark at the end of the first part of the commentary of Aggenus:--"Satis, ut puto, dilucide genera controversiarum exposui: nam et simplicius enarrare conditiones earum existimavi, quo facilius ad intellectum pertinerent."--(p. 62, 63, Goes.) The Liber Simplici, then, as some of the manuscripts import, is probably a work of Aggenus, and, from some expressions which it contains, seems to have been delivered orally as a lecture. A portion of it, never before published, was given to the world by Blume, in Rhein. Museum für Jurisp. vol. v. p. 369-7. These commentaries upon Frontinus are exceedingly confused and ill-written, the author having been a mere compiler, without any practical knowledge of the subject he was writing upon. Their chief value consists in the original passages of Frontinus and Hyginus which they preserve, for Hyginus, like Frontinus, wrote a treatise De Controversiis (which was first published by Blume, in Rhein. Museum. für Jurisp. vol. 7.138-172), and Aggenus, in making up his commentary on Frontinus, plagiarises the text of Hyginus. It is exceedingly difficult to determine precisely all the passages which belong textually to Frontinus in the commentary of Aggenus. The chief clue is the superiority of sense and diction in the original writer; and there can be no doubt that the epithet praestantissimus applied to such a monster as Domitian (p. 68, Goes.), must have proceeded from a contemporary of the emperor. The Liber Simplici contains remarks on the status and transcendentin of Controversiis. which prohahly belong to Frontinas; but it also contains a long passage (p. 87-89, Goes.), which does not relate to the subject of Controversiae, and may have been introduced by an accidental transposition of leaves from a treatise De Conditionibus Agrorum of Siculus Flaccus. Walter (Gesch. des Röm. Rechts, p. 784, n. 64) attempts to restore to order the confused commentary of Aggenus. The Liber Diazographus, in Goesius, p. 90 bears the following title, "Aggeni Urbici in Julium Frontinum Commentariorum liber secundus, qui Diazographus dicitur." It consists of a set of plates or drawings, which seem intended to illustrate the writings of Frontinus De Limitibus and De Controversiis.


Next follows (p. 102-147, Goes.) a treatise, De Coloniis, which has been generally published under the name of Frontinus, but it is doubtful whether any part of it really belongs to our author. It is compiled from various sources, as the Commentarius Claudii Caesaris, the Liber Balbi, the Mappa Alvanensium, and contains much curious information, topographical and historical. That, in its present state, it cannot have been compiled by Frontinus is evident from the mention which it makes of later emperors, as Antoninus and Commodus. Some notes on this work by Andreas Scottus were printed by P. Burmann in his edition of Velleius Paterculus, p. 632-640. (Lug. Bat. 1719.) The chaotic fragment, called in Goesius, p. 128, Julii Frontini Siculi Praefatio, is quite out of place, and resembles the end of the first part of the Commentary of Aggenus Urbicus (p. 64, Goes.). The name Siculus joined to Frontinus appears to have been given from an ignorant confusion of Frontinus with Siculus Flaccus. In consequence of works having been wrongly attributed to Frontinus, which clearly could not have been written by the author of the treatises on Stratagems and on Aqueducts, some scholars, following Polenus, have supposed the existence of two writers of the same name, and have maintained that the writer on Stratagems and the Frontinus, of whom we possess some genuine remains in the collection of Agrimensores, were different persons. (Fabric. Biblioth. Lat. vol. iii. p. 311, ed. Ernesti.)


In Goesius, p. 215-219, is a fragment given without the name of any author, under the title Fragmentum Agrarium de Limitibus. In one manuscript it is ascribed to Hyginus, and in another to Julius Frontinus Siculus. Niebuhr attributes it to Frontinus. (Hist. of Rome, vol. ii. p. 623. n. 9, and p. 626. n. 22.)

Further information about the

For detailed information relating to the Agrimensores generally, and to the difficult subjects treated of by Frontinus, the reader is referred (in addition to the authors already cited) to Böcking's Institutionen, vol. i. p. 325-331; Rudorff, in Savigny's Zeitschrift, vol. x. p. 344-437; the Memoirs of Zeiss, in Zeitsch. für die Alterth. Wissensch. Darmstadt, 1840; Schoell, Histoire de la Littérature Romaine, vol. ii. p. 454, vol. iii. p. 227; Giraud, Recherches sur le Droit de Propriété, vol. i. p. 97 ; Dureau de la Malle. Économie Politique des Romains, vol. i. pp. 66, 179.

Fragments connected with the

The fragments of Frontinus connected with the Res Agraria are appended to Sichard's edition of the Codex Theodosianus, as it appears in the Breviarium Aniani, fol. Basil. 1528. They are given in the complete editions of the works of Frontinus, by P. Scriver, 4to. Lug. Bat. 1607, and R. Keuchen. 8vo. Amst. 1661.

They are also contained in the following collections of Agrimensores :--

1. De Agrorum Conditionibus, &c., apud Turnebum. 4to. Paris. 1555.

2. Auctores Finium Regundorum cum Nic. Rigaltii Observ. 4to. Lutet. 1614.

3. Rei Agrariae Auctores, cura Wilh. Goesii. 4to. Amst. 1674.

Some of the remains are to be found in C. Giraud's Rei Agrariae Scriptorum nobiliores Reliquiae, Paris, 1843.

The fragment De Controversiis, with the commentaries of Aggenus Urbicus, and of the Pseudo-Simplicius, were edited by Blume in the Rhein. Museum für Jurisp. vol. v. p. 329-384. Niebuhr considers the fragments of Frontinus as the only work among the Agrimensores which can be counted a part of classical literature, or which was composed with any real legal knowledge. This opinion comes with authority from the great historian who, in his investigations concerning the Agrarian institutions, made frequent use of the Agrimensores, and was thence led on to a critical examination of the entire circuit of Roman history. In compliance with the recommendation of Niebuhr (to whom the writings of the Agrimensores had always a peculiar charm), several scholars of eminence have recently devoted their attention to this obscure subject, and a new edition of the whole collection has been undertaken by Blume, Lachmann, and Rudorff, the appearance of which is anxiously desired.


hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
97 AD (1)
84 AD (1)
78 AD (1)
74 AD (1)
70 AD (1)
106 AD (1)
104 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: