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5. T. Labienus, a celebrated orator and historian in the reign of Augustus, appears to have been either the son or grandson of the Labienus who deserted Julius Caesar. [No. 3.] He retained all the republican feelings of his family, and, unlike most of his contemporaries, never became reconciled to the imperial government, but took every opportunity to attack Augustus and his friends. In consequence of his bitterness he received the nickname of Rabienus from the imperial party. He was an intimate friend of Cassius Severus, and an enemy of Asinius Pollio, whom he branded in one of his orations as the casnar or parasite of Augustus. He is represented by the elder Seneca as very poor, of an infamous character, and universally hated; but his oratorical talents must have been very great, as Seneca justly remarks, to have obtailed under these circumstances the remarkable reputation which he enjoyed as an orator. In his speeches lie adopted a style of oratory which partook of the leading characteristics both of the ancient and modern schools, so that each party could claim him. The history which Labienus wrote was apparently one of his own times; since the elder Seneca relates, that when he heard him on one occasion reading his history, he passed over a great part, remarking that it could only be read after his death; but if the work had related merely to past times,he probably would not have feared to have read it. Labienus seems never to have been engaged in any plots against Augustus; but his enemies at length revenged themselves upon him, by obtaining a decree of the senate that all his writings should be burnt. This indignity affected Labienus so much, that, resolving not to survive the productions of his genius, he shut himself up in the tombs of his ancestors, and thus perished. His death probably took place in A. D. 12, as Dio Cassius relates (56.27) that several libellous works were burnt in that year. Caligula allowed the writings of Labienus, as well as those of Cremutius Cordus and Cassius Severus, which had shared the same fate, to be again collected and read. (Senec. Controv. v. pp. 328-330, ed. Bipont.; Suet. Cal. 16.)

We find mention of only three orations of Labienus:-1. An oration for Figulus against the heirs of Urbinia: the cause of the latter was pleaded by C. Asinius Pollio. (Quint. Inst. 4.1.11; Tac. de Orat. 38.) 2. An oration against Pollio, which may, however, be the same as the preceding, and which was ascribed by some to Cornelius Gallus. (Quint. Inst. 1.5.8.) 3. An oration against Bathyllus, the freedman of Maecenas, who was defended by Gallio. (Senec. Controv. v. p. 330.)

(De Chambort, Dissert. sur T. Labienus, in the Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscript. vol. x. pp. 98-110; Meyer, Orator. Rom. Fragmenta, pp. 528-531, 2nd ed.; Westermann, Gesch. der Römischen Beredtsamkeit, § 73, n. 3; Weichert, de Cassio Parmensi, pp. 319-324; comp. Bentley, ad Hor. Serm. 1.3. 82, who proposes to read Labieno instead of Labeone in that passage.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 16
    • Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, Book 1, 5.8
    • Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, Book 4, 1.11
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