Velleius Paterculus, after enumerating the distinguished literary characters who lived in the last years of the republic, in passing on to those who approached more nearly to his own age, uses the words "interque (sc. ingenia
) proximi nostri aevi eminent princeps carminum Virgilius, Rabiriusque," where some critics have unjustifiably sought to substitute "Variusque" or "Horatiusque" for "Rabiriusque." Ovid also pays a tribute to the genius of the same individual when he terms him "magnique Rabirius oris" (Ep. ex Pont.
4.16. 5), but Quintilian speaks more coolly," Rabirius ac Pedo non indigni cognitione, si vacet" (10.1.90).
From Seneca (De Benef.
6.3), who quotes with praise an expression placed in the mouth of Antonius, Hoc habeo quuodcunque dedi !
we are led to conclude that the work of Rabirius belonged to the epic class, and that the subject was connected with the Civil Wars.
No portion of this piece was known to exist until among the charred rolls found at Herculaneum a fragment was decyphered which many believe to be a part of the poem of Rabirius.
It was first printed in the Volumina Herculanensia
(vol. ii. p. 13, fol. Neap. 1809), and subsequently, in a separate form, in a volume edited by Kreyssig under the title "Carminis Latini de bello Actiaco s. Alexandrino fragmenta" 4to. Schneeberg, 1814.
A translation into Italian appeared at Forli, 4to. 1830, styled "Frammenti di Rabirio poeta tradotti da G. Montanari"; and in 1335 Kreyssig published "Commentatio de C. Sallustii Crispi Historiarum Libr. III. fragmentis, &c. atque Carminis Latini de Bello Actiaco sive Alexandrino fragmenta" (8vo. Misen. 1835), which contains a condensed view of the discussions to which these morsels have given rise.
Fulgentius Planciades in his exposition of the word Abstemius
quotes a line from "Rabirius in Satyra," where some MSS. give Rubrius,
a name entirely unknown. Admitting that the common reading is correct, it is impossible, in the absence of all further information, to determine whether the Rabirius referred to is the same Rabirius who is noticed by Velleius, Ovid, Seneca, and Quintilian, or a different person, and there seems to be scarcely standing-room for controversy.
A good deal, notwithstanding, has been written upon the question, as may be seen by consulting the sources below.
Casaubon, de Satyric. Poes.
2.3; Ruperti, Proleg. ad Jurenal. ;
Wernsdorf, Poet. Lat. Min.
vol. iii. p. 19 ; Weichert, de Lucio Vario Poeta,
Excurs. iv., de Pedone et Rabirio Poetis ;
Haupt, Rhein. Mus.
Neue Folge, vol. 3.2, p. 308.