A'rchias, A. Lic'nius
a Greek poet, born at Antioch in Syria, about B. C. 120. His name is known chiefly from the speech of Cicero 1
in his defence, which is the only source of information about him, and must therefore be very questionable evidence of his talent, considering that the verses of Archias had been employed in celebrating the part which that orator played in the conspiracy of Catiline.
He was on intimate terms with many of the first families in Rome, particularly with the Licinii, whose name he adopted. His reception during a journey through Asia Minor and Greece (pro Arch.
100.3), and afterwards in Grecian Italy, where Tarentum, Rhegium, Naples, and Locri enrolled him on their registers, shews that his reputation was, at least at that time, considerable. In B. C. 102 he came to Rome, still young (though not so young as the expression "praetextatus" (100.3) literally explained would lead us to suppose; comp. Clinton, F. H.
iii. p. 542), and was received in the most friendly way by Lucullus (ad Att.
1.16. 9), Marius, then consul, Hortensius the father, Metellus Pius, Q. Catulus, and Cicero.
After a short stay, he accompanied Lucullus to Sicily, and followed him, in the banishment to which he was sentenced for his management of the slave war in that island, to Heraclea in Lucania, in which town, as being a confederate town and having more privileges than Tarentum, he was enrolled as a citizen.
He was in the suite of L. Lucullus,--in Asia under Sulla, again in B. C. 76 in Africa, and again in the third Mithridatic war.
As he had sung the Cimbric war in honour of Marius, so now he wrote a poem on this war, which he had witnessed (100.9), in honour of Lucullus. We do not hear whether he finished his poem in honour of Cicero's consulship (100.11); in B. C. 61, when he was already old, he had not begun it (ad Att.
1.16); or whether he ever published his intended Caeciliana, in honour of Metellus Pius.
He wrote many epigrams : it is still disputed, whether any of those preserved under his name in the Anthologia were really his writings. (Comp. Ilgent, Opuscula,
ii. p. 46; Clinton, iii. p. 452, note k.)
These are all of little merit. In B. C. 61, a charge was brought against him, probably at the instigation of a party opposed to his patrons, of assuming the citizenship illegally, and the trial came on before Q. Cicero, who was praetor this year. (Schol. Bob. p. 354, ed. Orelli.) Cicero pleaded his cause in the speech by which the name of Archias has been preserved. " If he had no legal right, yet the man who stood so high as an author, whose talent had been employed in celebrating Lucullus, Marius, and himself, might well deserve to be a Roman citizen.
The register certainly, of Heraclea, in which his name was enrolled, had been destroyed by fire in the Marsian war; but their ambassadors and L. Lucullus bore witness that he was enrolled there.
He had settled in Rome many years before he became citizen, had given the usual notice before Q. Metelius Pius, and if his property had never been enrolled in the censor's register, it was because of his absence with Lucullus--and that was after all no proof
He had made wills, had been an heir (comp. Dict. of Ant. s. v. Testamentum, Heres
), and his name was on the civil list.
But, after all, his chief claim was his talent, and the cause to which he had applied it."
If we may believe Cicero (100.8) and Quintilian (10.7.19), Archias had the gift of making good extempore verses in great numbers, and was remarkable for the richness of his language and his varied range of thought.