Most of the information about Aulus Persius Flaccus comes from the anonymous Life of Persius attached to various manuscripts. Persius belonged to the equestrian order; he was of distinguished Etruscan lineage and prosperous circumstances. His father died when he was six, and a stepfather died within a few years of marriage to his mother. At twelve, Persius went to Rome to study with the grammarian Remmius Palaemon and the rhetorician Verginius Flavus. When he was sixteen, he attached himself to Lucius Annaeus Cornutus, author, teacher, and freedman from the house of the Annaei, to which the Senecas and Lucan belonged. In satire 5, Persius describes Cornutus’s acceptance of him in terms which properly refer to a father’s acknowledging a child; Cornutus, however, was more mentor than parent. Persius credits Cornutus with “sowing his ears with Cleanthean fruit”—that is, with inculcating in him the Stoic way of life. He was a relative of the famed Arriae, the elder of whom showed her condemned husband how to die by stabbing herself. The younger Arria was the wife of the Stoic, Thrasea Paetus, himself condemned by Nero in 66 c.e. Persius was cherished by Thrasea, sharing with him an earnest adherence to Stoicism.
Very little biographical material can be gleaned from Persius’s satires apart from the relationship with Cornutus and his friendship with a certain Macrinus and the poet Caesius Bassus, addressed in satires 2 and 6, respectively....
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