Aulus Persius Flaccus Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

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....

(The entire section is 493 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Aulus Persius Flaccus, known as Persius (PUR-shee-uhs), was born in Volaterrae, Etruria (now Volterra, Italy), in 34 c.e. As both his name and his birthplace indicate, he was most likely of Etruscan descent. Although his life was short and his output slight, he produced some of the most original and innovative verse in Latin literature, and his influence on writers ever since has been considerable.{$S[A]Flaccus, Aulus Persius;Persius}{$S[A]Aulus Persius Flaccus;Persius}

After his father’s death, when Persius was not yet six, the boy was sent to Rome to be educated, where he was tutored and his artistic and moral character shaped by a number of influential individuals, including Lucius Annaeus Cornutus, who was also a teacher of the epic poet Lucan, and Thrasea Paetus, a notable public figure who served as consul and was the core of the aristocratic resistance to the tyranny of the emperor Nero. Thrasea was forced to commit suicide in 66 c.e. because of his political views, but his ten-year friendship with Persius had a profound and lasting impact on the young poet and his view of life and art. Through these men Persius was exposed to the philosophy of Stoicism, which rejected the vain materialism of the contemporary Roman world and exalted the world of the mind freed from passions. Stoic philosophy was to become the single most important influence on Persius’s life and art.

Although Persius was certainly connected with the political and literary elite of his society, he seems to have led a somewhat reserved, even reclusive life. Although ill health may have been a large cause for this, some writers have speculated that Persius’s Stoic beliefs caused him to shun the Neroian court. The result, whatever the cause, is that his satires address generic, rather than specific, faults, and are addressed largely to types...

(The entire section is 778 words.)