Gaius Julius Hyginus Analysis

Life

Little is known of Gaius Julius Hyginus’s (GAY-uhs JEWL-yuhs huh-JI-nuhs) life. He is usually called a Spaniard, but some authorities say he was born in Alexandria. He is not to be confused with the second century surveyor Hyginus, Saint Hyginus, pope from c. 136 to c. 140 c.e., or Hyginus the mythographer, author of Genealogiae (also known as Fabulae, probably second century c.e.). Brought to Rome as either a slave or a prisoner of war, he was freed by the emperor Augustus. In Rome, he may have studied under Lucius Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor. He was first the teacher and later the friend of Ovid. Augustus placed Hyginus in charge of the greater of the two public libraries he founded, the Palatine Library. Hyginus wrote much and was widely respected as an author, a critic, and an editor, but none of his works survives.

Influence

As the Palatine librarian, Hyginus was responsible for collecting, compiling, transmitting, and preserving the finest Latin literature, including the works of Vergil. His lost commentary on Vergil was cited by Aulus Gellius and contributed toward establishing the importance of Vergil for the ages.

Additional Resources

Richardson, Ernest Cushing. The Beginnings of Libraries. Hamden, Conn.: Archon, 1963.

Rose, H. J. A Handbook of Latin Literature from the Earliest Times to the Death of St. Augustine. Wauconda, Ill.: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1996.

Thompson, James Westfall. Ancient Libraries. London: Archon, 1962.