Life

Gaius Lucilius (GAY-uhs loo-SIHL-ee-uhs) was a member of a prominent family, which included a brother who was a senator and a sister who was the grandmother of Pompey the Great. Lucilius himself was a landowner who never sought political office. He served under Scipio Aemilianus during the siege of Numantia in 134-133 b.c.e. and started publishing in 131 b.c.e. He became a member of Scipio Aemilianus’s literary circle. His works were published in three separate collections (c. 125, c. 120, and c. 108 b.c.e., only fragments remain) that were later collected into one group. His satires were often autobiographical, with topics such as his own life and friends, travel, and public and private morality. He was outspoken and critical, mentioning enemies by name.

Influence

Considered the founder of satire, a purely Roman form of literature, Lucilius established dactylic hexameter as the standard meter for Latin satire. He was a great influence on later Latin satirists, especially Horace, whose Satire I.5, journey to Brundisium, in Satires (35 b.c.e., 30 b.c.e.; English translation, 1567), is based on one of Lucilius’s satires (Book 3). Horace is critical of Lucilius’s use of coarse language, sounding like Old Comedy. The later satirists, Juvenal and Aulus Persius Flaccus, considered him the creator of the genre.

Additional Resources

Gruen, Erich S. Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Hadas, M. A History of Latin Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952.

Hornblower, S., and A. Spawforth, eds. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3d ed. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996.