Lucan Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Marcus Annaeus Lucanus was born in Corduba, Spain, on November 3, 39 c.e. The determining factors in his career were his descent from two prominent Spanish families and his rhetorical education. His father, Marcus Annaeus Mela, was the brother of Seneca the Younger (the philosopher, poet, and statesman) and the son of Seneca the Elder. Lucan’s mother was the daughter of Acilius Lucanus, a Corduban speaker of note. Thus, by birthright Lucan belonged to one of Spain’s most distinguished families, whose talents had been widely recognized and who had obtained considerable wealth. Lucan was brought to Rome at an early age, where he enjoyed all the wealth and prestige that the Annaei could provide, particularly after 49 c.e., when Seneca was recalled from exile to become the tutor to Nero, the heir apparent to the throne. After formal training at the school of a grammarian, Lucan became the pupil of the Stoic philosopher Annaeus Cornutus, whose name suggests that he may have been a freedman of Lucan’s own family.

Considering Seneca’s position in Roman public affairs, which grew even stronger between 49 c.e. and 60 c.e., it is not surprising that Lucan was quickly drawn into the very heart of Roman social and political life. While this introduction to court life proved to be an incentive to Lucan, it ultimately caused his ruin. Lucan probably spent considerable time with Nero himself. After all, Lucan and Nero were only two years apart in age and both...

(The entire section is 532 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, or Lucan (LEW-kuhn), was one of the foremost writers of the Latin Silver Age of literature. He is generally regarded as the most significant author of verse epic after Vergil, with whom he stands in great contrast. His suicide before the age of twenty-six, a result of his involvement in a plot against the emperor Nero, was a great loss to Latin and world literature, for his anti-Caesarian epic Pharsalia represented a new and dramatic departure from traditional epic form and content.{$S[A]Marcus Annaeus Lucanus;Lucan}

Lucan was born into a rich and well-connected Spanish family that occupied an important position in imperial life. His uncle, Seneca the Younger, was a distinguished philosopher, poet, and statesman. For a time, as tutor and later adviser to the young emperor Nero, Seneca exerted great control over the rule of the Roman Empire. It was likely through the influence of his uncle that Lucan came to Rome at an early age to study and, while a pupil of the noted Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Cornutus, was introduced to court life, where he became a personal friend of the emperor.

In 60 c.e. Nero raised Lucan to the senatorial rank, a mark of considerable honor. Within a short period of time, on December 5 in either 62 or 63 c.e., Lucan was named quaestor, an important and highly visible office in the Roman government. Generally, quaestorships were granted to men under the age of twenty-five only if they were immediate members of the imperial family; Lucan’s appointment was therefore a signal of favor that indicated the personal intervention of the emperor himself. At about the same time, Lucan was brought into the college of augurs, the priestly body that was consulted for divine guidance before important public decisions. Clearly, the young man from the Spanish provinces had become a court favorite.

It was at this same time, around the year 60 c.e., that Lucan began his serious artistic career; indeed, it may have been his poetic efforts that first attracted him to Nero, who fancied himself a poet and artist. Aside from his masterwork, Pharsalia, Lucan’s many other works are known only by title or by reference, but they included an unfinished tragedy on the legend...

(The entire section is 958 words.)


(Epics for Students)

Of all the poetry Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, better known to English readers as Lucan, wrote during his short life, only his unfinished epic...

(The entire section is 421 words.)