Marcus Pacuvius Analysis


Marcus Pacuvius (peh-KEW-vee-uhs), the nephew of Quintus Ennius, was born in Brundisium and so was exposed to the various influences of the Latin colony permeated by Greek culture. His uncle may have influenced Pacuvius in his decision to settle in Rome and may have been his teacher there, and there is evidence that Pacuvius was also associated with the Scipionic circle. Pacuvius withdrew to Tarentum, perhaps shortly after 140 b.c.e., and he died at almost ninety years of age. Pacuvius was a painter, perhaps of stage scenery, and a writer. Evidence suggests that Pacuvius wrote miscellaneous poems like those of Quintus Ennius, but none remain. Pacuvius’s literary activity was concentrated mostly in tragedy; titles and fragments exist of only about twelve tragedies and one praetexta (a serious dramatic form based on Roman themes), the Paulus (second century b.c.e.; this and other fragments translated in Remains of Old Latin, 1935-1940), on Lucius Aemilius Paullus.


Pacuvius’s literary output was small, especially in the light of his long life. The titles and themes reflected in the plays of Pacuvius indicate that the poet expanded the spectrum of mythological cycles treated on the Roman stage and did not depend entirely on the three classical Attic tragedians for his models. The fragments also suggest a greater degree of philosophical interest than that of the other early Roman dramatists, perhaps explaining the epithet doctus. Pacuvius gained considerable fame and was popular with audiences into the late Republic.

Additional Resource

Warmington, E. H. Remains of Old Latin. Reprint. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993.