Persius, Aulus Flaccus

, one of the three great Roman satirists, was born at Volterra, in Tuscany, in the 22d year of Tiberius’s reign, or A. D. 34. At the age of 12 he was removed to Rome, where he pursued his studies under Palaemon the grammarian, and Virginius Flaccus the rhetorician. He afterwards, at sixteen, applied himself to philosophy under Cornutus, a Stoic, who entertained so great a love for him, that there was ever after a most intimate friendship between them. Persius has immortalized that friendship in his fifth satire, and his gratitude for the good offices of his friend. This he shewed still farther by his will, in which he left him his library, and a great deal of money: but Cornutus, like a true philosopher, who knew how to practise what he taught, accepted only the books, and gave the money to the heirs of the testator. We have nothing deserving the name of a life of Persius, but his character appears to have been excellent. He had a strong sense of virtue, and lived in an age when such a sense would naturally produce a great abhorrence of the reigning vices. His moral and religious sentiments were formed on the best systems which the philosophy of his age afforded and so valuable is his matter, that Mr. Harris, of | Salisbury, justly said, “he was the only difficult Latin author that would reward the reader for the pains which he must take to understand him.

Persius is said to have been of a weak constitution, and troubled with indigestion, of which he died in his 30th year. Of his satires, six are extant, and have procured him to be named with Horace and Juvenal as the third great Latin satirist. With regard to his obscurity, critics have varied in their opinions of the cause of it: some attribute it as an original defect in his style; while others assert, that what we call obscurities and difficulties arise from allusions to persons, events, and practices, with which we are now unacquainted. There are, undoubtedly, such allusions in all the Roman poets; but Persius cannot be altogether acquitted of harshness and obscority of style, independent of such. He has more of the force and fire of Juvenal, than of the politeness of Horace; but as a moral writer he excels both.

The best editions of this poet are that of London, 1647, 8vo, with Casaubon’s “Commentary” and that of Wedderburn, Amst. 1664, 12mo; but he is generally printed along with Juvenal; and has had the same editors. We have several English metrical translations: the first by Dryden; the second, and a very valuable one, by a Dr. Brewster, in 17ol, 8vo; and, more recently, an ejegant and spirited version by Mr. Drummond. 1


Vossius de Poet. Lat. Crusius’s Lives of the Roman Poets. —Saxii Onomast. Drummond’s Preface.