Silius Italicus, Caius

, a Roman poet, and author of a poetical history of the second Punic war, which decided the empire of the world in favour of the Romans, was born in the reign of Tiberius, about A. D. 15, and is supposed to have derived the name of Italicus from the place of his birth; but whether he was born at Italica in Spain, or atCorsinium in Italy, which, according to Strabo, had the name of Italica given it during the social war, is a point which cannot be known: though, if his birth had happened at either of these places, the grammarians tell us, that he should have been called Italicensis, and not Italicus. When he came to Rome, he applied himself to the bar; and, by a close imitation of Cicero, succeeded so well, that he became a celebrated advocate and most accomplished orator. His merit and character recommended him to the highest offices in the republic, even to the consulship, of which he was possessed when Nero difed. He is said to have been aiding in the accusation of persons of high rank and fortune, whom that tyrant had devoted to destruction: but he retrieved his character afterwards by a long and uniform course of virtuous behaviour, and held a principal office under the emperor Vitellius, which he executed so well as to preserve his credit with the public. Vespasian sent him as proconsul into Asia, where he behaved with integrity and unblemished reputation. After having thus spent the best part of his life in the service of his country, he bade adieu to public affairs, resolving to | consecrate the remainder of his days to retirement and the Muses. He had several fine villas in the country one at Tusculum, celebrated for having been Cicero’s and a farm near Naples, said to have been Virgil’s, and at which was his tomb, which Silius often visited. Martial compliments him on both these accounts. In his retirement he applied himself to poetry, not so much from the impulse of genius, which would have appeared earlier, but from his enthusiastic regard for Virgil, to whose memory he paid the highest veneration, and whose birth-day he is said to have celebrated annually with more solemnity than his own. He has endeavoured to imitate him in his poem; and, though he falls greatly short, yet there are some splendid passages and strains of imagination which enliven a historical detail that otherwise may be read with more pleasure in Livy’s prose. After spending a considerable time in this retirement, and reaching his seventy- fifth year, he was seized with an incurable ulcer, which afflicted him with unsupportable pains, and drove him to put an end to his life by refraining from sustenance. The best and almost the only account we have of Silius Italicus is in one of Pliny’s letters, from which most of the above particulars are taken.

The first edition of his poem was published by Sweynheym and Pannartz, at Rome jn 1471, and five other editions were printed in the same century. Of modern editions the best are, that of Drakenborch, 1717, 4to, of Viltebrun, Paris, 1781, 8vo, of Ernesti, Leipsic, 1791, 2 vols. 8vo, of Heber, 1792, 2 vols. 12mo, elegantly printed at the Buhner press, and of Rupert, Gottingen, 1795 8, 2 vols. 8vo. 1


Vossius de Hist. Lat. et de Poet. Lat. Plinii Epist. Lib. III. Epist. VII. Dibdin’s Classics and Bibl. Spenceriana.