Appendix II: Biographies of the Ancient Authors

Author Years Bio
Augustine 354 – 430 CE Born to a Christian mother and a pagan father in North Africa he was Roman in status and of good rank. He was baptized as an adult in 387; he wrote an account of the conversion called Confessions. He became a leading theologian and Bishop of Hippo, his hometown, where he died when the Vandals were besieging the city.
63 BCE – 17 CE The first emperor of Rome, he left behind a written record of his achievements, the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, which was inscribed in bronze on his mausoleum and also in at least one province (possibly more). The rest of his writings have vanished.
Cassiodorus c. 485 – 585 CE A 5th century monk and politician, he eventually became consul. After assisting his father, who was governor of Italy, he went to the Gothic court in Ravenna and later, after the Byzantine reconquest of the Western Empire, to Constantinople.
Cassius Dio c. 150 – 235 CE A consul and a historian (he wrote in Greek). He wrote a 60 book history of Rome from the landing of Aeneas in Italy until 229 CE. Some of the history is extant in its original form, some of it only exists in epitomes or summaries by a range of later authors. His name is sometimes written Dio Cassius.
Cicero 106 – 43 BCE A leading politician and orator of the Late Republic who was also Rome’s greatest lawyer and speaker. He also wrote a large number of letters to family and friends, many of which we still have, which provide a unique picture of social, political, and family life in the Late Republic. He was murdered at the orders of Mark Antony and his head and hands were displayed in the Forum.
Dionysius of Halicarnassus c. 60 – after 7 BCE A Greek historian, who wrote during the reign of Augustus; his writing was very pro-Roman and he argued that the Romans were originally Greeks. His major work, Roman Antiquities, drew on a variety of Greek and Roman sources, including Livy.
Florus c. 74 – 130 CE He wrote an epitome of Roman history, mainly drawing on Livy, covering the period from the founding of the city to 25 BCE.
Historia Augusta 117 – 284 CE A collection of biographies of emperors and their challengers covering the period 117-284 CE. It is incredibly unreliable, sometimes outright lies and claims to be the work of several authors, which it surely is not, but we often have no other source for some of the period so are forced to rely on it from time to time. It is, however, a good record of the sorts of things that Romans could believe about emperors and their families.
Livy 59 BCE – c. 17 CE Titus Livius Patavinus, came from Patavium (modern Padua), a city in the north of Italy. He moved to Rome in the 30s BCE but never seems to have played a role in public life. He wrote a massive history of Rome from its founding up until Livy’s own times. Much of it is lost and only exists in summaries or quotations; of the original 142 books we have 35, covering the early history of Rome and the Second Punic War.
Martial c. 40 – c. 103 CE A Roman citizen from Spain, he moved to Rome in the mid 60s CE. His earliest work the Liber spectaculorum, the Book of Spectacles, was published for the opening of the Colosseum by Titus, but the version we have now is one published under Domitian, Titus’ successor. After that he published a sequence of books of epigrams, some of which talk of the arena.
 Ovid 43 BCE – 17/18 CE Publius Ovidius Naso. A author of love poetry, including a ‘how to’ guide, the Art of Love, he was exiled in 8 CE to Tomis on the Black Sea by Augustus for some offense that was never specifically explained by Ovid. (Ovid hated Tomis, which must have been a horrible place to be stuck in for someone as urbane as Ovid. And, yes, that’s true even if they had a gymnasium and spoke Greek.)
Pliny the Elder
23 – 79 CE A senator, consul, advisor to the emperor, general, who was also a prolific author on a wide variety of subjects. His sole extant work, the Natural History (sometimes called the Natural History), is a compendium of wonders and facts of varying dubiousity. He died during the eruption of Vesuvius, while attempting to discover more about the eruption (and incidentally saving lives in his role as the person in charge of the Roman fleet at Misenum).
Pliny the Younger 61 – c. 112 CE The nephew and adopted son of Pliny the Elder, he published several books of letters of his to various individuals around Rome, including many members of the elite and the emperor.
Plutarch c. 46 – 126 CE A Greek biographer and historian, who was also a philosopher and priest (at Delphi). His parallel lives paralleled the life of one famous Roman with a famous Greek (he also wrote largely non-extant biographies of some emperors). His concern is not so much with history as with character and men’s destinies.
 Polybius c. 200 – 118 BCE A Greek historian, he was originally from Arcadia and came to Rome as a hostage because of his father’s involvement in the Achaean league which went to war with Rome. He was a friend of Scipio Africa the Younger and was the first Greek to write at such length at what he recognized was a rising power in the Mediterranean. He wrote a work called the Histories, covering Roman history from 264-146, that is the period of Rome’s conflict with Carthage.
Statius c. 46 – 96 CE A poet from the south of Italy who published a finished epic (the Thebaid), an unfinished one (the Achilleid), and a sequence of occasional poems, the Silvae.
 Suetonius c. 69 – after 122 CE A biographer from the equestrian class; he was the emperor Hadrian’s personal secretary and a close friend of Pliny the Younger. He wrote a number of texts, not all of which survive. Of that which survives Lives of the Twelve Caesars is the most famous, and which starts with Julius Caesar and ends with Domitian; he had access to the imperial archives for the early lives – not so for the later ones.
 Tacitus c. 56 – 117 CE One of the greatest Roman historians, whose histories, unfortunately do not survive intact. He wrote the Annals and Histories which survive in part; and a biography of his father-in-law Agricola (the Agricola), an ethnographic work on Germany (the Germania), and one on oratory (the Dialogue on Oratory): these last three are extant.
 Tertullian  c. 160 – c. 225 CE  A Christian, he came from New Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He wrote both in Latin and Greek (though mainly in Latin) on various religious and doctrinal matters and was a fierce opponent of paganism.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Spectacles in the Roman World by Siobhán McElduff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book