Cornelius Fronto, Marcus

(c. 95—166 ad)

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(c. ad 95–c.166),

orator, suffect consul 142; b. in Cirta; completed his education in Rome; a leading advocate under Hadrian, he was appointed tutor by Antoninus Pius to Marcus Aurelius and his adoptive brother Lucius Verus, remaining on intimate terms with them until his death, probably from the plague of 166/7.

Though famous for his oratory (‘not the second but the other glory of Roman eloquence’, an allusion to Cicero), Fronto is known today through his correspondence, chiefly with Marcus. The letters expound and illustrate his stylistic theories: the orator must seek out the most expressive word in Early Latin texts, preferring the unusual to the commonplace, provided it is not obscure or jarring; he must dispose his words in the best order and cultivate rhetorical figures, the sententia, and the image‐like description. Among Fronto's favourite authors are Porcius Cato 1, Plautus, Ennius, and Sallust; Cicero, though unsurpassed as a letter‐writer, is criticized as an orator for taking insufficient pains to find ‘unexpected and surprising words’. Virgil is ignored, Lucan and Seneca the Younger damned.

The letters also illustrate Fronto's distaste for Stoicism, his distress at its hold on Marcus, his constant ill‐health, his family joys and sorrows, and the difficulties of life at court. He complains that Romans have no capacity for affection, nor even a name for it; Marcus, silent on Fronto's rhetorical tuition, acknowledges that he has learnt from him the hypocrisy of courts and the coldness of Roman patricians. Their own correspondence is marked by extreme displays of affection.

Fronto was more remarkable for mastery of language and warmth of heart than for keenness of intellect or strength of purpose; but our few fragments of his speeches tend to justify his ancient fame.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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