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Marcus Aurelius Olympius Nemesianus


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From Carthage, late in the 3rd cent. ad composed four pastorals, long ascribed to Calpurnius Siculus, and an incomplete didactic poem on hunting (Cynegetica). He is recorded as having distinguished himself in poetic contests, and himself states an intention (apparently never fulfilled) to write an epic on the deeds of the imperial brothers Numerianus and Carinus (Cyn. 63–78). His Cynegetica is datable to the period between the death of the emperor Carus (283) and that of Numerianus (284). If Cyn. 58–62 means—as it surely does—that he has turned from pastoral to didactic poetry, his Eclogues will have been written first.

The Eclogues, four short poems, 319 lines in all, are strongly influenced by Virgil and Calpurnius. In the first the shepherd Thymoetas' threnody on Meliboeus recalls the praises of Daphnis in Verg. Ecl. 5. The second, in which two young shepherds express their longing for the girl Donace, shut up at home by her parents, is indebted especially to Calp. Ecl. 2 and 3. Verg. Ecl. 6 is the model for the third, in which Pan sings in praise of Bacchus. The fourth, like the second an amoebean song, owes to Verg. Ecl. 8 the use of a refrain, which was part of the Theocritean tradition (see THEOCRITUS). Both Virgilian and Calpurnian elements appear in all four poems.

Of the Cynegetica, 325 lines survive. After a long introduction, Nemesianus turns to the necessities for hunting-dogs (he discusses rearing, training, diseases, breeds), horses, nets, and traps. The poem breaks off on the verge of the chase. It is a vexed question whether the poet used the work of Grattius ‘Faliscus’; if so he is at least independent of the order of the material in Grattius' poem.

Two fragments of a poem on bird-catching (De aucupio, 28 hexameters) are also ascribed to Nemesianus, though the attribution is doubtful.

Nemesianus is essentially an imitator—sometimes whole lines are borrowed from a predecessor—but he is at least competent, and his poems are not unattractive. With a few exceptions, his diction and metre are classical.

J. H. D. Scourfield

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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