Cornelius Nepos

(c. 110 bc — 124 ad)

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(c. 110–24 bc),

the earliest extant biographer in Latin. From Cisalpine Gaul, by 65 he was living in Rome and moving in literary circles. He counted Pomponius Atticus a friend.


‘On Famous Men’, at least sixteen books containing perhaps 400 lives, grouped according to categories (those of generals and historians are firmly attested), and including non‐Romans. It was first published before the death of Atticus; a second, expanded, edition appeared before 27. Of this we have ‘On Eminent Foreign Generals’ and the lives of Porcius Cato 1 and Atticus from his ‘Roman Historians’.

His defects are hasty and careless composition and lack of control of his material. He is mainly eulogistic, with an ethical aim, but also gives information about his hero's environment. As historian his value is slight; he names many sources, but rarely used them at first hand. His style is plain. His intended Roman readership was middlebrow. See biography, roman.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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