St. Jerome (Hieronymus)
Caius Iulius Caesar (100 - 44 BC)
Roman general and statesman. A brilliant general, Caesar conquered all of Gaul and was made governor of Gallia Cisalpina and Gallia Transalpina (Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul), and started a civil war against the Senate and his former colleague Pompey (Pompeius) when they wanted him to relinquish command and give up his governorship. After defeating Pompey and gaining control over Rome, Caesar was elected dictator (a title not to be confused with our present-day use of the term; a Roman dictator ruled with absolute power for a brief period of time during a severe crisis), first yearly - which was almost unheard of - and later for ten years. His obvious striving for autocracy provoked and scared the old Senate nobility, and his being elected dictator for life in 44 BC was the final straw: about sixty senators conspired and stabbed him to death on March 15, Idibus Martiis.
Caesar's two great works are Commentarii de bello Gallico ("Commentaries on the Gallic War") and Commentarii de bello civili ("Commentaries on the Civil War"), both skillfully written propaganda for Caesar himself and his cause. Just as Cicero's, Caesar's prose is regarded as having been normative for the Latin language.
Marcus Porcius Cato Senior (234 - 194 BC)
Roman statesman and politician, consul in 195 BC As a Roman censor (in 184 BC), Cato tried to maintain old, stern morality by, among other things, expelling people from the Senate. Wrote De agricultura ("On Agriculture"), which is our oldest preserved Latin prose.
Gaius Valerius Catullus (84 - 54 BC)
The first great Roman poet, born in Verona. As a youth, Catulle came to Rome where he met and fell head-over-heels in love with a woman named Clodia (in his poems called Lesbia). Many of his poems depicts their stormy relationship and its vicissitudes. He also wrote short poems and elegies, but the Lesbia poems are perhaps his most famous.
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 - 43 BC)
Roman orator, writer and politician, consul in 63 BC. During his consulate, Cicero exposed an attempted coup d'état led by Catalina and had the conspirators (except Catalina himself) executed. Charged with having carried out the execution without a legal sentence, he was exiled in 58 BC. He was recalled only a year later, but turned his back on politics and applied himself to literary work instead. After Caesar's murder, Cicero returned to politics and, hoping to restore the Republic, held a series of speeches in the Senate that fiercely attacked Marc Anthony. This proved to be fatal: during the proscriptions of the Second Triumvirate, Marc Anthony had Cicero murdered.
A lot of Cicero's extensive writing has been preserved, such as speeches, philosophic documents and personal letters, and his writing is regarded as having been normative for the Latin language.
Aulus Gellius (circa 130 - 180)
Gellius studied literature in Rome and philosophy in Athens. His Noctes Atticae ("Attic Nights") is a collection of notes on different subjects such as philosophy, literary criticism, law and biography. He wrote mainly to entertain and educate his children. His work has preserved extracts from many Greek and Latin authors.
Hieronymus (St. Jerome) (circa 342 - 420)
Christian writer, born in Dalmatia. Hieronymus wrote letters, biographies and commentaries on the books of the Bible. More important, his translation of the Bible to Latin became the Versio Vulgata, and this translation is used by the Catholic church even today.
Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 - 8 BC)
Roman poet, born in Venusia as the son of an emancipated slave. Horace studied rhetoric in Rome and Athens and began to write poems as he absolutely penniless returned to Rome after having participated in the civil war. His friends Vergil and Varius introduced him to Maecenas, who took care of him and later introduced him to Augustus, which made it possible for Horace to devote himself to his poetry entirely. All of his work has been preserved, such as four books of odes (Carmina, "Songs") and two books of literary letters, Epistulae ("Letters") and Ars poeticae ("The Art of Poetry").
Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis (circa 60 - 135 AD)
Roman satirist, born in Aquinum in south-east Latium, who probably worked as a lawyer. During Emperor Domitianus' reign, Juvenalis was exiled, probably to Egypt, for having made fun of one of the emperor's protégés. His satires were published when Trajanus' was emperor, but criticise life in Rome during Domitianus' and Nero's reign. Their prime targets are the rich, women and foreigners, especially the Greek.
Titus Livius (59 BC - 17 AD)
Roman historian, born in Padova in northern Italy. Livy began writing his Roman history Ab urbe condita in 26 BC and hadn't yet finished it when he died in 17 AD. Books 1 - 10 and 21 - 45 are all that are left of his great work of 142 books - of the rest, only fragments have been preserved.
Lucretius (circa 97 BC - circa 55 BC)
Not much is know about the life of this philosopher poet. His only work, De rerum natura ("About the essence of things"), was published posthumously by Cicero. He was not a popular writer; Quintilianus complained that he was difficult to understand, and S:t Jerome claimed he wrote his work "between his insanities." Today however, dating back to the Renaissance, he held in high regard.
Marcus Valerius Martialis (circa 40 - 104 AD)
Roman writer, born in Spain. Martialis came to Rome at the age of 22, during Nero's reign, and lived on the income from his books and his patrons' (among them the emperors Titus and Domitianus) generosity. His sly, often sarcastic epigrams have become a standard of the genre.
Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC - 17 AD)
Roman poet. In 9 AD, Ovid was exiled by Augustus to Tomi (where he died) for "carmen et error" (a poem and an error). The poem was probably Ars amandi ("The Art of Love"), but what the error was, we can only guess. Much of Ovid's work has been lost, but among the preserved is Ars amandi, Remedi amoris, Epistulae ex Ponto and his most famous work, Metamorphoses.
Caius Petronius (Petronius Arbiter) (? - 66 AD)
Roman writer, probably emperor Nero's arbiter elegantiae (arbiter of taste), who committed suicide on the emperor's order after falling in disfavour. Petronius wrote the satirical novel Satiricon/Saturae of which only fragments have been preserved, among them Cena Trimalchionis ("Trimalchio's Feast").
Titus Maccius Plautus (circa 250 - 184 BC)
Roman comedy writer, born in Sarsina in Umbria. Plautus' comedies are revised translations of Greek originals, but adapted to the Roman society. About 20 of his works have been preserved.
Publilius Syrus (circa 85 - 43 BC)
Publilius Syrus came from Syria (hence the surname), was brought to Rome as a slave but given his freedom. The collection of maxims that passes under his name and is said to be compiled from his plays was most likely created after his death and probably contains some other material than his own.
Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (circa 35 - 100 AD)
Roman teacher of oratory born in Spain, active in Rome; Europe's first professor of literature. He wrote to educate and entertain his children, and his Institutio oratoria is meant to give the reader not only rhetorical abilities, but morality as well.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca Senior (Seneca Rhetor) (circa 55 BC - 40 AD)
Born in Cordoba, Spain, Seneca arrived in Rome at the age of fifteen. He returned to his native country in 13 BC, where he married and where his three sons were born - among them Seneca Philosophus. In 2 BC, he returned to Rome.
Seneca's only maintained work is a collection of the kind of exercises practised in the rhetoric schools. It contains Controversiae (fictitious speeches in court) and Suasoriae (advising speeches aimed at historical figures hesitating between two choices).
Lucius Annaeus Seneca Iunior (Seneca Philosophus) (circa 4 BC - 65 AD)
Roman politician, philosopher and writer. Born in Cordoba, Seneca was sent to Rome as a youth, where he studied philosophy and law. He became an important politician, but fell in disfavour and was exiled. He was recalled by empress Agrippina after a few years and made the teacher of the future emperor Nero. In 65 BC, he was accused of being a part of a conspiracy to take Nero's life, and was forced to commit suicide.
Seneca is known for his moral-philosophical writing in the form of dialogues, consolation writings and letters, and in his work you sometimes find striking parallels to Christian thinking. Many later writers, e.g. Montaigne, have been inspired by Seneca, and his nine tragedies have influenced European dramatists such as Shakespeare and Racine.
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (circa 70 - 140 AD)
Roman historian, probably born in Hippo Regius in Northern Africa. Suetonius, who began his career as a lawyer, was imperial secretary during Hadrian's reign, but was fired from that post in 121. Then, he started to write biographies of the emperors from Caesar to Domitian (Vitae Caesarum), and he also wrote biographies of poets, orators, historians and grammarians (De viris illustribus). Of the latter, only fragments have been preserved.
Marcus Claudius Tacitus (circa 55 - 120)
Roman historian, queastor during Vespasianus' reign, aedil under Titus', praetor under Domitianus' and governor of Asia Minor in 112 - 116. Tacitus was a respected orator but his speeches, and a book of poems, have been lost. Among the works maintained are the four first books of Historiae, the history of the times of the emperors from the year 69, and books 1-4, 11-15 and parts of books 5,6 and 16 of his Annales, the Roman history from the death of August in 14 AD to the year 68.
Publius Terentius Afer (circa 185 - 159 BC)
Terence was born in Carthage and was brought to Rome as a slave, but was given the education of a free man by his owner. He wrote six comedies (all have been preserved) and is considered to be the creator of the comedy of manners. In 160 BC, he left to study in Greece and wrote several plays, which he sent to Rome in advance. Unfortunately, the ship he sent them on sank, and all the plays where lost. Terence died while still in Greece, in 159 BC.
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus (circa 160 - 220 AD)
Writer, born in Carthage. Tertullianus studied law, rhetoric and philosophy. Impressed by the courage of the martyrs, he became a Christian, but joined the Montanists upon his return to Africa and broke with the Church. Later, he also abandoned the Montanism and formed a new sect. He wrote about 50 works, of which 32 have been preserved. The best known is Apologeticum, a fierce defence of Christianity.
Publius Vergilius Maro (70 - 19 BC)
Roman poet, born near Mantua. Despite his simple heritage - he was the son of a farmer - Vergil was given the opportunity to study, among other things, rhetoric, history and philosophy, and his poems soon got the attention of Maecenas and Augustus. His first great work was Bucolica (also called Eclogae), a collection of pastorals, the second the didactic poem Georgica. But his magnum opus was the Roman national epic Aenis, written under the last ten or twelve years of his life and never finished, that in twelve songs tells about how the Trojan hero Aeneas came to Latium and on the gods' command founded the Roman empire and its imperial dynasty. Vergil asked his friend Varius to burn the work after the poet's death, but Augustus ordered it published, thus preserving it to posterity.