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SILIUS.

pelled him to divorce his wife Junia Silana, and made him consul designatus in a. d. 48. At length her effrontery reached so mad a pitch, that she married him with all the forms and ceremonies of a legal marriage, during the absence of her stupid husband at Ostia. The latter would no doubt have remained ignorant of the whole affair, had not his freedman Narcissus resolved upon the destruction both of Silius and Messalina. By means of two favourite concu­bines of Claudius, Narcissus acquainted the emperor with the outrage that had been committed against him. Silius was put to death and many others with him. (Tac. Ann. xi. 5, 12, 26—35 ; Dion Cass. Ix. 31 ; Suet. Claud. 26 ; Juv. x. 331, &c.) [mes­salina, p. 1054, a.]

SILIUS BASSUS. [bassus.]

C. SI'LIUS ITA'LICUS, the most voluminous among the Roman writers of heroic verse, was born about a. d. 25. From his early years he devoted himself to oratory and poetry, taking Cicero as his model in the former, and Virgil in the latter. He acquired great reputation as a pleader at the bar, and acted for some time as a member of that body of judicial umpires who were known as the Centumvirs. His life, in so far as we can trace it, presents a course of unbroken prosperity. He was elevated to the consulship in a. n. 68, the year in which Nero perished; he was admitted to familiar intercourse with Vitellius, and subsequently discharged the duties of proconsul of Asia with high renown. After enjoying for a lengthened period the dignities of political and literary fame without incurring the envy which is for the most part the lot of distinguished statesmen and authors, he determined to retire from the busy world, and to pass his old age among his numerous villas, which were abundantly furnished with books and works of art. His two favourite re­sidences were a mansion near Puteoli, formerly the Academy of Cicero, and the house in the vicinity of Naples once occupied by Virgil; and so en­amoured did he become of seclusion,, that upon the accession of Trajan he refused to repair to Rome, and pay homage to the new prince. In these happy retreats he passed his time in tranquillity until he had completed his 75th year, when, in consequence of the pain caused by an incurable tubercle (insanabilis davus] of some kind, he starved himself to death ; and it was remarked that as he was the last consul nominated by Nero, so he sur­vived all those who had held that office in the same reign. The only stain upon his character arises from the imputation that he pandered to the cruelties of the tyrant, by acting as a voluntary accuser ; but if this charge was true, his guilt was in a great measure expiated by the blamelessness of his subsequent career* He had two sons, one of whom died when young ; the other attained to the consulship before his father's death.

Much discussion has taken place with regard to the import of the word Italicus, v/hich no one has as yet explained in a satisfactory manner. Accord­ing to the opinion most generally adopted, it was derived from the place of his birth which is ima­gined to have been either Italica near Hispalis in Baetica, or Corfinium, in the country of the Pe-ligni. Neither of these suppositions will bear in­vestigation. It is extremely improbable that he was a Spaniard, for Martial, who repeatedly cele­brates his praises, nowhere claims him as a coun­tryman, although he frequently alludes with pride

SILIUS,

to the men of genius whom his native province had produced. On the other hand, although there is no doubt that the allies,in the Social War gave the name of Italica to Corfinium, because they intended to make it the metropolis of their league, there is no reason to believe that it retained this title after the conclusion of the struggle. There is also a grammatical objection of some weight; for accord­ing both to analogy and to the authority of inscrip­tions, the local adjective derived from Italica near Hispalis would not be Italicus^ but Italicensis. (See also Gell. xvi. 13.) This however in itself would not be conclusive. (Hispanus, Hispanensis.)

It has been erroneously inferred from a line in Martial (viii. 66),

" Felix purpura tertiusque consul,"

that Silius had been thrice consul, but the words imply merely that there had been three consuls in the family — Silius himself, his son, to celebrate whose accession to office the epigram was written, and a third person, perhaps that C. Silius who was consul A. d. 13 (Sueton. Octav. 101), and who may have been the father of the poet: but this is a mere conjecture. Our authorities for this bio­graphy are sundry epigrams in Martial (especially vii. 62, viii. 66, xi. 51), and an epistle of the younger Pliny (iii. 7, or iii. 5, ed. Titze). See also Tacit. Hist. iii. 65.

The great work of Silius Italicus was an heroic poem in seventeen books, entitled Punica, which has descended to us entire. It contains a narrative of the events of the second Punic War, from the capture of Saguntum to the triumph of Scipio Africanus, together with various episodes relating to the more remarkable achievements in the first contest with Carthage, and to the exploits of champions in still earlier ages, such as Scaevola, Camillus, and the three hundred Fabii. Just as Virgil did not think that he degraded the majesty of the epic by making it a vehicle for flattering the Julian line, so his imitator has interwoven with his verses a panegyric upon the Flavian dynasty. The materials are derived almost entirely from Livy and Polybius. With regard to the merits of the piece, those few persons who have perused it from beginning to end will scarcely think the cri­ticism too severe which pronounces it to be the least attractive poem within the range of classical antiquity ; and this judgment is b}T no means in­compatible with the praises awarded by Cellarius. We may freely admit that many passages may be adduced which throw light upon the historical events of that remarkable epoch, upon the origin, fortunes, and geographical position of different na­tions in Italy, Sicily, Spain, and Africa, and upon various points connected with mythology and an­cient usages. But these are not the commendations we bestoxv on a great poet ; the information which, after all, might be compressed within a very limited compass is certainly not destitute of value, but it is conveyed through the medium of the coldest, heaviest, and most lifeless composition that ever was misnamed an heroic poem. Notwithstanding the eulogistic apostrophe of Martial (Silit Castali-dum decus sororum}, dictated perhaps by personal friendship, or more probably by the desire of fawning upon one who possessed so much power at court, the merits of Silius seem to have been fairly appreciated by his contemporaries, as we perceive from the words of Pliny " Scribebat carmina majon

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