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On this page: Sporus – Spurilia Gens – Spurinna – Spurtnna


SPORUS was a beautiful youth of servile origin, who bore a striking resemblance to Poppaea Sabina, the wife of Nero. On the death of Sabina in a. d, 63, Nero became passionately fond of this youth, had him castrated, dressed as a woman, and called by the name of Sabina. He carried this disgusting folly so far as to marry Sporus publicly in Greece, in A. D. 67, with all the forms and ceremonies of a legal marriage. Sporus returned with Nero to Rome in the following year, fled with him from the city when the insurrection broke out against the tyrant, and was present with him at his death. Otho, who had been one of the companions of Nero in his debauch­eries, lived on intimate terms with Sporus after his accession to the throne ; but Vitellius having commanded Sporus to appear as a girl upon the stage in the most degrading circumstances, he put an end to his life to escape from the indignity (Dion Cass. Ixii. 28, Ixiii. 12, 13, 27, Ixiv. 8, Ixv. 10 ; Suet. Ner. 28, 46, 48, 49 ; Aurel Vict. Caes. 5, Epit. 5 ; Dion Chrysost. Or at. xxi; Suidas, s. v. ^iropos). The name of Sporus is familiar to mo­dern readers by Pope's infamous satire upon Lord Hervey.

SPURILIA GENS, only known from coins, for the Spurilius, whose name occurs as a tribune in some' editions of Livy (iv. 42), is in all the more modern editions Sp. Icilius. The annexed coin has on the obverse the head of Pallas, and on the reverse the Moon driving a biga, with the legend A. spvri. and roma (Eckhel, vol. v. p. 315.)


SPURTNNA, VESTRFTIUS, the haruspex who warned Caesar to beware of the Ides of March. It is related that, as Caesar was going to the senate-house on the fatal day, he said to Spurinna in jest, " Well, the Ides of March are come," upon which the seer replied, " Yes, they are come, but they are not past." (Val. Max. v iii. 11. § 2; Suet. Caes. 81; Plut. Caes. 63; comp. Cic. de Div. i. 52, ad Fam. ix. 24.)

SPURINNA, VESTRI'TIUS, a Roman ge­neral, who played a distinguished part in the war of succession which followed the death of Nero. Having espoused the cause of Otho, he received, along with Annius Gallus, the command of the forces upon the Po, destined to oppose the invasion of the Vitellians from the North. Upon the ap­proach of Caecina he threw himself into Placentia, which he defended with so much gallantry and resolution, that the besiegers were compelled, after a desperate assault, to retire (Tacit. Hist. ii. 11, 18, &c., 36). Even after the hopes of his party had been crushed by the battle of Bedriacum, Spurinna remained steadfast in his loyalty, but we hear little more of him until he re-appears upon the stage in the reign of Trajan, under whom he achieved great fame by a bloodless victory over the ravage tribe of the Bructeri, whom he reduced to




submission, and was rewarded by the senate, on the motion of the prince himself, with a triumphal effigy in bronze (Plin. Ep. ii. 7). His wife was named Cottia, and by her he had a son Cottius, a youth of the highest promise, who died at an early age, and a statue to his memory was decreed at the public expense, partly on account of his own merits, and partly as a tribute to his father, who was at that time absent in Germany (Plin. Ep. I. c. iii. 8, comp. v. 17). From the younger Pliny, who lived upon terms of the closest friendship with Spurinna, and ever speaks of him with the warmest respect, we learn that he was alive at the age of 77, in the full enjoyment of his faculties, mental and bodily, and a very interesting letter (Plin. Ep. iii. 1, al. 2) is devoted to an account of the happy manner in which the old man was wont to pass his time. Among other occupations we are told, " Scribit . . . . et quidem utraque lingua, lyrica doctissime. Mirabilis dulcedo,mira suavitas, mira hilaritas, cujus gratiam cumulat sanctitas scribentis."

In the year 1613, Caspar Barthius published at the end of his " Venatici et Bucolici poetae La-tini "four odes, or rather fragments of odes, in Choriambic measure, extending to nearly 70 lines, which he had found in the leaves of a MS. lying neglected among the rubbish of a library at Mar­burg. This Codex contained several other pieces copied at different periods, and these he describes. The odes in question were not divided into lines, but were written continuously like prose, the title prefixed being Intipit Vesprucius Spurinna de con-temtu saeculi ad Martium. Barthius republished them in his Adversaria (xiv. 5), and then for the first time declared his belief that they were the work of the Vestritius Spurinna, so well known to the readers of the younger Pliny. The opinions entertained by scholars touching these productions are very various. Some have pronounced them to be forgeries by Barthius, suggested by the epistle from which we have quoted above, and they urge strongly that the words of Pliny do not prove that Spurinna ever published any thing, while the absolute silence of the grammarians, who could scarcely have failed to notice the works of a lyric bard, the number of whom is so small, affords a strong presumption that nothing of the kind was in existence. This hypothesis, however, is by no means probable, for not only does the finder describe most minutely, and in such a manner as to court inquiry, the place where and the circum­stances under which he became possessed of these remains as well as the contents of the volume in which they were included, but, the verses them­selves are so mutilated and confused that no one could expect to derive any credit or any gratifica­tion, directly or indirectly, from such a piece of dishonesty. Moreover, Barthius does not appear to have attached any importance to his discovery ; he speaks very doubtfully of the merit of the lines, he does not attempt to correct the errors nor to supply the blanks, and professes himself unable to determine the age to which they belong, but infers from the title, De Contemtu Saeculi, that they proceeded from a Christian pen. Nor was it until they were published for the second time that he assigned them to an historical personage.

Others have supposed that they were the pro­duction of some monk of the middle ages, who desired to place in the mouth of a heathen those

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