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Lucius Accius

Lucius Accius, a Roman tragic poet, the son of a freedman, was born at Pisaurum in Umbria, in 170 BC. The year of his death is unknown, but he must have lived to a great age, since Cicero (Brutus, 28) speaks of having conversed with him on literary matters.

He was a prolific writer and enjoyed a very high reputation (Horace, Epistles, ii. i, 56; Cicero, Pro Plancio, 24). The titles and considerable fragments (about 700 lines) of some fifty plays have been preserved. Most of these were free translations from the Greek, his favourite subjects being the legends of the Trojan war and the house of Pelops. The national history, however, furnished the theme of the Brutus and Decius--the expulsion of the Tarquins and the self-sacrifice of Publius Decius Mus the younger. The fragments are written in vigorous language and show a lively power of description.

Accius wrote other works of a literary character: Didascalicon and Pragmaticon libri, treatises in verse on the history of Greek and Roman poetry, and dramatic art in particular; Parerga and Praxidica (perhaps identical) on agriculture; and an Annales. He also introduced innovations in orthography and grammar.

A saying attributed to Accius was oderint dum metuant ("let them hate, as long as they fear"), later a famous motto of Caligula.

An earlier version of this entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.



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