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Accius, Lucius, dramatic poet and literary scholar, 170–c. 86 BCE

Of freedman birth. In Rome he had friendly relations with D. Iunius Brutus Callaicus (consul 138). Anecdotes suggest that Accius believed that literary talent demanded in its context more respect than nobility of birth (see the story about C. Iulius Caesar Strabo Vopiscus at Val. Max. 3. 7. 11) and that he did not tolerate insults to himself (Rhet. Her. 1. 24). Contemporaries were amused by the outsize statue of himself he had placed in the temple of the Muses (Plin. HN 34. 19).

Accius had plays produced from at least 140 bce onwards until the turn of the century. Over 40 titles of tragedies of Attic (see tragedy, greek) type are transmitted (Achilles, Aegisthus, Agamemnonidae, Alcestis, Alcimeo, Alphesiboea, Amphitruo, Andromeda, Antenoridae, Antigona, Armorum iudicium, Astyanax, Athamas, Atreus, Bacchae, Chrysippus, Clutemestra, Deiphobus, Diomedes, Epigoni, Epinausimache, Erigona, Eriphyla, Eurysaces, Hecuba, Hellenes, Medea, Melanippus, Meleager, Minos sive Minotaurus, Myrmidones, Neoptolemus, Nyctegresia, Oenomaus, Pelopidae, Persidae, Philocteta, Phinidae, Phoenissae, Prometheus, Stasiastae vel Tropaeum Liberi, Telephus, Tereus, Thebais, Troades), and they seem to cover the whole range of mythic cycles. Besides, there are two fabulae praetextae: Brutus dramatized the overthrowing of the tyrannical last Roman king L. Tarquinius Superbus and the foundation of the Republic. It could have glanced at the ambitions of the Gracchi. Aeneadae vel Decius centred on the defeat of the Gallo-Etrusco-Samnite alliance at Sentinum in 295 and the self-sacrifice of P. Decius Mus.

A hexameter poem, Annales, found Greek origins for Roman religious festivals. The trochaic septenarii of the Pragmatica had something to do with the theatre. In the case of the Parerga and the Praxidica neither the style nor the range of content is clear. The Didascalica ran to at least nine books and dealt with questions concerning both the Athenian and the Roman theatre as well as other poetic genres. Accius cast his discourse here in a mixture of prose and diverse poetical metres. Later researchers demonstrated his dates for the activities of Livius Andronicus to be too low (Cic. Brut.72) and discussed his view that Gemini lenones, Condalium, Anus, Bis compressa, Boeotia, Agroecus, and Commorientes, then attributed to Plautus, were spurious (Gell. NA 3. 3. 9). Various attempts by Accius to make the Latin orthographical system reflect more closely the actual pronunciation of the language were not taken up. His initiative to stop the practice of giving Greek names Latin terminations (Varro, Ling. 10. 70) had more influence. Varro admired his learning sufficiently to dedicate to him his De ambiguitate litterarum. Accius followed Roman tradition by composing some Saturnian verses, which Brutus had inscribed on the temple of Mars (Schol. Bob. Cic., p. 179). Somewhat out of character with Accius’ dignified public mien seems a work of obscure content but clearly frivolous form cited by Gellius and Diomedes (3), the Sotadica. Pliny the Younger put him among the Latin writers of light verses (Ep. 5. 6).

Accius' tragic style was criticized by the contemporary satirist Lucilius (see Pompon. on Hor. Sat. 1. 10. 53). Cicero, however, who was proud to have known Accius personally, admired his plays almost as highly as he did those of Pacuvius and cited extensive passages in his rhetorical and philosophical dialogues. Performances of Eurysaces, Clutemestra, Tereus, and Brutus on the mid 1st-cent. bce stage can be inferred. The likes of Columella and the younger Seneca (see l. annaeus seneca (2)) continued to read Accius’ works. In late antiquity Nonius Marcellus had access to at least 30 of his scripts, and a writer on old Latin metre could cite four at first hand (Priscianus).

Bibliography

Fragments

E. H. Warmington, Remains of Old Latin 2. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA, 1936. Text and trans., 325–595.Find this resource:

    J. Dangel, Accius. Œuvres (fragments) (1995), text, French trans., and notes. Dramatic frs.: Ribbeck, Tragicorum Romanorum Fragmenta, 157–263.

    Non-dramatic frs.: Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin Poets 56–64: text and notes.Find this resource:

      Studies: F. Marx, ‘Accius (1)’, Real-Encyclopädie d. klassischen Altertumswissenschaft I, 142–147.Find this resource:

        R. degli Innocenti Pierini, Studi su Accio (1980).Find this resource:

          A. Pociña Pérez, El tragediógrafo Lucio Accio (1984).Find this resource:

            S. Faller and G. Manuwald (eds.), Accius und seine Zeit (2002).Find this resource:

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