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The Death of Cinna the Poet

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2009

J. D. Morgan
Affiliation:
Harvard University

Extract

In an essay entitled ‘Cinna the Poet’ published in 1974, T. P. Wiseman forcefully countered the arguments of Monroe E. Deutsch and others against the identification of the ‘neoteric’ poet Cinna with the tribune Gaius Helvius Cinna, who after Caesar's funeral was torn to pieces by an enraged mob, mistaken by it for the praetor Lucius Cornelius Cinna, who had applauded Caesar's murder. The identification of the poet with the tribune is supported by Plutarch, Brutus 20.4, where the murdered tribune is called a ποιητικ⋯ς ⋯ν⋯ρ. As Wiseman says, ‘there are six other ancient accounts of the murder, drawn from a source or sources unknown; five of them call the victim a tribune of the plebs, and none of them says he was a poet. Impressed by this, many scholars have thought that the victim was not in fact the poet Helvius Cinna, and M. E. Deutsch suggested in 1925 that either (i) the phrase in the Brutus describing him as a poet is a gloss, or (ii) “the tribune also dabbled in verse but was not the famous poet”.’ Wiseman's refutation of the various arguments of Deutsch and his followers against the identity of the poet and the tribune seems to me quite cogent, but the debate shows no sign of having been brought to a close: G. V. Sumner concludes his review of Wiseman's essay with an argument that the tribune was probably somewhat younger than the poet, and the suggestion that the tribune may have been ‘the adoptive, and hence homonymous, son of the poet’.

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Shorter Notes
Copyright
Copyright © The Classical Association 1990

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References

1 Wiseman, T. P., Cinna the Poet and Other Roman Essays (Leicester, 1974), pp. 44–6Google Scholar.

2 Deutsch, M. E., CJ 20 (1925), 326–36Google Scholar; Lindskog, C. and Ziegler, K. [edd.], Plutarchi Vitae Parallelae (Leipzig, 1932), ii. 220Google Scholar; Ziegler, K., RhM 87 (1932), 81–7Google Scholar; Spaeth, J. W. Jr, CJ 32 (1937), 548–9Google Scholar; Cook, W. A., Shakespeare Quarterly 14 (1963), 97CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Vretska, K., in Der Kleine Pauly ii (Stuttgart, 1967), col. 1019Google Scholar, Castorina, E., Questioni Neoteriche (Florence, 1968), pp. 72–3Google Scholar.

3 For the scanty remains of his poetry, see W. Morel's or K. Büchner's editions of the Fragmenta Poetarum Latinorum.

4 Plutarch, , Caesar 68.2Google Scholar; Valerius Maximus 9.9.1; Suetonius, , Div. Jul. 85Google Scholar; Appian, , Bell. Civ. 2.147Google Scholar; Cassius Dio 44.50.4; Zonaras 10.12.

5 Sumner, G. V., Phoenix 29 (1975), 393–5Google Scholar.

6 Housman, A. E., JPh 12 (1883), 167Google Scholar. Previous editors, such as Burman, Merkel, Riese, and Robinson Ellis, had printed P. Leopardus' conjecture ‘conditor ut tardae, Blaesus cognomine, Cyrae, bis in innumeris inueniare locis’, which was taken as a reference to the wanderings of Aristoteles, later known as Battus, before his foundation of Cyrene.

7 Urbis, rather than the predominantly transmitted orbis, was conjectured by Housman in the apparatus to his edition of the Ibis in Postgate's, J. P.Corpus Poetarum Latinorum i.2 (London, 1894), p. 594Google Scholar; later he realised that it was in fact the reading of a pair of minor MSS. [JPh 35 (1920), 315–16Google Scholar ]. The parallels for it which Housman adduced are quite cogent, and it has been generally adopted by editors, e.g. by Owen in his 1915 OCT, by Lenz in his 1937 Paravia edition, by La Penna in his 1957 La Nuova Italia edition, and by Goold in his 1979 revision of the Loeb edition.

8 As suggested by Dahlmann, H., Über Helvius Cinna (AAWM [1977], No. 8), pp. 44–5Google Scholar.

9 JPh 35 (1920), 315–16Google Scholar.

10 Kiessling, A., in Commentationes Philologae in Honorem Theodori Mommseni (Berlin, 1877), 351–5Google Scholar. The date ‘1887’ in Housman's article is incorrect.

11 Diggle, J. and Goodyear, F. R. D. [edd.], The Classical Papers of A. E. Housman (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 9 and 1040Google Scholar.

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