Titus Pomponius Atticus


Titus Pomponius Atticus

Titus Pomponius Atticus, born Titus Pomponius (112 BC/110 BC/109 BC – 35 BC/32 BC), came from an old but not strictly noble Roman family of the equestrian class and the Gens Pomponia. He was a celebrated editor, banker, and patron of letters with residences in both Rome and Athens. He is best remembered as the closest friend of orator and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero as well leading contemporaries of upper class Roman society. Cicero's treatise on friendship, De Amicitia was dedicated to him. Their correspondence, often written in subtle code to disguise their political observations, is preserved in Epistulae ad Atticum compiled by Cicero's freedman and personal secretary, Marcus Tullius Tiro. Atticus was known for his elegant taste, sound judgement and financial acumen.

Descended from a family of equestrian rank, Pomponius was born and raised in Rome, the son of Titus Pomponius and wife Caecilia Metella. As a young man, he was educated together with Cicero, Lucius Torquatus and the younger Marius, "with all of whom he became so close that no one was dearer to them throughout his life" [Nepos] . He is said to have been an excellent student, and in 85 BC Pomponius travelled to Athens, where he spent his infancy and did his studies, immersed himself in literature and philosophy. He so loved Athens and its culture that he took upon himself the nickname "Atticus", or "Man of Attica", which is alluded to in the fifth book of Cicero's De Finibus (section 4). [Some histories also refer to Atticus's fondness for all things Athenian, including its tradition of male homosexuality and pederasty.] Gaius Julius Caesar was his guest when in Athens. Atticus' wealth grew by inheritance and through his skillful dealings in real estate. Using this wealth to support his love of letters, he maintained a staff of slaves trained as copyists and book-binders, and published, amongst other things, the works of his friend Cicero. As for Atticus' own literary works, he is said to have written a single book (in Greek) on the consulate of Cicero, as well as a small amount of poetry. None of his writings have survived. Besides his vast and intimate correspondence with Cicero, he also wrote some remarkable "Memories".

In 65 BC, Atticus returned to Rome. In keeping with his epicurean sympathies, he kept out of politics to the greatest extent possible, except to lend Cicero a helping hand in times of peril—for instance, when Cicero was forced to flee the country in 49 BC, Atticus made him a present of 250,000 sesterces. All in all, his political activity was minimal, though we know that, like Cicero, he belonged to the optimates (the aristocratic party), and held generally conservative views. He was also a partner of the Triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus. [Pierre Grimal, Rome Devant Cesar, p. 93]

Upon the death of his wealthiest maternal uncle Quintus Caecilius Metellus, Atticus became his adopted son and heir and assumed the name Titus Caecilius Pomponianus Atticus. Lucius Licinius Lucullus, despite being his personal friend, resented Atticus' receiving an inheritance he felt he was entitled to for his association with the campaign against Mithridates and as Governor of Syria. [Pierre Grimal, Rome Devant Cesar, p. 171]

In his later years, he married a relative, Caecilia Pilea/Pilia (ca 75 BC – 46 BC), daughter of Pileus/Pilius and a maternal granddaughter of the Triumvir, Crassus. Atticus and Pilea/Pilia were married in 58 BC/56 BC, when Atticus was already 53/54 years old, and she died after 12 years of happy marriage. [ Rawson, E.:"Cicero, a portrait" (1975) p.141] She bore him a son of the same name, Titus Pomponius Atticus (little is known of him), as well as a daughter, Caecilia Pomponia Attica, who became the first wife of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

Atticus lived out the remainder of his life in Rome, where he committed suicide when he fell ill. Deciding to accelerate the inevitable, he abstained from ingesting any nourishment, starving himself to death, after being incurably ill for some months in the terminal fase, dying at the fifth day of such fasting, in an authentic euthanasia. [Cornelius Nepos, [http://www.attalus.org/old/atticus.html#21 Life of Atticus] (21–22)] He was also buried at the Family Tomb located at the Fifth Mile of the Appian Way.

The name of the character Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird is based on the Roman original.

References

*Most of this information is derived from the Excellentium Imperatorum Vitae and [http://www.attalus.org/old/atticus.html Life of Atticus] of Cornelius Nepos, to which biographies of Cato and Atticus (discovered in a manuscript of Cicero's letters) were added by Peter Cornerus in the reign of Theodosius I.
* Manuel Dejante Pinto de Magalhães Arnao Metello and João Carlos Metello de Nápoles, "Metellos de Portugal, Brasil e Roma", Torres Novas, 1998
* Anthony Everitt, "Cicero", Random House, 2001.

Notes


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