Marco Cornelio Frontone

Marcus Cornelius Fronto. Retore latino (Cirta, Numidia ca. 100 - ca. 170) nato da famiglia italica. Venne a Roma dove fece una rapida fortuna sotto Adriano come avvocato; fu poi nominato da Antonino Pio precettore dei figli adottivi Annio (il futuro Marco Aurelio) e Lucio Vero. Nel 143 ebbe il consolato.

Esponente tipico dell'arcaismo, cercò di imporre alla letteratura del tempo le proprie idee di restaurazione dell'antica lingua latina. I suoi modelli erano Ennio, Plauto, Catone e Sallustio, ma a tutto questo impegno stilistico corrispondeva un'assoluta vacuità di contenuti, sì da risolversi in una pura esercitazione letteraria.

Nulla si conosceva di lui fino al 1814, quando Angelo Mai scoprì in un palinsesto della Biblioteca Ambrosiana ampi frammenti della sua corrispondenza con Antonino Pio, Marco Aurelio e Lucio Vero. Oltre all'epistolario, vennero alla luce, anche attraverso un palinsesto vaticano, frammenti di orazioni, trattati (De eloquentia), scherzi retorici (le Laudes fumi et pulveris e le Laudes negligentiae) e opere storiografiche (il De bello Parthico, sulla campagna di Lucio Vero contro i Parti; i Principia historiae, dove Frontone espone le sue idee sulla storiografia).

Marcus Cornelius Fronto

Marcus Cornelius Fronto (c. 100 - 170), Roman grammarian, rhetorician and advocate, was born at Cirta in Numidia. Although he was probably descended from the Italian immigrants who had always formed a large minority of the population of the old Numidian capital, he liked to call himself "a Lybian of the Lybian Nomades"

He came to Rome in the reign of Hadrian, and soon gained such renown as an advocate and orator as to be reckoned inferior only to Cicero. He amassed a large fortune, erected magnificent buildings and purchased the famous gardens of Maecenas. Antoninus Pius, hearing of his fame, appointed him tutor to his adopted sons Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus.

In 142 he was consul for two months, but declined the proconsulship of Asia on the grounds of ill-health. His latter years were embittered by the loss of all his children except one daughter. His talents as an orator and rhetorician were greatly admired by his contemporaries, a number of whom were later regarded as forming a school called after him Frontoniani; his object in his teaching was to inculcate the exact use of the Latin language in place of the artificialities of such first-century authors as Seneca, and encourage the use of "unlooked-for and unexpected words", to be found by diligent reading of pre-Ciceronian authors. He found fault with Cicero for inattention to that refinement, though admiring his letters without reserve.

Until 1815, the only extant works ascribed (erroneously) to Fronto were two grammatical treatises, De nominum verborumque differentiis and Exempla elocutionum (the last being really by Arusianus Messius). In that year, Angelo Mai discovered in the Ambrosian library at Milan a palimpsest manuscript, on which had been originally written some of Fronto's letters to his imperial pupils and their replies; four years later Mai found several more sheets from this manuscript in the Vatican. These palimpsests had originally belonged to the famous convent of St Columbanus at Bobbio, and had been written over by the monks with the acts of the First Council of Chalcedon.

The letters, together with the other fragments in the palimpsest, were published at Rome, so far as available in the Ambrosian palimpsest, in 1815. The Vatican texts were added in 1823, as well as the end of his Gratiarum actio pro Carthaginiensibus from another Vatican manuscript. It was not until 1956 that Bernhard Bischoff identified a third manuscript (consisting of a single leaf) that contained fragments of Fronto's correspondence with Verus, which overlapped the Milan palimpsest; however, the actual manuscript had been first published in 1750 by Dom Tassin, who conjectured that it might have been the work of Fronto.

These fragments disappointed Romantic scholars as not matching the writer's great reputation, but are nowadays viewed with greater sympathy. The letters consist of correspondence with Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, in which the character of Fronto's pupils appears in a very favourable light, especially in the affection they both seem to have retained for their old master; and letters to friends, chiefly letters of recommendation.

The collection also contains treatises on eloquence, some historical fragments, and literary trifles on such subjects as the praise of smoke and dust, of negligence, and a dissertation on Arion.

The editio princeps was by Mai, as described above; the standard edition is the Teubner text by M. van den Hout (Leipzig, 1988). The Loeb Classical Library printed an edition of Fronto's correspondence with a facing English translation by C. R. Haines in two volumes (1919-1920); its text, however, is now obsolete. Van den Hout also published a full-scale commentary in English (Leidem, 1999).