Gaio Asinio Pollione

Caius Asinius Pollio: uomo di Stato, d'arme e di lettere romano (Chieti 76 aC - 4 dC). Partecipò attivamente in Roma alle vicende dell'ultima età repubblicana schierandosi prima per Cesare, poi, dopo la sua morte, per Antonio, nel cui nome distribuì terre ai veterani nella Traspadana, esentando però dalle confische Virgilio che gli espresse la sua gratitudine dedicandogli le Egloghe III, IV e VIII. Contro Ottaviano nella guerra di Perugia (41 aC), rivestì il consolato nel 40, trionfando sui Parti in Illiria. Adoperatosi nella composizione dei contrasti fra Antonio e Ottaviano, si staccò successivamente dai due. All'avvento del principato augusteo si ritirò a vita privata nella villa di Tuscolo, dove compose poesie, tragedie e una storia della guerra civile tra Cesare e Pompeo, tutte opere perdute. Promosse in Roma le pubbliche letture e nel 39 aC fondò la prima biblioteca pubblica e restaurò in forme grandiose l'Atrium Libertatis. Introdusse la pratica delle recitationes, ovvero della lettura in pubblico in apposite sale, di prosa e poesia. Giovanni Ponticelli rappresentò il suo trionfo sul sipario del Teatro Marrucino di Chieti.

Gaius Asinius Pollio

Gaius Asinius Pollio (sometimes wrongly called Pollius or Philo) (Teate Marrucinorum - currently Chieti in Abruzzi 75 BC – AD 4) was a Roman soldier, politician, orator, poet, playwright, literary critic and historian, whose lost contemporary history, provided much of the material for the historians Appian and Plutarch. Pollio was most famously a patron of Virgil and a friend of Horace and had poems dedicated to him by both men. An inscription tells us his father was called Gnaeus Asinius Pollio. He had a brother called Asinius Marrucinus, known for his tasteless practical jokes, whose name suggests a family origin among the Marrucini. He may therefore have been the grandson of Herius Asinius, a plebeian, General of the Marrucini who fought on the Italian side in the Social War.

Pollio moved in the literary circle of Catullus, and entered public life in 56 by supporting the policy of Lentulus Spinther. In 54 BC he unsuccessfully impeached Gaius Cato, a distant relative of the more famous Cato the younger, who, in his tribunate in 56 BC, had acted as the tool of the triumvirs Pompey, Crassus and Caesar. Despite his initial support of Lentulus Spinther, in the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, Pollio sided with Caesar. He was present while Caesar deliberated whether to cross the Rubicon and start the war. After Pompey and the Senate had fled to Greece, Caesar sent Pollio to Sicily to relieve Cato of his command. He and Gaius Scribonius Curio were sent to Africa to fight the province's governor, the Pompeian Publius Attius Varus. Curio defeated Varus at Utica, despite the Africans having poisoned the water supply. Curio marched to face Pompey's ally King Juba of Numidia, but was defeated and killed, along with all his men, on the Bagradas River. Pollio managed to retreat to Utica with a small force. He was present as Caesar's legate at the Battle of Pharsalus (48 BC), and recorded Pompeian casualties at 6,000.

In 47 BC he was probably tribune, and resisted the efforts of another tribune, Publius Cornelius Dolabella, to cancel all debts. It was rumoured at the same time that Dolabella had cuckolded him. The following year returned to Africa, this time with Caesar himself, in pursuit of Cato and Scipio.

When Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, Pollio was leading his forces in Hispania against Sextus Pompeius, distinguishing himself early on. He had accepted the commission reluctantly because of a personal enmity with another of Caesar's allies. Marcus Aemilus Lepidus was appointed the new governor of the province, but Pollio, while remaining loyal to Caesar's supporters, held out against him, announcing at Corduba that he would not hand over his province to anyone who did not have a commission from the Senate. A few months later his quaestor, Lucius Cornelius Balbus, absconded from Gades with the money intended to pay the soldiers, and fled to Mauretania. Pollio was then so severely defeated by Pompeius that he had to escape the battlefield in disguise.

Pollio prevaricated between Mark Antony and Octavian as civil war between them brewed, but ultimately threw in his lot with Antony. Antony, Lepidus and Octavian soon joined forces in the Second Triumvirate. In their series of bloody proscriptions, Pollio's father-in-law, Lucius Quintius, was one of the first to be marked for murder. He fled by sea, but committed suicide by throwing himself overboard. In the division of the provinces, Gaul fell to Antony, who entrusted Pollio with the administration of Gallia Transpadana (the part of Cisalpine Gaul between the Po and the Alps). In superintending the distribution of the Mantuan territory amongst the veterans, he used his influence to save from confiscation the property of the poet Virgil.

In 40 BC he helped to arrange the peace of Brundisium by which Octavian and Antony were for a time reconciled. In the same year Pollio entered upon his consulship, which had been promised him in 43 BC. It was at this time that Virgil addressed the famous fourth eclogue to him. Virgil, like other Romans, hoped that peace was at hand and looked forward to a Golden Age under Pollio's consulship. However, it is known that he later abdicated.

The following year Pollio conducted a successful campaign against the Parthini, an Illyrian people who adhered to Marcus Junius Brutus, and celebrated a triumph on October 25. Virgil's eighth eclogue was addressed to Pollio while he was engaged in this campaign. In 31 BC Octavian asked him to take part in the Battle of Actium against Antony, but Pollio, remembering kindnesses Antony had shown him, remained neutral.

From the spoils of the war he constructed the first public library at Rome, in the Atrium Libertatis, also erected by him, which he adorned with statues of the most celebrated heroes. The library had Greek and Latin wings, and reportedly its establishment posthumously fulfilled one of Caesar's ambitions. After his military and political successes, he appears to have retired into private life as a patron of literary figures and a writer. He was known as a severe literary critic, fond of an archaic style and purity.

In retirement, Pollio organized literary readings where he encouraged authors to read their own work, and he was the first Roman author to recite his own works. One of the most dramatic such readings brought the poet Virgil to the attention of the imperial family, when Virgil read from his work-in-progress the Aeneid, and flattered the imperial family by his portrayal of Aeneas, whom the Julii Caesares believed to be their direct patrilineal ancestor. As a result, Virgil was praised by Augustus himself. Pollio may have died in his villa at Tusculum. He was apparently a staunch republican, and thus held himself somewhat aloof from Augustus.

Married to Quinctia, daughter of Lucius Quinctius, who was executed in 43 BC, Pollio is also notable as the father of Gaius Asinius Gallus Saloninus, the second husband of Vipsania Agrippina, daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, Augustus's partner, second-in-command and second son-in-law. The son Gallus and Vipsania had several sons together, of whom two were full consuls and a third was consul suffect.

Gaius Asinius Pollio

Born 76 bc, Italy died ad 4, Tusculum, near Rome. Roman orator, poet, and historian who wrote a contemporary history that, although lost, provided much of the material for Appian and Plutarch.

Pollio moved in the literary circle of Catullus and entered public life in 56. In 54 he impeached unsuccessfully the tribune C. Cato, incurring Pompey’s displeasure. In the Civil War he joined Caesar at the Rubicon and campaigned in Africa with Curio and (49–45) in Greece, Africa, and Spain with Caesar, for whom he held a praetorian command in Spain against Sextus Pompey (44). On Caesar’s death he followed Antony, for whom he governed Cisalpine Gaul. There he was friendly with Virgil and in distributing land to veterans saved the poet’s property from confiscation. He stood aloof in the Perusine War but held his army firmly in Antony’s interests, and he shared in the negotiations leading to the pact of Brundisium between Antony and Octavian in 40. In that year he was consul, and Virgil addressed his Fourth Eclogue to him. In 39 Pollio subdued the Parthini, an Illyrian people. From the booty he built the first public library in Rome, in the Atrium Libertatis, which he restored. With full honours he then retired from public life. Unwilling to join Antony in the east, hoping for nothing from Octavian, he took no part in the Actium campaign (31) and subsequently maintained a position of republican dignity and independence. He gave hospitality to the rhetorician Timagenes, when the latter was in disgrace with Augustus. This was the main period of his activity as an advocate, and he devoted himself to the support of literature, organizing public recitations.

Pollio was a distinguished orator, combining, according to Tacitus and Seneca, careful composition and dry Atticist elegance in strict presentation of his argument. His style displeased Ciceronian critics, and his speeches are lost. As a poet he was accepted by Catullus, Helvius Cinna, and Virgil. He also wrote tragedies, which Virgil and Horace praised, but he ceased to write serious verse when he turned to history shortly after 35. His Historiae (History of the Civil Wars) covered the period from 60 probably to 42—that is, from the First Triumvirate to Philippi, the period in which the Roman Republic fell. A stern critic of men and style, he corrected Caesar, attacked Cicero, and praised Brutus; he reprimanded Sallust for archaism and Livy for a quality of provincialism that Pollio termed Patavinitas. Above all, he defended Roman libertas under the principate of Augustus.

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