Titus Pomponius Atticus

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Titus Pomponius Atticus
Titus Pomponius
Other namesQuintus Caecilius Pomponianus Atticus
Children Attica
  • Titus Pomponius (father)
  • Caecilia (mother)

Titus Pomponius Atticus (November 110 BC – 31 March 32 BC; later named Quintus Caecilius Pomponianus Atticus) [1] was a Roman editor, banker, and patron of letters[ clarification needed ], best known for his correspondence and close friendship with prominent Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero. Atticus was from a wealthy Roman family of the equestrian class (lower aristocratic non-ruling class) and from the Pomponia gens.


A close friend since childhood, Cicero dedicated his treatise, Laelius de Amicitia (Latin for 'Laelius on Friendship'), to Atticus. Their correspondence, often written in subtle code to disguise their political observations, is preserved in Epistulae ad Atticum (Letters to Atticus) compiled by Tiro, Cicero's slave (later his freedman) and personal secretary.


Early life

Born Titus Pomponius in Rome c.November 110 BC, [2] Atticus' father was Titus Pomponius, a wealthy businessman, and Caecilia. [3] His family were equestrians and likely had been members of the prestigious equestrians with public horse (Latin : eques equo publico) for many generations. [4] He had a sister named Pomponia.

Atticus' father supported his education. Among his school friends were three consuls: Cicero (consul in 63 BC), Lucius Manlius Torquatus (consul in 65), and Gaius Marius the Younger (consul in 82). [5] Cicero was educated by tutors chosen by the famous orator Lucius Licinius Crassus; Atticus may have been part of this grouping as well. [6] He is said to have been an excellent student; his education, evidenced by his school friends' political careers, would have prepared him well for Roman public life. [7]

Atticus left Rome, probably to escape civil strife, in 86 BC. According to his biographer Nepos, Atticus was a distant relation of the plebeian tribune Publius Sulpicius Rufus – it is more likely that they were friends – which put him in danger when Sulla took the city. [8] Atticus went to Athens, transferring most of his wealth, and staying away from Rome until around 65 BC. The city was not doing well the aftermath of its capture by Sulla during the First Mithridatic War. [9] His love of Athens inspired his self-appointed nickname "Atticus", or "Man of Attica", which is mentioned in the fifth book of Cicero's De Finibus . [10] During his visit to Athens, Julius Caesar was Atticus's guest.[ citation needed ]


Atticus inherited family money, which he successfully invested in real estate, enhancing his wealth. Using his income to support his love of letters, he had trained Roman slaves as scribes and taught them to make papyrus scrolls, allowing Atticus to publish, amongst other things, the works of his friend Cicero. His editions of Greek authors such as Plato, Demosthenes, and Aeschines were prized for their accuracy in the ancient world. [11] None of Atticus's own writings have survived, but he is known to have written one book (in Ancient Greek) on Cicero's consulship, the Liber Annalis (a work on Roman chronology), and a small amount of Roman poetry. [12]

In 65 BC, Atticus returned from Athens 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 friend and partner of Marcus Licinius Crassus, a member of the First Triumvirate. [13]

Upon the death of his wealthiest maternal uncle Quintus Caecilius, Atticus became his adopted son and heir, assuming the name Quintus Caecilius Pomponianus Atticus. Lucius Licinius Lucullus, despite being his personal friend, resented Atticus's receiving an inheritance he felt he was entitled to for his association with the campaign against Mithridates and as Governor of Syria. [14]

Atticus was friendly with the Liberators after the assassination of Julius Caesar but was not harmed following their defeat. According to Cornelius Nepos, he took care of Servilia after the death of her son Brutus at the Battle of Philippi. [15]

Marriage and children

In his later years, he married a relative, Pilia (c.75 – 46 BC), daughter of Pilius and a maternal granddaughter of the Triumvir Crassus. Atticus and Pilia were married in 58/56 BC, when Atticus was already 53/54 years old, and she died after 12 years of happy marriage. [16] They had a daughter, Attica, who became the first wife of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.


Atticus lived out the remainder of his life in Rome. Just after his 77th birthday he fell ill, and at first his ailment appeared minor. But after three months his health suddenly deteriorated. Deciding to accelerate the inevitable, he abstained from ingesting any nourishment, starving himself to death, and dying on the fifth day of such fasting, "which was the 31st March, in the consulship of Cn. Domitius and C. Sosius", [17] that is in the year 32 BC. He was buried at the family tomb located at the Fifth Mile of the Appian Way.[ citation needed ]

See also


  1. Shackleton Bailey 1999 , p. 17
  2. Shackleton Bailey 1999 , p. 17. His birthday is not mentioned in the sources; modern estimates place it between November and 26 December 110 BC. Marshall 1986 , p. 7.
  3. Marshall 1986 , p. 10. Caecilia was sister of the financier Quintus Caecilius who would later adopt Atticus. Marshall 1986 , pp. 12–13. See also T. Pomponius (102) Atticus in the Digital Prosopography of the Roman Republic .
  4. Marshall 1986, p. 9.
  5. Marshall 1986, p. 15.
  6. Marshall 1986, p. 16.
  7. Marshall 1986, p. 21.
  8. Marshall 1986, pp. 23–25.
  9. Marshall 1986, pp. 28–29.
  10. Cic. Fin., 4. Some histories also refer to Atticus's fondness for all things Athenian, including its tradition of male homosexuality and pederasty.
  11. Lucian, The Ignorant Book Collector (2.24)
  12. Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus (17)
  13. Pierre Grimal, Les mémoires de Pomponius Atticus, Rome devant César, 1976, p. 93
  14. Pierre Grimal, Les mémoires de Pomponius Atticus, Rome devant César, 1976, p. 171
  15. Osgood, Josiah (2014). Turia: A Roman Woman's Civil War. Women in Antiquity. Oxford University Press. p. 51. ISBN   9780199832385.
  16. Rawson, E.: "Cicero, a portrait" (1975) p. 141
  17. Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus (21–22)

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Most of this information is derived from the Excellentium Imperatorum Vitae and Attalus.org 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.[ clarification needed ]

Further reading