Lucius Accius was born around 170 BCE in Pisaurum to a freedman. His early life is unknown, though he purposefully steered clear of a legal career. He pioneered the philological history of Latin literature, e.g. engaging in criticism of the authenticity of plays attributed to Plautus, and was a tragedian in his own right.
He was elected to the College of Poets (Collegium Poetarum) on account of his critical acclaim, though with that went ideas of self-importance: he wanted a large statue of himself placed in the Temple of the Muses (aedes Camenarum), for which the satirist Lucilius criticized him.
Accius survived long enough to discuss with a young Cicero on literary matters (Cicero was 64 years his junior, and was likely talking to him after 88 BCE).
Over forty tragedies of Accius are known to have been performed. Like Pacuvius, the vast majority of them are connected to Greek mythology, though at least two dealt with Roman historical legends (Aeneadae and Brutus).
Non-dramatic works by Accius are the Didascalia, his treatise on spelling reforms; the Sotadicorum Liber; Parega; Pragmatica; Praxidica; and love poems in uncertain meters, perhaps elegiac couplets.
After Lucilius, reception of Accius was positive. To Horace, Accius was “noble,” as Pacuvius, his senior rival, was “learned.” Quintilian expounds on that comment, calling them the best of the older Roman tragedians; whereas Pacuvius is more learned, Accius is more forceful, a solid compliment. He was frequently quoted by later authors, allowing for over 700 lines to be preserved.
Latin: PHI Latin Texts
- Gesine Manuwald 2011. Roman Republican Theatre. Cambridge.