Gaius Asinius Pollio

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Gaius Asinius Pollio (* 76 BC ; † 5 AD) was a Roman politician , orator , poet and historian .


Asinius Pollio was probably born in 76 BC. Born in BC. His ancestors belonged to the small tribe of the Marrucini, his father was probably a Roman knight and took great care of his son's upbringing.

In 54 BC The young Pollio drew attention to himself through his accusation of Gaius Porcius Cato - not identical with Cato the Younger - who was mentioned in his tribunate in 56 BC. Had acted as a tool of the triumvirate . However, the prosecution failed due to the influence of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus . In the civil war between Gaius Iulius Caesar and Pompey, he was on Caesar's side, although he was actually a republican. The reason was probably his personal friendship with Caesar and Pollio's assumption that Caesar had the greatest chance of success. Pollio took an active part in the fighting; he was on site in the battles at the Bagradas (49 BC), at Pharsalos (48 BC), Thapsus (46 BC) and Munda (45 BC). Pollio was 47 BC Involved in preventing a Dolabella bill that tried to get rid of its debts. Pollio also took part in the fighting in Hispania against Sextus Pompeius , where he was staying at the time of Caesar's assassination as governor of the province of Hispania ulterior (44/43 BC). Sextus Pompeius, against whom Pollio could do little, was allowed to leave the province through the mediation of Lepidus , while Pollio remained on site with three legions.

In the civil war that followed between Republicans and Caesarians, he initially acted on hold in order to keep all options open. In the end, however, he had to make a decision, especially since he held a not unimportant province and had larger troop units. Since there was no way to come into direct contact with the Republicans, he resigned in 43 BC. On the side of Marcus Antonius . When it came to dividing the provinces - Gaul fell to Antonius - this entrusted Pollio with the administration of Gallia Transpadana, the part of the province Gallia cisalpina , which lay between the Po and the Alps . In overseeing the land distribution in the Mantua area among the veterans, he used his influence to protect the property of the poet Virgil from confiscation.

In the Peruvian war , as so often, he initially behaved neutrally, but then fought on the side of Antonius. In 40 BC He was involved in the negotiation of the Peace of Brundisium , through which Octavian , the great-nephew as well as the main heir of Caesar and later the first emperor Augustus, and his rival Antonius were reconciled for a while. In the same year Pollio took up his consulate , which he had been promised three years earlier. It was during this time that Virgil addressed his famous fourth eclogue .

The following year, Pollio led a successful campaign against the Parthini, an Illyrian people connected to Brutus , and celebrated their triumphal procession on October 25th. Virgil's eighth eclogue was addressed to him while he was on this campaign.

From the proceeds of the booty of this war he financed Rome's first public library, which he had built in the Atrium Libertatis (after 39 BC). The library, divided into a section for Greek and a Latin literature, was furnished with portraits of important authors from the past; The great scholar Marcus Terentius Varro was the only living person to be honored with a statue.

In the following period Pollio withdrew from political life. Nor did he take sides in the war between Antony and Octavian. Although he was often concerned with his own benefit and profited from the civil wars, he had little interest in the new political order of the Principate . He regretted the loss of the republican freedom (to which only a minority was entitled), but was under no illusion about the new situation. At the time of Augustus it was probably only about freedom of expression, for example in the literary field. About the time of proscription , to which Cicero fell victim, an anecdote from him has come down to us in a late antique work: Pollio is supposed to have joked that he would be silent, because it is not easy to write against someone who is about to commit a death sentence can reciprocate. With his (lost) histories , he wrote a historical work that dealt precisely with this period.


After retiring from politics, Pollio devoted himself above all to his literary interests. He distinguished himself as a patron of Virgil and Horace and was also a patron of Timagenes of Alexandria , who had fallen out with Augustus and was then accepted by Pollio. Pollio himself wrote tragedies, grammatical writings and speeches, of which only small remnants have survived.

Pollio's main work was a story of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, of which only a few fragments have survived ( The Fragments of the Roman Historians , No. 56). This contemporary historical work, probably written from a pro-senatorial perspective , was entitled Historiae and comprised 17 books. It continued with the foundation of the so-called First Triumvirate in 60 BC. A. It is not known how far Pollio described the following events. The histories surely extended to Cicero's death, as one of the fragments honors him. It is usually assumed that the work was carried out until the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. Was enough because this event meant a deep turning point for the Republicans. Occasionally it is also considered that Pollio might have finished his work with Octavian's victory at Actium in 31 BC. Completed.

In the histories, Pollio criticized in part the credibility of Caesar's Commentarii and apparently tried to correct its presentation, although Caesar himself was hardly portrayed too negatively by Pollio. The criticism of Caesar probably also had the purpose of strengthening Pollio's position as the most neutral historian possible who relied on eyewitness accounts in the style of Thucydides . In addition, Pollio was able to avoid the accusation that he was partial to the story of the side for which he had fought. In fact, Pollio, who no longer took part in the Actium campaign and who only wrote his histories after Antony's death , was also praised for his neutrality, for example by Velleius Paterculus .

The source value of the histories must have been very high, because Pollio was often an eyewitness to the events or was indirectly involved in the events. The work was evidently used frequently in the following period, because Pollio is quoted in Appian's historical work and by the biographers Suetonius and Plutarch .


  • Michael von Albrecht : History of Roman Literature. From Andronicus to Boethius and their continued work. Volume 1. 3rd, improved and expanded edition. de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 2012, ISBN 978-3-11-026525-5 , pp. 698-702.
  • Jacques André: La vie et l'œuvre d'Asinius Pollion (= Études et commentaires. 8, ISSN  0768-0104 ). Klincksieck, Paris 1949.
  • A. Brian Bosworth: Asinius Pollio and Augustus. In: Historia . Vol. 21, No. 3, 1972, pp. 441-473, JSTOR 4435276 .
  • Cornelia C. Coulter: Pollio's History of the Civil War. In: The Classical Weekly. Vol. 46, No. 3, 1952, ISSN  0009-8418 , pp. 33-36, doi : 10.2307 / 4343252 .
  • Alexander Dalzell: C. Asinius Pollio and the Early History of Public Recitation at Rome. In: Hermathena. No. 86, 1955, ISSN  0018-0750 , pp. 20-28, JSTOR 23039368 .
  • Louis H. Feldman: Asinius Pollio and His Jewish Interests. In: Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. Vol. 84, 1953, ISSN  0065-9711 , pp. 73-80, doi : 10.2307 / 283400 .
  • Matthias Gelzer : The three letters of C. Asinius Pollio. In: Chiron . Vol. 2, 1972, pp. 297-312.
  • Richard Goulet: Pollion (C. Asinius). In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques. Volume 5: De Paccius à Rutilius Rufus. Part 2: De Plotina à Rutilius Rufus. CNRS Éditions, Paris 2012, ISBN 978-2-271-07399-0 , pp. 1211-1214.
  • Llewelyn Morgan: The Autopsy of C. Asinius Pollio. In: The Journal of Roman Studies . Vol. 90, 2000, pp. 51-69, doi : 10.2307 / 300200 .

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  1. Publius Cornelius Tacitus , dialogus 34.
  2. See Pollio's letter to Marcus Tullius Cicero (Cicero, epistulae ad familiares 10.31).
  3. ^ Plutarch , Antonius 9.
  4. Pliny the Elder , Naturalis historia 7, 115; 35, 9-10.
  5. Cf. in general Ronald Syme : The Roman Revolution. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1939; on Pollio see ibid., p. 538 (register).
  6. See Morgan: The Autopsy of C. Asinius Pollio. In: The Journal of Roman Studies. Vol. 90, 2000, pp. 51-69, here pp. 65 ff.
  7. Macrobius , Saturnalia 2, 4, 21.
  8. Ronald Syme, then, in addition to Tacitus, specifically took Pollio as a model in his still fundamental representation of the Roman Revolution. 1939.
  9. On Pollio's histories, see recently for example Morgan: The Autopsy of C. Asinius Pollio. In: The Journal of Roman Studies. Vol. 90, 2000, pp. 51-69, with the older literature. Brief overview at Coulter: Pollio's History of the Civil War. In: The Classical Weekly. Vol. 46, No. 3, 1952, pp. 33-36.
  10. This emerges from Horace, Carmina 2,1.
  11. See Morgan: The Autopsy of C. Asinius Pollio. In: The Journal of Roman Studies. Vol. 90, 2000, pp. 51-69, here p. 54, note 18.
  12. See Morgan: The Autopsy of C. Asinius Pollio. In: The Journal of Roman Studies. Vol. 90, 2000, pp. 51-69, here pp. 58 f .; Luciano Canfora : Caesar. The democratic dictator. 1st revised edition of this edition. Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-51869-9 , p. 351 ff.
  13. ^ Morgan: The Autopsy of C. Asinius Pollio. In: The Journal of Roman Studies. Vol. 90, 2000, pp. 51-69, here p. 59.
  14. ^ Velleius, Historia Romana 2.86.
  15. The scene describing the crossing of the Rubicon is very likely from Plutarch (who indicates that Pollio was present) and Suetonius from the histories of Pollio. See also Ernst Hohl : Caesar am Rubico. In: Hermes . Vol. 80, No. 2, 1952, pp. 246-249, JSTOR 4474774 .