Gaius Cornelius Gallus

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Marble portrait in the Cleveland Museum of Art , possibly of C. Cornelius Gallus

Gaius Cornelius Gallus (* around 70 BC supposedly in Forum Iulii ( Fréjus ); † 27/26 BC) was a Roman politician and poet.


Gaius Cornelius Gallus was born shortly after 70 BC. Born in BC and came from a humble background. In the time after Caesar's murder he found himself in the company of the politician and general Gaius Asinius Pollio . As his praefectus fabrum he met the poet Virgil and helped him with the threat to his land. Since then, a very cordial relationship has developed between the two men, and this sympathy was also carried over to poetry. The literary success of Cornelius Gallus probably began after this time.

According to the sources, after Pollio left active politics in 39 BC, Gallus turned down. BC Octavian, the later Augustus , to. In the battle between Octavian and Marcus Antonius , he commanded his troops and, with the advance to Alexandria, brought the civil war to a happy end. The inscription on an obelisk , which was later placed in the Circus at the Vatican in Rome, shows that Gallus founded a forum Iulium as praefectus fabrum on behalf of Octavian . With his determined approach, he recommended himself for higher tasks. As an Octavian 30 BC When he left Egypt, he gave Cornelius Gallus the post of first governor of Egypt ( praefectus Alexandreae et Aegypti ), a position of power that no Roman knight and, in its extensive power, no senatorial governor had held before him. He was the personal representative of his employer in Egypt, military commander of the legions stationed there, appellate authority on legal issues and head of the bureaucracy. Once a year he traveled across the country. For long stretches of the imperial era, the office was considered the pinnacle of a knightly career.

In the year 26/27 BC In BC Gallus was deposed and charged for reasons that were not exactly known. He was allegedly charged with erecting a trilingual inscription on the island of Philae , which was to serve as his report of the facts and was immortalized on the pyramids in Egypt. But this issue is questionable. A number of literary findings are available, but most of them only claim the status of a note. According to the sources, the fall of Gallus began in the first half of 27 BC. BC and ran in two phases: The introductory step concerned above all the relationship between Augustus and Gallus and ended with the formal termination of the friendship (renuntiatio amicitiae) by the princeeps. It did not mean a criminal sentence in the legal sense, but finally initiated the break of friendship between Augustus and Gallus.

For Cornelius Gallus, Augustus' denunciation of friendship was devastating. His political career was finally over. As a result, in a second step, with the significant participation of the Senate, a flood of indictments began, which then finally drove Cornelius Gallus to commit suicide. The trial against him was still brought to an end.


Gallus was considered by the Romans to be the founder of the Roman elegy through his four books with elegies on his lover called Lycoris (the actress Cytheris ), which are lost except for fragments (9 verses). A hexameter poem , which he wrote in the tradition of Euphorion , was praised by Virgil in the poet consecration of his 6th Eclogue. He was also the first poet to use his poetry as a means of courtship. In research he is considered to be the father of the Augustan love elegance . Properz and Ovid paid homage to him after his death, but Quintilian did not hold him in high esteem.

During the Renaissance , some works were incorrectly ascribed to him. He gained scientific interest through the discovery of a fragment of his works on a papyrus and the reconstruction of the inscription he had placed on the obelisk that now stands in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Despite its fate, it was almost never noticed in the popular reception of antiquities. In the 19th century, however, he was the title character of the didactic novel Gallus or Roman scenes from the time of August to explain the most important objects from the domestic life of the Romans by Wilhelm Adolf Becker .

Text edition


  • Frederick M. Ahl, J. Garthwaite: The Rider and the Horse. Politics and Power in Roman Poetry from Horace to Statius . In: Rise and Fall of the Roman World . Part II: Principate. Volume 32, Part 1: Language and Literature (literature from the Julio-Claudian and Flavian times). de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1984, ISBN 3-11-010363-X , pp. 52-53 (bibliography).
  • Jean-Paul Boucher: Caius Cornelius Gallus (= Bibliothèque de la Faculté des Lettres de Lyon. Volume 11). les Belles lettres, Paris 1966.
  • Mario Capasso : Il ritorno di Cornelio Gallo: il papiro di Qaṣr Ibrîm venticinque anni dopo (= Album del Centro di studi papirologici dell'Università degli studi di Lecce. Volume 5). Graus, Napoli 2003, ISBN 978-88-8346-045-6 .
  • Werner Eck : Augustus and his time. 4th edition, Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-41884-8 , p. 50f.
  • Niklas Holzberg : The Roman power of love. An introduction . 2nd, completely revised edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-534-15041-4 , pp. 31–35.
  • Franz Skutsch : Cornelius 164: C. Cornelius Gallus. In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume IV, 1, Stuttgart 1900, Sp. 1342-1350.
  • Timo Stickler : "Gallus amore peribat". Cornelius Gallus and the beginnings of the Augustan rule in Egypt . Leidorf, Rahden (Westphalia) 2002, ISBN 3-89646-832-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ So for the first time Günter Grimm : To Marcus Antonius and C. Cornelius Gallus. In: Yearbook of the German Archaeological Institute . Vol. 85, 1970, pp. 158-170; see also Klaus Parlasca : Portrait of Cornelius Gallus. In: Herbert Beck et al. (Ed.): Egypt Greece Rome. Defense and touch. Catalog for the exhibition, Städelsches Kunstinstitut and Städtische Galerie, November 26, 2005 - February 26, 2006 in Frankfurt am Main. Wasmuth, Tübingen 2005, p. 710 No. 321.
  2. Hieronymus , Chronik , for the year 27 BC. Chr .: Cornelius Gallus Foroiuliensis poeta . However, Forum Iulii in the province of Gallia Narbonensis only received this name from Gaius Iulius Caesar , so that various other locations have been suggested. Cf. Francis Cairns: Sextus propertius: The Augustan Elegist . University Press, Cambridge, 2006, ISBN 0-521-86457-7 , p. 72 ; Ronald Syme : The Origin of Cornelius Gallus. In: The Classical Quarterly. Volume 32, No. 1, January 1938, pp. 39-44.
  3. AE 1964, 255 : Iussu Imp (eratoris) Caesaris Divi f (ili) / C (aius) Cornelius Cn (aei) f (ilius) Gallus / praef (ectus) fabr (um) Caesaris Divi f (ili) / forum Iulium fecit .
  4. Friedhelm Hoffmann , Martina Minas-Nerpel, Stefan Pfeiffer : The trilingual stele of C. Cornelius Gallus (= Archive for Papyrus Research. [AfP] Supplements 9). Berlin, New York 2009.
predecessor Office successor
--- Prefect of the Roman Province of Egypt
30 BC BC - 26 BC Chr.
Aelius Gallus