Gaius Asinius Pollio (consul 40 BC)

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Gaius Asinius Pollio (sometimes wrongly called Pollius or Philo) (Teate Marrucinorum - currently Chieti in Abruzzi 75 BC – AD 4)[1] 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.[2]


Early life

An inscription tells us his father was called Gnaeus Asinius Pollio.[3] He had a brother called Asinius Marrucinus, known for his tasteless practical jokes,[4] 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.[5]

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.

Political career

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.[6] After Pompey and the Senate had fled to Greece, Caesar sent Pollio to Sicily to relieve Cato of his command.[7] 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.[8] He was present as Caesar's legate at the Battle of Pharsalus (48 BC), and recorded Pompeian casualties at 6,000.[9]

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