Suetonius, Vita Lucani
m = reading of part of the MS tradition
P = reading on a papyrus
M. Annaeus Lucanus Cordubensis Weber, Reifferscheid, Hosius, Rostagni lac. indic.prima ingenii experimenta in Neronis laudibus dedit quinquennali certamine. dein Ciuile Bellum, quod a Pompeio et Caesare gestum est, recitauit, Reifferscheid, Hosius, Rostagni lac. indic.; sub tantae leuitatis et immoderatae linguae fuit codex Berolinensis in marg.; qui tantae leuitatis et tam immoderatae linguae fuit codex Brixienis (1486) in marg. ut praefatione quadam aetatem et initia sua cum Vergilio comparans ausus sit dicere:
‘et quantum mihi restat/ad Culicem?’ Suetonius’ phrase, ‘perhaps best left in its slight obscurity’ (N. M. Horsfall, Companion to the Study of Virgil. 2nd edn. Leiden, 2001: 268), can carry both the meaning ‘how far, pray, do I fall short of the Culex’ and ‘how much younger am I than the author of the Culex’.
hic initio adolescentiae, cum ob infestum matrimonium patrem suum ruri agere longissime cognouisset, * * * Editors (following Weber) indicate a probable lacuna here.. reuocatus Athenis a Nerone cohortique amicorum additus atque etiam quaestura honoratus, non tamen permansit in gratia: siquidem aegre ferens, <quod Nero se> <quod Nero se> Reifferscheid: <quod se> Rostagni. recitante subito ac nulla nisi refrigerandi sui causa indicto senatu recessisset recessisset m: recessisse m, neque uerbis aduersus principem neque factis exstantibus exstantibus M: excitantibus Jahn post haec temperauit: adeo ut quondam in latrinis publicis clariore cum crepitu crepitu m: strepitu vel trepitu m (Suetonius uses crepitus uentris of a fart at Cl. 32.1.) uentris emissi emissi m: om. Reifferscheid hemistichium Neronis magna consessorum fuga pronuntiarit:
sub terris tonuisse putes.
sed et famoso carmine cum ipsum tum potentissimos amicorum grauissime proscidit. ad extremum paene signifer Pisonianae coniurationis exstitit, multus in gloria tyrannicidarum palam praedicanda praedicanda m: praedicenda m ac plenus minarum, usque eo intemperans ut Caesaris caput lac. indic. edd.proximo cuique iactaret. uerum detecta coniuratione nequaquam parem animi constantiam praestitit. facile enim confessus et et m: ut m: om. m ad humillimas deuolutus preces matrem quoque innoxiam inter socios nominauit, sperans impietatem sibi apud parricidam principem profuturam. impetrato autem mortis arbitrio libero codicillos ad patrem corrigendis quibusdam uersibus suis exarauit epulatusque largiter brachia ad secandas uenas praebuit medico. poemata eius etiam praelegi memini, confici uero ac proponi uenalia non tantum operose et diligenter sed inepte quoque.
Marcus Annaeus Lucan of Cordoba first showed his talent in public with Praises of Nero at the Quinquennial Games; he then gave a reading of his Bellum ciuile, on the civil war waged between Pompey and Caesar. By way of introduction to this, comparing his age at the time and his first attempts at poetry with Virgil’s, he had the audacity to say:
‘And how much remains to me for a ‘Culex’?’
In his early youth, when he had learned that his father was living far out in the country because of an unhappy marriage ... He was recalled from Athens by Nero and became one of his intimate friends, and was also honoured with the quaestorship; but he did not retain the emperor’s favour. Annoyed that Nero had suddenly called a meeting of the senate while he was giving a reading and left for no other reason than to throw cold water over his performance, Lucan no longer held himself back from words and palpable acts of hostility towards the emperor, so much so that once, in a public lavatory, when he emptied his bowels with a rather loud noise, he shouted out this half-line of Nero’s, while the other lavatory users ran off en masse:
‘You would think thunder had broken out the earth’.
He also lashed out at both Nero himself and his most powerful friends in a slanderous poem. Finally, he came out almost as the ringleader of the Pisonian conspiracy, talking a lot in public about the praiseworthy glory of tyrannicide, and full of threats; he was so out of control, that he even bragged about Caesar’s execution to all his friends. When the conspiracy was detected, however, his firmness of purpose proved in no way equal to his threats. For he confessed readily and stooped to the most abject pleas, and he even named his own mother — who was innocent — among the co-conspirators, in the hope that his betrayal would win favour with the parricidal emperor. But after he was given a free choice as to the manner of his death, he wrote a note to his father containing corrections for some of his verses, and after eating heartily, held out his arms to be cut by a doctor. I recall that his poems were read out in public and collected and offered for sale by painstaking and careful editors as well as those with bad judgement.