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Scholars of the Principate era were many and hailed from all manner of disciplines. While Latin was the central language of the empire, the study of Greek still dominated the educated classes. A career in scholarship was always the result of wealth, be the scholar an aristocrat themselves, or through the system of Patronage. An inquisitive mind could flourish in the Principate Era and many ex-slaves or freedman were able to advance in society through their brains, often as tutors in rhetoric, philosophy or grammar. Similarly patronage of scholarship was an important way for many wealthy Romans to demonstrate their status. Indeed, many newly wealthy Romans of the Principate Era, such as Epaphroditos, Mortanus and Amotan turned to patronage as a way of securing their status.

Marcus Verrius Flaccus

A freedman who had such a strong reputation as a grammarian that he was summoned to teach the grandsons of Augustus.


Marcus Valerius Martialis was a poet who hailed from Hispania where he spent his childhood. In 64 AD he moved to Rome under the patronage of Seneca the Younger, although he wrote very little initially. His fame arrived with middle age. One of his earliest works being published during the reign of Titus at the opening of the Coliseum. From 80 AD onwards he developed a prowess for short, elegiac couplets that satirized Roman society. His epigrams targeted many aspects of Roman life including the cramped and expensive living conditions, inadequate advice from doctors, the constant threat of fire, low morals and the cruelty meted out towards slaves. Until 98 AD, when he returned to Hispania, he published one volume of epigrams a year. Despite being well known throughout Roman society, Martial always struggled to make ends meet in Rome. He was dependent on his patrons.


Publius Ovidius Naso, commonly known as Ovid, was a Roman poet. He was born in Sulmo, east of Rome, to a wealthy family and was educated in Rome itself. His father wished him to study law but after the sudden death of his brother Ovid gave up legal study and instead travelled widely. Around 25 BC he decided to become a poet to his father’s chagrin. His early poetry was written in elegiac meter on mostly erotic themes. But it was with two works written after the year 0 that he is best remembered. First, in 2 AD he produced the Ars Amatoria, a guide to lovemaking for the Roman gentleman. Then, in 8 AD he wrote his Metamorphoses; an epic poem in hexameter Metamorphoses traces the transformations in Roman mythology from the beginning of time to the enunciation of Julius Caesar. In the scenes human beings are transformed into new bodily matter such as trees, rocks, flowers and stars. Also in 8 AD Ovid was sent into exile at the personal intervention of the Emperor Augustus. At the time Augustus was pursuing strict moral legislation and Ovid’s earlier Ars Amatoria was in conflict with this. Ovid was to remain in exile for the remainder of his life. From exile he wrote to further collections, Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto. The works are filled with the sadness he felt at being banished from Rome. Ovid died in Tomis in 17 AD while revising his final work, Fasti. He was buried nearby.


Gaius Petronius Arbiter was a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero best known for writing the satirical novel, Satyricon. Born in 27 AD he rose to the rank of consul in 62 AD and later became part of the senatorial class whose lives were devoted to their personal enjoyment. He would sleep by day and spend the nights at his own amusement. He was well known for his at times reckless freedom of speech as well as his competence in all official duties. The Satyricon is remarkable for several reasons. Firstly because it forges a new, almost novelistic style that was very different from other work at the time. Above all it moved the importance of character to the centre of the text, ignoring many conventions of plot that were the tradition in the classical age. His most famous character was the freed slave Trimalchio who would later be compared to real life figures such as Horatius Nona and Cif Amotan (II), whose lavish demonstrations of wealth were the no doubt the subject of derision. The Satyricon also contains thinly veiled allusions to real life character’s from Nero’s reign, which in turn emphasised Petronius’s rank and position in roman social circles. Petronius’s success and popularity, however, also saw him attract the jealousy of his potential rivals. In 65 AD he was accused of treason by Tigellinus and arrested. Rather than waiting for his sentence, he committed suicide by slitting his wrists.


Phaedrus was born in Macedonia during the reign of Augustus. He was a Thracian slave who was freed by Augustus himself. He is best known for translating Aesop’s fables into Latin meter. His translations were stocky and firm but an overall plain translation of Aesop’s original Greek. The translations did not spread well and in 41 AD Seneca suggests to Claudius’ freedman Polybius that he should try a translation of Aesop. Phaedrus’s translations resurfaced at Troyes in 1596 and his influence in the Middle Ages was significant. Sadly, his work was superseded yet again by much better translations in the nineteenth century.

Pliny the Elder

Gaius Plinius Secundus led a varied life as a naval and army commander but he is best known as an author and natural philosopher. He was born in AD 23 and his father was an equestrian. He grew up around lake Como and various other estates near Rome. Initially studying law, he became an officer in the Roman army at the age of 23. He later took part in the conquest of the Chauci. His early literary works were of biography and history including his History of the German Wars. He was a favourite of Vespasian who hailed from the same equestrian class and the pair remained on good terms throughout Pliny’s life. Under Vespasian Pliny undertook four procuratorships in Gallia Narbonensis, Africa, Hispania Tarraconensis and Gallia Belgica. During these travels Pliny began to develop his interest in agriculture and minerals. By 75 AD he was back in Rome working on his Natural History, which was published in 77 AD. It stood as an encyclopaedia running to 37 books, and collected together the knowledge he had picked up throughout his life on botany, zoology, astronomy and geology. It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire. In 79 AD, shortly after the death of his friend Emperor Vespasian, Pliny was staying in Misenum near the erupting Mount Vesuvius. After attempting to help rescue victims he suffered from the volcanoes eruption. He died after inhaling poisonous gasses emitted from the volcano. His name lives on in volcanology where the term Plinian marks a very violent eruption with smoke and ash extending high into the stratosphere.

Pliny the Younger

Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, more commonly known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer and author. He was the nephew and adopted heir of Pliny the Elder who helped educate him. Pliny was born near lake Como and his father died at an early age, leaving him to the care of his mother. After being sent to Rome he grew close to his uncle. When Pliny the Elder died during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, his estates and will passed to Pliny the Younger who was then aged 18. Following his inheritance, Pliny returned to Rome and was active in the legal profession. In the course of his career he took all the major administrative positions within the Roman Empire. He began writing at a young age and wrote poetry throughout his life. His largest surviving body of work is his letters, Epistulae, which provide a unique account of Roman administrative history and life in the 1st century AD. Notable letters include those on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and on Christians in the Roman Empire. Pliny enjoyed great wealth and owned a huge villa on Lake Como.

Seneca the Younger

Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher who also worked as a tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. He was born in Spain but grew up in Rome where he trained in philosophy. Having tutored him as a younger man, Seneca advised Nero between 54 and 62 AD. He had a strong influence over the emperor but after 62 AD he began to be criticized by Nero’s other advisors. Charges levelled at him included excessive wealth, extravagant property and unnecessary and cynical birds for popularity. Seneca requested retirement from Nero, which was granted and he was allowed to move out to his country estates. In 65 AD, Seneca found himself caught up in the Pisonian conspiracy a plot to kill the emperor. Even though he knew he was not involved Nero ordered Seneca to kill himself. Seneca did so, slitting his wrists in order to bleed to death in line with tradition. In order to speed up the blood flow Seneca sat in a warm bath. This scene has been depicted many times in art. Seneca’s humanist writings would later prove popular with the early church who saw his death-bath as a version of baptism. His work was printed and distributed during the Renaissance and has left him as one of the few popular philosophers from the Roman period. His writings cover traditional themes of Stoic philosophy whereby contentment is best achieved through a calm life lived in accordance to nature and duty to the state. Human suffering is to be accepted and is good for the soul.

Silius Italicus

Silius Italicus was a 1st century Latin epic poet. Silius was born in 23 AD, probably in the Hispanic region. Silius’s early career was as a forensic orator. He later made himself useful to Nero as an informer, prosecuting those whom Nero had condemned. He was later elected to consul and proconsul of Asia. At some point around 80 AD he left politics and pursued a life of leisure. His earliest surviving poems stem from 88 AD. And the first volumes of his most famous work, Punica, were published in 92 AD. As he grew older he moved to his villas in Campania where he remained at all times. He was by this point very wealthy. Like many Stoics his opinions on the theory of suicide were put into practice. At the age of 75 he discovered an incurable tumour and he starved himself to death in 103 AD.


Publius Papinius Statius was a first century AD Roman poet. His family was of Graeco-Campanian origin and the descendants of freedmen. As a youth he was often victorious in poetic contests held in Naples and he once received a golden crown from the emperor Domitian. These successes allowed Statius to make connections at court and secure patronage. His most famous book, Silvae, which collected three selections of his poems, was first published in 93 AD. Statius died in 95 AD and a fifth and final volume of Silvae, was published a year later. His work shows a marked breadth of knowledge of existing classical literature and learning. The collected volumes that form the Silvae, are revised versions of impromptu pieces composed over a very short time period. The word Silvae means “forest” or “raw material.” Statius’ work was popular both in his lifetime and on into the Middle Ages where during the Renaissance his Silvae inspired an entire genre of collected, miscellaneous poetry called Sylvae.

Valerius Maximus

Valerius Maximus was the author of a collection of historical anecdotes who worked in the reign of Tiberius. He hailed from an impoverished background and owed his promotion in life to the consul Sextus Pompeius whom he accompanied to the East in 27 AD. Pompeius was well-connected and allowed Maximus’ work to prosper. During his lifetime he also worked as a rhetorician and this experience is evident in his writing. Most of his work covers tales from Roman history. His work exhibits two main themes common to writers of his time. One, that the Roman’s of his day were inferior to their republican forebears and, two, that all Romans are morally superior to the Greeks. In the Middle Ages, Valerius’ work was commonly used for teaching which explains the large number of manuscript copies that survive to this day.

Aulus Cornelius Celsus

Aulus Cornelius Celsus was an encyclopaedist from the first century. He lived under the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius. Of the many volumes of his encyclopaedia only one survived his treatise De Medicina, on medicine. It’s eight sections cover: The history of medicine, general pathology, specific diseases, parts of the body, pharmacology, surgery and orthopaedics. In the introduction Aulus discusses the merits and drawbacks of human experimentation. Aulus did not practice medicine himself. His recommendations primarily suggest observing the work of nature and regulating rather than opposing it. Surgical procedures covered by the work include, the removal of bladder stones and cataracts and the setting of fractures.

Apollonius of Tyana

Apollonius of Tyana was a Greek philosopher from the Roman province of Cappadocia. He hailed from a wealthy Greek family. The dates of his birth and death are very similar to those of Jesus of Nazareth and many early Christians compared the two figures favourably. Apollonius’s followers believed that he, not Jesus, was the true supernatural figure. Apollonius was a wandering philosopher who travelled widely to spread his philosophy on life. Many of his writings take the form of letters written while he was away. In his writings Apollonius’ stressed the unconditional beauty of God. During his lifetime Apollonius made journeys to India and beyond and performed miracles. Apollonius was also recognized in the medieval Islamic world.


Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella was a writer whose main topic of interest was agriculture. He hailed from Hispania and spent his early life in the Roman army, which took him around the empire to places such as Syria, Carthage and Gaul. After leaving the army he took up farming. The twelve volumes of his Res Rustica survive to this day and provide a fascinating insight into Roman agricultural technique. The book covers topics including: soils, fruits, olives, big and small animals, fish and fowl, wild animals, gardens, calendars and household management. Book 10 on gardens is composed in dactylic hexameter verse in homage to Virgil. In later life he completed another book, De Arboribus, on trees.

Hero of Alexandria

Hero of Alexandria was a Greek mathematician and Engineer who lived and worked in the first century AD. He hailed from Alexandria in Egypt and was a wild experimenter and inventor. Among his inventions include the wind-wheel and he theorized the formation of a steam powered device called an aeolipile. Hero taught at the Musaeum in Alexandria and most of his writings are surviving lecture notes from his classes there. Hero’s work on automated devices such as his theorization of the vending machine and his mathematical method of iteratively computing square roots represents some of the first ever research into the field of cybernetics.


Titus Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian and hagiographer who hailed from Roman Judea. His father came from priestly stock and his mother had royal ancestry. He fought against the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War. With forty companions Josephus found himself trapped by the Romans in a cave. Most of the soldiers committed suicide but Josephus and one other surrendered to forces led by Vespasian. Josephus told Vespasian of Jewish prophecies made reference to Vespasian becoming Emperor which led to Vespasian recruiting Josephus as his slave and interpreter. Josephus was later granted his freedom by Vespasian in 69 AD, after he became emperor. Josephus settled in Rome and became a Roman citizen. His historical works predominantly cover the First Jewish-Roman War and include material on prominent figures and sects as well as Jewish customs and places of note.

Titus Livius Patavinus

Titus Livius Patavinus, better known as Livy, was a Roman historian best known for his comprehensive history of Rome and the Roman people. He was born in wealthy Patavium in northern Italy. His early life straddled the last years of the Republic. From 30 BC he began to spend a great deal of time in Rome, where he began to draw up his histories. Because of his inordinate wealth he was able to devote the large part of his life to his writings. He was by nature a recluse, most content working on his histories and contemplating the past. His History of Rome tells the story of the city from its foundation under Romulus to the death of the Emperor Augustus. The history specifically seeks to embellish Roman achievements, particularly to support the new imperial power structure that came into being with the emperor Augustus. His history saw him enjoy great fame in his lifetime. In later life he moved away from Rome, back to Patavium where he died in 17 AD.


Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish philosopher who hailed from Alexandria in the Roman province of Egypt. His work attempted to combine Greek and Jewish philosophies through the use of allegory. In his lifetime he supported the larger Jewish community in their fight to refuse treating the emperor as a God. His work draws heavily on the writings of Plato and Moses. He eschewed literal understanding in favour of an allegorical approach that understood the Old Testament in relation to other works. In his philosophy, God remains absolutely transcendent, more abstract than the good of Plato. It is God’s existence alone that is certain. Moreover, for Philo, matter itself becomes nothing evident in the decay and damage of things. This allows Philo to accommodate the Greek understanding of all things coming from matter with the Jewish belief in creation. He was the first philosopher to relate Plato to notions of creation and as such foregrounds much of Western religious philosophy.


Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus was a Greek writer. His family were well-established and wealthy inhabitants of the small town of Chaeronea, 80 kilometres east of Delphi. As a young man he studied mathematics and philosophy t the Academy of Athens under the tutelage of Ammonius. He lived most of his life in Chaeronea and was an active social and political member of the town. Intellectuals from across the empire travelled to his country estate to indulge in serious conversation. Many of theses dialogues were later collected and published as the Moralia. Plutarch’s writings include biographical works on the emperors from Augusts through to Vitellius and Parallel Lives. Parallel Lives takes the form of a series of biographical sketches of famous Greeks and Romans. The sketches are arranged in pairs (one Greek one Roman) to draw attention to the common moral virtues (and vices) of the subjects. Plutarch was less interested in history than in the influence of character on the lives of men. His other significant work, Moralia, is a diverse collection of 78 essays and transcribed speeches. Plutarch was a Platonist. The influence of Moralia is wide spread including the work of the transcendentalist such as Ralph Waldon Emerson.


Strabo was a Greek geographer, philosopher and historian. He was born to a wealthy family in Amaseia not far from the black sea. He travelled extensively as a young man throughout the Mediterranean. At the age of 21 he moved to Rome to study Philosophy. During the reign of Tiberius he wrote his Geography, which is a long descriptive work that covers the many people and places of the then known Roman world. He later completed a work on Geology.


Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a historian who was also served as a Senator. He was born in 56 AD to an equestrian family. He undertook his studies in Rome where he worked towards a career in the legal and political fields. He first served political office under emperor Vespasian, and he later took administrative positions in the Roman provinces. From 97 AD he first served on the Senate and began to devote more of his time to his writing. His two major works, Histories and Annals were composed during an absence form political life between 98 and 112 AD. His histories cover the Roman Empire from the end of the reign of Augustus. He also produced several monographs and biographies including a biography of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola. His writing was very dense and loyal to fact and unlike many other historians of his day he was not prone to embellishment.


Marcus Fabius Quintilianus was a rhetorician. He hailed from Calaguris in Hispania and was sent to Rome as a young man for his education. In Rome he fell into the favour of Domitius Afer who provided early patronage and direction in his education. After Afer’s death, Quintilian returned to Hispania to work in the legal profession, but he was to return to Rome on the election of Galba to emperor in 68 AD. Quintilian later ran a public school of rhetoric and his students included Pliny the Younger and Tacitus. He was elected to consul by Vespasian. He retired in 88 AD wishing to distance himself from the increasing cruelty of the new emperor Domitian. His retirement was spent writing his best-known work, Institutio Oratoria. The work consists of a twelve-volume textbook of rhetoric and it was published in 95 AD. The work shifted the direction of rhetoric both in the first century AD and on into the following centuries. It’s influence can be seen both in the work of Augustine of Hippo and St Jerome’s edition of the Vulgate bible.

Asconius Pedianus

Quintus Asconius Pedianus was a Roman historian from the first century AD. He lived most of his life in Rome where he died at the age of 85. Much of his work consisted of summarized versions and sketches of unpublished work by Cicero. He originally compiled the works for his sons. For the last twelve years of his life he was blind in both eyes. Other surviving works include a biography of Sallust, a critical work in defence of Virgil and a treatise on good health written in a symposium style that imitated Plato.

Quintus Curtius Rufus

Quintus Curtius Rufus was a historian from the first century AD whose most celebrated work was a history of Alexander the Great. The name Quintus Curtius Rufus, which appears only on the history of Alexander the great, was a historical alter ego for another prominent figure or writer of the time. A figure called Curtius Rufus served as a consul under the emperor Claudius. He may well have written the histories before becoming consul. The work itself was very popular during the middle ages and into the Renaissance.

Achilles Tatius

Achilles Tatius was a Greek writer from Alexandria whose work flourished in the second century AD. His most famous and only surviving work is the ancient Greek romance novel, The Adventures of Leucippe and Clitophon. The work, fairly turgid in nature, follows the fortunes of two cousins that fall in love. As well as being a writer Tatius was a Christian and served as a bishop.


Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis was a prose writer from the second century AD. He was born in Madaurus, a Roman colony on the North African coast. Saint Augustine of Hippo would later receive some of his education from the same colony. Apuleius studied in first Carthage and then Athens primarily Latin rhetoric suited to a legal career. Most of his life was spent pursuing his literary creations and on his death a statue was erected in his honour by the senate of Carthage. His most famous work, Asinus Aureus (The Golden Ass) is the only Latin novel to survive in its entirety. It relates the fortunes of Lucius after a magical experiment leaves him turned into an ass. Thus disguised he is able to observe many strange goings on and is ultimately invited into the mystery cult of Isis.

Aulus Gellius

Aulus Gellius was an author and grammarian from the second century. He was born in Rome but educated in Athens before entering the legal profession. His family had African origins and he was appointed praetor in Rome, which took up a great deal of his time. His major work is entitled Noctes Atticae (Attic Nights) and is a compendium of various notations and observations from his life. It includes notes on grammar, geometry, philosophy and history. The work lacks any sequence or organizing principle such as an index.


Chariton of Aphrodisias was a second century AD Greek author. His most celebrated work was the novel, Callirhoe. It is the oldest prose romance novel and the only novel of its time to strive for contemporary realism. The novel is set in Syracuse and follows the fortunes of Chaereas who falls in love with the beautiful Callirhoe. They marry, but other suitors conspire to trick Chaereas into thinking she is unfaithful so he kills her. She is buried but then reappears having been only knocked out for a while. She is later sold into slavery by pirates. Chaereas meanwhile attempts to find her only to be captured and enslaved himself. War brings the lovers back together who return in triumph to Syracuse, offering up prayers to the goddess Aphrodite.


Decimus Iunis Iuvenalis was a poet active in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. He was the son of a wealthy freedman and studied rhetoric under Quintilian in Rome. He worked for most of his life as a lawyer and his literary career only began later in life. He was exiled under Emperor Domitian but returned to Rome before his death during the brief reign of Nerva. His most celebrated work is his Satires a series of sixteen poems split over five books. They consider various aspects of Roman society and are composed in dactylic hexameter. The poems are untitled, although later translators have often added their own titles for organizational purposes.


Longus was a second century Greek author best known for his romance novel Daphnis and Chloe. He lived on the isle of Lesbos, which provides the setting for Daphnis and Chloe. The novel is formed within a pastoral setting and follows the fortunes of two characters (Daphnis and Chloe) both of which were exposed as children (sacrificed by being left outside). The children are rescued by a shepherd who goes on to bring them up together. The children later fall in love and much of the plot involves them taking guidance from various sources as to what to do with their feelings. After many trials, the characters are reunited with their birth parents who bless their marriage together.


Lucian of Samosata was a second century satirist who wrote in Greek. He was a native of Assyria and refers to himself as a barbarian in his work. He was very popular in his lifetime and his 80 surviving works that provide commentary on second century life. The works comprise a variety of styles including dialogues, essays and prose fiction.

Xenophon of Ephesus

Xenophon of Ephesus was a second century Greek writer. His most celebrated work was Ephesian Tale of Anthia and Habrocomes. It was later used by William Shakespeare as one of the sources for Romeo and Juliet.


Abascantus was a prominent second century physician. He invented an antidote to the venom of snakes.

Apollodorus of Damascus

Apollodorus of Damascus was an engineer, architect and sculptor from Damascus. His work was popular with emperor Trajan who ordered the construction of his bridge over the Danube. He later designed and engineered Trajan’s Column, which stands at the centre of the forum in Rome. On Trajan’s death Apollodorus fell from favour having earlier ridiculed the new emperor Hadrian’s skills as an artist. He was banished and later put to death for fabricated crimes.


Arrian of Nicomedia was a historian and philosopher from the second century. He hailed from Nicomedia and was of Greek aristocratic lineage. He was educated first in Nicopolis and then in Athens. He was appointed to the senate under emperor Hadrian and served for six years before returning to Athens. He later took a position as a priest. He left behind eight major works. Including histories of the Voyage around the Euxine Sea and the history of the events after Alexander. He also compiled treatise on military tactics and the use of hunting dogs.


Claudius Ptolemy was a celebrated mathematician, astronomer and geographer from the second century AD. He lived in the Roman province of Alexandria and wrote in Greek. His Almagest is the only comprehensive ancient treatise on astronomy to survive to the present day. It was preserved like many Greek documents in Arabic manuscripts. His other major work, Geographia, compiled geographical information from across the known world of the Roman Empire. The work includes a world map based on scientific principles. Ptolemy also published works on astrology, music and optics. He argued in favour of basing musical intervals on mathematical ratios and his work contained explanations for all manner of phenomena relating to light.

Neuvus Bacilicus

Neuvus was a historian. He was a freedman from Hispania who first rose to prominence as a tutor to Gallas, a nephew of emperor Hadrian. After winning his freedom he was called upon by Hadrian, principally to act as an agent in the procurement of antiquities. Neuvus made immense wealth through this business and was able to retire in 110 AD to Carthage where he wrote a short history of the Romano-Greek wars.


Epictetus was a Greek-speaking philosopher of the Stoic tradition. He was born in Hierapolis and spent his youth as a slave in Rome to Epaphroditos, himself a wealthy freedman. His leg was deliberately broke by his master leaving him lame from childhood. He obtained his freedom after Nero’s death and taught philosophy in Rome. In 93 AD Emperor Domitian banished all philosophers and Epictetus fled to Nicopolis in Greece where he founded a school. His most famous pupil was Arrian who would write his famous Discourses from his lecture notes. Epictetus lived a solitary life with few possessions. He died in 135 AD. An admirer bought his lamp for 3,000 drachmae. Epictetus left behind no writings and his thought was only transcribed through his pupil Arrian. In line with Stoic thought he taught that all events are determined by fate and are thus beyond the control of individuals. Men should accept their fate calmly without passion, but still examine their own actions. He also maintains that the foundation of all philosophy is self-knowledge.


Aelius Galenus was a physician and surgeon of Greek origin who lived in the second century AD. He was one of the foremost medical minds of the ancient world. His father was a wealthy architect and Galen received a broad education with much travel. His father died when Galen was 19 leaving him a vast inheritance that secured him financially for life. As a young man he settled in Rome where he became a significant member of Roman society ultimately rising to the position of private physician to several emperors. His theories on anatomy and medicine dominated medical thinking for over a thousand years. He based his theories on anatomical dissections of various animals including monkeys. Medical students continued to study his writings into the nineteenth century. During the reign of Commodus a great plague struck Rome, which killed over 2,000 people. Galen died at the age of 70 in 199 AD. As well as his contributions to pathology and anatomy, Galen also left behind philosophical writings influenced by Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics. His brief work That the Best Physician is also a Philosopher, emphasizes his perspective on the dual importance of philosophy and medical practice. Galen also wrote a treatise on how to treat psychological problems, which details the benefits of Psychotherapy or talk therapy.

Hyginus Gromaticus

Hyginus Gromaticus was a first century Land surveyor. His work includes treatise on legal boundaries and the construction of military camps.

Marcus Cornelius Fronto

Marcus Cornelius Fronto was a grammarian and rhetorician form the second century AD. He hailed from the city of Cirta in Libya and gained a wide reputation as an orator. He was a very wealthy man who built large houses and a famous gardens at Maecenas. He travelled to Rome to act as tutor to the adopted sons of Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus (later emperors). He also briefly served as consul before stepping down due to poor health. He died in the 160s as a result of the Antonoine Plague. He left behind two major grammatical treatise and a series of letters. The bulk of his letters concern his correspondence with Antonius Pius, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. His pupils show great affection and respect for their old master.

Archeas of Alexandria

Archeas was born in 124 AD in Alexandria Egypt. He was from a wealthy local family and was educated in Greek, Latin, Philosophy, Rhetoric and Law. He also wrote poetry in Greek. In later life he became fixated on the collection of ancient books and manuscripts. By the time of his death in 185 AD his collection numbered several thousand volumes. His eldest son, Luceas, born 166 AD, would later sell much of his father’s prize collection so that he could buy the support of soldiers in an effort to further an ill-fated military career. Unlike his son, who was murdered by his own soldiers during the rule of Pertinax, Archeas died of natural causes in Alexandria. The full contents of his library have never been recovered.


Gaius Suetonius Tranquilus was a historian from the second century AD. He was born in Italy in 69 AD to a moderate background. During his education he befriended Pliny the Younger, who described Suetonius as “quite studious” and “dedicated to writing.” Pliny proved a useful connection arranging for him to buy property through emperor Trajan. Suetonius later served under Trajan as secretary of studies, before becoming emperor Hadrian’s secretary. In 119 AD he was banished by Hadrian for having an affair with Empress Vibia Sabina. His most celebrated works are his biographies of the Roman rulers from Julius Caesar to Domitian, which collected are entitled, De Vita Caesarum. The work composed of brief biographies was written during the reign of Hadrian to a strict formula: with descriptions of appearance, omens, and family history. It also includes quotations and a chronological history.


Valentinus was an early Christian theologian from the second century. He was born in the Nile Delta and educated in Alexandria in both Christian and Hellenistic-platonic traditions. He later travelled to Rome where he set up a Christian school under Pope Anicetus. He expected to become Pope himself and was disappointed when this ambition was not realized. In later life he withdrew to Cyprus where he died in 160 AD. His thought laid the basis for the Gnostic School of philosophy.

Claudius Aelianus

Claudius Aelianus was an author and rhetorician from the second century AD. Despite being of Roman origin he wrote in Greek and spoke Greek so perfectly that he was known as “honey-tongued.” His two major works are, De Natura Animalium and Varia Historia. The De Natura is a collection of seventeen books that contain brief allegorical stories from natural history. It was an appealing collection of facts and fables about the animal kingdom that invites the reader to ponder contrasts between human and animal behaviour. The Varia Historia is a compendium of biographical and anecdotal fragments that pick up some of the natural world themes of the De Natura as well as exploring cultural customs. Fragments of other works survive, including his “letters from a farmer.”

Diogenes Laertius

Diagones Laertius was a writer from the third century best known for his biographies of Greek philosophers, which provides historians with their principal source for the history of Greek philosophy. He was from the small town of Nicaea in Bithynia. He worked in the first half of the third century during the reign of Alexander Severus. His work on Greek philosophy is historical rather than critical and includes sketches of Anaximander, Clitomachus, Pythagoras, Epicurus and thinkers from the Socratic school.

Heliodorus of Emesa

Heliodorus of Emesa was a writer from the third century AD. He is best known for his celebrated romance novel, Aethiopica, (the Ethiopian story). He hailed from a family of Sun priests and he wrote his celebrated novel before later converting to Christianity. After conversion, he rose to the position of Bishop where the novel proved awkward and he was asked to disown it or resign. Helliodorus chose to resign. The novel follows the fortunes of the daughter of the King and Queen of Ethiopia.

Hippolytus of Rome

Hippolytus of Rome was a theologian from the third century. He was a presbyter in the church of Rome under Pope Zephyrinus. He was well-educated and later accused Zephyrinus of heresy. He was exiled in 235 AD by Emperor Maximinus Thrax and later executed by being dragged to death by wild horses at Ostia. On death his body was returned to Rome. His most celebrated work is his Refutation of all Heresies comprised of ten theologically dense and morally conservative books.

Marius Maximus

Lucius Marius Maximus Perpetuus Aurelianus was a biographer from the third century. He hailed from Africa of Equestrian stock but his father was able to secure his procession into the senatorial order. He enjoyed a military career before entering politics as a senator under Commodus. Towards the end of his life he wrote his most celebrated work, which consisted of biographies of twelve Roman emperors. He wrote it to stand as a continuation of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius.

Mattias of Dacia

Lucius Mattias Numisimas was a historian from second century AD. He hailed from Dacia, and was known as Mattias of Dacia. His only surviving works are fragments of a longer history of the Roman campaigns of the first century AD. The fragments appear poorly researched and were derided by his contemporaries.


Origen Adamantius was an early Christian theologian from the third century AD. He was born to a Christian family in Alexandria and received a standard education in Hellenistic philosophy and Christian scriptures. His father died in the persecution of 202 AD, but Origen was taken into the protection of a wealthy woman. In 203 Origen started work at the Catechetical School of Alexandria, which had been temporarily closed under the persecution of Severus. In later life Origen lived a frugal life, selling his library to ensure self-sufficiency. To ensure he led a pure life he followed Matthews’s advice in 19:12 and castrated himself. Between 251 and 266 the Antonine Plague claimed 5,000 lives a day in Rome. Emperor Decius blamed the plague on Christians for failing to recognize his divine authority and ordered the persecution of many Christians. Origen did not die directly from the persecution, but he was tortured for many days and died of his wounds at the age of 69. His most celebrated work was the massive Hexapla, an Old Testament reproduced in six columns that followed six different textual versions: Hebrew, Hebrew in Greek characters, Septuagint, the Theodotion version, the Aquila of Sinope version and the version by Symmachus. This represented a substantial comparison of the various Greek translations with the original Hebrew text.


Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus was an early Christian author from the third century AD. He hailed from Roman Africa and received a broad education in both the Greek tradition and the growing Christian scripture tradition. He spent his early life in Carthage where he was later ordained. He also worked as a lawyer as is emphasized by his knowledge of Roman Law. His conversion to Christianity was sudden and dramatic, he later stated that he could not imagine a Christian life without a radical act of conversion. “Christians,” he said, “Are made, not born.” He left behind thirty or so major works and many more fragments. The cover subjects such as, polemics, polity and morality. They also include apologetics against paganism and Judaism. His most celebrated work is the Apologeticus, which provides a robust defence of Christianity in the face of Roman paganism.

Aemilius Papinianus

Papiniaus was a jurist from the third century. He was born in Syria and was related to Julia Domna. He studied law under the tutelage of Quintus Cervidius Scaevola and was an intimate friend of emperor Severus, accompanying him on his trip to Britain in 207. He later served as treasurer and Captain of the guard for the emperor. His fortune wavered under emperor Caracalla. Unwilling to rule with his brother Geta, Caracalla ordered the general slaughter of all those associated with him in 212 AD. As part of this purge of 20,000 Caracalla ordered Papiniaus to be beheaded and dragged through the streets of Rome. Papiniaus left works including, Quaestiones, Responsa, Definitiones and De adulteriis.

Alexander of Aphrodisias

Alexander of Aphrodisas was a philosopher from the third century AD. He is best known for his commentaries on Aristotle. He was a native of Aphrodisias and studied under Stoics in Athens towards the end of the second century. He rose to become head of the Peripatetic school in Athens where he taught and lectured. He dedicated one of his principal works, On Fate, to the emperors Septimus Severus and Caracalla. His commentaries on Aristotle attempted to forge a rigorous pure reading. In addition he left behind several original works including On Fate, but also including works on medical and animals matters. His commentaries were thought very highly of in the Islamic world.

Ammonius Saccas

Ammonius Saccas was a philosopher from the third century. He started life as a porter and was of Indian origin. At the age of 28 he arrived in Alexandria to study philosophy. Born to Christians he later rejected his parent’s faith for paganism. His writings and work built on his main principal, namely that the work of Plato and Aristotle was entirely compatible. Among his students in Alexandria was Cassius Longinus.

Cassius Dio

Cocceianus, better known as Cassius Dio, was a historian from the third century who wrote in Greek. He was born to a wealthy family in Nicaea. Despite his family being Roman citizens he always wrote in Greek. He spent most of his life in public service, serving as first a senator under Commodus and later a consul in the year 205 AD. In later life he returned to Nicaea where he died. He is best known for his 80-volume history of Rome. It covers a period of 1,400 years beginning with the arrival of Aeneas through to the year 229 AD. The work is one of the few sources to document the British revolt under Boudica in 60-61 AD.

Cassius Longinus

Cassius Longinus was a rhetorician from the third century AD. He hailed from Syria and travelled widely in his youth. He studied in Alexandria under Ammonius Saccas where he was critical of the current trend towards Neo-Platonism. He left behind writings on many of Plato’s dialogues, often critical of others interpretations. He held fervently that Plato’s ideas existed outside the divine. Longinus was not thought of highly during his lifetime and was described by Plotinus as “no philosopher.” He continued to travel widely throughout his life at one point he offered tactical advice to the Queen Zenobia. When she was defeated by the emperor Aurelian Longinus was executed for his complicity.


Censorinus was a grammarian from the third century AD. His patron was Qunitus Caerellius to whom he dedicated his most famous surviving work, De Die Natali. The work is formed of a natural history of man, alongside elements of astronomy, musicology and religious history. A bright crater on the moon is named after him.


Publius Herennius Dexippus was a historian and statesmen from the third century. He left behind three major historical works: The Events of Alexander, The Scythica (a history of the wars with the Goths) and Chronike Historia.


Diphantus of Alexandria was a mathematician from the third century AD. He is often referred to as the father of algebra. He was born and lived in Alexandria. His best-known work Arithmetica is a collection of problems that give numerical answers to determinate and indeterminate equations. Only six of the original books survive all of them preserved by the Arab world. His work was forgotten by the west during the Dark Ages and only returned to prominence in the fifteenth century.

Gaius Julius Solinus

Gaius Iulius Solinus was a grammarian from the third century AD. His most celebrated work was De Mirabilibus Mundi, (The Wonders of the World). The work consists of lengthy descriptions of various curiosities from antiquity. Much of the work is taken from Pliny’s Natural History.


Iamblichus was a third century philosopher. He hailed from Syria from a wealthy and well connected family. After travelling for his education he returned to Syria and set up his own school in Apameia, near Antioch. His curriculum included the work of Plato and Aristotle. Only a fraction of Iamblichus’ work survives, but he was revered within his lifetime, including winning the favour of Emperor Julian who thought him second only to Plato.

Julius Paulus Prudentissimus

Julius Paulus Prudentissmus was a jurist from the third century who served under emperor Severus. He was of Greek origin and grew up in the town of Patavium in northern Italy. He served as a jurist under Severus but was exiled by his successor, Elagabalus. He was recalled by Alexander Severus and became a chief advisor and prefect of the Praetorian Guard. He left behind over three hundred legal publications.


Herodian of Antioch was a third century civil servant. He was a freedman originally from North Africa who won favour within he Roman administrative system. This gave him access to various records and documents from which he was able to compile an eight book Roman history. His work spans the period from the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD to the beginning of Gordian II’s reign in 238. The work was met with great criticism for its lack of historical accuracy both in Herodian’s time and by subsequent generations.

Pappus of Alexandria

Pappus of Alexandria was a third century Mathematician. He is best known for Pappus’s theorem in projective geometry. His origin is unknown but he was a teacher in Alexandria. Most of his work is collected in Synagoge or Collection eight volumes of theories and mathematical proofs. Pappus’ theorem appears in Book IV.


Plotinus was a philosopher from the third century. He was born in Egypt and did not take up the study of philosophy until the age of 27. He did not warm to any teacher until he encountered Ammonius Saccas whom he later described as “the man I was looking for.” He was also influenced by the Stoics. At the age of 38 he journeyed into Persia and India as part of the army of Gordian III. The campaign was a disaster and Plotinus fled to Antioch. He later travelled to Rome where he taught many students until his death. His students included Porphyry. While in Rome he was a favourite of Emperor Gallienus. In later life Plotinus struggled to work because of poor eyesight. His major contribution was the notion that there is one supreme, transcendent substance that contains no division or multiplicity. It is identifiable with the Platonic concept of Good or Beauty. His work had a great impact on the development of Christian theology for its balance of the Platonist tradition with Christian notions.


Porphyry was a third century philosopher. He hailed from Tyre and was educated in Athens. He travelled to Rome in 262 AD and was taught by Plotinus. He grew depressed in the city and contemplated suicide and so, on Plotinus’ advice, he moved to Sicily for five years to recuperate. He later returned to Rome and lectured in Philosophy and Neo-Platonism. He also completed a biography of his teacher Plotinus. His best-known philosophical work is his Sententiae Ad Intelligibilia Ducentes, which stands as a basic summary of the principles of Neo-Platonism, which also accommodates elements of Aristotle’s logic. Porphyry was a well-known advocate of Paganism and he opposed Christianity throughout his life. His early work De Philosophia ex Oraculis Haurienda was written during the persecution of Christians under Diocletian and Galerius.

Sextus Julius Africanus

Sextus Julius Africanus was a Christian historian from the third century AD. He hailed from Libyan stock and lived in Emmaus. He served in the Roman army under Septimus Severus and travelled widely to Greece, Rome and Alexandria. Despite learning Hebrew he remained a layman. His major work, Chronographai, is a five-book history from Creation to the year 221 AD. It calculates the period between creation and Jesus of Nazareth as 5,500 years. His work provides the main influence for Eusebius.