Marcus Cornelius Fronto
Marcus Cornelius Fronto Roman grammarian, rhetorician and advocate, was born at Cirta
Cirta was the capital city of the ancient Kingdom of Numidia in northern Africa . Its strategically important port city was Russicada...

 in Numidia
Numidia was an ancient Berber kingdom in part of present-day Eastern Algeria and Western Tunisia in North Africa. It is known today as the Chawi-land, the land of the Chawi people , the direct descendants of the historical Numidians or the Massyles The kingdom began as a sovereign state and later...

. He also was suffect consul of 142.


Fronto, who was born a Roman citizen c. 95 in the Numidian capital Cirta
Cirta was the capital city of the ancient Kingdom of Numidia in northern Africa . Its strategically important port city was Russicada...

, calls himself, writing in Greek, "a Libyan
Ancient Libya
The Latin name Libya referred to the region west of the Nile Valley, generally corresponding to modern Northwest Africa. Climate changes affected the locations of the settlements....

 [= African] of the Libyan Nomades [= Numidians]."

He was educated at Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, and soon gained such renown as an advocate and orator as to be reckoned inferior only to Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

. He amassed a large fortune, erected magnificent buildings and purchased the famous gardens of Maecenas
Gardens of Maecenas
The Gardens of Maecenas, built by the Augustan era patron of the arts Gaius Maecenas, were the first gardens in the Hellenistic-Persian garden style in Rome...

. Antoninus Pius
Antoninus Pius
Antoninus Pius , also known as Antoninus, was Roman Emperor from 138 to 161. He was a member of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty and the Aurelii. He did not possess the sobriquet "Pius" until after his accession to the throne...

, hearing of his fame, appointed him tutor to his adopted sons Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus
Lucius Verus
Lucius Verus , was Roman co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius, from 161 until his death.-Early life and career:Lucius Verus was the first born son to Avidia Plautia and Lucius Aelius Verus Caesar, the first adopted son and heir of Roman Emperor Hadrian . He was born and raised in Rome...


In 142 he was consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

 for two months, but declined the proconsulship of Asia on the grounds of ill-health. His latter years were embittered by the loss of all his children except one daughter. His talents as an orator and rhetorician were greatly admired by his contemporaries, a number of whom were later regarded as forming a school called after him Frontoniani; his object in his teaching was to inculcate the exact use of the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 language in place of the artificialities of such first-century authors as Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

, and encourage the use of "unlooked-for and unexpected words", to be found by diligent reading of pre-Ciceronian authors. He found fault with Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 for inattention to that refinement, though admiring his letters without reserve. he may well have died in the late 160s, as a result of the Antonine Plague
Antonine Plague
The Antonine Plague, AD 165–180, also known as the Plague of Galen, who described it, was an ancient pandemic, either of smallpox or measles, brought back to the Roman Empire by troops returning from campaigns in the Near East...

 that followed the Parthian War
Roman–Parthian War of 161–66
The Roman–Parthian War of 161–166 was fought between the Roman and Parthian Empires over Armenia and upper Mesopotamia...

, though conclusive proof is lacking.

Surviving works

Until 1815, the only extant works ascribed (erroneously) to Fronto were two grammatical treatises, De nominum verborumque differentiis and Exempla elocutionum (the last being really by Arusianus Messius). In that year, Angelo Mai
Angelo Mai
Angelo Mai was an Italian Cardinal and philologist. He won a European reputation for publishing for the first time a series of previously unknown ancient texts. These he was able to discover and publish, first while in charge of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan and then in the same role at the...

 discovered in the Ambrosian library at Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 a palimpsest
A palimpsest is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped off and which can be used again. The word "palimpsest" comes through Latin palimpsēstus from Ancient Greek παλίμψηστος originally compounded from πάλιν and ψάω literally meaning “scraped...

 manuscript, on which had been originally written some of Fronto's letters to his imperial pupils and their replies; four years later Mai found several more sheets from this manuscript in the Vatican. These palimpsests had originally belonged to the famous convent of St Columbanus at Bobbio
Bobbio is a small town and commune in the province of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy. It is located in the Trebbia River valley southwest of the town Piacenza. There is also an abbey and a diocese of the same name...

, and had been written over by the monks with the acts of the First Council of Chalcedon
Council of Chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451 AD, at Chalcedon , on the Asian side of the Bosporus. The council marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates that led to the separation of the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 5th...


The letters, together with the other fragments in the palimpsest, were published at Rome, so far as available in the Ambrosian palimpsest, in 1815. The Vatican texts were added in 1823, as well as the end of his Gratiarum actio pro Carthaginiensibus from another Vatican manuscript. It was not until 1956 that Bernhard Bischoff identified a third manuscript (consisting of a single leaf) that contained fragments of Fronto's correspondence with Verus, which overlapped the Milan palimpsest; however, the actual manuscript had been first published in 1750 by Dom Tassin, who conjectured that it might have been the work of Fronto.

These fragments disappointed Romantic scholars as not matching the writer's great reputation, partly because Fronto's teachings, with their emphasis on studying ancient writers in search of striking words, were not in accordance with current fashion (Italy, where not only Mai but Leopardi enthused over them, was an exception), partly because they gave no support to the assumption that Fronto had been a wise counsellor to Marcus Aurelius (indeed, they contain no trace of political advice), partly because his frequent complaints about ill-health, especially those collected in book 5 of Ad M. Caesarem, aroused more annoyance than compassion; these adverse judgements were reversed once Fronto was read for what he was rather than what he was not, as already in the sympathetic treatment by Dorothy Brock, Studies in Fronto and his Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911).

The bulk of the letters consist of correspondence with Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, in which the character of Fronto's pupils appears in a very favourable light, especially in the affection they both seem to have retained for their old master There are also letters to friends, chiefly letters of recommendation, but including one (Ad amicos 1. 19) in which an out-of-sorts Fronto (ego epistulas invitissime scribo, "I hate writing letters") complains of Aulus Gellius
Aulus Gellius
Aulus Gellius , was a Latin author and grammarian, who was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome. He was educated in Athens, after which he returned to Rome, where he held a judicial office...

' attempts to procure copies of his writings for publication. (Fronto appears in five chapters of the Noctes Atticae, though expressing tastes that sometime seem closer to Gellius' own than to those evinced in the letters.) The collection also contains treatises on eloquence, some historical fragments, and literary trifles on such subjects as the praise of smoke and dust, of negligence, and a dissertation on Arion
Arion was a kitharode in ancient Greece, a Dionysiac poet credited with inventing the dithyramb: "As a literary composition for chorus dithyramb was the creation of Arion of Corinth," The islanders of Lesbos claimed him as their native son, but Arion found a patron in Periander, tyrant of Corinth...

. In addition, a fragment of a speech is preserved by Minucius Felix (Octavius 9. 6-7) in which Fronto accuses the Christians of incestuous orgies.

Marcus Aurelius, in his Meditations
Meditations is a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor 161–180 CE, setting forth his ideas on Stoic philosophy....

, says nothing of Fronto's rhetorical teaching; nor, although writing in Greek, does he so much as mention his teacher of Greek rhetoric and longtime friend Herodes Atticus
Herodes Atticus
Lucius Vibullius Hipparchus Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes, otherwise known as Herodes Atticus was a very distinguished, rich Greek aristocrat who served as a Roman Senator and a Sophist. He is notable as a proponent in the Second Sophistic by Philostratus.-Ancestry and Family:Herodes Atticus...

. He does, however, credit Fronto with teaching him about the vices of tyranny and the lack of affection in the Roman upper class (1. 11); since the former were commonplaces, there may be a concealed reference to life under Hadrian, whom Fronto retrospectively claims to have feared rather than loved, but the latter is borne out by the master's remark that there is no Latin equivalent for the Greek philóstorgos, meaning "affectionate".

The editio princeps
Editio princeps
In classical scholarship, editio princeps is a term of art. It means, roughly, the first printed edition of a work that previously had existed only in manuscripts, which could be circulated only after being copied by hand....

was by Mai, as described above; the standard edition is the Teubner text by M. van den Hout (Leipzig, 1988). The Loeb Classical Library
Loeb Classical Library
The Loeb Classical Library is a series of books, today published by Harvard University Press, which presents important works of ancient Greek and Latin Literature in a way designed to make the text accessible to the broadest possible audience, by presenting the original Greek or Latin text on each...

 printed an edition of Fronto's correspondence with a facing English translation by C. R. Haines in two volumes (1919–1920); its text, however, is now obsolete. Van den Hout also published a full-scale commentary in English (Leiden, 1999).

External links

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