1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Figulus, Publius Nigidius

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FIGULUS, PUBLIUS NIGIDIUS (c. 98-45 B.C.), Roman savant, next to Varro the most learned Roman of the age. He was a friend of Cicero, to whom he gave his support at the time of the Catilinarian conspiracy (Plutarch, Cicero, 20; Cicero, Pro Sulla, xiv. 42). In 58 he was praetor, sided with Pompey in the Civil War, and after his defeat was banished by Caesar, and died in exile. According to Cicero (Timaeus, i), Figulus endeavoured with some success to revive the doctrines of Pythagoreanism. With this was included mathematics, astronomy and astrology, and even the magic arts. According to Suetonius (Augustus, 94) he foretold the greatness of the future emperor on the day of his birth, and Apuleius (Apologia, 42) records that, by the employment of “magic boys” (magici pueri), he helped to find a sum of money that had been lost. Jerome (the authority for the date of his death) calls him Pythagoricus et magus. The abstruse nature of his studies, the mystical character of his writings, and the general indifference of the Romans to such subjects, caused his works to be soon forgotten. Amongst his scientific, theological and grammatical works mention may be made of De diis, containing an examination of various cults and ceremonials; treatises on divination and the interpretation of dreams; on the sphere, the winds and animals. His Commentarii grammatici in at least 29 books was an ill-arranged collection of linguistic, grammatical and antiquarian notes. In these he expressed the opinion that the meaning of words was natural, not fixed by man. He paid especial attention to orthography, and sought to differentiate the meanings of cases of like ending by distinctive marks (the apex to indicate a long vowel is attributed to him). In etymology he endeavoured to find a Roman explanation of words where possible (according to him frater was = fere alter). Quintilian (Instit. orat. xi. 3. 143) speaks of a rhetorical treatise De gestu by him.

See Cicero, Ad Fam. iv. 13; scholiast on Lucan i. 639; several references in Aulus Gellius; Teuffel, Hist. of Roman Literature, 170; M. Hertz, De N. F. studiis atque operibus (1845); Quaestiones Nigidianae (1890), and edition of the fragments (1889) by A. Swoboda.