1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pollio, Gaius Asinius
POLLIO, GAIUS ASINIUS (76 B.C.–A.D. 5; according to some, 75 B.C.–A.D. 4), Roman orator, poet and historian. In 54 he impeached unsuccessfully C. Porcius Cato, who in his tribunate (56) had acted as the tool of the triumvirs. In the civil war between Caesar and Pompey Pollio sided with Caesar, was present at the battle of Pharsalus (48), and commanded against Sextus Pompeius in Spain, where he was at the time of Caesar’s assassination. He subsequently threw in his lot with M. Antonius. In the division of the provinces, Gaul fell to Antony, who entrusted Pollio with the administration of Gallia Transpadana. In superintending the distribution of the Mantuan territory amongst the veterans, he used his influence to save from confiscation the property of the poet Virgil. In 40 he helped to arrange the peace of Brundisium by which Octavian (Augustus) and Antonius were for a time reconciled. In the same year Pollio entered upon his consulship, which had been promised him in 43. It was at this time that Virgil addressed the famous fourth eclogue to him. Next year Pollio conducted a successful campaign against the Parthini, an Illyrian people who adhered to Brutus, and celebrated a triumph on the 25th of October. The eighth eclogue of Virgil was addressed to Pollio while engaged in this campaign. From the spoils of the war he constructed the first public library at Rome, in the Atrium Libertatis, also erected by him (Pliny, Nat. hist. xxxv. 10), which he adorned with statues of the most celebrated authors, both Greek and Roman. Thenceforward he withdrew from active life and devoted himself to literature. He seems to have maintained to a certain degree an attitude of independence, if not of opposition, towards Augustus. He died in his villa at Tusculum, regretted and esteemed by all.
Pollio was a distinguished orator; his speeches showed ingenuity and care, but were marred by an affected archaism (Quintilian, Inst. x. 1, 113; Seneca, Ep. 100). He wrote tragedies also, which Virgil (Ecl. viii. 10) declared to be worthy of Sophocles, and a prose history of the civil wars of his time from the first triumvirate (60) down to the death of Cicero (43) or later. This history, in the composition of which Pollio received assistance from the grammarian Ateius Praetextatus, was used as an authority by Plutarch and Appian (Horace, Odes, ii. 1; Tacitus, Annals, iv. 34). As a literary critic Pollio was very severe. He censured Sallust (Suetonius, Gram. 10) and Cicero (Quintilian, Inst. xii. 1, 22) and professed to detect in Livy's style certain provincial isms of his native Padua (Quintilian, i. 5, 56, viii. 1, 3); he attacked the Commentaries of Julius Caesar, accusing their author of carelessness and credulity, if not of deliberate falsification (Suet. Caesar, 56). Pollio was the first Roman author who recited his writings to an audience of his friends, a practice which afterwards became common at Rome. The theory that Pollio was the author of the Bellum africanum, one of the supplements to Caesar's Commentarii, has met with little support. All his writings are lost except a few fragments of his speeches (H. Meyer, Orat. rom. frag., 1842), and three letters addressed to Cicero (Ad. Fam. x. 31-33).
See Plutarch, Caesar, Pompey; Vell. Pat. ii. 36, 63, 73, 76; Florus iv. I2, 11; Dio Cassius xlv. 10, xlviii. 15; Appian, Bell. civ.; V. Gardthausen, Augustus und seine Zeit (1891), i.; P. Groebe, in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie (1896), ii. pt. 2; Teuffel-Schwaben, Hist. of Roman Literature (Eng. trans), § 221; M. Schanz, Geschichte der römischen Litteratur, pt. 2, p. 20 (2nd ed., 1899); Cicero, Letters, ed. Tyrrell and Purser, vi. introd. p. 80.