Titus Pomponius Atticus

Titus Pomponius Atticus (c.110–32 BC; also known as Quintus Caecilius Pomponianus)[1] is best known for his correspondence and close friendship with prominent Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero. Atticus, who was an editor, banker, and patron of letters, was from a wealthy Roman family of the equestrian class (lower aristocratic non-ruling class) and Pomponian ancestry.

Close friends since childhood, Cicero dedicated his work, Laelius de Amicitia (Latin for Treatises on Friendship), to Atticus. Their correspondence, often written in subtle code to disguise their political observations, is preserved in Epistulae ad Atticum (Letters to Atticus) compiled by Tiro, Cicero's slave (later his freedman) and personal secretary.


Born Titus Pomponius in Rome c.November 110 BC, Atticus descended from a family of equestrian rank and was the son of Titus Pomponius and Caecilius Metellus. Growing up, he studied and developed close friendships with Cicero, Lucius Manlius Torquatus, and Gaius Marius the Younger. He is said to have been an excellent student, and in 85 BC, Atticus moved to Athens to further his education, particularly in philosophy. His love of Athens inspired his self-appointed nickname "Atticus", or "Man of Attica", which is mentioned in the fifth book of Cicero's De Finibus (section 4).[2] During his visit to Athens, Julius Caesar was Atticus's guest.

Atticus inherited family money, which he successfully invested in real estate, enhancing his wealth. Using his income to support his love of letters, he had trained Roman slaves as scribes and taught them to make papyrus scrolls, allowing Atticus to publish, amongst other things, the works of his friend Cicero. His editions of Greek authors such as Plato, Demosthenes, and Aeschines were prized for their accuracy in the ancient world.[3] None of Atticus's own writings have survived, but he is known to have written one book (in Ancient Greek) on Cicero's consulship, the Liber Annalis (a work on Roman chronology),and a small amount of Roman poetry.[4]

In 65 BC, Atticus returned from Athens to Rome. In keeping with his Epicurean sympathies, he kept out of politics to the greatest extent possible, except to lend Cicero a helping hand in times of peril — for instance, when Cicero was forced to flee the country in 49 BC, Atticus made him a present of 250,000 sesterces. All in all, his political activity was minimal, though we know that, like Cicero, he belonged to the optimates (the aristocratic party), and held generally conservative views. He was also a partner of the Triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus.[5]

Upon the death of his wealthiest maternal uncle Quintus Caecilius Metellus, Atticus became his adopted son and heir, assuming the name Quintus Caecilius Pomponianus Atticus. Lucius Licinius Lucullus, despite being his personal friend, resented Atticus's receiving an inheritance he felt he was entitled to for his association with the campaign against Mithridates and as Governor of Syria.[6]

Marriage and children

In his later years, he married a relative, Caecilia Pilea/Pilia (c.75 – 46 BC), daughter of Pileus/Pilius and a maternal granddaughter of the Triumvir, Crassus. Atticus and Pilea/Pilia were married in 58/56 BC, when Atticus was already 53/54 years old, and she died after 12 years of happy marriage.[7] She bore him a son of the same name, Titus Pomponius Atticus (of whom little is known), as well as a daughter, Caecilia Pomponia Attica, who became the first wife of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.


Atticus lived out the remainder of his life in Rome. Just after his 77th birthday he fell ill, and at first his ailment appeared minor. But after three months his health suddenly deteriorated. Deciding to accelerate the inevitable, he abstained from ingesting any nourishment, starving himself to death, and dying on the fifth day of such fasting, "which was the 31st March, in the consulship of Cn. Domitius and C. Sosius",[8] that is in the year 32 BC. He was buried at the family tomb located at the Fifth Mile of the Appian Way.


  1. Shackleton Bailey, D. R., ed. (April 1999). Letters to Atticus. I. Harvard University Press. p. 17. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  2. Some histories also refer to Atticus's fondness for all things Athenian, including its tradition of male homosexuality and pederasty.
  3. Lucian, The Ignorant Book Collector (2.24)
  4. Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus (17)
  5. Pierre Grimal, Rome Devant César, p. 93
  6. Pierre Grimal, Rome Devant César, p. 171
  7. Rawson, E.: "Cicero, a portrait" (1975) p. 141
  8. Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus (21–22)


Further reading

External links

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