Marcus Pacuvius was born at Brundisium around 220 BCE. According to Pliny, he was the son of Ennius‘ sister (though Jerome says grandson) and a Romanized Oscan. He was part of the literary circle that surrounded Laelius, though some doubt such a circle even existed. Beyond his tragedies, he was also quite famous for his paintings; Pliny notes that at least one of his paintings survived in the temple of Hercules to his day.


Pacuvius was primarily a tragedian. While none of his tragedies are extant, around 450 lines have been preserved in quotations by later authors. Further, one praetexta is known,  Paullus, about L. Aemilius Paullus’ victory at Pydna in 168 BCE. He may also have written one satura and one comedy.


Pacuvius was better known for his paintings than for his plays, though his plays did still garner much praise. Cicero rated him foremost among the Roman tragedians, though at the same time pointed out oddities in his language. Even Lucilius, a near contemporary, ridiculed him for his habit of compounding different roots together, e.g. repandirostrum, incurvicervicum, and, as noted above, Dulorestes—common in Greek, yet awkward in Latin.

Pacuvius Online

Latin: PHI Latin Texts

Further Reading

  • Gesine Manuwald 2011. Roman Republican Theatre. Cambridge.

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