Publius Papinius Statius
Biography of Publius Papinius Statius
Publius Papinius Statius (c. 45, in Naples – c. 96 AD, in Naples) was a Roman poet of the 1st century CE (Silver Age of Latin literature). Besides his poetry in Latin, which include an epic poem, the Thebaid, a collection of occasional poetry, the Silvae, and the unfinished epic, the Achilleid, he is best known for his appearance as a major character in the Purgatory section of Dante's epic poem The Divine Comedy.
A painting (the Daphnephoria) by Frederic Leighton showing a musical competition similar to the competitions Statius and his father excelled in.
Information about Statius' life is almost entirely drawn from his Silvae and a mention by the satirist Juvenal. He was born to a family of Graeco-Campanian origin; his Roman cognomen suggests that at some time an ancestor of his was freed and adopted the name of his former master, although neither Statius nor his father were slaves. The poet's father (whose name is unknown) was a native of Velia but later moved to Naples and spent time in Rome where he taught with marked success. From boyhood to adulthood, Statius' father proved himself a champion in the poetic contests at Naples in the Augustalia and in the Nemean, Pythian, and Isthmian games, which served as important events to display poetic skill during the early empire. Statius declares in his lament for his father (Silv. 5.3) that his father was in his time equal to any literary task, whether in prose or verse. He mentioned Mevania, and may have spent time there, or been impressed by the confrontation of Vitellius and Vespasian in 69. Statius' father was a Roman eques, but may have lost his status because of money troubles. At Naples, he was a teacher of Greek and Roman literature who attracted many pupils who were destined for religious offices in Rome. He died in 79 CE.