A contemporary and intimate friend of Ennius, he was born in the territory of the Insubrian Gauls, and was probably taken as a prisoner to Rome (c. 200), during the great Gallic war. Originally a slave, he assumed the name of Caecilius from his patron, probably one of the Metelli. He supported himself by adapting Greek plays for the Roman stage from the new comedy writers, especially Menander. If the statement in the life of Terence by Suetonius is correct and the reading sound, Caecilius's judgment was so esteemed. that he was ordered to hear Terence's Andria (exhibited 166 BC) read and to pronounce an opinion upon it.
After several failures Caeciius gained a high reputation. Volcacius Sedigitus, the dramatic critic, places him first amongst the comic poets; Varro credits him with pathos and skill in the construction of his plots; Horace (Epistles, ii. I. 59) contrasts his dignity with the art of Terence. Quintilian (Inst. Orat., x. I. 99) speaks somewhat disparagingly of him, and Cicero, although he admits with some hesitation that Caecilius may have been the chief of the comic poets (De Optimo Genere Oratorum, I), considers him inferior to Terence in style and Latinity (Ad Alt. vii. 3), as was only natural, considering his foreign extraction.
The fact that his plays could be referred to by name alone without any indication of the author (Cicero, De Finibus, ii. 7) is sufficient proof of their widespread popularity. Caecilius holds a place between Plautus and Terence in his treatment of the Greek originals; he did not, like Plautus, confound things Greek and Roman, nor, like Terence, eliminate everything that could not be romanized.
The fragments of his plays are chiefly preserved in Aulus Gellius, who cites several passages from the Ploczum (necklace) together with the original Greek of Menander. The translation which is diffuse and by no means close, fails to reproduce the spirit of the original. Fragments in Ribbeck, Scaenscae Romanorum Poesis Fragmenta (1898); see also WS Teuffel, Caecilius Statius, &c. (1858); Mommsen, Hist. of Rome (Eng. tr.), bk. iii. ch. 14; F Skutsch in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie (1897).
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.