Text #9582"Titus Pomponius Atticus", in .
Quintus Caecilius Pomponianus (born Titus Pomponius; c. November 110 – 31 March 32 BC), better known by his cognomen Atticus, was a celebrated editor, banker, and patron of letters from an old but not strictly noble Roman family of the equestrian class and the gens Pomponia. He is best remembered as the closest friend of orator and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero as well as other leading contemporaries of upper class Roman society. Cicero’s treatise on friendship, De Amicitia was dedicated to him. **Their correspondence, often written in subtle code to disguise their political observations, is preserved in Epistulae ad Atticum **compiled by Cicero’s freedman and personal secretary, Marcus Tullius Tiro. Atticus was known for his elegant taste, sound judgment and financial acumen.
Descended from a family of equestrian rank, Atticus was born and raised in Rome, the son of Titus Pomponius and wife Caecilia Metella. As a young man, he was educated together with “L. Torquatus, the younger C. Marius, and M. Cicero, with all of whom he became so intimate that as long as he lived no one was dearer to them” [Nepos, Atticus 1.5]. He is said to have been an excellent student, and in 85 BC Atticus travelled to Athens, where he spent his infancy and did his studies, immersed himself in literature and philosophy. He so loved Athens and its culture that he took upon himself the nickname “Atticus”, or “Man of Attica”, which is alluded to in the fifth book of Cicero’s De Finibus (section 4). Gaius Julius Caesar was his guest when in Athens.
Atticus’s wealth grew by inheritance and through his skilful dealings in real estate. Using this wealth to support his love of letters, he maintained a staff of slaves trained as copyists and skilled in making up the papyrus scrolls which ancient books were written on, and published, amongst other things, the works of his friend Cicero. As for Atticus’s own literary works, he is said to have written a single book (in Greek) on the consulate of Cicero, as well as a small amount of poetry. None of his writings have survived. Besides his vast and intimate correspondence with Cicero, he is also said to have written some remarkable Memoires.
In 65 BC, Atticus returned 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.
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.
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. 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”,] that is in the year 32 BC. He was buried at the family tomb located at the Fifth Mile of the Appian Way.
Shackleton Bailey, D. R., ed. (April 1999). Letters to Atticus I. Harvard University Press. p. 17. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
Some histories also refer to Atticus’s fondness for all things Athenian, including its tradition of male homosexuality and pederasty.
Pierre Grimal, Rome Devant César, p. 93
Pierre Grimal, Rome Devant César, p. 171
Rawson, E.: “Cicero, a portrait” (1975) p. 141
Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus (21–22)