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Laberius, Decimus

LABERIUS, DECIMUS (c. 105-43 B.C.), Roman knight and writer of mimes. He seems to have been a man of caustic wit, who wrote for his own pleasure. In 45 Julius Caesar ordered him to appear in one of his own mimes in a public contest with the actor Publilius Syrus. Laberius pronounced a dignified prologue on the degradation thus thrust on his sixty years, and directed several sharp allusions against the dictator. Caesar awarded the victory to Publilius, but restored Laberius to his equestrian rank, which he had forfeited by appearing as a mimus (Macrobius, Sat. ii. 7). Laberius was the chief of those who introduced the mimus into Latin literature towards the close of the republican period. He seems to have been a man of learning and culture, but his pieces did not escape the coarseness inherent to the class of literature to which they belonged; and Aulus Gellius (xvi. 7, i) accuses him of extravagance in the coining of new words. Horace (Sat. i. 10) speaks of him in terms of qualified praise.

In addition to the prologue (in Macrobius), the titles of forty-four of his mimi have been preserved ; the fragments have been collected by O. Ribbeck in his Comicorum Latinorum reliquiae (1873).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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