|Born||c. 85 BC|
|Died||c. 40 BC|
|Parent(s)||Quintus Cornificius (father)|
The daughter of Quintus Cornificius and the sister of the poet, praetor and augur Cornificius, Cornificia is known to have married a man called Camerius. Jane Stevenson has suggested that this may be the same Camerius who was a friend of the poet Catullus, mentioned in his poem 55.
The fact that Cornificia's brother became both a praetor and an augur indicates that the family was of considerable status. A praetor was a magistrate and/or military commander, while an augur was a priest whose task was to 'take the auspices', interpreting the will of the gods by studying the activities of birds.
All of Cornificia's work has been lost. Her reputation as a poet is based chiefly on the 4th century Chronicle of St Jerome (347–420 AD). In writing of her brother Cornificius, Jerome says "Huius soror Cornificia, cuius insignia extant epigrammata" (His sister was Cornificia, whose distinguished epigrams survive). This must mean that her work was still being read some four hundred years after her death.
|“||She was equal in glory to her brother Cornificius, who was a much renowned poet at that time. Not satisfied with excelling in such a splendid art, inspired by the sacred Muses, she rejected the distaff and turned her hands, skilled in the use of the quill, to writing Heliconian verses... With her genius and labor she rose above her sex, and with her splendid work she acquired a perpetual fame.||”|
The Renaissance humanist and feminist Laura Cereta wrote in a letter to Bibolo Semproni: "Add also Cornificia, the sister of the poet Cornificius, whose devotion to literature bore such a fruit that she was said to have been nurtured on the milk of the Castalian Muses and who wrote epigrams in which every phrase was graced with Heliconian flowers."
A monument to Cornificia and her brother survives in Rome, the inscription reading - CORNIFICIA Q. F. CAMERI Q. CORNIFICIUS Q. F. FRATER PR. AUGUR (Cornificia, the daughter of Quintus, wife of Camerius, [and] her brother Quintus Cornificius, Praetor and Augur).
- Stevenson, Jane: Women Latin Poets: Language, Gender, and Authority from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century, p. 34 (Oxford University Press, May 2005) ISBN 978-0-19-818502-4
- Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, vol. VI, 1300a
- The Chronicle of St Jerome online at tertullian.org (accessed 5 December 2007)
- Boccaccio, Giovanni, Concerning Famous Women, translated by Guido A. Guarino (Rutgers University Press, 1963) p. 188 (Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 63-18945)
- Cereta, Laura, Collected Letters of a Renaissance Feminist, transcribed, translated, and edited by Diana Robin (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1997) pp. 77-78