Decimus Laberius

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Decimus Laberius (c. 105 BC – 43 BC) was a Roman eques and writer of mimes (farces).


Laberius seems to have been a man of caustic wit, who wrote for his own pleasure. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar ordered him to appear in one of his own plays 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, including apparently predicting Caesar's demise: Needs must he fear, who makes all else adread.[1] Later that day, he added:

None the first place for ever can retain -
But, ever as the topmost round you gain,
Painful your station there and swift your fall.[2]

Caesar awarded the victory to Publilius, but restored Laberius to his equestrian rank, which he had forfeited by appearing as a mimus. 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 accuses him of extravagance in the coining of new words. Horace speaks of him in terms of qualified praise.[3]


  1. ^ Barrell, John (2000). Imagining the King's Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide 1793-1796. Oxford University Press. p. 652.
  2. ^ Smith, William (1880). A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: John Murray. p. volume 2, 695.
  3. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Laberius, Decimus". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 3.

Further reading[edit]

  • An edition and English translation of the surviving fragments of his work by Costas Panayotakis were published in January 2010 as no 46 in Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries (ISBN 978-0-521-88523-2).