Sempronius Asellio

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Publius Sempronius Asellio (born around 158 BC, died after 91 BC)[1] was an early Roman historian and one of the first writers of historiographic work in Latin. He was a military tribune of P. Scipio Aemilianus Africanus at the siege of Numantia in Hispania in 134 B.C. Later he joined the circle of writers centred on Scipio Aemilianus. Asellio wrote the history of the events of which he was engaged in,[2] and thus preceded Caesar in his more famous accounts of his military campaigns.


Asellio, whose background is unknown, probably belonged to the prestigious plebeian gens Sempronia. He was greatly influenced by his co-writer Polybius, who was supported by Scipio Aemilianus. Polybius attempted not only to record events as they took place, but also to look for the causes that led to them. Asellio was the first Roman historian to follow this method2.[3] In his work, he showed contempt for the previous Roman historians of the annalistic school. According to him, they wrote nothing else than a diary as far as form was concerned.[4][5]


Sempronius Asellio composed the Rerum Gestarum Libri (sometimes cited as Historiae or libri rerum gestarum) in at least fourteen books, where he dealt mostly with the events of the Third Punic War (149-146 BC) onwards.[6] But it is also possible he only started recording history after Polybius stopped at 146 B.C. The last reported events in Asellio's work date from the year 91 BC or even 83 BC.

Cicero did not think highly of Asellio's work and spoke slightingly of its simple style. Nothing apart from 15 citations preserved in later authors (Aulus Gellius and some grammarians) survives of his work.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Liv. lxxiv. Epit.
  2. ^ Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 2.13.3 .
  3. ^ Smith, W., Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. Digitized copy in Ancient Library. Retrieved 14 September 2007.
  4. ^ Asellio cited by Gellius 5.18.7-9 .
  5. ^ Bruno Gentili, Giovanni Cerri, La letteratura di Roma arcaica e l'ellenismo. Con la collaborazione di Salvatore Monda. Biblioteca Aragno. Torino: Nino Aragno Editore, 2005. Chapter 7.
  6. ^ Crutwell, Charles Thomas (M.A.) A History of Roman Literature: From the Earliest Period to the Death of Marcus Aurelius (1877) Book I Chapter IX

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