C. CORNELIUS GALLUS, a contemporary of Augustus, distinguished himself as a general, and still more as a poet and an orator.
He was a native of Forum Julii (Frejus), in Gaul, and of very humble origin, perhaps the son of some freedman either of Sulla or Cinna.
Hieronymus, in Eusebius, states that Gallus died at the age of forty (others read forty-three); and, as we know from Dion Cassius that he died in B. C. 26,
he must have been born either in B. C. 66 or 69. He appears to have gone to Italy at an early age, and it would seem that he was instructed by the Epicurean Syron, together with Varus and Virgil, both of whom became greatly attached to him. He began his career as a poet about the age of twenty, and seems thereby to have attracted the attention and won the friendship of such men as Asinius Pollio. When Octavianus, after the murder of Caesar, came to Italy from Apollonia,
Gallus must have embraced his party at once, for henceforth he appears as a man of great influence with Octavianns, and in B. C. 41
he was one of the triumviri appointed by Octavianus to distribute the land in the north of Italy among his veterans, and on that occasion he distinguished himself by the protection he afforded to the inhabitants of Mantua and
Gallus afterwards accompanied Octavianus to the battle of Actium, B. C. 31, when he commanded a detachment of the army.
After the battle, when Octavianus was obliged to go from Samos to Italy, to suppre s the insurrection among the troops, he sent Gallus with the army to Egypt, in pursuit of Antony.
In the neighbourhood of Cyrene, Pinarius Scarpus, one of Antony's lieutenants, in despair, surrendered, with four legions, to Gallus, who then took possession of the island of Pharus, and attacked Paraetonium.
When this town and all its treasures had fallen into the hands of Gallus, Antony hastened thither, hoping to recover what was lost, either by bribery or by force; but Gallus thwarted his schemes, and, in an attack which he made on Antony's fleet in the harbour of Paraetonium, he sunk and burnt many of the enemy's ships, whereupon Antony withdrew.
After the death of Cleopatra, Octavianus constituted Egypt a Roman province, with peculiar regulations, and appointed Gallus its first prefect.
He remained in that country for nearly four years, and seems to have made various useful regulations in his province; but his elevated position appears to have rendered him giddy and insolent, whereby he drew upon himself the hatred of Augustus.
The exact nature of his offence is not certain. According to Dion Cassius, he spoke of Augustus in an offensive and insulting manner; he erected numerous statues of himself in Egypt, and had his own exploits inscribed on the pyramids.
This excited the hostility of Valerius Largus, who had before been his intimate friend, but now denounced him to the Emperor.
Augustus deprived him of his post, and forbade him to stay in any of his provinces.
One accuser after another now came forward against him, and the charges were referred to the Senate for investigation.
That body deplived Gallus of his estates, and sent him into exile; but, unable to bear up against these reverses of fortune, he put an end to his life by throwing himself upon his sword, B. C. 26. Other writers mention as the cause of his fall mertly the disrespectful way in which he spoke of Augustus, or that he was suspected of forming a conspiracy, or that he was accused of extortion in his province.
The intimate friendship existing between Gallus and the most eminent men of the time, as Asinius Pollio, Virgil, Varus, and Ovid, and the high praise they bestow upon him sufficiently attest that Gallus was a man of great intellectual powers and acquirements.
Ovid assigns to him the first place among the Roman elegiac poets; and we know that he wrote a collection of elegies in four books, the principle subject of which was his love of Lycoris.
But all his productions have perished, and we can judge of his merits only by what his contemporaries say about him.
Some critics attribute to him the poem Ciris, usually printed among the works of Virgil; but the arguments do not appear satisfactory.
Of his oratory, too, not a trace has come down to us. The Greek Anthology contains two epigrams under the name of Gallus' but who their author was is altogether uncertain.