Domitius Afer

Gnaeus Domitius Afer (died 59) was a Roman orator and advocate, born at Nemausus (Nîmes) in Gallia Narbonensis. He flourished in the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero.[1]

He became praetor in 25 AD, and gained the favor of Tiberius by accusing Claudia Pulchra, the second cousin of Agrippina, of adultery and the use of magic arts against the emperor, in 26 AD.[2] From this time he became one of the most celebrated orators in Rome, but sacrificed his character by conducting accusations for the government. In the following year, 27 AD, he is again mentioned by Tacitus as the accuser of Quinctilius Varus, the son of Claudia Pulchra.[3] In consequence of the accusation of Claudia Pulchra, and of some offense which he had given to Caligula, he was accused by the emperor in the senate, but by concealing his own skill in speaking, and pretending to be overpowered by the eloquence of Caligula, he not only escaped the danger, but was made consul suffectus in 39 AD.[4]

In his old age Afer lost much of his reputation by continuing to speak in public, when his powers were exhausted.[2][5] During the reign of Nero he became superintendent of the city's water supply, but died not long afterwards, in 59 AD,[6] having eaten himself to death, according to Hieronymus in the Chronicon of Eusebius.

Quintilian, when a young man, heard Afer,[7] and frequently speaks of him as the most distinguished orator of his age. He says that Afer and Julius Africanus were the best orators he had heard, and that he prefers the former to the latter,[8] Quintilian refers to a work of his On Testimony,[9] to one entitled Dicta,[10] and to some of his orations, of which those on behalf of Domitilla, or Cloantilla, and Volusenus Catulus seem to have been the most celebrated.[11][12]


  1. ^ Smith, William (1870), "Afer, Domitius", in Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1, Boston, pp. 54, 
  2. ^ a b Tacitus, Annales iv. 52
  3. ^ Tacitus, Annales iv. 66
  4. ^ Cassius Dio, lix. 19, 20
  5. ^ Quintilian, xii. 11. § 3
  6. ^ Tacitus, Annales xiv. 19
  7. ^ comp. Plin. Ep. ii. 14
  8. ^ Quintilian, x. 1. § 118
  9. ^ Quintilian, v. 7. § 7
  10. ^ Quintilian, vi. 3. § 42
  11. ^ Quintilian, viii. 5. § 16, ix. 2. § 20, 3. § 66, 4. § 31, x. 1. § 24, &c.
  12. ^ Respecting the will of Domitius Afer, see Plin. Ep. viii. 18.
Preceded by
Marcus Aquila Iulianus and Publius Nonius Asprenas
Suffect Consul of the Roman Empire
suffect consul under Caligula with Lucius Apronius Caesianus; and Quintus Sanquinius Maximus, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, Aulus Didius Gallus suffects
39 AD
Succeeded by

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology by William Smith (1870). This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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