Of the details of the life of Frontinus we are but scantily informed. His personality, as will be shown, stands out in his works in no ambiguous fashion, but the events of his career, so far as we can glean them, are few, disjointed and indefinite. Even the year of his birth is not known, but since Tacitus2 speaks of him as praetor urbanus in the year 70 a.d., we may infer that he was born not far from the year 35.
Of his family and of his birthplace we know as little. His family name, Julius, and the fact that he held the office of water commissioner, which, as he tells us,3 was from olden times administered by the most eminent men of the State, would point to patrician descent. His writings on surveying,4 so far as we have knowledge of them, betray the teachings of the Alexandrian school of mathematics, especially of Hero of Alexandria, and it is not unlikely that he was educated in that city.
He was three times elected consul, first in 73 or
- 1The biographical sketch here given is taken largely from Professor Bennett’s article, “A Roman Waring” (Atlantic Monthly, March 1902), to which the reader is referred for a fuller and very sympathetic account of Frontinus as water commissioner, and from Herschel’s Life and Works of Frontinus.
- 2Hist. iv. 39.
- 3De Aquis, 1, p. 331.
- 4Cf. p. xviii.