CaecĪna, the name of a distinguished Etruscan family of Volaterrae. Graves have been discovered belonging to the family, whose name is still preserved in the river and hamlet of Cecina.
Aulus Caecina, son of Aulus Caecina who was defended by Cicero (69 B.C.) in a speech still extant, took the side of Pompey in the civil wars, and published a violent tirade against Caesar, for which he was banished. He recanted in a work called Querelae, and by the intercession of his friends, above all, of Cicero, obtained pardon from Caesar. Caecina was regarded as an important authority on the Etruscan system of divination (Etrusca Disciplina), which he endeavoured to place on a scientific footing by harmonizing its theories with the doctrines of the Stoics. Considerable fragments of his work (dealing with lightning) are to be found in Seneca (Naturales Quaestiones, ii. 31-49). Caecina was on intimate terms with Cicero, who speaks of him as a gifted and eloquent man and was no doubt considerably indebted to him in his own treatise De Divinatione. Some of their correspondence is preserved in Cicero's letters (Ad Fam. vi. 5-8; see also ix. and xiii. 66).
Aulus Caecina Alienus, Roman general, was quaestor of Baetica in Spain (A.D. 68). On the death of Nero, he attached himself to Galba, who appointed him to the command of a legion in upper Germany. Having been prosecuted for embezzling public money, Caecina went over to Vitellius, who sent him with a large army into Italy. Caecina crossed the Alps, but was defeated near Cremona by Suetonius Paulinus, the chief general of Otho. Subsequently, in conjunction with Fabius Valens, Caecina defeated Otho at the decisive battle of Bedriacum (Betriacum). The incapacity of Vitellius tempted Vespasian to take up arms against him. Caecina, who had been entrusted with the repression of the revolt, turned traitor, and tried to persuade his army to go over to Vespasian, but was thrown into chains by the soldiers. After the overthrow of Vitellius, he was released, and taken into favour by the new emperor. But he could not remain loyal to any one. In 79 he was implicated in a conspiracy against Vespasian, and was put to death by order of Titus. Caecina is described by Tacitus as a man of handsome presence and boundless ambition, a gifted orator and a great favourite with the soldiers.
Tacitus, Histories, i. 53, 61, 67-70, ii. 20-25, 41-44, iii. 13; Dio Cassius lxv. 10-14, lxvi. 16; Plutarch, Otho, 7; Suetonius, Titus, 6; Zonaras xi. 17.
CaeDMON, the earliest English Christian poet. His story, and even his very name, are known to us only from Baeda (Hist. Eccl. iv. 24). He was, according to Baeda (see Bede), a herdsman, who received a divine call to poetry by means of a dream. One night, having quitted a festive company because, from want of skill, he could not comply with the demand made of each guest in turn to sing to the harp, he sought his bed and fell asleep. He dreamed that there appeared to him a stranger, who addressed him by his name, and commanded him to sing of "the beginning of created things." He pleaded inability, but the stranger insisted, and he was compelled to obey. He found himself uttering "verses which he had never heard." Of Caedmon's song Baeda gives a prose paraphrase, which may be literally rendered as follows: - "Now must we praise the author of the heavenly kingdom, the Creator's power and counsel, the deeds of the Father of glory: how He, the eternal God, was the author of all marvels - He, who first gave to the sons of men the heaven for a roof, and then, Almighty Guardian of mankind, created the earth." Baeda explains that his version represents the sense only, not the arrangement of the words, because no poetry, however excellent, can be rendered into another language, without the loss of its beauty of expression.
When Caedmon awoke he remembered the verses that he had sung and added to them others. He related his dream to the farm bailiff under whom he worked, and was conducted by him to the neighbouring monastery at Streanaeshalch (now called Whitby). The abbess Hild and her monks recognized that the illiterate herdsman had received a gift from heaven, and, in order to test his powers, proposed to him that he should try to render into verse a portion of sacred history which they explained to him. On the following morning he returned having fulfilled his task. At the request of the abbess he became an inmate of the monastery. Throughout the remainder of his life his more learned brethren from time to time expounded to him the events of Scripture history and the doctrines of the faith, and all that he heard from them he reproduced in beautiful poetry. "He sang of the creation of the world, of the origin of mankind and of all the history of Genesis, of the exodus of Israel from Egypt and their entrance into the Promised Land, of many other incidents of Scripture history, of the Lord's incarnation, passion, resurrection and ascension, of the coming of the Holy Ghost and the teaching of the apostles.
He also made many songs of the terrors of the coming judgment, of the horrors of hell and the sweetness of heaven; and of the mercies and the judgments of God." All his poetry was on sacred themes, and its unvarying aim was to turn men from sin to righteousness and the love of God. Although many amongst the Angles had, following his example, essayed to compose religious poetry, none of them, in Baeda's opinion, had approached the excellence of Caedmon's songs.
Baeda's account of Caedmon's deathbed has often been quoted, and is of singular beauty. It is commonly stated that he died in 680, in the same year as the abbess Hild, but for this there is no authority. All that we know of his date is that his dream took place during the period (658-680) in which Hild was abbess of Streanaeshalch, and that he must have died some considerable time before Baeda finished his history in 731.
The hymn said to have been composed by Caedmon in his dream is extant in its original language. A copy of it, in the poet's own Northumbrian dialect, and in a handwriting of the 8th century, appears on a blank page of the Moore MS. of Baeda's History; and five other Latin MSS. of Baeda have the poem (but transliterated into a more southern dialect) as a marginal note. In the old English version of Baeda, ascribed to King Alfred, and certainly made by his command if not by himself, it is given in the text. Probably the Latin MS. used by the translator was one that contained this addition. It was formerly maintained by some scholars that the extant Old English verses are not Baeda's original, but a mere retranslation from his Latin prose version. The argument was that they correspond too closely with the Latin; Baeda's words, "hic est sensus, non autem ordo ipse verborum," being taken to mean that he had given, not a literal translation, but only a free paraphrase. But the form of the sentences in Baeda's prose shows a close adherence to the parallelistic structure of Old English verse, and the alliterating words in the poem are in nearly every case the most obvious and almost the inevitable equivalents of those used by Baeda. The sentence quoted above can therefore have been meant only as an apology for the absence of those poetic graces that necessarily disappear in translations into another tongue.