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A History of Roman Literature by Charles Thomas Cruttwell

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The present work is designed mainly for Students at our Universities and
Public Schools, and for such as are preparing for the Indian Civil Service
or other advanced Examinations. The author hopes, however, that it may
also be acceptable to some of those who, without being professed scholars,
are yet interested in the grand literature of Rome, or who wish to refresh
their memory on a subject that perhaps engrossed their early attention,
but which the many calls of advancing life have made it difficult to

All who intend to undertake a thorough study of the subject will turn to
Teuffel's admirable History, without which many chapters in the present
work could not have attained completeness; but the rigid severity of that
exhaustive treatise makes it fitter for a book of reference for scholars
than for general reading even among students. The author, therefore,
trusts he may be pardoned for approaching the History of Roman Literature
from a more purely literary point of view, though at the same time without
sacrificing those minute and accurate details without which criticism
loses half its value. The continual references to Teuffel's work,
excellently translated by Dr. W. Wagner, will bear sufficient testimony to
the estimation in which the author holds it, and the obligations which he
here desires to acknowledge.

He also begs to express his thanks to Mr. John Wordsworth, of B. N. C.,
Oxford, for many kind suggestions, as well as for courteous permission to
make use of his _Fragments and Specimens of Early Latin_; to Mr. H. A.
Redpath, of Queen's College, Oxford, for much valuable assistance in
correction of the proofs, preparation of the index, and collation of
references, and to his brother, Mr. W. H. G. Cruttwell, for verifying
citations from the post-Augustan poets.

To enumerate all the sources to which the present Manual is indebted would
occupy too much space here, but a few of the more important may be
mentioned. Among German writers, Bernhardy and Ritter--among French,
Boissier, Champagny, Diderot, and Nisard--have been chiefly used. Among
English scholars, the works of Dunlop, Conington, Ellis, and Munro, have
been consulted, and also the _History of Roman Literature_, reprinted from
the _Encyclopaedia Metropolitana_, a work to which frequent reference is
made, and which, in fact, suggested the preparation of the present volume.

It is hoped that the Chronological Tables, as well as the list of Editions
recommended for use, and the Series of Test Questions appended, will
materially assist the Student.

_November_, 1877.



Roman and Greek Literature have their periods of study--Influence of each
--Exactness of Latin language--Greek origin of Latin literature--Its three
great periods: (1) The Ante-Classical Period; (2) The Golden Age; (3) The




_On the Earliest Remains of the Latin Language._

Early inhabitants of Italy--Italic dialects--Latin--Latin alphabet--Later
innovations--Pronunciation--Spelling--Early Monuments--Song of Fratres
Arvales--Salian Hymn--Law of Romulus--Laws of Twelve Tables--Treaty
between Rome and Carthage--_Columna Rastrata_--Epitaphs of the Scipios--
_Senatus Consultum de Bacchanalibus_--Break-up of the language.

APPENDIX.--Examples of late corrupted dialects


_On the Beginnings of Roman Literature._

The Latin character--Romans a practical people--Their religion unromantic
--Primitive culture of Latium--Germs of drama and epos--No early
historians--Early speeches--Ballad literature--No early Roman epos--Poets
despised--_Fescenninae_--_Saturae_--_Mime_ or _Planipes_--_Atellanae_-
Saturnian metre--Early interest in politics and law as giving the germs of
oratory and jurisprudence.


_The Introduction of Greek Literature--Livius and Naevius_ (240-204 B.C.).

Introduction of Greek literature to Rome--Its first translators--Livius
Andronicus--His translation of the _Odyssey_, Tragedies, &c.--Cn.
Naevius--Inventor of _Praetextae_--Style--A politician--Writer of the
first national epic poem--His exile and death--Cicero's opinion of him--
His epitaph.


_Roman Comedy--Plautus to Turpilius_ (254-103 B.C.).

The Roman theatre--Plan of construction--Comedy--Related to Athenian
Middle and New Comedy--Plautus--His plays--Their plots and style--
_Palliatae_ and _Togatae_--His metres--Caecilius--Admires Terence--
Terence--His intimate friends--His style--Use of _contamination_--Lesser


_Roman Tragedy: Ennius--Accius_ (233-94 B.C.).

Contrast between Greek and Roman tragedy--Oratorical form of Latin
tragedy--Ennius--The father of Roman poetry--His _humamitas_--Relations
with Scipio--A follower of Pythagoras--His tragedies--Pacuvius--Painter
and tragedian--Cicero's criticism of his _Niptra_--His epitaph--L. Accius
--The last tragic writer--A reformer of spelling.

APPENDIX.--On some fragments of Sueius or Suevius.


_Epic Poetry: Ennius--Furius_ (200-100 B.C.).

Naevius and Ennius--Olympic deities and heroes of Roman story--Hexameter
of Ennius--Its treatment--Matius--Hostius--Furius.


_The Early History of Satire: Ennius to Lucilius_ (200-103 B.C.).

Roman satire a native growth--Origin of word "_Saturae_"--It is
didactic--Not necessarily poetical in form--Ennius--Pacuvius--Lucilius--
The objects of his attack--His popularity--His humility--His style and


_The Minor Departments of Poetry--The Atellanae (Pomponius and
Novius, circ. 90 B.C.) and the Epigram (Ennius--Callus, 100 B. C.)._

_Atellanae_--Oscan in origin--Novius--Pomponius--Mummius--Epigrammatists--
Catulus--Porcius Licinius--Pompilius--Valerius Aedituus.


_Prose Literature--History. Fabius Pictor--Macer_ (210-80 B.C.).

Early records--_Annales, Libri Lintei, Commentarii_, &c.--Narrow view of
history--Fabius--Cincius Alimentus--Cato--Creator of Latin prose--His
orations--His _Origines_--His treatise on agriculture--His miscellaneous
writings--_Catonis dicta_--Calpurnius Piso--Sempronius Asellio--Claudius
Quadrigarius Valerius Antias--Licinius Macer.

APPENDIX.--On the _Annales Pontificum_.


_The History of Oratory before Cicero._

Comparison of English, Greek, and Roman oratory--Appius-Cornelius
Cethegus--Cato--Laelius--The younger Scipio--Galba--Carbo--The Gracchi--
Self-praise of ancient orators--Aemilius Scaurus--Rutilius--Catulus--A
violent death often the fate of a Roman orator--M. Antonius--Crassus--The
Roman law-courts--Bribery and corruption prevalent in them--Feelings and
prejudices appealed to--Cotta and Sulpicius--Carbo the younger--
Hortensius--His friendship for Cicero--Asiatic and Attic styles.


_Other kinds of Prose Literature: Grammar, Rhetoric, and Philosophy_
(147-63 B.C.).

Legal writers--P. Mucius Scaevola--Q. Mucius Scaevola--Rhetoric--
Plotius Gallus--Cornificius--Grammatical science--Aelius Stilo--
Philosophy--Amafinius--Rabirius--Relation of philosophy to







The two Divisions of this culminating period--Classical authors--Varro
--His life, his character, his encyclopaedic mind--His _Menippean
Satires_--_Logistorici_-_Antiquities Divine and Human_--_Imagines_--_De
Lingua Latina_--_De Re Rustica_.

APPENDIX.--Note I. The Menippean Satires of Varro,
" II. The _Logistorici_,
" III. Fragments of Atacinus,
" IV. The Jurists, Critics, and Grammarians of less note.


_Oratory and Philosophy--Cicero_ (106-43 B.C.).

Cicero--His life--_Pro Roscio_--_In Verrem_--_Pro Cluentio_--_Pro lege
Manilia_--_Pro Rabirio_--Cicero and Clodius--His exile--_Pro Milone_--His
_Philippics_--Criticism of his oratory--Analysis of _Pro Milone_--His
Philosophy, moral and political--On the existence of God and the human
soul--List of his philosophical works--His rhetorical works--His letters--
His contemporaries and successors.

APPENDIX.--Poetry of M. and Q. Cicero.


_Historical and Biographical Composition--Caesar--Nepos--Sallust._

Roman view of history--Caesar's _Commentaries_--Trustworthiness of his
statements--His style--A. Hirtius--Other writers of commentaries--Caesar's
oratorical and scientific position--Cornelius Nepos--C. Sallustius

APPENDIX.--On the _Acta Diurna_ and _Acta Senatus_.


_The History of Poetry to the Close of the Republic--Rise of

The Drama--J. Caesar Strabo--The _Mimae_--D. Laberius--Publilius
Syrus--Matius--Pantomimi--Actors--The poetry of Cicero and Caesar--
Alexandria and its writers--Aratus--Callimachus--Apollonius Rhodius--
Euphorion--Lucretius--His philosophical opinions and style--Bibaculus--
Varro Atacinus--Calvus--Catullus--Lesbia.

APPENDIX.--Note I. On the Use of Alliteration in Latin Poetry,
" II. Some additional details on the History of the _Mimus_,
" III. Fragments of Valerius Soranus.




_General Characteristics._

Common features of the Augustan authors--Augustus's relation to them
--Maecenas--The Apotheosis of the emperor--Rhetoricians not orators--


_Virgil_ (70-19 B.C.)

Virgil--His earliest verses--His life and character--The minor poems
--The _Eclogues_--The _Georgics_--Virgil's love of Nature--His aptitude
for epic poetry--The scope of the _Aeneid_--The _Aeneid_ a religious poem
--Its relation to preceding poetry.

APPENDIX.--Note I. Imitations of Virgil in Propertius, Ovid, and
" II. On the shortening of final o in Latin poetry,
" III. On parallelism in Virgil's poetry,
" IV. On the Legends connected with Virgil.


_Horace_ (65-8 B.C.).

Horace--His life--The dates of his works--Two aspects: a lyric poet and a
man of the world--His _Odes_ and _Epodes_--His patriotic odes--Excellences
of the odes--The _Satires_ and _Epistles_--Horace as a moralist--The _Ars
Poetica_--Horace's literary criticism--Lesser poets.


_The Elegiac Poets--Gratius--Manilius._

Roman elegy--Cornelius Callus--Domitius Marsus--Tibullus--Propertius--
Ovid--His life--_The Art of Love_--His exile--Doubtful and spurious poems
--Lesser erotic and epic poets--Gratius--Manilius.


_Prose Writers of the Augustan Age._

Oratory Neglected--Declamation takes its place--Porcius Latro--Annaeus
Seneca--History--Livy--Opportune appearance of his work--Criticism of his
method--Pompeius Trogus--Vitruvius--Grammarians--Fenestella--Verrius
Flaccus--Hyginus--Law and philosophy.

APPENDIX.--Note I. A _Suasoria_ translated from Seneca,
" II. Some Observations on the Theory of Rhetoric, from
Quintilian, Book III.




_The Age of Tiberius_ (14-37 A.D.).

Sudden collapse of letters--Cause of this--Tiberius--Changed position
of literature--Vellius Paterculus--Valerius Maximus--Celsus--Remmius
Palaemon--Germanicus--Phaedrus--Pomponius Secundus the tragedian.


_The Reigns of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero_ (37-68 A.D.).

1. _Poets._

The Neronian period an epoch--Peculiar characteristics of its writers
--Literary pretensions of Caligula--of Claudius--of Nero--Poem on
Calpurnius Piso--Relation of philosophy to life--Cornutus--Persius--Lucan
--Criticism of the _Pharsalia_--Eclogues of Calpurnius--The poem on Etna--
Tragedies of Seneca--The _apokolokuntosis_.


_The Reigns of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero._

2. _Prose Writers--Seneca._

His importance--Life and writings--Influence of his exile--Relations with
Nero--His death--Is he a Stoic?--Gradual convergence of the different
schools of thought--Seneca a _teacher_ more than anything else--His
conception of philosophy--Supposed connection with Christianity--Estimate
of his character and style.


_The Reigns of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero._

3. _Other Prose Writers_.

Domitius Corbulo--Quintus Curtius--Columella--Pomponius Mela--
Valerius Protius--Petronius Arbiter--Account of his extant fragments.

APPENDIX.--Note I. The _Testamentum Porcelli_,
" II. On the MS. of Petronius.


_The Reigns of the Flavian Emperors_ (69-96 A.D.).

1. _Prose Writers_.

A new literary epoch--Marked by common characteristics--Decay of national
genius--Pliny the elder--Account of his death translated from the younger
Pliny--His studious habits--The _Natural History_--Its character and
value--Quintilian--Account of his book _de Institutione Oratoria_--
Frontinus--A valuable and accurate writer--Grammatical studies.

APPENDIX.--Quintilian's Criticism on the Roman Authors.


_The Reigns of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian_ (69-96 A.D.).

2. _Poets_.

Reduced scope of poetry--Poetry the most dependent on external conditions
of any form of written literature--Valerius Flaccus--Silius--His death as
described by Pliny--His poem--The elder Statius--Statius--An extempore
poet--His public recitations--The _Silvae_--The _Thebaid_ and _Achilleid_
--His similes--Arruntius Stella--Martial--His death as recounted by Pliny
--The epigram--Other poets.

APPENDIX.--On the Similes of Virgil, Lucan, and Statius.


_The Reigns of Nerva and Trajan_ (96-117 A.D.).

Pliny the younger--His oratory--His correspondence--Letter to Trajan
--Velius Longus--Hyginus--Balbus--Flaccus--Juvenal--His life--A finished
declaimer--His character--His political views--Style--Tacitus--Dialogue on
--Intended work on Augustus's reign--Style.


_The Reigns of Hadrian and the Antonines_ (117-180 A.D.).

Era of African Latinity--Differs from the Silver Age--Hadrian's poetry
--Suetonius--His life--List of writings--Lives of the Caesars--His account
of Nero's death--Florus--Salvius Julianus and Sextus Pomponius--Fronto--
His relations with Aurelius--List of his works--Gellius--Gaius--Poems of
the period--_Pervigilium Veneris_--Apuleius--_De Magia_--_Metamorphoses_
or Golden Ass--Cupid and Psyche--His philosophical works.


_State of Philosophical and Religious Thought during the Period of the

Greek eloquence revives in the Sophists--Itinerant rhetors--Cynic
preachers of virtue--The better class of popular philosophers--Dio
Chrysostom--Union of philosophy and rhetoric--Greek now the language of
general literature--Reconciliation of philosophy with religion--The
Platonist school--Apuleius--Doctrine of daemons--Decline of thought--
General review of the main features of Roman literature-Conclusion.





In the latter part of the seventeenth century, and during nearly the whole
of the eighteenth, the literature of Rome exercised an imperial sway over
European taste. Pope thought fit to assume an apologetic tone when he
clothed Homer in an English dress, and reminded the world that, as
compared with Virgil, the Greek poet had at least the merit of coming
first. His own mind was of an emphatically Latin order. The great poets of
his day mostly based their art on the canons recognised by Horace. And
when poetry was thus affected, it was natural that philosophy, history,
and criticism should yield to the same influence. A rhetorical form, a
satirical spirit, and an appeal to common sense as supreme judge, stamp
most of the writers of western Europe as so far pupils of Horace, Cicero,
and Tacitus. At present the tide has turned. We are living in a period of
strong reaction. The nineteenth century not only differs from the
eighteenth, but in all fundamental questions is opposed to it. Its
products have been strikingly original. In art, poetry, science, the
spread of culture, and the investigation of the basis of truth, it yields
to no other epoch of equal length in the history of modern times. If we go
to either of the nations of antiquity to seek for an animating impulse, it
will not be Rome but Greece that will immediately suggest itself to us.
Greek ideas of aesthetic beauty, and Greek freedom of abstract thought,
are being disseminated in the world with unexampled rapidity. Rome, and
her soberer, less original, and less stimulating literature, find no place
for influence. The readiness with which the leading nations drink from the
well of Greek genius points to a special adaptation between the two.
Epochs of upheaval, when thought is rife, progress rapid, and tradition,
political or religious, boldly examined, turn, as if by necessity, to
ancient Greece for inspiration. The Church of the second and third
centuries, when Christian thought claimed and won its place among the
intellectual revolutions of the world, did not disdain the analogies of
Greek philosophy. The Renaissance owed its rise, and the Reformation much
of its fertility, to the study of Greek. And the sea of intellectual
activity which now surges round us moves ceaselessly about questions which
society has not asked itself since Greece started them more than twenty
centuries age. On the other hand, periods of order, when government is
strong and progress restrained, recognise their prototypes in the
civilisation of Rome, and their exponents in her literature. Such was the
time of the Church's greatest power: such was also that of the fully
developed monarchy in France, and of aristocratic ascendancy in England.
Thus the two literatures wield alternate influence; the one on the side of
liberty, the other on the side of government; the one as urging restless
movement towards the ideal, the other as counselling steady acceptance of
the real.

From a more restricted point of view, the utility of Latin literature may
be sought in the practical standard of its thought, and in the almost
faultless correctness of its composition. On the former there is no need
to enlarge, for it has always been amply recognised. The latter excellence
fits it above all for an educational use. There is probably no language
which in this respect comes near to it. The Romans have been called with
justice a nation of grammarians. The greatest commanders and statesmen did
not disdain to analyse the syntax and fix the spelling of their language.
From the outset of Roman literature a knowledge of scientific grammar
prevailed. Hence the act of composition and the knowledge of its theory
went hand in hand. The result is that among Roman classical authors scarce
a sentence can be detected which offends against logical accuracy, or
defies critical analysis. In this Latin stands alone. The powerful
intellect of an Aeschylus or Thucydides did not prevent them from
transgressing laws which in their day were undiscovered, and which their
own writing helped to form. Nor in modern times could we find a single
language in which the idioms of the best writers could be reduced to
conformity with strict rule. French, which at first sight appears to offer
such an instance, is seen on a closer view to be fuller of illogical
idioms than any other language; its symmetrical exactness arises from
clear combination and restriction of single forms to a single use.
English, at least in its older form, abounds in special idioms, and German
is still less likely to be adduced. As long, therefore, as a penetrating
insight into syntactical structure is considered desirable, so long will
Latin offer the best field for obtaining it. In gaining accuracy, however,
classical Latin suffered a grievous loss. It became a cultivated as
distinct from a natural language. It was at first separated from the
dialect of the people, and afterwards carefully preserved from all
contamination by it. Only a restricted number of words were admitted into
its select vocabulary. We learn from Servius that Virgil was censured for
admitting _avunculus_ into epic verse; and Quintilian says that the
prestige of ancient use alone permits the appearance in literature of
words like _balare_, _hinnire_, and all imitative sounds. [1] Spontaneity,
therefore, became impossible, and soon invention also ceased; and the
imperial writers limit their choice to such words as had the authority of
classical usage. In a certain sense, therefore, Latin was studied as a
dead language, while it was still a living one. Classical composition,
even in the time of Juvenal, must have been a labour analogous to, though,
of course, much less than, that of the Italian scholars of the sixteenth
century. It was inevitable that when the repositaries of the literary
idiom were dispersed, it should at once fall into irrecoverable disuse;
and though never properly a dead language, should have remained as it
began, an artificially cultivated one. [2] An important claim on our
attention put forward by Roman literature is founded upon its actual
historical position. Imitative it certainly is. [3] But it is not the only
one that is imitative. All modern literature is so too, in so far as it
makes a conscious effort after an external standard. Rome may seem to be
more of a copyist than any of her successors; but then they have among
other models Rome herself to follow. The way in which Roman taste,
thought, and expression have found their way into the modern world, makes
them peculiarly worthy of study; and the deliberate method of undertaking
literary composition practised by the great writers and clearly traceable
in their productions, affords the best possible study of the laws and
conditions under which literary excellence is attainable. Rules for
composition would be hard to draw from Greek examples, and would need a
Greek critic to formulate them. But the conscious workmanship of the
Romans shows us technical method as separable from the complex aesthetic
result, and therefore is an excellent guide in the art.

The traditional account of the origin of literature at Rome, accepted by
the Romans themselves, is that it was entirely due to contact with Greece.
Many scholars, however, have advanced the opinion that, at an earlier
epoch, Etruria exercised an important influence, and that much of that
artistic, philosophical, and literary impulse, which we commonly ascribe
to Greece, was in its elements, at least, really due to her. Mommsen's
researches have re-established on a firmer basis the superior claims of
Greece. He shows that Etruscan civilisation was itself modelled in its
best features on the Hellenic, that it was essentially weak and
unprogressive and, except in religion (where it held great sway) and in
the sphere of public amusements, unable permanently to impress itself upon
Rome. [4] Thus the literary epoch dates from the conquest of Magna
Graecia. After the fall of Tarentum the Romans were suddenly familiarised
with the chief products of the Hellenic mind; and the first Punic war
which followed, unlike all previous wars, was favourable to the effects of
this introduction. For it was waged far from Roman soil, and so relieved
the people from those daily alarms which are fatal to the calm demanded by
study. Moreover it opened Sicily to their arms, where, more than in any
part of Europe except Greece itself, the treasures of Greek genius were
enshrined. A systematic treatment of Latin literature cannot therefore
begin before Livius Andronicus. The preceding ages, barren as they were of
literary effort, afford little to notice except the progress of the
language. To this subject a short essay has been devoted, as well as to
the elements of literary development which existed in Rome before the
regular literature. There are many signs in tradition and early history of
relations between Greece and Rome; as the decemviral legislation, the
various consultations of the Delphic Oracle, the legends of Pythagoras and
Numa, of Lake Regillus, and, indeed, the whole story of the Tarquins; the
importation of a Greek alphabet, and of several names familiar to Greek
legend--_Ulysses, Poenus, Catamitus_, &c.--all antecedent to the Pyrrhic
war. But these are neither numerous enough nor certain enough to afford a
sound basis for generalisation. They have therefore been merely touched on
in the introductory essays, which simply aim at a compendious registration
of the main points; all fuller information belonging rather to the
antiquarian department of history and to philology than to a sketch of the
written literature. The divisions of the subject will be those naturally
suggested by the history of the language, and recently adopted by Teuffel,

1. The sixth and seventh centuries of the city (240-80 B.C.), from Livius
to Sulla.

2. The Golden Age, from Cicero to Ovid (80 B.C.-A.D. 14).

3. The period of the Decline, from the accession of Tiberius to the death
of Marcus Aurelius (14-180 A.D.).

These Periods are distinguished by certain strongly marked
characteristics. The First, which comprises the history of the legitimate
drama, of the early epos and satire, and the beginning of prose
composition, is marked by immaturity of art and language, by a vigorous
but ill-disciplined imitation of Greek poetical models, and in prose by a
dry sententiousness of style, gradually giving way to a clear and fluent
strength, which was characteristic of the speeches of Gracchus and
Antonius. This was the epoch when literature was popular; or at least more
nearly so than at any subsequent period. It saw the rise and fall of
dramatic art: in other respects it merely introduced the forms which were
carried to perfection in the Ciceronian and Augustan ages. The language
did not greatly improve in smoothness, or adaptation to express finished
thought. The ancients, indeed, saw a difference between Ennius, Pacuvius,
and Accius, but it may be questioned whether the advance would be
perceptible by us. Still the _labor limae_ unsparingly employed by
Terence, the rules of good writing laid down by Lucilius, and the labours
of the great grammarians and orators at the close of the period, prepared
the language for that rapid development which it at once assumed in the
masterly hands of Cicero.

The Second Period represents the highest excellence in prose and poetry.
The prose era came first, and is signalised by the names of Cicero,
Sallust, and Caesar. The celebrated writers were now mostly men of action
and high position in the state. The principles of the language had become
fixed; its grammatical construction was thoroughly understood, and its
peculiar genius wisely adapted to those forms of composition in which it
was naturally capable of excelling. The perfection of poetry was not
attained until the time of Augustus. Two poets of the highest renown had
indeed flourished in the republican period; but though endowed with lofty
genius they are greatly inferior to their successors in sustained art,
_e.g._ the constructions of prose still dominate unduly in the domain of
verse, and the intricacies of rhythm are not fully mastered. On the other
hand, prose has, in the Augustan age, lost somewhat of its breadth and
vigour. Even the beautiful style of Livy shows traces of that intrusion of
the poetic element which made such destructive inroads into the manner of
the later prose writers. In this period the writers as a rule are not
public men, but belong to what we should call the literary class. They
wrote not for the public but for the select circle of educated men whose
ranks were gradually narrowing their limits to the great injury of
literature. If we ask which of the two sections of this period marks the
most strictly national development, the answer must be--the Ciceronian;
for while the advancement of any literature is more accurately tested by
its prose writers than by its poets, this is specially the case with the
Romans, whose genius was essentially prosaic. Attention now began to be
bestowed on physical science, and the applied sciences also received
systematic treatment. The rhetorical element, which had hitherto been
overpowered by the oratorical, comes prominently forward; but it does not
as yet predominate to a prejudicial extent.

The Third Period, though of long duration, has its chief characteristics
clearly defined from the beginning. The foremost of these is unreality,
arising from the extinction of freedom and consequent loss of interest in
public life. At the same time, the Romans, being made for political
activity, did not readily content themselves with the less exciting
successes of literary life. The applause of the lecture-room was a poor
substitute for the thunders of the assembly. Hence arose a declamatory
tone, which strove by frigid and almost hysterical exaggeration to make up
for the healthy stimulus afforded by daily contact with affairs. The vein
of artificial rhetoric, antithesis, and epigram, which prevails from Lucan
to Fronto, owes its origin to this forced contentment with an uncongenial
sphere. With the decay of freedom, taste sank, and that so rapidly that
Seneca and Lucan transgress nearly as much against its canons as writers
two generations later. The flowers which had bloomed so delicately in the
wreath of the Augustan poets, short-lived as fragrant, scatter their
sweetness no more in the rank weed-grown garden of their successors.

The character of this and of each epoch will be dwelt on more at length as
it comes before us for special consideration, as well as the social or
religious phenomena which influenced the modes of thought or expression.
The great mingling of nationalities in Rome during the Empire necessarily
produced a corresponding divergence in style, if not in ideas.
Nevertheless, although we can trace the national traits of a Lucan or a
Martial underneath their Roman culture, the fusion of separate elements in
the vast capital was so complete, or her influence so overpowering, that
the general resemblance far outweighs the differences, and it is easy to
discern the common features which signalise unmistakeably the writers of
the Silver Age.




The question, Who were the earliest inhabitants of Italy? is one that
cannot certainly be answered. That some lower race, analogous to those
displaced in other parts of Europe [1] by the Celts and Teutons, existed
in Italy at a remote period is indeed highly probable; but it has not been
clearly demonstrated. At the dawn of the historic period, we find the
Messapian and Iapygian races inhabiting the extreme south and south-west
of Italy; and assuming, as we must, that their migrations had proceeded by
land across the Apennines, we shall draw the inference that they had been
gradually pushed by stronger immigrants into the furthest corner of the
Peninsula. Thus we conclude with Mommsen that they are to be regarded as
the historical aborigines of Italy. They form no part, however, of the
Italian race. Weak and easily acted upon, they soon ceased to have any
influence on the immigrant tribes, and within a few centuries they had all
but disappeared as a separate nation. The Italian races, properly so
called, who possessed the country at the time of the origin of Rome, are
referable to two main groups, the Latin and the Umbrian. Of these, the
Latin was numerically by far the smaller, and was at first confined within
a narrow and somewhat isolated range of territory. The Umbrian stock,
including the Samnite or Oscan, the Volscian and the Marsian, had a more
extended area. At one time it possessed the district afterwards known as
Etruria, as well as the Sabellian and Umbrian territories. Of the numerous
dialects spoken by this race, two only are in some degree known to us
(chiefly from inscriptions) the Umbrian and the Oscan. These show a close
affinity with one another, and a decided, though more distant,
relationship with the Latin. All three belong to a well-marked division of
the Indo-European speech, to which the name of _Italic_ is given. Its
nearest congener is the Hellenic, the next most distant being the Celtic.
The Hellenic and Italic may thus be called sister languages, the Celtic
standing in the position of cousin to both, though, on the whole, more
akin to the Italic. [2]

The Etruscan language is still a riddle to philologists, and until it is
satisfactorily investigated the ethnological position of the people that
spoke it must be a matter of dispute. The few words and forms which have
been deciphered lend support to the otherwise more probable theory that
they were an Indo-Germanic race only remotely allied to the Italians, in
respect of whom they maintained to quite a late period many distinctive
traits. [3] But though the Romans were long familiar with the literature
and customs of Etruria, and adopted many Etruscan words into their
language, neither of these causes influenced the literary development of
the Romans in any appreciable degree. Italian philology and ethnology have
been much complicated by reference to the Etruscan element. It is best to
regard it, like the Iapygian, as altogether outside the pale of genuine
Italic ethnography.

The main points of correspondence between the Italic dialects as a whole,
by which they are distinguished from the Greek, are as follow:--Firstly,
they all retain the spirants S, J (pronounced Y), and V, _e.g. sub,
vespera, janitrices_, beside _upo, espera, einateres_. Again, the Italian
_u_ is nearer the original sound than the Greek. The Greeks sounded _u_
like _ii_, and expressed the Latin _u_ for the most part by _ou_. On the
other hand the Italians lost the aspirated letters _th, ph, ch_, which
remain in Greek, and frequently omitted the simple aspirate. They lost
also the dual both in nouns and verbs, and all but a few fragmentary forms
of the middle verb. In inflexion they retain the sign of the ablative
(_d_), and, at least in Latin, the dat. plur. in _bus_. They express the
passive by the letter _r_, a weakened form of the reflexive, the principle
of which is reproduced in more than one of the Romance languages.

On the other hand, Latin differs from the other Italian dialects in
numerous points. In pronouns and elsewhere Latin _q_ becomes _p_ in
Umbrian and Oscan _(pis = quis)._ Again, Oscan had two vowels more than
Latin and was much more conservative of diphthongal sounds; it also used
double consonants, which old Latin did not. The Oscan and Umbrian
alphabets were taken from the Etruscan, the Latin from the Greek; hence
the former lacked O Q X, and used [Symbol] or [Symbol] (_san_ or soft _z_)
for _z_ (_zeta = ds_). They possessed the spirant F which they expressed
by [Symbol] and used the symbol [Symbol] to denote V or W. They preserved
the old genitive in _as_ or _ar_ (Lat. _ai, ae_) and the locative, both
which were rarely found in Latin; also the Indo-European future in _so_
(_didest, herest_) and the infin. in _um_ (_e.g. ezum = esse_).

The old Latin alphabet was taken from the Dorian alphabet of Cumae, a
colony from Chaleis, and consisted of twenty-one letters, A B C D E F Z H
I K L M N O P Q R S T V X, to which the original added three more, O or
[Symbol] (_th_), [Symbol] (_ph_), and [Symbol] (_ch_). These were retained
in Latin as numerals though not as letters, [Symbol] in the form of C=100,
[Symbol] or M as 1000, and [Symbol] or L as 50.

Of these letters Z fell out of use at an early period, its power being
expressed by S (_Saguntum = Zakunthos_) or SS (_massa = maza_). Its
rejection was followed by the introduction, of G. Plutarch ascribes this
change to Sp. Carvilius about 231 B.C., but it is found on inscriptions
nearly fifty years earlier. [4] In many words C was written for G down to
a late period, _e.g._ CN. was the recognised abbreviation for _Gnaeus_.

In Cicero's time Z was taken into use again as well as the Greek Y, and
the Greek combinations TH, PH, CH, chiefly for purposes of
transliteration. The Emperor Claudius introduced three fresh symbols, two
of which appear more or less frequently on monuments of his time. They are
[Symbol] or [Symbol], the inverted digamma, intended to represent the
consonantal V: [Symbol], or anti-sigma, to represent the Greek _psi_, and
[Symbol] to represent the Greek _upsilon_ with the sound of the French _u_
or German _u_. The second is not found in inscriptions.

Other innovations were the doubling of vowels to denote length, a device
employed by the Oscans and introduced at Rome by the poet Accius, though
Quintilian [5] implies that it was known before his time, and the doubling
of consonants which was adopted from, the Greek by Ennius. In Greek,
however, such doubling generally, though not always, has a philological
justification. [6]

The pronounciation of Latin has recently been the subject of much
discussion. It seems clear that the vowels did not differ greatly, if at
all, from the same as pronounced by the modern Italians. The distinction
between E and I, however, was less clearly marked, at least in the popular
speech. Inscriptions and manuscripts afford abundant instances of their
confusion. _Menerva leber magester_ are mentioned by Quintilian, [7] and
the employment of _ei_ for the _i_ of the dat. pl. of nouns of the second
declension and of _nobis vobis_, and of _e_ and _i_ indifferently for the
acc. pl. of nouns of the third declension, attest the similarity of sound.
That the spirant J was in all cases pronounced as Y there is scarcely room
for doubt. The pronunciation of V is still undetermined, though there is a
great preponderance of evidence in favour of the W sound having been the
original one. After the first century A.D. this semi-vowel began to
develop into the labiodental consonant _v_, the intermediate stage being a
labial _v_, such as one may often hear in South Germany at the present
day, and which to ordinary ears would seem undistinguishable from _w_.

There is little to remark about the other letters, except that S, N, and M
became very weak when final and were often entirely lost. S was
rehabilitated in the literary dialect in the time of Cicero, who speaks of
the omission to reckon it as _subrusticum_; but final M is always elided
before a vowel. An illustration of the way in which final M and N were
weakened may be found in the nasalised pronunciation of them in modern
French (_main, faim_). The gutturals C and G have by some been supposed to
have had from the first a soft sibilant sound before E and I; but from the
silence of all the grammarians on the subject, from the transcriptions of
C in Greek by _kappa_, not _sigma_ or _tau_, and from the inscriptions and
MSS. of the best ages not confusing CI with TI, we conclude that at any
rate until 200 A.D. C and G were sounded hard before all vowels. The
change operated quickly enough afterwards, and to a great extent through
the influence of the Umbrian which had used _d_ or _c_ before E and I for
some time.

In spelling much irregularity prevailed, as must always be the case where
there is no sound etymological theory on which to base it. In the earliest
inscriptions we find many inconsistencies. The case-signs _m_, _d_, are
sometimes retained, sometimes lost. In the second Scipionic epitaph we
have _oino (unum)_ side by side with _Luciom_. In the _Columna Rostrata_
(260 B.C.) we have _c_ for _g_, single instead of double consonants, _et_
for _it_ in _ornavet_, and _o_ for _u_ in terminations, all marks of
ancient spelling, contrasted with _maximos, maxumos; navebos, navebous;
praeda_, and other inconsistent or modern forms. Perhaps a later
restoration may account for these. In the decree of Aemilius, _posedisent_
and _possidere_ are found. In the _Lex Agraria_ we have _pequnia_ and
_pecunia_, in _S. C. de Bacchanalibus, senatuos_ and _nominus_ (gen.
sing.), _consoluerunt_ and _cosoleretur_, &c., showing that even in legal
documents orthography was not fixed. It is the same in the MSS. of ancient
authors. The oldest MSS. of Plautus, Lucretius, and Virgil, are consistent
in a considerable number of forms with themselves and with each other, but
vary in a still larger number. In antiquity, as at present, there was a
conflict between sound and etymology. A word was pronounced in one way;
science suggested that it ought to be written in another. This accounts
for such variations as _inperium, imperium; atque, adque; exspecto,
expecto;_ and the like (cases like _haud, haut; saxum, saxsum;_ are
different). The best writers could not decide between these conflicting
forms. A still greater fluctuation existed in English spelling in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, [8] but it has since been overcome.
Great writers sometimes introduced spellings of their own. Caesar wrote
_Pompeiii_ (gen. sing.) for _Pompeii_, after the Oscan manner. He also
brought the superlative _simus_ into use. Augustus, following in his
steps, paid great attention to orthography. His inscriptions are a
valuable source of evidence for ascertaining the correctest spelling of
the time. During and after the time of Claudius affected archaisms crept
in, and the value both of inscriptions and MSS. is impaired, on the one
hand, by the pedantic endeavour to bring spelling into accord with archaic
use or etymology, and, on the other, by the increasing frequency of
debased and provincial forms, which find place even in authoritative
documents. In spite of the obscurity of the subject several principles of
orthography have been definitely established, especially with regard to
the older Latin, which will guide future editors. And the labours of
Ritschl, Corssen, and many others, cannot fail to bring to light the most
important laws of variability which have affected the spelling of Latin
words, so far as the variation has not depended on mere caprice. [9]

With these preliminary remarks we may turn to the chief monuments of the
old language, the difficulties and uncertainties of which have been
greatly diminished by recent research. They are partly inscriptions (for
the oldest period exclusively so), and partly public documents, preserved
in the pages of antiquarians. Much may be learnt from the study of coins,
which, though less ancient than some of the written literature, are often
more archaic in their forms. The earliest of the existing remains is the
song of the Arval Brothers, an old rustic priesthood (_qui sacra publica
faciunt propterea ut fruges ferant arva_), [10] dating from the times of
the kings. This fragment was discovered at Rome in 1778, on a tablet
containing the acts of the sacred college, and was supposed to be as
ancient as Romulus. The priesthood was a highly honourable office, its
members were chosen for life, and emperors are mentioned among them. The
yearly festival took place in May, when the fruits were ripe, and
consisted in a kind of blessing of the first-fruits. The minute and
primitive ritual was evidently preserved from very ancient times, and the
hymn, though it has suffered in transliteration, is a good specimen of
early Roman worship, the rubrical directions to the brethren being
inseparably united with the invocation to the Lares and Mars. According to
Mommsen's division of the lines, the words are--

TRIUMPE. (_Quinquies_)

The great difference between this rude dialect and classical Latin is
easily seen, and we can well imagine that this and the Salian hymn of Numa
were all but unintelligible to those who recited them. [11] The most
probable rendering is as follows:--"Help us, O Lares! and thou, Marmar,
suffer not plague and ruin to attack our folk. Be satiate, O fierce Mars!
Leap over the threshold. Halt! Now beat the ground. Call in alternate
strain upon all the heroes. Help us, Marmor. Bound high in solemn
measure." Each line was repeated thrice, the last word five times.

As regards the separate words, _enos_, which should perhaps be written _e
nos_, contains the interjectional _e_, which elsewhere coalesces with
vocatives. [12] _Lases_ is the older form of _Lares_. _Lue rue = luem
ruem_, the last an old word for _ruinam_, with the case-ending lost, as
frequently, and the copula omitted, as in _Patres Conscripti_, &c.
_Marmar, Marmor_, or _Mamor_, is the reduplicated form of _Mars_, seen in
the Sabine _Mamers_. _Sins_ is for _sines_, as _advocapit_ for
_advocabitis_. [13] _Pleores_ is an ancient form of _plures_, answering to
the Greek _pleionas_ in form, and to _tous pollous_, "the mass of the
people" in meaning. _Fu_ is a shortened imperative. [14] _Berber_ is for
_verbere_, imper. of the old _verbero, is_, as _triumpe_ from _triumpere_
= _triumphare_. _Semunes_ from _semo_ (_se-homo_ "apart from man") an
inferior deity, as we see from the Sabine _Semo Sancus_ (= _Dius Fidius_).
Much of this interpretation is conjectural, and other views have been
advanced with regard to nearly every word, but the above given is the most

The next fragment is from the Salian hymn, quoted by Varro. [15] It
appears to be incomplete. The words are:

"Cozeulodoizeso. Omnia vero adpatula coemisse iamcusianes duo
misceruses dun ianusve vet pos melios eum recum...," and a little
further on, "divum empta cante, divum deo supplicante."

The most probable transcription is:

"Chorauloedus ero; Omnia vero adpatula concepere Iani curiones. Bonus
creator es. Bonus Janus vivit, quo meliorem regum [terra Saturnia
vidit nullum]"; and of the second, "Deorum impetu canite, deorum deum
suppliciter canite."

Here we observe the ancient letter _z_ standing for _s_ and that for _r_,
also the word _cerus_ masc. of _ceres_, connected with the root _creare_.
_Adpatula_ seems = _clara_. Other quotations from the Salian hymns occur
in Festus and other late writers, but they are not considerable enough to
justify our dwelling upon them. All of them will be found in Wordsworth's
_Fragments and Specimens of early Latin_.

There are several fragments of laws said to belong to the regal period,
but they have been so modernised as to be of but slight value for the
purpose of philological illustration. One or two primitive forms, however,
remain. In a law of Romulus, we read _Si nurus ... plorassit ... sacra
divis parendum estod_, where the full form of the imperative occurs, the
only instance in the whole range of the language. [16] A somewhat similar
law, attributed to Numa, contains some interesting forms:

"Si parentem puer verberit asi ole plorasit, puer divis parentum
verberat? ille ploraverit diis
sacer esto."

Much more interesting are the scanty remains of the Laws of the Twelve
Tables (451, 450 B.C.). It is true we do not possess the text in its
original form. The great destruction of monuments by the Gauls probably
extended to these important witnesses of national progress. Livy, indeed,
tells us that they were recovered, but it was probably a copy that was
found, and not the original brass tables, since we never hear of these
latter being subsequently exhibited in the sight of the people. Their
style is bold and often obscure, owing to the omission of distinctive
pronouns, though doubtless this obscurity would be greatly lessened if we
had the entire text. Connecting particles are also frequently omitted, and
the interdependence of the moods is less developed than in any extant
literary Latin. For instance, the imperative mood is used in all cases,
permissive as well as jussive, _Si nolet arceram ne sternito_, "If he does
not choose, he need not procure a covered car." The subjunctive is never
used even in conditionals, but only in final clauses. Those which seem to
be subjunctives are either present indicatives (_e.g. escit, vindicit_) or
second futures (_e.g. faxit, rupsit_.). The ablative absolute, so strongly
characteristic of classical Latin, is never found, or only in one doubtful
instance. The word _igitur_ occurs frequently in the sense of "after
that," "in that case," a meaning which it has almost lost in the literary
dialect. Some portion of each Table is extant. We subjoin an extract from
the first.

"1. Si in ius vocat, ito. Ni it, antestamino: igitur em capito. Si calvitur
antestetur postea eum frustratur

pedemve struit, manum endo iacito

2. Rem ubi pacunt orato. Ni pacunt, in comitio aut in foro ante
pagunt (cf. pacisci)
meridiem caussam coiciunto. Com peroranto ambo praesentes.

Post meridiem praesenti litem addicito. Si ambo praesentes, Sol occasus
suprema tempestas esto."

The difference between these fragments and the Latin of Plautus is really
inconsiderable. But we have the testimony of Polybius [17] with regard to
a treaty between Rome and Carthage formed soon after the Regifugium (509
B.C.), and therefore not much anterior to the Decemvirs, that the most
learned Romans could scarcely understand it. We should infer from this
that the language of the Twelve Tables, from being continually quoted to
meet the exigencies of public life, was unconsciously moulded into a form
intelligible to educated men; and that this process continued until the
time when literary activity commenced. After that it remained untouched;
and, in fact, the main portion of the laws as now preserved shows a strong
resemblance to the Latin of the age of Livius, who introduced the written

The next specimen will be the _Columna Rostrata_, or Column of Duillius.
The original monument was erected to commemorate his naval victory over
the Carthaginians, 260 B.C., but that which at present exists is a
restoration of the time of Claudius. It has, however, been somewhat
carelessly done, for several modernisms have crept into the language. But
these are not sufficient to disprove its claim to be a true restoration of
an ancient monument. To consider it a forgery is to disregard entirely the
judgment of Quintilian, [18] who takes its genuineness for granted. It is
in places imperfect--

"Secestanosque ... opsidioned exemet, lecionesque Cartaciniensis omnis
maximosque macistratos luci palam post dies novem castreis exfociunt,
magistratus effugiunt
Macelamque opidom vi puenandod cepet. Enque eodem macistratud bene
rem navebos marid consol primos ceset, copiasque clasesque navales primos
ornavet paravetque. Cumque eis navebous claseis Poenicas omnis, item
maxumas copias Cartaciniensis, praesented Hanibaled dictatored olorom,
inaltod marid puenandod vicet. Vique navis cepet cum socieis septeresmom
in alto septiremem
unam, quinqueresmosque triresmosque naveis xxx: merset xiii. Aurom
captom numci [Symbols] DCC. arcentom captom praeda: numci CCCI[Symbols]
CCCI[Symbols]. Omne captom, aes CCCI[Symbols] (plus vicies semel). Primos
quoque navaled praedad poplom donavet primosque Cartaciniensis incenuos
duxit in triumpod."

We notice here C for G, ET for IT, O for V on the one hand: on the other,
_praeda_ where we should expect _praida_, besides the inconsistencies
alluded to on p. 13.

The Mausoleum of the Scipios containing the epitaphs was discovered in
1780. The first of these inscriptions dates from 280 B.C. or twenty years
earlier than the Columna Rostrata, and is the earliest original Roman
philological antiquity of assignable date which we possess. But the other
epitaphs on the Scipios advance to a later period, and it is convenient to
arrange them all together. The earliest runs thus:--

"Cornelius Lucius, | Scipio Barbatus,
Gnaivod patre prognatus | fortis vir sapiensque,
quoius forma virtu | tei parisuma fuit, [19]
consol censor aidilis | quei fuit apud vos,
Taurasia Cisauna | Samnio cepit
subigit omne Loucanam | opsidesque abdoucit."

The next, the title of which is painted and the epitaph graven, refers to
the son of Barbatus. Like the preceding, it is written in Saturnian verse:

"Honc oino ploirume co | sentiont Romai
duonoro optumo fu | ise viro viroro
Luciom Scipione. | Filios Barbati
consol censor aidilis | hic fuet apud vos
hec cepit Corsica 'Aleri | aque urbe pugnandod,
dedet Tempestatebus | aide meretod votam."

The more archaic character of this inscription suggests the
explanation that the first was originally painted, and not engraven
till a later period, when, as in the case of the Columna Rostrata,
some of its archaisms (probably the more unintelligible) were
suppressed. In ordinary Latin it would be:

"Hunc unum plurimi consentiunt Romani (or Romae) bonorum optimum
fuisse virum virorum, Lucium Scipionem. Filius (erat) Barbati, Consul,
Censor. Aedilis hic fuit apud vos. Hic cepit Corsicam Aleriamque urbem
pugnando; dedit tempestatibus aedem merito votam."

The third epitaph is on P. Corn. Scipio, probably son of the great
Africanus, and adopted father of Scipio Aemilianus:--

"Quei apice insigne dialis | flaminis gesistei
mors perfecit tua ut essent | omnia brevia
honos fama virtusque | gloria atque ingenium:
quibus sei in longa licui | set tibi utier vita
facile factis superasses | gloriam maiorum.
quare lubens te in gremiu | Scipio recipit
terra, Publi, prognatum | Publio Corneli."

The last which will be quoted here is that of L. Corn. Scipio, of
uncertain date:

"Magna sapientia mul | tasque virtutes
Aetate quom parva | possidet hoc saxsum,
quoiei vita defecit | non honos honore.
Is hic situs, qui nunquam | victus ast virtutei.
Annos gnatus viginti | is Diteist mandatus,
ne quairatis honore | quei minus sit mandatus."

These last two are written in clear, intelligible Latin, the former
showing in addition a genuine literary inspiration. Nevertheless, the
student will perceive many signs of antiquity in the omission of the case-
ending _m_, in the spellings _gesistei, quom_ ( = _cum_. prep.) in the old
long quantities _omnia fama facile_ and the unique _quairatis_. There are
no less than five other inscriptions in the Mausoleum, one of which
concludes with four elegiac lines, but they can hardly be cited with
justice among the memorials of the old language.

The _Senatus Consultum de Bacchanalibus_, or, as some scholars prefer to
call it, _Epistola Consulum ad Teuranos_ (186 B.C.), found at Terra di
Teriolo, in Calabria, in 1640, is quite in its original state. It is
easily intelligible, and except in orthography, scarcely differs from
classical Latin. We subjoin it entire, as it is a very complete and
important specimen of the language, and with it we shall close our list:--

"1. Q. Marcius L. f. S(p) Postumius L. f. cos senatum consoluerunt n. Oct-
2. ob. apud aedem | Duelonai. Sc. arf. M. Claudi(us) M. f.
Bellonae Scribendo adfuerunt
L. Valeri(us) P.f.Q. Minuci(us) C. f.--
3. De Bacanalibus quei foideratei | esent ita exdeicendum censuere.
4. Neiquis eorum Bacanal habuise velet. Sei ques | esent quei
vellet Si qui
sibei deicerent necesus ese Bacanal habere, eeis utei
5. ad pr(aetorem) urbanum | Romam venirent deque eeis rebus,
6. ubei eorum verba audita esent, utei senatus | noster decerneret, dum ne
minus Senatorbus C adesent, quom ea
7. res cosoleretur | Bacas vir nequis adiese velet ceivis Roma-
8. nus neve nominus Latini neve socium | quisquam, nisei
pr(aetorem) urbanum adiesent, isque de senatuos sententiad,
9. dum ne | minus Senatoribus C adesent, quom ea res cosoleretur, iousiset.
Censuere. |
10. Sacerdos nequis vir eset. Magister neque vir neque mulier
11. quisquam eset. | Neve pecuniam quisquam eorum comoinem ha-
12. buise velet, neve magistratum | neve pro magistratud, neque
13. virum neque mulierem quiquam fecise velet. | Neve posthac inter sed
14. neve comvovise neve conspondise | neve compromesise velet, neve quis-
15. quam fidem inter sed dedise velet | Sacra in oquoltod ne quisquam
16. fecise velet, neve in poplicod neve in | preivatod neve exstrad urbem
17. sacra quisquam fecise velet,--nisei | pr(aetorem) urbanum adieset isque
18. de senatuos sententiad, dum ne minus | senatoribus C adesent, uom es
res cocoleretur, iousiset. Censuere.
19. Homines plous V oinversei virei atque mulieres sacra ne quisquam |
20. fecise velet, neve inter ibei virei plous duobus mulieribus plous tri-
21. bus | arfuise velent, nisei de pr(aetoris) urbani senatuosque sententiad,
22. utei suprad | scriptam est.
23. Haice utei in coventionid exdeicatis ne minus trinum | noundinum
24. senatuosque sententiam utei scientes esetis--eorum | sententia ita fuit:
25. Sei ques esent, quei arvorsum ead fecisent, quam suprad | scriptum
adversum ea
26. est, eeis rem caputalem faciendam censuere--atque utei | hoce in
27. tabolam abenam inceideretis, ita senatus aiquom censuit; | uteique eam
28. figier ioubeatis ubei facilumed gnoscier potisit;--atque | utei ea Ba-
29. canalia, sei qua sunt, exstrad quam sei quid ibei sacri est | ita utei
suprad scriptum est, in diebus x. quibus vobis tabelai datai
30. erunt, | faciatis utci dismota sient--in agro Teurano."

We notice that there are in this decree no doubled consonants, no
ablatives without the final _d_ (except the two last words, which are
probably by a later hand), and few instances of _ae_ or _i_ for the older
_ai, ei; oi_ and _ou_ stand as a rule for _oe, u_; _ques, eeis_, for _qui,
ii_. On the other hand _us_ has taken the place of _os_ as the termination
of _Romanus, Postumius_, &c., and generally _u_ is put instead of the
older _o_. The peculiarities of Latin syntax are here fully developed, and
the language has become what we call classical. At this point literature
commences, and a long succession of authors from Plautus onwards carry the
history of the language to its completion; but it should be remembered
that few of these authors wrote in what was really the speech of the
people. In most cases a literature would be the best criterion of a
language. In Latin it is otherwise. The popular speech could never have
risen to the complexity of the language of Cicero and Sallust. This was an
artificial tongue, based indeed on the colloquial idiom, but admitting
many elements borrowed from the Greek. If we compare the language and
syntax of Plautus, who was a genuine popular writer, with that of Cicero
in his more difficult orations, the difference will at once be felt. And
after the natural development of classical Latin was arrested (as it
already was in the time of Augustus), the interval between the colloquial
and literary dialects became more and more wide. The speeches of Cicero
could never have been unintelligible even to the lowest section of the
city crowd, but in the third and fourth centuries it is doubtful whether
the common people understood at all the artificially preserved dialect to
which literature still adhered. Unfortunately our materials for tracing
the gradual decline of the spoken language are scanty. The researches of
Mommsen, Ritschl, and others, have added considerably to their number. And
from these we see that the old language of the early inscriptions was
subjected to a twofold process of growth. On the one hand, it expanded
into the literary dialect under the hands of the Graecising aristocracy;
on the other, it ran its course as a popular idiom, little affected by the
higher culture for several centuries until, after the decay of classical
Latin, it reappears in the fifth century, strikingly reminding us in many
points of the earliest infancy of the language. The _lingua plebeia,
vulgaris_, or _rustica_, corrupted by the Gothic invasions, and by the
native languages of the other parts of the empire which it only partially
supplanted, became eventually distinguished from the _Lingua Latina_
(which was at length cultivated, even by the learned, only in writing,) by
the name of _Lingua Romana_. It accordingly differed in different
countries. The purest specimens of the old Lingua Romana are supposed to
exist in the mountains of Sardinia and in the country of the Grisons. In
these dialects many of the most ancient formations were preserved, which,
repudiated by the classical Latin, have reappeared in the Romance
languages, bearing testimony to the inherent vitality of native idiom,
even when left to work out its own development unaided by literature.


_Examples of the corrupted dialect of the fifth and following
centuries._ [20]

1. An epitaph of the fifth century.

"Hic requiescit in pace domna

Bonusa quix ann. xxxxxx et Domo
quae vixit Domino

Menna quixitannos ... Eabeat anatema a Juda si quis alterum
qui vixit annos Habeat anathema

omine sup. me posuerit. Anatema abeas da trecenti decem et
hominem super habeas de trecentis

octo patriarche qui chanones esposuerunt et da s ca Xpi
patriarchis canones exposuerunt sanctis Christi

quatuor Eugvangelia"

2. An instrument written in Spain under the government of the Moors in the
year 742, a fragment of which is taken from Lanzi. The whole is given by
P. Du Mesnil in his work on the doctrine of the Church.

"Non faciant suas missas misi
portis cerratis: sin peiter
seratis (minus) pendant

decem pesantes argenti. Monasterie quae sunto in eo mando ... faciunt
nummos Monasteriae faciant

Saracenis bona acolhensa sine vexatione neque forcia: vendant sine
vectigalia? vi

pecho tali pacto quod non vadant tributo foras de nostras terras."
nostris terris

3. The following is the oath of fealty taken by Lewis, King of
Germany, in 842 A.D.

"Pro Deo amur et pro Christian poble et nostro comun salvament
Dei amore Christiano populo nostra communi salute

dist di enavant in quant
de isto die in posterum quantum

Dis saver et podirme dunat: si salverat eo cist meon fradre Karlo
Deus scire posse donet: sic (me) servet ei isti meo fratri Carolo

et in adjudha et in cadhuna cosa si cum om per
adjumento qualicunque caussa sic quomodo homo per

dreit son fradra salvar distino: quid il mi altre
rectum (=jure) suo fratri salvare destine: quod ille mihi ex altera (parte)

si fazet; et abludher nul plaid nunquam prendrai, qui
sic faciet; ab Lothario nullum consilium unquam accipiam, quod

meon vol cist meon fradra Karlo in damno sit."
mea voluntate isti meo fratri Carolo damnum



Mommsen has truly remarked that the culminating point of Roman development
was the period which had no literature. Had the Roman people continued to
move in the same lines as they did before coming in contact with the works
of Greek genius, it is possible that they might have long remained without
a literature. Or if they had wrought one out for themselves, it would no
doubt have been very different from that which has come down to us. As it
is, Roman literature forms a feature in human history quite without a
parallel. We see a nation rich in patriotic feeling, in heroes legendary
and historical, advancing step by step to the fullest solution then known
to the world of the great problems of law and government, and finally
rising by its virtues to the proud position of mistress of the nations,
which yet had never found nor, apparently, even wanted, any intellectual
expression of its life and growth, whether in the poet's inspired song or
in the sober narrative of the historian.

The cause of this striking deficiency is to be sought in the original
characteristics of the Latin race. The Latin character, as distinguished
from the Greek, was eminently practical and unimaginative. It was marked
by good sense, not by luxuriant fancy: it was "natum rebus agendis." The
acute intellect of the Romans, directing itself from the first to
questions of war and politics, obtained such a clear and comprehensive
grasp of legal and political rights as, united with an unwavering tenacity
of purpose, made them able to administer with profound intelligence their
vast and heterogeneous empire. But in the meantime reflective thought had
received no impulse.

The stern and somewhat narrow training which was the inheritance of the
governing class necessarily confined their minds to the hard realities of
life. Whatever poetical capacity the Romans may once have had was thus
effectually checked. Those aspirations after an ideal beauty which most
nations that have become great have embodied in "immortal verse"--if they
ever existed in Rome--faded away before her greatness reached its
meridian, only to be rekindled into a shadowy and reflected brightness
when Rome herself had begun to decay.

There is nothing that so powerfully influences literature as the national
religion. Poetry, with which in all ages literature begins, owes its
impulse to the creations of the religious imagination. Such at least has
been the case with those Aryan races who have been most largely endowed
with the poetical gift. The religion of the Roman differed from that of
the Greek in having no background of mythological fiction. For him there
was no Olympus with its half-human denizens, no nymph-haunted fountain, no
deified heroes, no lore of sacred bard to raise his thoughts into the
realm of the ideal. His religion was cold and formal. Consisting partly of
minute and tedious ceremonies, partly of transparent allegories whereby
the abstractions of daily life were clothed with the names of gods, it
possessed no power over his inner being. Conceptions such as Sowing
(Saturnus), War (Bellona), Boundary (Terminus), Faithfulness (Fides), much
as they might influence the moral and social feelings, could not be
expanded into material for poetical inventions. And these and similar
deities were the objects of his deepest reverence. The few traces that
remained of the ancient nature-worship, unrelated to one another, lost
their power of producing mythology. The Capitoline Jupiter never stood to
the Romans in a true personal relation. Neither Mars nor Hercules (who
were genuine Italian gods) was to Rome what Apollo was to Greece. Whatever
poetic sentiment was felt centred rather in the city herself than in the
deities who guarded her. Rome was the one name that roused enthusiasm;
from first to last she was the true Supreme Deity, and her material
aggrandisement was the never-exhausted theme of literary, as it had been
the consistent goal of practical, effort.

The primitive culture of Latium, in spite of all that has been written
about it, is still so little known, that it is hard to say whether there
existed elements out of which a native art and literature might have been
matured. But it is the opinion of the highest authorities that such
elements did exist, though they never bore fruit. The yearly Roman
festival with its solemn dance, [1] the masquerades in the popular
carnival, [2] and the primitive litanies, afforded a basis for poetical
growth almost identical with that which bore such rich fruit in Greece. It
has been remarked that dancing formed a more important part of these
ceremonies than song. This must originally have been the case in Greece
also, as it is still in all primitive stages of culture. But whereas in
Greece the artistic cultivation of the body preceded and led up to the
higher conceptions of pure art, in Rome the neglect of the former may have
had some influence in repressing the existence of the latter.

If the Romans had the germ of dramatic art in their yearly festivals, they
had the germ of the epos in their lays upon distinguished warriors. But
the heroic ballad never assumed the lofty proportions of its sister in
Greece. Given up to women and boys it abdicated its claim to widespread
influence, and remained as it had begun, strictly "gentile." The theory
that in a complete state place should be found for the thinker and the
poet as well as for the warrior and legislator, was unknown to ancient
Rome. Her whole development was based on the negation of this theory. It
was only when she could no longer enforce her own ideal that she admitted
under the strongest protest the dignity of the intellectual calling. This
will partly account for her singular indifference to historical study.
With many qualifications for founding a great and original historical
school, with continuous written records from an early date, with that
personal experience of affairs without which the highest form of history
cannot be written, the Romans yet allowed the golden opportunity to pass
unused, and at last accepted a false conception of history from the
contemporary Greeks, which irreparably injured the value of their greatest
historical monuments. Had it been customary for the sober-minded men who
contributed to make Roman history for more than three centuries, to leave
simple commentaries for the instruction of after generations, the result
would have been of incalculable value. For that such men were well
qualified to give an exact account of facts is beyond doubt. But the
exclusive importance attached to active life made them indifferent to such
memorials, and they were content with the barren and meagre notices of the
pontifical annals and the yearly registers of magistrates in the temple of
Capitoline Jupiter.

These chronicles and registers on the one hand, and the hymns, laws, [3]
and formulas of various kinds on the other, formed the only written
literature existing in the times before the Punic wars. Besides these,
there, were a few speeches, such as that of Ap. Claudius Caecus (280 B.C.)
against Pyrrhus, published, and it is probable that the funeral orations
of the great families were transmitted either orally or in writing from
one generation to another, so as to serve both as materials for history
and models of style.

Much importance has been assigned by Niebuhr and others to the ballad
literature that clustered round the great names of Roman history. It is
supposed to have formed a body of national poetry, the complete loss of
which is explained by the success of the anti-national school of Ennius
which superseded it. The subjects of this poetry were the patriots and
heroes of old Rome, and the traditions of the republic and the struggles
between the orders were faithfully reflected in it. Macaulay's _Lays of
Ancient Rome_ are a brilliant reconstruction of what he conceived to be
the spirit of this early literature. It was written, its supporters
contend, in the native Saturnian, and, while strongly leavened with Greek
ideas, was in no way copied from Greek models. It was not committed to
writing, but lived in the memory of the people, and may still be found
embedded in the beautiful legends which adorn the earlier books of Livy.
Some idea of its scope may be formed from the fragments that remain of
Naevius, who was the last of the old bards, and bewailed at his own death
the extinction of Roman poetry. Select lays were sung at banquets either
by youths of noble blood, or by the family bard; and if we possessed these
lays, we should probably find in them a fresher and more genuine
inspiration than in all the literature which followed.

This hypothesis of an early Roman epos analogous to the Homeric poems, but
preserved in a less coherent shape, has met with a close investigation at
the hands of scholars, but is almost universally regarded as "not proven."
The scanty and obscure notices of the early poetry by no means warrant our
drawing so wide an inference as the Niebuhrian theory demands. [4] All
they prove is that the Roman aristocracy, like that of all other warlike
peoples, listened to the praises of their class recited by minstrels
during their banquets or festive assemblies. But so far from the minstrel
being held in honour as in Greece and among the Scandinavian tribes, we
are expressly told that he was in bad repute, being regarded as little
better than a vagabond. [5] Furthermore, if these lays had possessed any
merit, they would hardly have sunk into such complete oblivion among a
people so conservative of all that was ancient. In the time of Horace
Naevius was as well known as if he had been a modern; if, therefore, he
was merely one, though, the most illustrious, of a long series of bards,
it is inconceivable that his predecessors should have been absolutely
unknown. Cicero, indeed, regrets the loss of these rude lays; but it is in
the character of an antiquarian and a patriot that he speaks, and not of
an appraiser of literary merit. The really imaginative and poetical halo
which invests the early legends of Rome must not be attributed to
individual genius, but partly to patriotic impulse working among a people
for whom their city and her faithful defenders supplied the one material
for thought, and partly, no doubt, though we know not in what degree, to
early contact with the legends and culture of Greece. The epitaphs of the
first two Scipios are a good criterion of the state of literary
acquirement at the time. They are apparently uninfluenced by Greek models,
and certainly do not present a high standard either of poetical thought or

The fact, also, that the Romans possessed no native term for a poet is
highly significant. _Poeta_, which we find as early as Naevius, [6] is
Greek; and _vates_, which Zeuss [7] traces to a Celtic root, meant
originally "soothsayer," not "poet." [8] Only in the Augustan period does
it come into prominence as the nobler term, denoting that inspiration
which is the gift of heaven and forms the peculiar privilege of genius.
[9] The names current among the ancient Romans, _librarius_, _scriba_,
were of a far less complimentary nature, and referred merely to the
mechanical side of the art. [10] These considerations all tend to the
conclusion that the true point from which to date the beginning of Roman
literature is that assigned by Horace, [11] viz. the interval between the
first and second Punic wars. It was then that the Romans first had leisure
to contemplate the marvellous results of Greek culture, revealed to them
by the capture of Tarentum (272 B.C.), and still more conspicuously by the
annexation of Sicily in the war with Carthage. In Sicily, even more than
in Magna Graecia, poetry and the arts had a splendid and enduring life.
The long line of philosophers, dramatists, and historians was hardly yet
extinct. Theocritus was still teaching his countrymen the new poetry of
rustic life, and many of the inhabitants of the conquered provinces came
to reside at Rome, and imported their arts and cultivation; and from this
period the history of Roman poetry assumes a regular and connected form.

Besides the scanty traces of written memorials, there were various
elements in Roman civilisation which received a speedy development in the
direction of literature and science as soon as Greek influence was brought
to bear on them. These may be divided into three classes, viz. rudimentary
dramatic performances, public speaking in the senate and forum, and the
study of jurisprudence.

The capacity of the Italian nations for the drama is attested by the fact
that three kinds of dramatic composition were cultivated in Rome, and if
we add to these the semi-dramatic _Fescenninae_, we shall complete the
list of that department of literature. This very primitive type of song
took its rise in Etruria; it derives its name from Fescennium, an Etrurian
town, though others connect it with _fascinum_, as if originally it were
an attempt to avert the evil eye. [13] Horace traces the history of this
rude banter from its source in the harvest field to its city developments
of slander and abuse, [14] which needed the restraint of the law. Livy, in
his sketch of the rise of Roman drama, [15] alludes to these verses as
altogether unpolished, and for the most part extemporaneous. He agrees
with Horace in describing them as taking the form of dialogue
(_alternis_), but his account is meagre in the extreme. In process of time
the Fescennines seem to have modified both their form and character. From
being in alternate strains, they admitted a treatment as if uttered by a
single speaker,--so at least we should infer from Macrobius's notice of
the Fescennines sent by Augustus to Pollio, [16] which were either lines
of extempore raillery, or short biting epigrams, like that of Catullus on
Vatinius, [17] owing their title to the name solely to the pungency of
their contents. In a general way they were restricted to weddings, and we
have in the first _Epithalamium_ of Catullus, [18] and some poems by
Claudian, highly-refined specimens of this class of composition. The
Fescennines owed their popularity to the light-hearted temper of the old
Italians, and to a readiness at repartee which is still conspicuous at the
present day in many parts of Italy.

With more of the dramatic element than the Fescennines, the _Saturae_
appear to have early found a footing in Rome, though their history is
difficult to trace. We gather from Livy [19] that they were acted on the
stage as early as 359 B.C. Before this the boards had been occupied by
Etruscan dancers, and possibly, though not certainly, by improvisers of
Fescennine buffooneries; but soon after this date _Saturae_ were performed
by one or more actors to the accompaniment of the flute. The actors, it
appears, sang as well as gesticulated, until the time of Livius, who set
apart a singer for the interludes, while he himself only used his voice in
the dialogue. The unrestrained and merry character of the _Saturae_ fitted
them for the after-pieces, which broke up the day's proceedings
(_exodium_); but in later times, when tragedies were performed, this
position was generally taken by the _Atellana_ or the _Mime_. The name
_Satura_ (or _Satira_) is from _lanx saturu_, the medley or hodge-podge,
"quae referta variis multisque primitiis in sacro apud priscos diis
inferebatur." Mommsen supposes it to have been the "masque of the full
men" (_saturi_), enacted at a popular festival, while others have
connected it with the Greek Satyric Drama. In its dramatic form it
disappears early from history, and assumes with Ennius a different
character, which has clung to it ever since.

Besides these we have to notice the _Mime_ and the _Atellanae_. The former
corresponds roughly with our farce, though the pantomimic element is also
present, and in the most recent period gained the ascendancy. Its true
Latin name is _Planipes_ (so Juvenal _Planipedes audit Fabios_ [20] in
allusion to the actor's entering the stage barefoot, no doubt for the
better exhibition of his agility). Mimes must have existed from very
remote times in Italy, but they did not come into prominence until the
later days of the Republic, when Laberius and Syrus cultivated them with
marked success. We therefore defer noticing them until our account of
that period.

There still remain the _fabulae Atellanae_, so called from Atella, an
Oscan town of Campania, and often mentioned as _Osci Ludi_. These were
more honourable than the other kinds, inasmuch as they were performed by
the young nobles, wearing masks, and giving the reins to their power of
improvisation. Teuffel (L. L. S 9) considers the subjects to have been
"comic descriptions of life in small towns, in which the chief personages
gradually assumed a fixed character." In the period of which we are now
treating, _i.e._ before the time of a written literature, they were
exclusively in the hands of free-born citizens, and, to use Livy's
expression, were not allowed to be polluted by professional actors. But
this hindered their progress, and it was not until several centuries after
their introduction, viz., in the time of Sulla, that they received
literary treatment. They adopted the dialect of the common people, and
were more or less popular in their character. More details will be given
when we examine them in their completer form. All such parts of these
early scenic entertainments as were not mere conversation or ribaldry,
were probably composed in the Saturnian metre.

This ancient rhythm, the only one indigenous to Italy, presents some
points worthy of discussion. The original application of the name is not
agreed upon. Thompson says, "The term Saturnius seems to have possessed
two distinct applications. In both of these, however, it simply meant 'as
old as the days of Saturn,' and, like the Greek _Ogugios_, was a kind of
proverbial expression for something antiquated. Hence (1) the rude
rhythmical effusions, which contained the early Roman story, might be
called Saturnian, not with reference to their metrical law, but to their
_antiquity_; and (2) the term _Saturnius_ was also applied to a definite
measure on the principles of Greek prosody, though rudely and loosely
moulded--the measure employed by Naevius, which soon became _antiquated_,
when Ennius introduced the hexameter--and which is the _metrum Saturnium_
recognised by the grammarians." [21] Whether this measure was of Italian
origin, as Niebuhr and Macaulay think, or was introduced from Greece at an
early period, it never attained to anything like Greek strictness of
metrical rules. To scan a line of Livius or Naevius, in the strict sense
of the word, is by no means an easy task, since there was not the same
constancy of usage with regard to quantity as prevailed after Ennius, and
the relative prominence of syllables was determined by accent, either
natural or metrical. By natural accent is meant the higher or lower pitch
of the voice, which rests on a particular syllable of each word _e.g.
Lucius_; by metrical accent the _ictus_ or beat of the verse, which in the
Greek rhythms implies a long _quantity_, but in the Saturnian measure has
nothing to do with quantity. The principle underlying the structure of the
measure is as follows. It is a succession of trochaic beats, six in all,
preceded by a single syllable, as in the instance quoted by

"The | queen was in her chamber eating bread and honey,"

So in the Scipionic epitaph,

"Qui | bus si in longa licuiset tibi utier vita."

These are, doubtless, the purest form of the measure. In these there is no
break, but an even continuous flow of trochaic rhythm. But even in the
earliest examples of Saturnians there is a very strong tendency to form a
break by making the third trochaic beat close a word, _e.g._

"Cor | nelius Lucius || Scipio Barbatus,"

and this structure prevailed, so that in the fragments of Livius and
Naevius by far the greater number exhibit it.

When Greek patterns of versification were introduced, the Saturnian rhythm
seems to have received a different explanation. It was considered as a
compound of the iambic and trochaic systems. It might be described as an
_iambic hepthemimer_ followed by a _trochaic dimeter brachycatalectic_.
The latter portion was preserved with something like regularity, but the
former admitted many variations. The best example of this _Graecised_
metre is the celebrated line--

"Dabunt malum Metelli | Naevio poetae."

If, however, we look into the existing fragments of Naevius and Livius,
and compare them with the Scipionic epitaphs, we shall find that there is
no appreciable difference in the rhythm; that whatever theory grammarians
might adopt to explain it, the measure of these poets is the genuine
trochaic beat, so natural to a primitive people, [22] and only so far
elaborated as to have in most cases a pause after the first half of the
line. The idea that the metre had prosodiacal laws, which, nevertheless,
its greatest masters habitually violated, [23] is one that would never
have been maintained had not the desire to systematise all Latin prosody
on a Greek basis prevailed almost universally. The true theory of early
Latin scansion is established beyond a doubt by the labours of Ritschl in
regard to Plautus. This great scholar shows that, whereas after Ennius
classic poetry was based on quantity alone, before him accent had at least
as important a place; and, indeed, that in the determination of quantity,
the main results in many cases were produced by the influence of accent.

Accent (Gr. _prosodia_) implied that the pronunciation of the accented
syllable was on a higher or lower note than the rest of the word. It was
therefore a musical, not a quantitative symbol. The rules for its position
are briefly as follows. No words but monosyllables or contracted forms
have the accent on the last; dissyllables are therefore always accented on
the first, and polysyllables on the first or second, according as the
penultimate is short or long, _Lucius, cecidi_. At the same time, old
Latin was burdened with a vast number of suffixes with a long final vowel.
The result of the non-accentuation of the last syllable was a continual
tendency to slur over and so shorten these suffixes. And this tendency was
carried in later times to such an extent as to make the quantity of all
final vowels after a short syllable bearing the accent indifferent. There
were therefore two opposing considerations which met the poet in his
capacity of versifier. There was the desire to retain the accent of every-
day life, and so make his language easy and natural, and the desire to
conform to the true quantity, and so make it strictly correct. In the
early poets this struggle of opposing principles is clearly seen. Many
apparent anomalies in versification are due to the influence of accent
over-riding quantity, and many again to the preservation of the original
quantity in spite of the accent. Ennius harmonised with great skill the
claims of both, doing little more violence to the natural accent in his
elaborate system of quantity than was done by the Saturnian and comic
poets with their fluctuating usage. [24]

To apply these results to the Saturnian verses extant, let us select a few

"Gnaivod patre prognatus | fortis vir sapiensque."

_patre_ or _patred_ retains its length by position, _i.e._ its metrical
accent, against the natural accent _patre_. In the case of syllables on
which the _ictus_ does not fall the quantity and accent are indifferent.
They are always counted as short, two syllables may stand instead of one--

per liquidum mare sudantes | ditem vexarant.

or the unaccented syllable may be altogether omitted, as in the second
half of the line--

"ditem vexarant."

In a line of Naevius--

"Runcus atque Purpureus | filii terras."

we have in _Purpureus_ an instance of accent dominating over quantity. But
the first two words, in which the _ictus_ is at variance with both accent
and quantity, show the loose character of the metre. An interesting table
is given by Corssen proving that the variance between natural and metrical
accent is greater in the Saturnian verses than in any others, and in
Plautus than in subsequent poets, and in iambics than in trochaics. [25]
We should infer from these facts (1) that the trochaic metre was the one
most naturally suited to the Latin language; (2) that the progress in
uniting quantity and accent, which went on in spite of the great
inferiority of the poets, proves that the early poets did not understand
the conditions of the problem which they had set before them. To follow
out this subject into detail would be out of place here. The main point
that concerns our present purpose is, that the great want of skill
displayed in the construction of the Saturnian verse [26] shows the Romans
to have been mere novices in the art of poetical composition.

The Romans, as a people, possessed a peculiar talent for public speaking.
Their active interest in political life, their youthful training and the
necessity of managing their own affairs at an age which in most countries
would be wholly engrossed with boyish sports, all combined to make
readiness of speech an almost universal acquirement. The weighty
earnestness (_gravitas_) peculiar to the national character was nowhere
more conspicuously displayed than in the impassioned and yet strictly
practical discussions of the senate. Taught as boys to follow at their
father's side, whether in the forum, at the law courts, in the senate at a
great debate, or at home among his agricultural duties, they gained at an
early age an insight into public business and a patient aptitude for work,
combined with a power of manly and natural eloquence, which nothing but
such daily familiarity could have bestowed. In the earlier centuries of
Rome the power of speaking was acquired solely by practice. Eloquence was
not reduced to the rules of an art, far less studied through manuals of
rhetoric. The celebrated speech of Appius Claudius when, blind, aged, and
infirm, he was borne in a litter to the senate-house, and by his burning
words shamed the wavering fathers into an attitude worthy of their
country, was the greatest memorial of this unstudied native eloquence.
When Greek letters were introduced, oratory, like everything else, was
profoundly influenced by them; and although it never, during the
republican period, lost its national character, yet too much of mere
display was undoubtedly mixed up with it, and the severe self-restraint of
the native school disappeared, or was caricatured by antiquarian
imitators. The great nurse of Roman eloquence was Freedom; when that was
lost, eloquence sank, and while that existed, the mere lack of technical
dexterity cannot have greatly abated from the real power of the speakers.

The subject which the Romans wrought out for themselves with the least
assistance from Greek thought, was Jurisprudence. In this they surpassed
not only the Greeks, but all nations ancient and modern. From the early
formulae, mostly of a religious character, which existed in the regal
period, until the publication of the Decemviral code, conservatism and
progress went hand in hand. [27] After that epoch elementary legal
knowledge began to be diffused, though the interpretation of the Twelve
Tables was exclusively in the hands of the Patricians. But the limitation
of the judicial power by the establishment of a fixed code, and the
obligation of the magistrate to decide according to the written letter,
naturally encouraged a keen study of the sources which in later times
expanded into the splendid developments of Roman legal science. The first
institution of the table of _legis actiones_, attributed to Appius
Claudius (304 B.C.), must be considered as the commencement of judicial
knowledge proper. The _responsa prudentium_, at the giving of which
younger men were present as listeners, must have contributed to form a
legal habit of thought among the citizens, and prepared a vast mass of
material for the labours of the philosophic jurists of a later age.

But inasmuch as neither speeches nor legal decisions were generally
committed to writing, except in the bare form of registers, we do not find
that there was any growth of regular prose composition. The rule that
prose is posterior to poetry holds good in Rome, in spite of the
essentially prosaic character of the people. It has been already said that
religious, legal, and other formulae were arranged in rhythmical fashion,
so as to be known by the name of _carmina_. And conformably to this we see
that the earliest composers of history, who are in point of time the first
prose writers of Rome, did not write in Latin at all, but in Greek. The
history of Latin prose begins with Cato. He gave it that peculiar
colouring which it never afterwards entirely lost. Having now completed
our preliminary remarks, we shall proceed to a more detailed account of
the earliest writers whose names or works have come down to us.



It is not easy for us to realise the effect produced on the Romans by
their first acquaintance with Greek civilisation. The debt incurred by
English theology, philosophy, and music, to Germany, offers but a faint
parallel. If we add to this our obligations to Italy for painting and
sculpture, to France for mathematical science, popular comedy, and the
culture of the _salon_, to the Jews for finance, and to other nations for
those town amusements which we are so slow to invent for ourselves, we
shall still not have exhausted or even adequately illustrated the
multifarious influences shed on every department of Roman life by the
newly transplanted genius of Hellas. It was not that she merely lent an
impulse or gave a direction to elements already existing. She did this;
but she did far more. She kindled into life by her fruitful contact a
literature in prose and verse which flourished for centuries. She
completely undermined the general belief in the state religion,
substituting for it the fair creations of her finer fancy, or when she did
not substitute, blending the two faiths together with sympathetic skill;
she entwined herself round the earliest legends of Italy, and so moulded
the historical aspirations of Rome that the great patrician came to pride
himself on his own ancestral connection with Greece, and the descent of
his founder from the race whom Greece had conquered. Her philosophers
ruled the speculations, as her artists determined the aesthetics, of all
Roman amateurs. Her physicians held for centuries the exclusive practice
of scientific medicine; while in music, singing, dancing, to say nothing
of the lighter or less reputable arts of ingratiation, her professors had
no rivals. The great field of education, after the break up of the ancient
system, was mainly in Greek hands; while her literature and language were
so familiar to the educated Roman that in his moments of intensest feeling
it was generally in some Greek apophthegm that he expressed the passion
which moved him. [1]

It would, therefore, be scarcely too much to assert that in every field of
thought (except that of law, where Rome remained strictly national) the
Roman intellect was entirely under the ascendancy of the Greek. There are,
of course, individual exceptions. Men like Cato, Varro, and in a later age
perhaps Juvenal, could understand and digest Greek culture without thereby
losing their peculiarly Roman ways of thought; but these patriots in
literature, while rewarded with the highest praise, did not exert a
proportionate influence on the development of the national mind. They
remained like comets moving in eccentric orbs outside the regular and
observed motion of the celestial system.

The strongly felt desire to know something about Greek literature must
have produced within a few years a pioneer bold enough to make the
attempt, if the accident of a schoolmaster needing text-books in the
vernacular for his scholars had not brought it about. The man who thus
first clothed Greek poetry in a Latin dress, and who was always gratefully
remembered by the Romans in spite of his sorry performance of the task,
was LIVIUS ANDRONICUS (285-204? B.C.), a Greek from Tarentum, brought to
Rome 275 B.C., and made the slave probably of M. Livius Salinator. Having
received his freedom, he set up a school, and for the benefit of his
pupils translated the Odyssey into Saturnian verse. A few fragments of
this version survive, but they are of no merit either from a poetical or a
scholastic point of view, being at once bald and incorrect. [2] Cicero [3]
speaks slightingly of his poems, as also does Horace, [4] from boyish
experience of their contents. It is curious that productions so immature
should have kept their position as text-books for near two centuries; the
fact shows how conservative the Romans were in such matters.

Livius also translated tragedies from the Greek. We have the names of the
_Achilles_, _Aegisthus_, _Ajax_, _Andromeda_, _Danae, _Equus Trojanus_,
_Tereus_, _Hermione_. In this sphere also he seems to have written from a
commendable motive, to supply the popular want of a legitimate drama. His
first play was represented in 240 B.C. He himself followed the custom,
universal in the early period, [5] of acting in his own dramas. In them he
reproduced some of the simpler Greek metres, especially the trochaic; and
Terentianus Maurus [6] gives from the _Ino_ specimens of a curious
experiment in metre, viz. the substitution of an iambus for a spondee in
the last foot of a hexameter. As memorials of the old language these
fragments present some interest; words like _perbitere (= perire),
anculabant ( =hauriebant), nefrendem (= infantem), dusmus (= dumosus)_,
disappeared long before the classical period.

His plodding industry and laudable aims obtained him the respect of the
people. He was not only selected by the Pontifices to write the poem on
the victory of Sena (207 B.C.), [7] but was the means of acquiring for the
class of poets a recognised position in the body corporate of the state.
His name was handed down to later times as the first awakener of literary
effort at Rome, but he hardly deserves to be ranked among the body of
Roman authors. The impulse which he had communicated rapidly bore fruit.
Dramatic literature was proved to be popular, and a poet soon arose who
was fully capable of fixing its character in the lines which its after
successful cultivation mainly pursued. CN. NAEVIUS, (269?-204 B.C.) a
Campanian of Latin extraction and probably not a Roman citizen, had in his
early manhood fought in the first Punic war. [8] At its conclusion he came
to Rome and applied himself to literary work. He seems to have brought out
his first play as early as 235 B.C. His work mainly consisted of
translations from the Greek; he essayed both tragedy and comedy, but his
genius inclined him to prefer the latter. Many of his comedies have Latin
names, _Dolus_, _Figulus_, _Nautae_, &c. These, however, were not
_togatae_ but _palliatae_, [9] treated after the same manner as those of
Plautus, with Greek costumes and surroundings. His original contribution
to the stage was the _Praetexta_, or national historical drama, which
thenceforth established itself as a legitimate, though rarely practised,
branch of dramatic art. We have the names of two _Praetextae_ by him,
_Clastidium_ and _Romulus_ or _Alimonium Romuli et Remi_.

The style of his plays can only be roughly inferred from the few passages
which time has spared us. That it was masculine and vigorous is clear; we
should expect also to find from the remarks of Horace as well as from his
great antiquity, considerable roughness. But on referring to the fragments
we do not observe this. On the contrary, the style both in tragedy and
comedy is simple, natural, and in good taste. It is certainly less
laboured than that of Ennius, and though it lacks the racy flavour of
Plautus, shows no inferiority to his in command of the resources of the
language. [10] On the whole, we are inclined to justify the people in
their admiration for him as a genuine exponent of the strong native humour
of his day, which the refined poets of a later age could not appreciate.

Naevius did not only occupy himself with writing plays. He took a keen
interest in politics, and brought himself into trouble by the freedom with
which he lampooned some of the leading families. The Metelli, especially,
were assailed by him, and it was probably through their resentment that he
was sent to prison, where he solaced himself by composing two comedies.
[11] Plautus, who was more cautious, and is by some thought to have had
for Naevius some of the jealousy of a rival craftsman, alludes to this
imprisonment [12]:--

"Nam os columnatum poetae esse indaudivi barbaro,
Quoi bini custodes semper totis horis accubant."

The poet, however, did not learn wisdom from experience. He lampooned the
great Scipio in some spirited verses still extant, and doubtless made many
others feel the shafts of his ridicule. But the censorship of literary
opinion was very strict in Rome, and when he again fell under it, he was
obliged to leave the city. He is said to have retired to Utica, where he
spent the rest of his life and died (circ. 204 B.C.). It was probably
there that he wrote the poem which gives him the chief interest for us,
and the loss of which by the hand of time is deeply to be regretted.
Debarred from the stage, he turned to his own military experience for a
subject, and chose the first Punic war. He thus laid the foundation of the
class of poetry known as the "National Epic," which received its final
development in the hands of Virgil. The poem was written in Saturnian
verse, perhaps from a patriotic motive; and was not divided into books
until a century after the poet's death, when the grammarian Lampadio
arranged it in seven books, assigning two to the mythical relations of
Rome and Carthage, and the remainder to the history of the war. The
narrative seems to have been vivid, truthful, and free from exaggerations
of language. The legendary portion contained the story of Aeneas's visit
to Carthage, which Virgil adopted, besides borrowing other single
incidents. What fragments remain are not very interesting and do not
enable us to pronounce any judgment. But Cicero's epithet "_luculente_
scripsit" [13] is sufficient to show that he highly appreciated the poet's
powers; and the popularity which he obtained in his life-time and for
centuries after his death, attests his capacity of seizing the national
modes of thought. He had a high opinion of himself; he held himself to be
the champion of the old Italian school as opposed to the Graecising
innovators. His epitaph is very characteristic: [14]

"Mortales immortales si foret fas flere,
Flerent Divae Camenae Naevium poetam.
Itaque postquamst Orcino traditus thesauro
Obliti sunt Romae loquier Latina lingua."



Before entering upon any criticism of the comic authors, it will be well
to make a few remarks on the general characteristics of the Roman theatre.
Theatrical structures at Rome resembled on the whole those of Greece, from
which they were derived at first through the medium of Etruria, [1] but
afterwards directly from the great theatres which Magna Graecia possessed
in abundance. Unlike the Greek theatres, however, those at Rome were of
wood not of stone, and were mere temporary erections, taken down
immediately after being used. On scaffoldings of this kind the plays of
Plautus and Terence were performed. Even during the last period of the
Republic, wooden theatres were set up, sometimes on a scale of profuse
expenditure little consistent with their duration. [2] An attempt was made
to build a permanent stone theatre, 135 B.C., but it was defeated by the
Consul Scipio Nasica. [3]

The credit of building the first such edifice is due to Pompey (55 B.C.),
who caused it to have accommodation for 40,000 spectators. Vitruvius in
his fifth book explains the ground-plan of such buildings. They were
almost always on the same model, differing in material and size. On one
occasion two whole theatres of wood, placed back to back, were made to
turn on a pivot, and so being united, to form a single amphitheatre. [4]
In construction, the Roman theatre differed from the Greek in reserving an
arc not exceeding a semicircle for the spectators. The stage itself was
large and raised not more than five feet. But the orchestra, instead of
containing the chorus, was filled by senators, magistrates, and
distinguished guests. [5] This made it easier for the Romans to dispense
with a chorus altogether, which we find, as a rule, they did. The rest of
the people sat or stood in the great semicircle behind that which formed
the orchestra. The order in which they placed themselves was not fixed by
law until the later years of the Republic, and again, with additional
safeguards, in the reign of Augustus. [6] But it is reasonable to suppose
that the rules of precedence were for the most part voluntarily observed.

It would appear that in the earliest theatres there were no tiers of seats
(_cunei_), but merely a semicircle of sloping soil, banked up for the
occasion (_cavea_) on which those who had brought seats sat down, while
the rest stood or reclined. The stage itself is called _pulpitum_ or
_proscaenium_, and the decorated background _scaena_. Women and children
were allowed to be present from the earliest period; slaves were not, [7]
though it is probable that many came by the permission of their masters.
The position of poets and actors was anything but reputable. The manager
of the company was generally at best a freedman; and the remuneration
given by the Aediles, if the piece was successful, was very small; if it
failed, even that was withheld. The behaviour of the audience was
certainly none of the best. Accustomed at all times to the enjoyment of
the eye rather than the ear, the Romans were always impatient of mere
dialogue. Thus Terence tells us that contemporary poets resorted to
various devices to produce some novel spectacle, and he feels it necessary
to explain why he himself furnishes nothing of the kind. Fair criticism
could hardly be expected from so motley an assembly; hence Terence begs
the people in each case to listen carefully to his play and then, and not
till then, if they disapprove, to hiss it off the stage. [8] In the times
of Plautus and Ennius the spectators were probably more discriminating;
but the steady depravation of the spectacles furnished for their amusement
contributed afterwards to brutalise them with fearful rapidity, until at
the close of the Republican period dramatic exhibitions were thought
nothing of in comparison with a wild-beast fight or a gladiatorial show.

At first, however, comedy was decidedly a favourite with the people, and
for one tragic poet whose name has reached us there are at least five
comedians. Of the three kinds of poetry cultivated in this early period,
comedy, which, according to Quintilian [9] was the least successful, has
been much the most fortunate. For whereas we have to form our opinion of
Roman tragedy chiefly from the testimony of ancient authors, we can
estimate the value of Roman comedy from the ample remains of its two

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