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A History of Roman Literature by Charles Thomas Cruttwell

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point, not to acquire fame; and thus thought less of enriching than of
enforcing his arguments. One ornament of speech, however, he pursued with
the greatest zeal, namely, good taste and refinement; [45] and in this,
according to Cicero, he stood above all his rivals. Unhappily, not a
single speech remains; only a few characteristics fragments, from which we
can but feel the more how much we have lost. [46]

Besides speeches, which were part of his public life, he showed a deep
interest in science. He wrote a treatise on grammar, _de Analogia_, for
which he found time in the midst of one of his busiest campaigns [47] and
dedicated to Cicero, [48] much to the orator's delight. In the dedication
occur these generous words, "If many by study and practice have laboured
to express their thoughts in noble language, of which art I consider you
to be almost the author and originator, it is our duty to regard you as
one who has well deserved of the name and dignity of the Roman people."
The treatise was intended as an introduction to philosophy and eloquence,
and was itself founded on philosophical principles; [49] and beyond doubt
it brought to bear on the subject that luminous arrangement which was
inseparable from Caesar's mind. Some of his conclusions are curious; he
lays down that the genitive of _dies_ is _die_; [50] the genitive plural
of _panis, pars; panum, partum_; [51] the accusative of _turbo, turbonem_;
[52] the perfect of _mordeo_ and the like, _memordi_ not _momordi_; [53]
the genitive of _Pompeius, Pompeiii_. [54] The forms _maximus, optimus,
municipium_, [55] &c. which he introduced, seem to have been accepted on
his authority, and to have established themselves finally in the language.

As chief pontifex he interested himself with a digest of the _Auspices_,
which he carried as far as sixteen books. [56] The _Auguralia_, which are
mentioned by Priscian, are perhaps a second part of the same treatise. He
also wrote an essay on _Divination_, like that of Cicero. In this he
probably disclosed his real opinions, which we know from other sources
were those of the extremest scepticism. There seemed no incongruity in a
man who disbelieved the popular religion holding the sacred office of
pontifex. The persuasion that religion was merely a department of the
civil order was considered, even by Cicero, to absolve men from any
conscientious allegiance to it. After his elevation to the perpetual
dictatorship he turned his mind to astronomy, owing to the necessities of
the calendar; and composed, or at least published, several books which
were thought by no means unscientific, and are frequently quoted. [57] Of
his poems we shall speak in another place. The only remaining works are
his two pamphlets against Cato, to which Juvenal refers: [58]

"Maiorem quam sunt duo Caesaris Anticatones."

These were intended as a reply to Cicero's laudatory essay, but though
written with the greatest ability, were deeply prejudiced and did not
carry the people with them. [59] The witty or proverbial sayings of Caesar
were collected either during his life, or after his death, and formed an
interesting collection. Some of them attest his pride, as "_My word is
law_;" [60] "_I am not king, but Caesar_;" [61] others his clemency, as,
"_Spare the citizens_;" [62] others his greatness of soul, as, "_Caesar's
wife must be above suspicion_." [63]

Several of his letters are preserved; they are in admirable taste, but do
not present any special points for criticism. With Caesar ends the
collection of genuine letter-writers, who wrote in conversational style,
without reference to publicity. In after times we have indeed numerous so-
called letters, but they are no longer the same class of composition as
these, nor have any recent letters the vigour, grace, and freedom of those
of Cicero and Caesar.

A friend of many great men, and especially of Atticus, CORNELIUS NEPOS
(74?-24 B.C.) owes his fame to the kindness of fortune more than to his
own achievements. Had we possessed only the account of him given by his
friends, we should have bewailed the loss of a learned and eloquent
author. [64] Fortunately we have the means of judging of his talent by a
short fragment of his work _On Illustrious Men_, which, though it
relegates him to the second rank in intellect, does credit to his
character and heart. [65] It consists of the lives of several Greek
generals and statesmen, written in a compendious and popular style,
adapted especially for school reading, where it has always been in great
request. Besides these there are short accounts of Hamilcar and Hannibal,
and of the Romans, Cato and Atticus. The last-mentioned biography is an
extract from a lost work, _De Historicis Latinis_, among whom friendship
prompts him to class the good-natured and cultivated banker. The series of
illustrious men extended over sixteen books, and was divided under the
headings of kings, generals, lawyers, orators, poets, historians,
philosophers, and grammarians. To each of these two books were devoted,
one of Greek, and one of Latin examples. [66] Of those we possess the life
of Atticus is the only one of any historical value, the rest being mere
superficial compilations, and not always from the best authorities.
Besides the older generation, he had friends also among the younger.
Catullus, who like him came from Gallia Cisalpina, pays in his first poem
the tribute of gratitude, due probably to his timely patronage. The work
mentioned there as that on which the fame of Nepos rested was called
_Chronica_. It seems to have been a laborious attempt to form a
comparative chronology of Greek and Roman History, and to have contained
three books. Subsequently, he preferred biographical studies, in which
field, besides his chief work, he edited a series of _Exempla_, or
patterns for imitation, of the character of our modern _Self Help_, and
intended to wean youthful minds from the corrupt fashions of their time. A
_Life of Cicero_ would probably be of great use to us, had fortune spared
it; for Nepos knew Cicero well, and had access through Atticus to all his
correspondence. At Atticus's request he wrote also a biography of Cato at
greater length than the short one which we possess. It has been observed
by Merivale [67] that the Romans were specially fitted for biographical
writing. The rhetorical cast of their minds and the disposition to
reverence commanding merit made them admirable panygerists; and few would
celebrate where they did not mean to praise. Of his general character as a
historian Mr. Oscar Browning in his useful edition says: "He is most
untrustworthy. It is often difficult to disentangle the wilful
complications of his chronology; and he tries to enhance the value of what
he is relating by a foolish exaggeration which is only too transparent to
deceive." His style is clear, a merit attributable to the age in which he
lived, and, as a rule, elegant, though verging here and there to
prettiness. Though of the same age as Caesar he adopts a more modern
Latinity. We miss the quarried marble which polish hardens but does not
wear away. Nepos's language is a softer substance, and becomes thin
beneath the file. He is occasionally inaccurate. In the _Phocion_ [68] we
have a sentence incomplete; in the _Chabrias_ [69] we have an accusative
(_Agesilaum_) with nothing to govern it; we have _ante se_ for _ante eum_,
a fault, by the way, into which almost every Latin writer is apt to fall,
since the rules on which the true practice is built are among the subtlest
in any language. [70] We have poetical constructions, as _tollere consilia
iniit_; popular ones, as _infitias it, dum_ with the perfect tense, and
colloquialisms like _impraesentiarum_; we have Graecizing words like
_deuteretur, automatias_, and curious inflexions such as _Thuynis, Coti,
Datami_, genitives of _Thuys, Cotys_, [71] and _Datames_, respectively. We
see in Nepos, as in Xenophon, the first signs of a coming change. He forms
a link between the exclusively prosaic style of Cicero and Caesar, and
prose softened and coloured with poetic beauties, which was brought to
such perfection by Livy.

After the life of Hannibal, in the MS., occurred an epigram by the
grammarian Aemilius Probus inscribing the work to Theodosius. By this
scholars were long misled. It was Lambinus who first proved that the pure
Latinity of the lives could not, except by magic, be the product of the
Theodosian age; and as ancient testimony amply justified the assignment of
the life of Atticus to Nepos, and he was known also to have been the
author of just such a book as came out under Probus's name, the great
scholar boldly drew the conclusion that the series of biographies we
possess were the veritable work of Nepos. For a time controversy raged. A
_via media_ was discovered which regarded them as an abridgment in
Theodosius's time of the fuller original work. But even this, which was
but a concession to prejudice, is now generally abandoned, and few would
care to dispute the accuracy of Lambinus's penetrating criticism. [72]

The first artistic historian of Rome is C. SALLUSTIUS CRISPUS (86-34
B.C.). This great writer was born at Amiternum in the year in which Marius
died, and, as we know from himself, he came to Rome burning with ambition
to ennoble his name, and studied with that purpose the various arts of
popularity. He rose steadily through the quaestorship to the tribuneship
of the plebs (52 B.C.), and so became a member of the senate. From this
position he was degraded (50 B.C.) on the plea of adultery, committed some
years before with the wife of Annius Milo, a disgrace he seems to have
deeply felt, although it was probably instigated by political and not
moral disapprobation. For Sallust was a warm admirer and partisan of
Caesar, who in time (47 B.C.) made him praetor, thus restoring his rank;
and assigned him (46 B.C.) the province of Numidia, from which he carried
an enormous fortune, for the most part, we fear, unrighteously obtained.
On his return (45 B.C.), content with his success, he sank into private
life; and to the leisure and study of his later years we owe the works
that have made him famous. He employed his wealth in ministering to his
comfort. His favourite retreats were a villa at Tibur which had once been
Caesar's, and a magnificent palace which he built in the suburbs of Rome,
surrounded by pleasure-grounds, afterwards well-known as the "Gardens of
Sallust," and as the residence of successive emperors. The preacher of
ancient virtue was an adept in modern luxury. Augustus chose the
historian's dwelling as the scene of his most sumptuous entertainments;
Vespasian preferred it to the palace of the Caesars; Nerva and Aurelian,
stern as they were, made it their constant abode. [73] And yet Sallust was
not a happy man. The inconsistency of conduct and the whirlwind of
political passion in which most men then lived seems to have sapped the
springs of life and worn out body and mind before their time. Caesar's
activity had at his death begun to make him old; [74] Sallust lived only
to the age of 52; Lucretius and Catullus were even younger when they died.
And the views of life presented in their works are far from hopeful.
Sallust, indeed, praises virtue; but it is an ideal of the past, colossal
but extinct, on which his gloomy eloquence is exhausted. Among his
contemporaries he finds no vestige of ancient goodness; honour has become
a traffic, ambition has turned to avarice, and envy has taken the place of
public spirit. From this scene of turpitude he selects two men who in
diverse ways recall the strong features of antiquity. These are Caesar and
Cato; the one the idol of the people, whom with real persuasion they
adored as a god; [75] the other the idol of the senate, whom the Pompeian
poet exalts even above the gods. [76] The contrast and balancing of the
virtues of these two great men is one of the most effective passages in
Sallust. [77]

From his position in public life and from his intimacy with Caesar, he had
gained excellent opportunities of acquiring correct information. The
desire to write history seems to have come on him in later life. Success
had no more illusions for him. The bitterness with which he touches on his
early misfortunes [78] shows that their memory still rankled within him.
And the pains with which he justifies his historical pursuits indicate a
stifled anxiety to enter once more the race for honours, which yet
experience tells him is but vanity. The profligacy of his youth, grossly
overdrawn by malice, [79] was yet no doubt a ground of remorse; and though
the severity of his opening chapters is somewhat ostentatious, there is no
intrinsic mark of insincerity about them. They are, it is true, quite
superfluous. Iugurtha's trickery can be understood without a preliminary
discourse on the immortality of the soul; and Catiline's character is not
such as to suggest a preface on the dignity of writing history. But with
all their inappropriateness, these introductions are valuable specimens of
the writer's best thoughts and concentrated vigour of language. In the
_Catiline_, his earliest work, he announces his attention of subjecting
certain episodes of Roman history [80] to a thorough treatment, omitting
those parts which had been done justice to by former writers. Thus it is
improbable that Sallust touched the period of Sulla, [81] both from the
high opinion he formed of Sisenna's account, and from the words _neque
alio loco de Sullae rebus dicturi sumus_; [82] nevertheless, some of the
events he selected doubtless fell within Sulla's lifetime, and this may
have given rise to the opinion that he wrote a history of the dictator.
Though Sallust's _Historiae_ are generally described as a consecutive work
from the premature movements of Lepidus on Sulla's death [83] (78 B.C.) to
the end of the Mithridatic war (63 B.C.); this cannot be proved. It is
equally possible that his series of independent historical cameos may have
been published together, arranged in chronological order, and under the
common title of _Historiae_. The _Iugurtha_ and _Catilina_, however, are
separate works; they are always quoted as such, and formed a kind of
commencement and finish to the intermediate studies.

Of the histories (in five books dedicated to the younger Lucullus), we
have but a few fragments, mostly speeches, of which the style seems a
little fuller than usual: our judgment of the writer must be based upon
the two essays that have reached us entire, that on the war with Iugurtha,
and that on the Catilinarian conspiracy. Sallust takes credit to himself,
in words that Tacitus has almost adopted, [84] for a strict impartiality.
Compared with his predecessors he probably _was_ impartial, and
considering the closeness of the events to his own time it is doubtful
whether any one could have been more so. For he wisely confined himself to
periods neither too remote for the testimony of eye-witnesses, nor too
recent for the disentanglement of truth. When Catiline fell (63 B.C.) the
historian was twenty-two years old, and this is the latest point to which
his studies reach. As a friend of Caesar he was an enemy of Cicero, and
two declamations are extant, the productions of the reign of Claudius,
[85] in which these two great men vituperate one another. But no
vituperation is found in Sallust's works. There is, indeed, a coldness and
reserve, a disinclination to praise the conduct and even the oratory of
the consul which bespeaks a mind less noble than Cicero's, [86] But facts
are not perverted, nor is the odium of an unconstitutional act thrown on
Cicero alone, as we know it was thrown by Caesar's more unscrupulous
partisans, and connived at by Caesar himself. The veneration of Sallust
for his great chief is conspicuous. Caesar is brought into steady
prominence; his influence is everywhere implied. But Sallust, however
clearly he betrays the ascendancy of Caesar over himself, [87] does not on
all points follow his lead. While, with Caesar, he believes fortune, or
more properly chance, to rule human affairs, he retains his belief in
virtue and immortality, [88] both of which Caesar rejected. He can not
only admit, but glorify the virtues of Cato, which Caesar ridiculed and
denied. But he is anxious to set the democratic policy in the most
favourable light. Hence he depicts Cato rather than Cicero as the
senatorial champion, because his impracticable views seemed to justify
Caesar's opposition; [89] he throws into fierce relief the vices of
Scaurus who was _princeps Senatus_; [90] and misrepresents the conduct of
Turpilius through a desire to screen Marius. [91] As to his authorities,
we find that he gave way to the prevailing tendency to manipulate them.
The speeches of Caesar and Cato in the senate, which he surely might have
transcribed, he prefers to remodel according to his own ideas, eloquently
no doubt, but the originals would have been in better place, and entitled
him to our gratitude. The same may be said of the speech of Marius. That
of Memmius [92] he professes to give intact; but its genuineness is
doubtful. The letter of Catiline to Catulus, that of Lentulus and his
message to Catiline, may be accepted as original documents. [93] In the
sifting of less accessible authorities he is culpably careless. His
account of the early history of Africa is almost worthless, though he
speaks of having drawn it from the books of King Hiempsal, and taken pains
to insert what was generally thought worthy of credit. It is in the
delineation of character that Sallust's penetration is unmistakably shown.
Besides the instances already given, we may mention the admirable sketch
of Sulla, [94] and the no less admirable ones of Catiline [95] and
Iugurtha. [96] His power of depicting the terrors of conscience is
tremendous. No language can surpass in condensed but lifelike intensity
the terms in which he paints the guilty noble carrying remorse on his
countenance and driven by inward agony to acts of desperation. [97]

His style is peculiar. He himself evidently imitated, and was thought by
Quintilian to rival, Thucydides. [98] But the resemblance is in language
only. The deep insight of the Athenian into the connexion of events is far
removed from the popular rhetoric in which the Roman deplores the decline
of virtue. And the brevity, by which both are characterised, while in the
one it is nothing but the incapacity of the hand to keep pace with the
rush of thought, in the other forms the artistic result of a careful
process of excision and compression. While the one kindles reflection, the
other baulks it. Nevertheless the style of Sallust has a special charm and
will always find admirers to give it the palm among Latin histories. The
archaisms which adorn or deface it, the poetical constructions which tinge
its classicality, the rough periods without particles of connexion which
impart to it a masculine hardness, are so fused together into a harmonious
fabric that after the first reading most students recur to it with genuine
pleasure. [99] On the whole it is more modern than that of Nepos, and
resembles more than any other that of Tacitus. Its brevity rarely falls
into obscurity, though it sometimes borders on affectation. There is an
appearance as if he was never satisfied, but always straining after an
excellence beyond his powers. It is emphatically a cultured style, and, as
such often recalls older authors. Now it is a reminiscence of Homer:
_aliud clausum in pectore, aliud in lingua promptum habere_; [100] now of
a Latin tragedian: _secundae res sapientium animos fatigant_. Much
allowance must be made for Sallust's defects, when we remember that no
model of historical writing yet existed at Rome. Some of the aphorisms
which are scattered in his book are wonderfully condensed, and have passed
into proverbs. _Concordia parvae res crescunt_ from the _Iugurtha_; and
_idem velle, idem nolle, ea demum firma amicitia est_, from the
_Catiline_, are instances familiar to all. The prose of Sallust differs
from that of Cicero in being less rhythmical; the hexametrical ending
which the orator rightly rejects, is in him not infrequent. It is probably
a concession to Greek habit. [101] Sallust did good service in pointing
out what historical writing should be, and his example was of such service
to Livy that, had it not been for him, it is possible the great master-
history would never have been designed.

It does not appear that this period was fruitful in historians. Tubero
(49-47 B.C.) is the only other whose works are mentioned; the convulsions
of the state, the short but sullen repose, broken by Caesar's death (44
B.C.), the bloodthirsty sway of the triumvirs, and the contests which
ended in the final overthrow at Actium (31 B.C.), were not favourable to
historical enterprise. But private notes were carefully kept, and men's
memories were strengthened by silence, so that circumstances naturally
inculcated waiting in patience until the time for speaking out should have
arrived. [102]


_On the Acta Diurna and Acta Senatus._

It is well known that there was a sort of journal at Rome analogous,
perhaps, to our _Gazette_, but its nature and origin are somewhat
uncertain. Suetonius (Caes. 20) has this account: "_Inito honore, primus
omnium instituit, ut tam Senatus quam populi diurna acta conficerentur et
publicarentur_," which seems naturally to imply that the people's _acta_
had been published every day before Caesar's consulship, and that he did
the same thing for the _acta_ of the senate. Before investigating these we
must distinguish them from certain other _acta_:--(1) _Civilia_,
containing a register of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces, called
_apographai_ by Polybius, and alluded to by Cicero (_ad Fam._ viii. 7) and
others. These were at first intrusted to the care of the censors,
afterwards to the praefecti aerarii. (2) _Forensia_, comprising lists of
laws, plebiscites, elections of aediles, tribunes, &c. like the _daemosia
grammata_ at Athens, placed among the archives annexed to various temples,
especially that of Saturn. (3) _Iudiciaria_, the legal reports, often
called _gesta_, kept in a special _tabularium_, under the charge of
military men discharged from active service. (4) _Militaria_, which
contained reports of all the men employed in war, their height, age,
conduct, accomplishments, &c. These were entrusted to an officer called
_librarius legionis_ (Veg. ii. 19), or sometimes _tabularius castrensis_,
but so only in the later Latin. Other less strictly formal documents, as
lists of cases, precedents, &c. seem to have been also called _acta_, but
the above are the regular kinds.

The _Acta Senatus_ or deliberations of the senate were not published until
Caesar. They were kept jealously secret, as is proved by a quaint story by
Cato, quoted in Aulus Gellius (i. 23). At all important deliberations a
senator, usually the praetor as being one of the junior members, acted as
secretary. In the imperial times this functionary was always a confidant
of the emperor. The _acta_ were sometimes inscribed on _tabulae publicae_
(Cic. pro Sull. 14, 15), but only on occasions when it was held expedient
to make them known. As a rule the publication of the resolution (_Senatus
Consultum_) was the first intimation the people had of the decisions of
their rulers. In the times of the emperors there were also _acta_ of each
emperor, apparently the memoranda of state councils held by him, and
communicated to the senate for them to act upon. There appears also to
have been _acta_ of private families when the estates were large enough to
make it worth while to keep them. These are alluded to in Petronius
Arbiter (ch. 53). We are now come to the _Acta Diurna, Populi, Urbana_ or
_Publica_, by all which names the same thing is meant. The earliest
allusion to them is in a passage of Sempronius Asellio, who distinguishes
the annals from the _diaria_, which the Greeks call _ephaemeris_ (ap. A.
Gell. V. 18). When about the year 131 B.C. the _Annales_ were redacted
into a complete form, the _acta_ probably begun. When Servius (ad. Aen. i.
373) says that the _Annales_ registered each day all noteworthy events
that had occurred, he is apparently confounding them with the _acta_,
which seem to have quietly taken their place. During the time that Cicero
was absent in Cilicia (62 B.C.) he received the news of town from his
friend. Coelius (Cic. Fam. viii. 1, 8, 12, &c.). These news comprised all
the topics which we should find now-a-days in a daily paper. Asconius
Pedianus, a commentator on Cicero of the time of Claudius, in his notes on
the Milo (p. 47, ed. Orell. 1833), quotes several passages from the
_acta_, on the authority of which he bases some of his arguments. Among
them are analyses of forensic orations, political and judicial; and it is
therefore probable that these formed a regular portion of the daily
journal in the latest age of the Republic. When Antony offered Caesar a
crown on the feast of the Lupercalia, Caesar ordered it to be noted in the
_acta_ (Dio xliv. 11); Antony, as we know from Cicero, even entered the
fact in the _Fasti_, or religious calendar. Augustus continued the
publication of the _Acta Populi_, under certain limitations, analogous to
the control exercised over journalism by the governments of modern Europe;
but he interdicted that of the _Acta Senatus_ (Suet. Aug. 36). Later
emperors abridged even this liberty. A portico in Rome having been in
danger of falling and shored up by a skilful architect, Tiberius forbade
the publication of his name (Dio lvii. 21). Nero relaxed the supervision
of the press, but it was afterwards re-established. For the genuine
fragments of the _Acta_, see the treatise by Vict. Le Clerc, _sur les
journaux chez les Romains_, from which this notice is taken.



As long as the drama was cultivated poetry had not ceased to be popular in
its tone. But we have already mentioned that coincidentally with the rise
of Sulla dramatic productiveness ceased. We hear, indeed, that J. CAESAR
STRABO (about 90 B.C.) wrote tragedies, but they were probably never
performed. Comedy, as hitherto practised, was almost equally mute. The
only forms that lingered on were the _Atellanae_, and those few plebeian
types of comedy known as _Togata_ and _Tabernaria_. But even these had now
withered. The present epoch brings before us a fresh type of composition
in the _Mime_, which now first took a literary shape. Mimes had indeed
existed in some sort from a very early period, but no art had been applied
to their cultivation, and they had held a position much inferior to that
of the national farce. But several circumstances now conspired to bring
them into greater prominence. First, the great increase of luxury and
show, and with it the appetite for the gaudy trappings of the _spectacle_;
secondly, the failure of legitimate drama, and the fact that the
_Atellanae_, with their patrician surroundings, were only half popular;
and lastly, the familiarity with the different offshoots of Greek comedy,
thrown out in rank profusion at Alexandria, and capable of assimilation
with the plastic materials of the _Mimus_. These worthless products,
issued under the names of Rhinthon, Sopater, Sciras, and Timon, were
conspicuous for the entire absence of restraint with which they treated
serious subjects, as well as for a merry-andrew style of humour easily
naturalised, if it were not already present, among the huge concourse of
idlers who came to sate their appetite for indecency without altogether
sacrificing the pretence of a dramatic spectacle. Two things marked off
the _Mimus_ from the _Atellana_ or national farce; the players appeared
without masks, [1] and women were allowed to act. This opened the gates to
licentiousness. We find from Cicero that _Mimae_ bore a disreputable
character, [2] but from their personal charms and accomplishments often
became the chosen companions of the profligate nobles of the day. Under
the Empire this was still more the case. Kingsley, in his _Hypatia_, has
given a lifelike sketch of one of these elegant but dissolute females. To
these seductive innovations the Mime added some conservative features. It
absorbed many characteristics of legitimate comedy. The actors were not
necessarily _planipedes_ in fact, though they remained so in name; [3]
they might wear the _soccus_ [4] and the Greek dress [5] of the higher
comedy. The Mimes seem to have formed at this time interludes between the
acts of a regular drama. Hence they were at once simple and short,
seasoned with as many coarse jests as could be crowded into a limited
compass, with plenty of music, dancing, and expressive gesture-language.
Their plot was always the same, and never failed to please; it struck the
key-note of all decaying societies, the discomfiture of the husband by the
wife. [6] Nevertheless, popular as was the Mime, it was, even in Caesar's
time, obliged to share the palm of attractiveness with bear-fights, boxing
matches, processions of strange beasts, foreign treasures, captives of
uncouth aspect, and other curiosities, which passed sometimes for hours
across the stage, feeding the gaze of an unlettered crowd, to the utter
exclusion of drama and interlude alike. Thirty years later, Horace [7]
declares that against such competitors no play could get a silent hearing.

This being the lamentable state of things, we are surprised to find that
Mime writing was practised by two men of vigorous talent and philosophic
culture, whose fragments, so far from betraying any concession to the
prevailing depravity, are above the ordinary tone of ancient comic
morality. They are the knight D. LABERIUS (106-43 B.C.) and PUBLILIUS
SYRUS (fl. 44 B.C.), an enfranchised Syrian slave. It is probable that
Caesar lent his countenance to these writers in the hope of raising their
art. His patronage was valuable; but he put a great indignity (45 B.C.) on
Laberius. The old man, for he was then sixty years of age, had written
Mimes for a generation, but had never acted in them himself. Caesar, whom
he may have offended by indiscreet allusions, [8] recommended him to
appear in person against his rival Syrus. This recommendation, as he well
knew, was equivalent to a command. In the prologue he expresses his sense
of the affront with great manliness and force of language. We quote some
lines from it, as a specimen of the best plebeian Latin;

"Necessitas, cuius cursus, transversi impetum
Voluerunt multi effugere, pauci potuerunt,
Quo me detrusit paene extremis sensibus?
Quem nulla ambitio, nulla unquam largitio,
Nullus timor, vis nulla, nulla auctoritas
Movere potuit in inventa de statu,
Ecce in senecta ut facile labefecit loco
Viri excellentis mente clemente edita
Summissa placide blandiloquens oratio!
Et enim ipsi di negare cui nil potuerunt,
Hominem me denegare quis posset pati?
Ego bis tricenis actis annis sine nota,
Eques Romanus e lare egressus meo,
Domum revertormimus--ni mirum hoc die
Uno plus vixi mihi quam vivendum fuit.
* * * * *
Porro, Quirites, libertatem perdimus." [9]

In these noble lines we see the native eloquence of a free spirit. But the
poet's wrathful muse roused itself in vain. Caesar awarded the prize to
Syrus, saying to Laberius in an impromptu verse of polite condescension,

"Favente tibime victus, Laberi, es a Syro." [10]

From this time the old knight surrendered the stage to his younger and
more polished rival.

Syrus vas a native of Antioch, and remarkable from his childhood for the
beauty of his person and his sparkling wit, to which he owed his freedom.
His talent soon raised him to eminence as an improvisatore and dramatic
declaimer. He trusted mostly to extempore inspiration when acting his
Mimes, but wrote certain episodes where it was necessary to do so. His
works abounded with moral apophthegms, tersely expressed. We possess 857
verses, arranged in alphabetical order, ascribed to him, of which perhaps
half are genuine. This collection was made early in the Middle Ages, when
it was much used for purposes of education. We append a few examples of
these sayings: [11]

"Beneficium dando accipit, qui digno dedit."

"Furor fit laesa saepius patientia."

"Comes facundus in via pro vehiculo est."

"Nimium altercando veritas amittitur."

"Iniuriarum remedium est oblivio."

"Malum est consilium quod mutari non potest."

"Nunquam periclum sine periclo vincitar."

Horace mentions Laberius not uncomplimentarily, though he professes no
interest in the sort of composition he represented. [12] Perhaps he judged
him by his audience. Besides these two men, CN. MATIUS (about 44 B.C.)
also wrote _Mimiambi_ about the same date. They are described as _Mimicae
fabulae, versibus plerunque iambicis conscriptae_, [13] and appear to have
differed in some way from the actual mimes, probably in not being
represented on the stage. They reappear in the time of Pliny, whose friend
VERGINIUS ROMANUS (he tells us in one of his letters) [14] wrote Mimiambi
_tenuiter, argute, venuste, et in hoc genere eloquentissime_. This shows
that for a long tune a certain refinement and elaboration was compatible
with the style of Mime writing. [15]

The _Pantomimi_ have been confused with the _Mimi_; but they differed in
being dancers, not actors; they represent the inevitable development of
the mimic art, which, as Ovid says in his _Tristia_, [16] even in its
earlier manifestations, enlisted the eye as much as the ear. In Imperial
times they almost engrossed the stage. PYLADES and BATHYLLUS are monuments
of a depraved taste, which could raise these men to offices of state, and
seek their society with such zeal that the emperors were compelled to
issue stringent enactments to forbid it. TIGELLIUS seems to have been the
first of these _effeminati_; he is satirised by Horace, [17] but his
influence was inappreciable compared with that of his successors. The
pantomimus aspired to render the emotions of terror or love more
speakingly by gesture than it was possible to do by speech; and ancient
critics, while deploring, seem to have admitted this claim. The moral
effect of such exhibitions may be imagined. [18]

It is pleasing to find that in Cicero's time the interpretation of the
great dramatists' conceptions exercised the talents of several illustrious
actors, the two best-known of whom are AESOPUS, the tragedian (l22-54
B.C.), and ROSCIUS, the comic actor (120-61? B.C.), [19] After the
exhaustion of dramatic creativeness a period of splendid representation
naturally follows. It was so in Germany and England, it was so at Rome. Of
the two men, Roscius was the greater master; he was so perfect in his art
that his name became a synonym for excellence in any branch. [20] Neither
of them, however, embraced, as Garrick did, both departments of the art;
their provinces were and always remained distinct. Both had the privilege
of Cicero's friendship; both no doubt lent him the benefit of their
professional advice. The interchange of hints between an orator and an
actor was not unexampled. When Hortensius spoke, Roscius always attended
to study his suggestive gestures, and it is told of Cicero himself that he
and Roscius strove which could express the higher emotions more perfectly
by his art. Roscius was a native of Solonium, a Latin town, his praenomen
was Quintus; Aesopus appears to have been a freedman of the Claudia gens.
Of other actors few were well-known enough to merit notice. Some imagine
DOSSENNUS, mentioned by Horace, [21] to have been an actor; but he is much
more likely to be the Fabius Dossennus quoted as an author of _Atellanae_
by Pliny in his _Natural History_ [22] The freedom with which popular
actors were allowed to treat their original is shown by Aesopus on one
occasion (62 B.C.?) changing the words _Brutus qui patriam stabiliverat_
to _Tullius_, a change which, falling in with the people's humour at the
moment, was vociferously applauded, and gratified Cicero's vanity not a
little. [23] Aesopus died soon after (54 B.C.); Roscius did not live so
long. His marvellous beauty when a youth is the subject of a fine epigram
by Lutatius Catulus, already referred to. [24] Both amassed large
fortunes, and lived in princely style.

While the stage was given up to Mimes, cultured men wrote tragedies for
their improvement in command of language. Both Cicero and his brother
wrought assiduously at these frigid imitations. Caesar followed in their
steps; and no doubt the practice was conducive to copiousness and to an
effective simulation of passion. Their appearance as orators before the
people must have called out such different mental qualities from their
cold and calculating intercourse with one another, that tragedy writing as
well as declaiming may have been needful to keep themselves ready for an
emergency. Cicero, as is well known, tried hard to gain fame as a poet.
The ridicule which all ages have lavished on his unhappy efforts has been
a severe punishment for his want of self-knowledge. Still, judging from
the verses that remain, we cannot deny him the praise of a correct and
elegant _versateur_. Besides several translations from Homer and Euripides
scattered through his works, and a few quotations by hostile critics from
his epic attempts, [25] we possess a large part of his translation of
Aratus's _Phaenomena_, written, indeed, in his early days, but a graceful
specimen of Latin verse, and, as Munro [26] has shown, carefully studied
and often imitated by Lucretius. The most noticeable point of metre is his
disregard of the final s, no less than thrice in the first ninety lines, a
practice which in later life he stigmatised as _subrusticum_. In other
respects his hexameters are a decided advance on those of Ennius in point
of smoothness though not of strength. He still affects Greek caesuras
which are not suited to the Latin cadence, [27] and his rhythm generally
lacks variety.

Caesar's pen was nearly as prolific. He wrote besides an _Oedipus_ a poem
called _Laudes Herculis_, and a metrical account of a journey into Spain
called _Iter_. [28] Sportive effusions on various plants are attributed to
him by Pliny. [29] All these Augustus wisely refused to publish; but there
remain two excellent epigrams, one on Terence, already alluded to, which
is undoubtedly genuine, [30] the other probably so, though others ascribe
it to Germanicus or Domitian. [31] But the rhythm, purity of language, and
continuous structure of the couplets seem to point indisputably to an
earlier age. It is as follows--

"Thrax puer, astricto glacie dum ludit in Hebro,
Frigore concretas pondere rupit aquas.
Quumque imae partes rapido traherentur ab amne,
Abscidit, heu! tenerum lubrica testa caput.
Orba quod inventum mater dum conderet urna,
'Hoc peperi flammis, cetera,' dixit, 'aquis.'"

This is evidently a study from the Greek, probably from an Alexandrine

We have already had occasion more than once to mention the influence of
Alexandria on Roman literature. Since the fall of Carthage Rome had had
much intercourse with the capital of the Greek world. Her thought,
erudition, and style, had acted strongly upon the rude imitators of Greek
refinement. But hitherto the Romans had not been ripe for receiving their
influence in full. In Cicero's time, however, and in a great measure owing
to his labours, Latin composition of all kinds had advanced so far that
writers, and especially poets, began to feel capable of rivalling their
Alexandrian models. This type of Hellenism was so eminently suited to
Roman comprehension that, once introduced, it could not fail to produce
striking results. The results it actually produced were so vast, and in a
way so successful, that we must pause a moment to contemplate the rise of
the city which was connected with them.

Alexander did not err in selecting the mouth of the Nile for the capital
that should perpetuate his name. Its site, its associations, religious,
artistic, and scientific, and the tide of commerce that was certain to
flow through it, all suggested the coast of Egypt as the fittest point of
attraction for the industry of the Eastern world, while the rapid fall of
the other kingdoms that rose from the ruins of his Empire contributed to
make the new Merchant City the natural inheritor of his great ideas. The
Ptolemies well fulfilled the task which Alexander's foresight had set
before them. They aspired to make their capital the centre not only of
commercial but of intellectual production, and the repository of all that
was most venerable in religion, literature, and art. To achieve this end,
they acted with the magnificence as well as the unscrupulousness of great
monarchs. At their command, a princely city rose from the sandhills and
rushes of the Canopic mouth; stately temples uniting Greek proportion with
Egyptian grandeur, long quays with sheltered docks, ingenious contrivances
for purifying the Nile water and conducting a supply to every considerable
house; [32] in short, every product of a luxurious civilisation was found
there, except the refreshing shade of green trees, which, beyond a few of
the commoner kinds, could not be forced to grow on the shifting sandy
soil. The great glory of Alexandria, however, was its public library,
Founded by Soter (306-285 B.C.), greatly extended by Philadelphus (285-247
B.C.), under whom grammatical studies attained their highest development,
enriched by Euergetes (247-212 B.C.) with genuine MSS. of authors
fraudulently obtained from their owners to whom he sent back copies made
by his own librarians, [33] this collection reached under the last-named
sovereign the enormous total of 532,800 volumes, of which the great
majority were kept in the museum which formed part of the royal palace,
and about 50,000 of the most precious in the temple of Serapis, the patron
deity of the city. [34] Connected with the museum were various endowments
analogous to our professorships and fellowships of colleges; under the
Ptolemies the head librarian, in after times the professor of rhetoric,
held the highest post within this ancient university. The librarian was
usually chief priest of one of the greatest gods, Isis, Osiris, or
Serapis. [35] His appointment was for life, and lay at the disposal of the
monarch. Thus the museum was essentially a court institution, and its
_savants_ and _litterateurs_ were accomplished courtiers and men of the
world. Learning being thus nursed as in a hot-bed, its products were rank,
but neither hardy nor natural. They took the form of recondite
mythological erudition, grammar and exegesis, and laborious imitation of
the ancients. In science only was there a healthy spirit of research.
Mathematics were splendidly represented by Euclid and Archimedes,
Geography by Eratosthenes, Astronomy by Hipparchus; for these men, though
not all residents in Alexandria, all gained their principles and method
from study within her walls. To Aristarchus (fl. 180 B.C.) and his
contemporaries we owe the final revision of the Greek classic texts; and
the service thus done to scholarship and literature was incalculable. But
the earlier Alexandrines seem to have been overwhelmed by the vastness of
material at their command. Except in pastoral poetry, which in reality was
not Alexandrine, [36] there was no creative talent shown for centuries.
The true importance of Alexandria in the history of thought dates from
Plotinus (about 200 A.D.), who first clearly taught that mystic philosophy
which under the name of _Neoplatonism_, has had so enduring a fascination
for the human spirit. It was not, however, for philosophy, science, or
theology that the Romans went to Alexandria. It was for literary models
which should less hopelessly defy imitation than those of old Greece, and
for general views of life which should approve themselves to their growing
enlightenment. These they found in the half-Greek, half-cosmopolitan
culture which had there taken root and spread widely in the East. Even
before Alexander's death there had been signs of the internal break-up of
Hellenism, now that it had attained its perfect development. Out of Athens
pure Hellenism had at no time been able to express itself successfully in
literature. And even in Athens the burden of Atticism, if we may say so,
seems to have become too great to bear. We see a desire to emancipate both
thought and expression from the exquisite but confining proportions within
which they had as yet moved. The student of Euripides observes a struggle,
ineffectual it is true, but pregnant with meaning, against all that is
most specially recognised as conservative and national. [37] He strives to
pour new wine into old bottles; but in this case the bottles are too
strong for him to burst. The Atticism which had guided and comprehended,
now began to cramp development. To make a world-wide out of a Hellenic
form of thought, it is necessary to go outside the charmed soil of Greece.
Only on the banks of the Nile will the new culture find a shrine, whose
remote and mysterious authority frees it from the spell of Hellenism, now
no longer the exponent of the world's thought, while it is near enough to
the arena where human progress is fighting its way onward, to inspire and
be inspired by the mighty nation that is succeeding Greece as the
representative of mankind.

The contribution of Alexandria to human progress consists, then, in its
recoil from Greek exclusiveness, in its sifting of what was universal in
Greek thought from what was national, and presenting the former in a
systematised form for the enlightenment of those who received it. This is
its nobler side; the side which men like Ennius and Scipio seized, and
welded into a harmonious union with the higher national tradition of Rome,
out of which union arose that complex product to which the name
_humanitas_ was so happily given. But Alexandrian culture was more than
cosmopolitan. It was in a sense anti-national. Egyptian superstition,
theurgy, magic, and charlatanism of every sort, tried to amalgamate with
the imported Greek culture. In Greece itself they had never done this. The
clear light of Greek intellect had no fellowship with the obscure or the
mysterious. It drove them into corners and let them mutter in secret. But
the moment the lamp of culture was given into other hands, they started up
again unabashed and undismayed. The Alexandrine thinkers struggled to make
Greek influences supreme, to exclude altogether those of the East; and
their efforts were for three centuries successful: neither mysticism nor
magic reigned in the museum of the Ptolemies. But this victory was
purchased at a severe cost. The enthusiasm of the Alexandrian scholars had
made them pedants. They gradually ceased to care for the thought of
literature, and busied themselves only with questions of learning and of
form. Their multifarious reading made them think that they too had a
literary gift. Philetas was not only a profound logician, but he affected
to be an amatory poet. [38] Callimachus, the brilliant and courtly
librarian of Philadelphus, wrote nearly every kind of poetry that existed.
Aratus treated the abstruse investigations of Eudoxus in neat verses that
at once became popular. While in the great periods of Greek art each
writer had been content to excel in a single branch, it now became the
fashion for the same poet to be Epicist, Lyrist, and Elegy-writer at once.

Besides the new treatment of old forms, there were three kinds of poetry,
first developed or perfected at Alexandria, which have special interest
for us from the great celebrity they gained when imported into Rome. They
are the didactic poem, the erotic elegy, and the epigram. The maxim of
Callimachus (characteristic as it is of his narrow mind) _mega biblion
mega kakon_, "a great book is a great evil," [39] was the rule on which
these poetasters generally acted. The didactic poem is an illegitimate
cross between science and poetry. In the creative days of Greece it had no
place. Hesiod, Parmenides, and Empedocles were, indeed, cited as examples.
But in their days poetry was the only vehicle of literary effort, and he
who wished to issue accurate information was driven to embody it in verse.
In the time of the Ptolemies things were altogether different. It was
consistent neither with the exactness of science nor with the grace of the
Muses to treat astronomy or geography as subjects for poetry. Still, the
best masters of this style undoubtedly attained great renown, and have
found brilliant imitators, not only in Roman, but in modern times.

ARATUS (280 B.C.), known as the model of Cicero's, and in a later age of
Domitian's [40] youthful essays in verse, was born at Soli in Cilicia
about three hundred years before Christ. He was not a scientific man, [41]
but popularised in hexameter verse the astronomical works of Eudoxus, of
which he formed two poems, the _Phaenomena_ and the _Diosemia_, or
Prognostics. These were extravagantly praised, and so far took the place
of their original that commentaries were written on them by learned men,
[42] while the works of Eudoxus were in danger of being forgotten.
NICANDER (230 B.C.?), still less ambitious, wrote a poem on remedies for
vegetable and mineral poisons (_alexipharmaka_), and for the bites of
beasts (_thaeriaka_), and another on the habits of birds (_ornithogonia_).
These attracted the imitation of Macer in the Augustan age. But the most
celebrated poets were CALLIMACHUS (260 B.C.) and PHILETAS [43] (280 B.C.),
who formed the models of Propertius. To them we owe the Erotic Elegy,
whether personal or mythological, and all the pedantic ornament of
fictitious passion which such writings generally display. More will be
said about them when we come to the elegiac poets. Callimachus, however,
seems to have carried his art, such as it was, to perfection. He is
generally considered the prince of elegists, and his extant fragments show
great nicety and finish of expression. The sacrilegious theft of the locks
of Berenice's hair from the temple where she had offered them, was a
subject too well suited to a courtier's muse to escape treatment. Its
celebrity is due to the translation made by Catullus, and the
appropriation of the idea by Pope in his _Rape of the Lock_. The short
epigram was also much in vogue at Alexandria, and neat examples abound in
the _Anthology_. But in all these departments the Romans imitated with
such zest and vigour that they left their masters far behind. Ovid and
Martial are as superior in their way to Philetas and Callimachus as
Lucretius and Virgil to Aratus and Apollonius Rhodius. This last-mentioned
poet, APOLLONIUS RHODIUS (fl. 240 B.C.), demands a short notice. He was
the pupil of Callimachus, and the most genuinely-gifted of all the
Alexandrine school; he incurred the envy and afterwards the rancorous
hatred of his preceptor, through whose influence he was obliged to leave
Alexandria and seek fame at Rhodes. Here he remained all his life and
wrote his most celebrated poem, the _Epic of the Argonauts_, a combination
of sentiment, learning, and graceful expression, which is less known than
it ought to be. Its chief interest to us is the use made of it by Virgil,
who studied it deeply and drew much from it. We observe the passion of
love as a new element in heroic poetry, scarcely treated in Greece, but
henceforth to become second to none in prominence, and through Dido, to
secure a place among the very highest flights of song. [44] Jason and
Medea, the hero and heroine, who love one another, create a poetical era.
An epicist of even greater popularity was EUPHORION of Chalcis (274-203
B.C.), whose affected prettiness and rounded cadences charmed the ears of
the young nobles. He had admirers who knew him by heart, who declaimed him
at the baths, [45] and quoted his pathetic passages _ad nauseam_. He was
the inventor of the historical romance in verse, of which Rome was so
fruitful. A Lucan, a Silius, owe their inspiration in part to him. Lastly,
we may mention that the drama could find no place at Alexandria. Only
learned compilations of recondite legend and frigid declamation, almost
unintelligible from the rare and obsolete words with which they were
crowded, were sent forth under the name of plays. The _Cassandra_ or
_Alexandra_ of Lycophron is the only specimen that has come to us. Its
thorny difficulties deter the reader, but Fox speaks of it as breathing a
rich vein of melancholy. The _Thyestes_ of Varius and the _Medea_ of Ovid
were no doubt greatly improved copies of dramas of this sort.

It will be seen from this survey of Alexandrine letters that the better
side of their influence was soon exhausted. Any breadth of view they
possessed was seized and far exceeded by the nobler minds that imitated
it; and all their other qualities were such as to enervate rather than
inspire. The masculine rudeness of the old poets now gave way to pretty
finish; verbal conceits took the place of condensed thoughts; the rich
exuberance of the native style tried to cramp itself into the arid
allusiveness which, instead of painting straight from nature, was content
to awaken a long line of literary associations. Nevertheless there was
much in their manipulation of language from which the Romans could learn a
useful lesson. It was impossible for them to catch the original impulse of
the divine seer [46]--

_autodidaktos d'eimi, theos de moi en phresin oimas pantoias enephysen._

From poverty of genius they were forced to draw less flowing draughts from
the Castalian spring. The bards of old Greece were hopelessly above them.
The Alexandrines, by not overpowering their efforts, but offering them
models which they felt they could not only equal but immeasurably excel,
did real service in encouraging and stimulating the Roman muse. Great
critics like Niebuhr and, within certain limits, Munro, regret the
mingling of the Alexandrine channel with the stream of Latin poetry, but
without it we should perhaps not have had Catullus and certainly neither
Ovid nor Virgil.

It may easily be supposed that the national party, whether in politics or
letters, would set themselves with all their might to oppose the rising
current. The great majority surrendered themselves to it with a good will.
Among the stern reactionists in prose, we have mentioned Varro; in poetry,
by far the greatest name is LUCRETIUS. But little is known of Lucretius's
life; even the date of his birth is uncertain. St. Jerome, in the Eusebian
chronicle, [47] gives 95 B.C. Others have with more probability assigned
an earlier date. It is from Jerome that we learn those facts which have
cast a strong interest round the poet, viz. that he was driven mad by a
love potion, that he composed in the intervals of insanity his poem, which
Cicero afterwards corrected, and that he perished by his own hand in the
forty-fourth year of his age. Jerome does not quote any contemporary
authority; his statements, coming 500 years after the event, must go for
what they are worth, but may perhaps meet with a qualified acceptance. The
intense earnestness of the poem indicates a mind that we can well conceive
giving way under the overwhelming thought which stirred it; and the
example of a philosopher anticipating the stroke of nature is too often
repeated in Roman history to make it incredible in this case. Tennyson
with a poet's sympathy has surrounded this story with the deepest pathos,
and it will probably remain the accepted, if not the established, version
of his death.

Though born in a high position, he seems to have stood aloof from society.
From first to last his book betrays the close and eager student. He was an
intimate friend of the worthless C. Memmius, whom he extols in a manner
creditable to his heart but not to his judgment. [48] But he was no
flatterer, nor was Memmius a patron. Poet and statesman lived on terms of
perfect equality. Of the date of his work we can so far conjecture that it
was certainly unfinished at his death (55 B.C.), and from its scope and
information must have extended over some years. The allusion [49]--

"Nam neque nos agere hoc patriai tempore iniquo
Possumus aequo animo, nec Memmi clara propago
Talibus in rebus communi desse saluti,"

is considered by Prof. Sellar to point to the praetorship of Memmius (58
B.C.). The work was long thought to have been edited by Cicero after the
poet's death; but though he had read the poem, [50] and admitted its
talent, he would doubtless have mentioned, at least to Atticus, the fact
of the editing, had it occurred. Some critics, arguing from Cicero's
silence and known opposition to the Epicurean tenets, have thought that
Jerome referred to Q. Cicero the orator's brother, but for this there is
no authority. The poem is entitled _De Rerum Natura_, an equivalent for
the Greek _peri physeos_, the usual title of the pre-Socratic
philosophers' works. The form, viz. a poem in heroic hexameters,
containing a carefully reasoned exposition, in which regard was had above
all to the claims of the subject-matter, was borrowed from the Sicilian
thinker Empedocles [51] (460 B.C.). But while Aristotle denies Empedocles
the title of _poet_ [52] on account of his scientific subject, no one
could think of applying the same criticism to Lucretius A general view of
nature, as the Power most near to man, and most capable of deeply moving
his heart, a Power whose beauty, variety, and mystery, were the source of
his most perplexing struggles as well as of his purest joys; a desire to
hold communion with her, and to learn from her lips, opened only to the
ear of faith, those secrets which are hid from the vain world; this was
the grand thought that stirred the depths of Lucretius's mind, and made
him the herald of a new and enduring form of verse. It has been well said
that didactic poetry was that in which the Roman was best fitted to
succeed. It was in harmony with his utilitarian character. [53] To give a
practically useful direction to its labour was almost demanded from the
highest poetry. To say nothing of Horace and Lucilius, Virgil's Aeneid, no
less than his Georgics, has a practical aim, and to an ardent spirit like
Lucretius, poetry would be the natural vehicle for the truths to which he
longed to convert mankind.

In the selection of his models, his choice fell upon the older Greek
writers, such as Empedocles, Aeschylus, Thucydides, men renowned for deep
thought rather than elegant expression; and among the Romans, upon Ennius
and Pacuvius, the giants of a ruder past. Among contemporaries, Cicero
alone seems to have awakened his admiration. Thus he stands altogether
aloof from the fashionable standard of his day, a solitary beacon pointing
to landmarks once well known, but now crumbling into decay. [54]

Lucretius is the only Roman in whom the love of speculative truth [55]
prevails over every other feeling. In his day philosophy had sunk to an
endless series of disputes about words [56] Frivolous quibbles and
captious logical proofs, comprised the highest exercises of the
speculative faculty. [57] The mind of Lucretius harks back to the glorious
period of creative enthusiasm, when Democritus, Empedocles, Anaxagoras,
Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and Epicurus, successively believed that they had
solved the great questions of being and knowing. Amid the zeal and
confidence of that mighty time his soul is at home. To Epicurus as the
inventor of the true guide of life he pays a tribute of reverential
praise, calling him the pride of Greece, [58] and exalting him to the
position of a god. [59] It is clear to one who studies this deeply
interesting poet that his mind was in the highest degree reverential. No
error could have been more fatal to his enjoyment of that equanimity,
whose absence he deplores, than to select a creed, at once so joyless and
barren in itself, and so unsuited to his ardent temperament.

When Lucretius wrote, belief in the national religion had among the upper
classes become almost extinct. Those who needed conviction as a support
for their life had no resource but Greek philosophy. The speculations of
Plato, except in his more popular works, were not attractive to the
Romans; those of Aristotle, brought to light in Cicero's time by the
transference of Apellicon's library to Rome, [60] were a sealed book to
the majority, though certain works, probably dialogues after the Platonic
manner, gained the admiration of Cicero and Quintilian. The pre-Socratic
thinkers, occupied as they were with physical questions which had little
interest for Romans, were still less likely to be resorted to. The demand
for a supreme moral end made it inevitable that their choice should fall
on one of the two schools which offered such an end, those of the Porch
and the Garden. Which of the two would a man like Lucretius prefer? The
answer is not so obvious as it appears. For Lucretius has in him nothing
of the _Epicurean_ in our sense. His austerity is nearer to that of the
Stoic. It was the speculative basis underlying the ethical system, and not
the ethical system itself, that determined his choice. Epicurus had allied
his theory of pleasure [61] with the atomic theory of Democritus. Stoicism
had espoused the doctrine of Heraclitus, that fire is the primordial
element. Epicurus had denied the indestructibility of the soul and the
divine government of the world; his gods were unconnected with mankind,
and lived at ease in the vacant spaces between the worlds. Stoicism on the
contrary, had incorporated the popular theology, bringing it into
conformity with the philosophic doctrine of a single Deity by means of
allegorical interpretation. Its views of Divine Providence were
reconcilable with, while they elevated, the popular superstition.

Lucretius had a strong hatred for the abuses into which state-craft and
luxury had allowed the popular creed to fall; he was also firmly convinced
of the sufficiency of Democritus's two postulates (_Atoms_ and _the Void_)
to account for all the phenomena of the universe. Hence he gave his
unreserved assent to the Epicurean system, which he expounds, mainly in
its physical outlines, in his work; the ethical tenets being interwoven
with the bursts of enthusiastic poetry which break, or the countless
touches which adorn, the sustained course of his argument.

The defects of the ancient scientific method are not wanting in him.
Generalising from a few superficial instances, reasoning _a priori_,
instead of winning his way by observation and comparison up to the
Universal truth, fancying that it was possible for a single mind to grasp,
and for a system by a few bold hypotheses to explain, the problem of
external nature, of the soul, of the existence of the gods: such are the
obvious defects which Lucretius shares with his masters, and of which the
experience of ages has taught us the danger as well as the charm. But the
atomic system has features which render it specially interesting at the
present day. Its materialism, its attribution to nature of power
sufficient to carry out all her ends, its analysis of matter into ultimate
physical _individua_ incognisable by sense, while yet it insists that the
senses are the fountains of all knowledge, [62] are points which bring it
into correspondence with hypotheses at present predominant. Its theory of
the development of society from the lower to the higher without break and
without divine intervention, and of the survival of the fittest in the
struggle for existence, its denial of design and claim to explain
everything by natural law, are also points of resemblance. Finally, the
lesson he draws from this comfortless creed, not to sit with folded hands
in silent despair, nor to "eat and drink for to-morrow we die," but to
labour steadily for our greater good and to cultivate virtue in accordance
with reason, equally free from ambition and sloth, is strikingly like the
teaching of that scientific school [63] which claims for its system a
motive as potent to inspire self-denial as any that a more spiritual
philosophy can give.

Lucretius, therefore, gains moral elevation by deserting the conclusion of
Epicurus. While he does full justice to the poetical side of pleasure as
an end in itself, [64] he never insists on it as a motive to action. Thus
he retains the conception as a noble ornament of his verse, but reserves
to himself, as every poet must, the liberty to adopt another tone if he
feels it higher or more appropriate. Indeed, logical consistency of view
would be out of place in a poem; and Lucretius is nowhere a truer poet
that when he sins against his own canons. [65] His instinct told him how
difficult it was to combine clear reasoning with a poetical garb,
especially as the Latin language was not yet broken to the purposes of
philosophy. [66] Nevertheless so complete is his mastery of the subject
that there is scarcely a difficulty arising from want of clearness of
expression from beginning to end of the poem. There are occasional
_lacunae_, and several passages out of place, which were either stop-gaps
intended to be replaced by lines more appropriate, or additions made after
the first draft of the work, which, had the author lived, would have been
wrought into the context. The first three books are quite or nearly quite
finished, and from them we can judge his power of presenting an argument.

His chief object he states to be not the discovery, but the exposition of
truth, for the purpose of freeing men's minds from religious terrors. This
he announces immediately after the invocation to Venus, "Mother of the
Aeneadae," with which the poem opens. He then addresses himself to
Memmius, whom he intreats not to be deterred from reading him by the
reproach of "rationalism." [67] He next states his first principle, which
is the denial of creation:

"Nullam rem e nilo gigni divinitus unquam,"

and asks, What then is the original substance out of which existing things
have arisen? The answer is, "Atoms and the Void, and beside them nothing
else:" these two principles are solid, self-existent, indestructible, and
invisible. He next investigates and refutes the first principles of other
philosophers, notably Heraclitus, Empedocles, and Anaxagoras; and the book
ends with a short proof that the atoms are infinite in number and space
infinite in extent. The Second Book opens with a digression on the folly
of ambition; but, returning to the atoms, treats of the combination which
enables them to form and perpetuate the present variety of things. All
change is ultimately due to the primordial motion of the atoms. This
motion, naturally in a straight line, is occasionally deflected; and this
deflection accounts for the many variations from exact law. Moreover,
atoms differ in form, some being rough, others smooth, some round, others
square, &c. They are combined in infinite ways, which combinations give
rise to the so-called secondary properties of matter, colour, heat, smell,
&c. Innumerable other worlds besides our own exist; this one will probably
soon pass away; atoms and the void alone are eternal. In the Third Book
the poet attacks what he considers the stronghold of superstition. The
soul, mind, or vital principle is carefully discussed, and declared to be
material, being composed, indeed, of the finest atoms, as is shown by its
rapid movement, and the fact that it does not add to the weight of the
body, but in no wise _sui generis_, or differing in kind from other
matter. It is united with the body as the perfume with the incense, nor
can they be severed without destruction to both. They are born together,
grow together, and perish together. Death therefore is the end of being,
and life beyond the grave is not only impossible but inconceivable. Book
IV. treats of the images or idols cast off from the surface of bodies,
borne continually through space, and sometimes seen by sleepers in dreams,
or by sick people or others in waking visions. They are not illusions of
the senses; the illusion arises from the wrong interpretation we put upon
them. To these images the passion of love is traced; and with a brilliant
satire on the effects of yielding to it the book closes. The Fifth Book
examines the origin and formation of the solar system, which it treats not
as eternal after the manner of the Stoics, but as having had a definite
beginning, and as being destined to a natural and inevitable decay. He
applies his principle of "Fortuitous Concurrence" to this part of his
subject with signal power, but the faultiness of his method interferes
with the effect of his argument. The finest part of the book, and perhaps
of the whole poem, is his account of the "origin of species," and the
progress of human society. His views read like a hazy forecast of the
evolution doctrine. He applies his principle with great strictness; no
break occurs; experience alone has been the guide of life. If we ask,
however, whether he had any idea of _progress_ as we understand it, we
must answer no. He did not believe in the perfectibility of man, or in the
ultimate prevalence of virtue in the world. The last Book tries to show
the natural origin of the rarer and more gigantic physical phenomena,
thunderstorms, volcanoes, earthquakes, pestilence, &c. and terminates with
a long description of the plague of Athens, in which we trace many
imitations of Thucydides. This book is obviously unfinished; but the aim
of the work may be said to be so far complete that nowhere is the central
object lost sight of, viz., to expel the belief in divine interventions,
and to save mankind from all fear of the supernatural.

The value of the poem to us consists not in its contributions to science
but in its intensity of poetic feeling. None but a student will read
through the disquisitions on atoms and void. All who love poetry will feel
the charm of the digressions and introductions. These, which are
sufficiently numerous, are either resting-places in the process of proof,
when the writer pauses to reflect, or bursts of eloquent appeal which his
earnestness cannot repress. Of the first kind are the account of spring in
Book I. and the enumeration of female attractions in Book IV.; of the
second, are the sacrifice of Iphigenia, [68] the tribute to Empedocles and
Epicurus, [69] the description of himself as a solitary wanderer among
trackless haunts of the Muses, [70] the attack on ambition and luxury,
[71] the pathetic description of the cow bereft of her calf, [72] the
indignant remonstrance with the man who fears to die. [73] In these, as in
innumerable single touches, the poet of original genius is revealed.
Virgil often works by allusion: Lucretius never does. All his effects are
gained by the direct presentation of a distinct image. He has in a high
degree the "seeing eye," which needs only a steady hand to body forth its
visions. Take the picture of Mars in love, yielding to Venus's prayer for
peace. [74] What can be more truly statuesque?

"Belli fera moenera Mavors
Armipotens regit, in gremium qui saepe tuum se
Reiicit aeterno devictus volnere amoris:
Atque ita suspiciens tereti cervice reposta
Pascit amore avidos inhians in te, dea, visus,
Eque tuo pendet resupini spiritus ore.
Hunc tu diva tuo recubantem corpore sancto
Circumfusa super suavis ex ore loquellas
Funde petens placidam Romanis, incluta, pacem."

Or, again, of nature's freedom:

"Libera continuo dominis privata superbis."

Who can fail in this to catch the tones of the Republic? Again, take his
description of the transmission of existence,

"Et quasi cursores vitai; lampada tradunt;"

or of the helplessness of medicine in time of plague,

"Mussabat tacito medicina timore."

These are a few examples of a power present throughout, filling his
reasonings with a vivid reality far removed from the conventional rhetoric
of most philosopher poets. [75] His language is Thucydidean in its
chiselled outline, its quarried strength, its living expressiveness. Nor
is his moral earnestness inferior. The end of life is indeed nominally
pleasure, [76] "_dux vitae dia voluptas_;" but really it is a pure heart,
"_At bene non poterat sine puro pectore vivi_." [77] He who first showed
the way to this was the true deity. [78] The contemplation of eternal law
will produce, not as the strict Epicureans say, _indifference_, [79] but
resignation. [80] This happiness is in our own power, and neither gods nor
men can take it away. The ties of family life are depicted with
enthusiasm, and though the active duties of a citizen are not recommended,
they are certainly not discouraged. But the knowledge of nature alone can
satisfy man's spirit, or enable him to lead a life worthy of the
immortals, and see with his mind's eye their mansions of eternal rest.
[81] Nothing can be further from the light treatment of deep problems
current among Epicureans than the solemn earnestness of Lucretius. He
cannot leave the world to its vanity and enjoy himself. He seeks to bring
men to his views, but at the same time he sees how hopeless is the task.
He becomes a pessimist: in Roman language, _he despairs of the Republic_.
He is a lonely spirit, religious even in his anti-religionism, full of
reverence, but ignorant what to worship; a splendid poet, feeding his
spirit on the husks of mechanical causation.

With regard to his language, there can be but one opinion. It is at times
harsh, at times redundant, at times prosaic; but at a time when "Greek,
and often debased Greek, had made fatal inroads into the national idiom,"
his Latin has the purity of that of Cicero or Terence. Like Lucilius, he
introduces single Greek words, [82] a practice which Horace wisely
rejects, [83] but which is revived in the poetry of the Empire. [84] His
poetical ornaments are those of the older writers. Archaism, [85]
alliteration, [86] and assonance abound in his pages. These would not have
been regarded as defects by critics like Cicero or Varro; they are
instances of his determination to give way in nothing to the fashion of
the day.

His style [87] is fresh, strong, and impetuous, but frequently and
intentionally rugged. Repetitions occasionally wearisome, and prosaic
constructions, occur. Poetry is sacrificed to logic in the innumerable
particles of transition, [88] and in the painful precision which at times
leaves nothing to the imagination of the reader. But his vocabulary is not
prosaic; it is poetical to a degree exceeding that of all other Latin
writers. It is to be regretted that he did not oftener allow himself to be
carried away by the stroke of the thyrsus, which impelled him to strive
for the meed of praise. [89]

He is not often mentioned in later literature. Quintilian characterises
him as elegant but difficult; [90] Ovid and Statius warmly praise him;
[91] Horace alludes to him as his own teacher in philosophy; [92] Virgil,
though he never mentions his name, refers to him in a celebrated passage,
and shows in all his works traces of a profound study of, and admiration
for, his poetry. [93] Ovid draws largely from him in the _Metamorphoses_,
and Manilius had evidently adopted him as a model. The writer of _Etna_
echoes his language and sentiments, and Tacitus, in a later generation,
speaks of critics who even preferred him to Virgil. The irreligious
tendency of his work seems to have brought his name under a cloud; and
those who copied him may have thought it wiser not to acknowledge their
debt. The later Empire and the Middle Ages remained indifferent to a poem
which sought to disturb belief; it was when the scepticism of the
eighteenth century broke forth that Lucretius's power was first fully
felt. Since the time of Boyle he has commanded from some minds an almost
enthusiastic admiration. His spirit lives in Shelley, though he has not
yet found a poet of kindred genius to translate him. But his great name
and the force with which he strikes chords to which every soul at times
vibrates must, now that he is once known, secure for him a high place
among the masters of thoughtful song.

Transpadane Gaul was at this time fertile in poets. Besides two of the
first order it produced several of the second rank Among these M. FURIUS
BIBACULUS (103-29? B.C.) must be noticed. His exact date is uncertain, but
he is known to have lampooned both Julius and Augustus Caesar, [94] and
perhaps lived to find himself the sole representative of the earlier race
of poets. [95] He is one of the few men of the period who attained to old
age. Some have supposed that the line of Horace [96]--

"Turgidus Alpinus jugulat dum Memnona,"

refers to him, the nickname of Alpinus having been given him on account of
his ludicrous description of Jove "spitting snow upon the Alps." Others
have assigned the eight spurious lines on Lucilius in the tenth satire of
Horace to him. Macrobius preserves several verses from his _Bellum
Gallicum_, which Virgil has not disdained to imitate, _e.g._

"Interea Oceani linquens Aurora cubile."

"Rumoresque serunt varios et multa requirunt."

"Confimat dictis simul atque exsuscitat acres
Ad bellandum animos reficitque ad praelia mentes." [97]

Many of the critics of this period also wrote poems. Among these was
VALERIUS CATO, sometimes called CATO GRAMMATICUS, whose love elegies were
known to Ovid. He also amused himself with short mythological pieces, none
of which have come down to us. Two short poems called _Dirae_ and _Lydia_,
which used to be printed among Virgil's _Catalecta_, bear his name, but
are now generally regarded as spurious. They contain the bitter complaints
of one who was turned out of his estate by an intruding soldier, and his
resolution to find solace for all ills in the love of his faithful

The absorbing interest of the war between Caesar and Pompey compelled all
classes to share its troubles; even the poets did not escape. They were
now very numerous. Already the vain desire to write had become universal
among the _jeunesse_ of the capital. The seductive methods by which
Alexandrinism had made it equally easy to enshrine in verse his morning
reading or his evening's amour, proved too great an attraction for the
young Roman votary of the muses. Rome already teemed with the class so
pitilessly satirized by Horace and Juvenal, the

"Saecli incommoda, pessimi poetae."

The first name of any celebrity is that of VARRO ATACINUS, a native of
Gallia Narbonensis. He was a varied and prolific writer, who cultivated
with some success at least three domains of poetry. In his younger days he
wrote satires, but without any aptitude for the work. [98] These he
deserted for the epos, in which he gained some credit by his poem on the
Sequanian War. This was a national epic after the manner of Ennius, but
from the silence of later poets we may conjecture that it did not retain
its popularity. At the age of thirty-five he began to study with diligence
the Alexandrine models, and gained much credit by his translation of the
_Argonautica_ of Apollonius. Ovid often mentions this poem with
admiration; he calls Varro the poet of the sail-tossing sea, says no age
will be ignorant of his fame, and even thinks the ocean gods may have
helped him to compose his song. [99] Quintilian with better judgment [100]
notes his deficiency both in originality and copiousness, but allows him
the merit of a careful translator. We gather from a passage of Ovid [101]
that he wrote love poems, and from other sources that he translated Greek
works on topography and meteorology, both strictly copied from the

Besides Varro, we hear of TICIDAS, of MEMMIUS the friend of Lucretius, of
C. HELVIUS CINNA, and C. LICINIUS CALVUS, as writers of erotic poetry. The
last two were also eminent in other branches. Cinna (50 B.C.), who is
mentioned by Virgil as a poet superior to himself, [102] gained renown by
his _Smyrna_, an epic based on the unnatural love of Myrrha for her father
Cinyras, [103] on which revolting subject he bestowed nine years [104] of
elaboration, tricking it out with every arid device that pedantry's long
list could supply. Its learning, however, prevented it from being
neglected. Until the _Aeneid_ appeared, it was considered the fullest
repository of choice mythological lore. It was perhaps the nearest
approach ever made in Rome to an original Alexandrine poem. Calvus (82-47
B.C.), who is generally coupled with Catullus, was a distinguished orator
as well as poet. Cicero pays him the compliment of honourable mention in
the _Brutus_, [105] praising his parts and lamenting his early death. He
thinks his success would have been greater had he forgotten himself more.
This egotism was probably not wanting to his poetry, but much may be
excused him on account of his youth. It is difficult to form an opinion of
his style; the epithets, _gravis, vehemens, exilis_ (which apply rather to
his oratory than to his poetry), seem contradictory; the last strikes us
as the most discriminating. Besides short elegies like those of Catullus,
he wrote an epic called _Io_, as well as lampoons against Pompey and other
leading men. We possess none of his fragments.

From Calvus we pass to CATULLUS. This great poet was born at Verona (87
B.C.), and died, according to Jerome, in his thirty-first year; but this
is generally held to be an error, and Prof. Ellis fixes his death in 54
B.C. In either case he was a young man when he died, and this is an
important consideration in criticising his poems. He came as a youth to
Rome, where he mixed freely in the best society, and where he continued to
reside, except when his health or fortunes made a change desirable. [106]
At such times he resorted either to Sirmio, a picturesque spot on the Lago
di Garda, [107] where he had a villa, or else to his Tiburtine estate,
which, he tells us, he mortgaged to meet certain pecuniary embarrassments.
[108] Among his friends were Nepos, who first acknowledged his genius,
[109] to whom the grateful poet dedicated his book; Cicero, whose
eloquence he warmly admired; [110] Pollio, Cornificius, Cinna, and Calvus,
besides many others less known to fame. Like all warm natures, he was a
good hater. Caesar and his friend Mamurra felt his satire; [111] and
though he was afterwards reconciled to Caesar, the reconciliation did not
go beyond a cold indifference. [112] To Mamurra he was implacably hostile,
but satirised him under the fictitious name of Mentula to avoid offending
Caesar. His life was that of a thorough man of pleasure, who was also a
man of letters. Indifferent to politics, he formed friendships and
enmities for personal reasons alone. Two events in his life are important
for us, since they affected his genius--his love for Lesbia, and his
brother's death. The former was the master-passion of his life. It began
in the fresh devotion of a first love; it survived the cruel shocks of
infidelity and indifference; and, though no longer as before united with
respect, it endured unextinguished to the end, burning with the passion of

Who Lesbia was, has been the subject of much discussion. There can be
little doubt that Apuleius's information is correct, and that her real
name was Clodia. If so, it is most natural to suppose her the same with
that abandoned woman, the sister of P. Clodius Pulcher, whom Cicero brands
with infamy in his speech for Caelius. Unwillingness to associate the
graceful verse of Catullus with a theme so unworthy has perhaps led the
critics to question without reason the identity. But the portrait drawn by
the poet when at length his eyes were opened, answers but too truly to
that of the orator. Few things in all literature are sadder than the
spectacle of this trusting and generous spirit withered by the unkindness,
as it had been soiled by the favours, of this evil beauty. [113] The life
which began in rapturous devotion ends in hopeless gloom. The poet whose
every nerve was strung to the delights of an unselfish though guilty
passion, now that the spell is broken, finds life a burden, and confronts
with relief the thought of death which, as he anticipated, soon came to
end his sorrows.

The affection of Catullus for his only brother, lost to him by an early
death, forms the counterpoise to his love for Lesbia. Where this brings
remorse, the other brings a soothing melancholy; the memory of this sacred
sorrow struggles to cast out the harassing regrets that torment his soul.
[114] Nothing can surpass the simple pathos with which he alludes to this
event. It is the subject of one short elegy, [115] and enters largely into
another. When travelling with the pro-praetor Memmius into Bithynia, he
visited his brother's tomb at Rhoeteum in the Troad. It was on his return
from this journey, undertaken, but without success, in the hope of
bettering his fortune, that he wrote the little poem to Sirmio, [116]
which dwells on the associations of home with a sweetness perhaps
unequalled in ancient poetry. [117]

In this, and indeed in all his shorter pieces, his character is
unmistakably revealed. No writer, ancient or modern, is more frank than
he. He neither hides his own faults, nor desires his friends to hide
theirs from him; [118] his verses are the honest spontaneous expression of
his every-day life. In them we see a youth, ardent, unaffected, impulsive,
generous, courteous, and outspoken, but indifferent to the serious
interests of life; recklessly self-indulgent, plunging into the grossest
sensuality, and that with so little sense of guilt as to appeal to Heaven
as witness of the purity of his life: [119] we see a poet, full of
delicate fooling and of love for the beautiful, with a strong lyrical
impulse fresh as that of Greece, and an appreciation of Greek feeling that
makes him revive the very inspiration of Greek genius; [120] with a chaste
simplicity of style that faithfully reflects every mood, and with an
amount of learning which, if inconsiderable as compared with that of the
Augustan poets, much exceeded that of his chief predecessors, and secured
for him the honourable epithet of the learned (_doctus_). [121]

The poems of Catullus fall naturally into three divisions, doubtless made
by the poet himself. These are the short lyrical pieces in various metres,
containing the best known of those to Lesbia, besides others to his most
intimate friends; then come the longer poems, mostly in heroic or elegiac
metre, representing the higher flights of his genius; and lastly, the
epigrams on divers subjects, all in the elegiac metre, of which both the
list and the text are imperfect. In all we meet with the same careless
grace and simplicity both of thought and diction, but all do not show the
same artistic skill. The judgment that led Catullus to place his lyric
poems in the foreground was right. They are the best known, the best
finished, and the most popular of all his compositions; the four to
Lesbia, the one to Sirmio, and that on Acme and Septimus, are perhaps the
most perfect lyrics in the Latin language; and others are scarcely
inferior to them in elegance. The hendecasyllabic rhythm, in which the
greater part are written, is the one best suited to display the poet's
special gifts. Of this metre he is the first and only master. Horace does
not employ it; and neither Martial nor Statius avoids monotony in the use
of it. The freedom of cadence, the varied caesura, and the licences in the
first foot, [122] give the charm of irregular beauty, so sweet in itself
and so rare in Latin poetry; and the rhythm lends itself with equal ease
to playful humour, fierce satire, and tender affection. Other measures,
used with more or less success, are the iambic scazon, [123] the
chorianibic, the glyconic, and the sapphic, all probably introduced from
the Greek by Catullus. Of these the sapphic is the least perfected. If the
eleventh and fifty-first odes be compared with the sapphic odes of Horace,
the great metrical superiority of the latter will at once appear. Catullus
copies the Greek rhythm in its details without asking whether these are in
accordance with the genius of the Latin language. Horace, by adopting
stricter rules, produces a much more harmonious effect. The same is true
of Catullus's treatment of the elegiac, as compared with that of
Propertius or Ovid. The Greek elegiac does not require any stop at the end
of the couplet, nor does it affect any special ending; words of seven
syllables or less are used by it indifferently. The trisyllabic ending,
which is all but unknown to Ovid, occurs continually in Catullus; even the
monosyllabic, which is altogether avoided by succeeding poets, occurs
once. [124] Another licence, still more alien from Roman usage, is the
retention of a short or unelided syllable at the end of the first
penthemimer. [125] Catullus's elegiac belongs to the class of half-adapted
importations, beautiful in its way, but rather because it recalls the
exquisite cadences of the Greek than as being in itself a finished
artistic product.

The six long poems are of unequal merit. The modern reader will not find
much to interest him in the _Coma Berenices_, abounding as it does in
mythological allusions. [126] The poem to Mallius or Allius, [127] written
at Verona, is partly mythological, partly personal, and though somewhat
desultory, contains many fine passages. Catullus pleads his want of books
as an excuse for a poor poem, implying that a full library was his usual
resort for composition. This poem was written shortly after his brother's
death, which throws a vein of melancholy into the thought. In it, and
still more happily in his two _Epithalamia_, [128] he paints with deep
feeling the joys of wedded love. The former of these, which celebrates the
marriage of Manlius Torquatus, is the loveliest product of his genius. It
is marred by a few gross allusions, but they are not enough to interfere
with its general effect. It rings throughout with joyous exultation, and
on the whole is innocent as well as full of warm feeling. It is all
movement; the scene opens before us; the marriage god wreathed with
flowers and holding the _flammeum_, or nuptial veil, leads the dance; then
the doors open, and amid waving torches the bride, blushing like the
purple hyacinth, enters with downcast mien, her friends comforting her;
the bridegroom stands by and throws nuts to the assembled guests; light
railleries are banded to and fro; meanwhile the bride is lifted over the
threshold, and sinks on the nuptial couch, _alba parthenice velut,
luteumve papaver_. The different sketches of _Auruneuleia_ as the loving
bride, the chaste matron, and the aged grandame nodding kindly to
everybody, please from their unadorned simplicity as well as from their
innate beauty.

The second of these _Epithalamia_ is, if not translated, certainly
modelled from the Greek, and in its imagery reminds us of Sappho. It is
less ardent and more studied than the first, and though its tone is far
less elevated, it gains a special charm from its calm, almost statuesque
language. [129] The _Nuptials of Peleus and Thetis_ is a miniature epic,
[130] such as were often written by the Alexandrian poets. Short as it is,
it contains two plots, one within the other. The story of Peleus's
marriage is made the occasion for describing the scene embroidered on the
coverlet or cushion of the marriage bed. This contains the loves of
Theseus and Ariadne, the Minotaur, the Labyrinth, the return of Theseus,
his desertion of Ariadne, and her reception into the stars by Iacchus. The
poem is unequal in execution; the finest passages are the lament of
Ariadne, which Virgil has imitated in that of Dido, and the song of the
Fates, which gives the first instances of those refrains taken from the
Greek pastoral, which please so much in the Eclogues, and in Tennyson's
_May Queen._ The _Atys_ or _Attis_ stands alone among the poet's works.
Its subject is the self-mutilation of a noble youth out of zeal for
Cybele's worship, and is probably a study from the Greek, though of what
period it would be hard to say. A theme so unnatural would have found
little favour with the Attic poets; the subject is more likely to have
been approached by the Alexandrian writers, whom Catullus often copies.
But these tame and pedantic versifiers could have given no precedent for
the wild inspiration of this strange poem, which clothes in the music of
finished art bursts of savage emotion. The metre is galliambic, a rhythm
proper to the hymns of Cybele, but of which no primitive Greek example
remains. The poem cannot be perused with pleasure, but must excite
astonishment at the power it displays. The language is tinged with
archaisms, especially compounds like _hederigera, silvicultrix_. In
general Catullus writes in the plain unaffected language of daily life.
His effects are produced by the freshness rather than the choiceness of
his terms, and by his truth to nature and good taste. His construction of
sentences, like that of Lucretius, becomes at times prosaic, from the
effort to avoid all ambiguity. If the first forty lines of his _Epistle to
Mallius_ [131] be studied and compared with any of Ovid's _Epistles from
Pontus_, the great difference in this respect will at once be seen. Later
writers leave most of the particles of transition to be supplied by the
reader's intelligence: Catullus, like Sophocles, indicates the sequence of
thought. Nevertheless poetry lost more than it gained by the want of
grammatical connection between successive passages, which, while it adds
point, detracts from clearness, and makes the interpretation, for example,
of Persius and Juvenal very much less satisfactory than that of Lucretius
or Horace.

The genius of Catullus met with early recognition. Cornelius Nepos, in his
life of Atticus (ch. xii.), couples him with Lucretius as the first poet
of the age (_nostra aetas_), and his popularity, though obscured during
the Augustan period, soon revived, and remained undiminished until the
close of Latin literature. During the Middle Ages Catullus was nearly
being lost to us; he is preserved in but one manuscript discovered in the
fourteenth century. [132]

Catullus is the last of the Republican poets. Separated by but a few years
from the _Eclogues_ of Virgil, a totally different spirit pervades the
works of the two writers; while Catullus is free, unblushing, and
fearless, owing allegiance to no man, Virgil is already guarded,
restrained, and diffident of himself, trusting to Pollio or Augustus to
perfect his muse, and guide it to its proper sphere. In point of language
the two periods show no break: in point of feeling they are altogether
different. A few survived from the one into the other, but as a rule they
relapsed into silence, or indulged merely in declamation. We feel that
Catullus was fortunate in dying before the battle of Aetium; had he lived
into the Augustan age, it is difficult to see how he could have found a
place there. He is a fitting close to this passionate and stormy period, a
youth in whom all its qualities for good and evil have their fullest


NOTE I.--_On the Use of Alliteration in Latin Poetry._

It is impossible to read the earlier Latin poets, or even Virgil, without
seeing that they abound in repetitions of the same letter or sound, either
intentionally introduced or unconsciously presenting themselves owing to
constant habit. Alliteration and assonance are the natural ornaments of
poetry in a rude age. In Anglo-Saxon literature alliteration is one of the
chief ways of distinguishing poetry from prose. But when a strict prosody
is formed, it is no longer needed. Thus in almost all civilised poetry, it
has been discarded, except as an occasional and appropriate ornament for a
special purpose. Greek poetry gives few instances. The art of Homer has
long passed the stage at which such an aid to effect is sought for. The
cadence of the Greek hexameter would be marred by so inartistic a device.
The dramatists resort to it now and then, _e.g._ Oedipus, in his blind
rage, thus taunts Tiresias:

_tuphlos ta t' ota ton te noun ta t' ommat' ei._

But here the alliteration is as true to nature as it is artistically
effective. For it is known that violent emotion irresistibly compels us to
heap together similar sounds. Several subtle and probably unconscious
instances of it are given by Peile from the Idyllic poets; but as a rule
it is true of Greek as it is of English, French, and Italian poetry, that
when metre, caesura, or rhyme, hold sway, alliteration plays an altogether
subordinate part. It is otherwise in Latin poetry. Here, owing to the
fondness for all that is old, alliteration is retained in what is
correspondingly a much later period of growth. After Virgil, indeed, it
almost disappears, but as used by him it is such an instrument for effect,
that perhaps the discontinuance of it was a loss rather than a gain. It is
employed in Latin poetry for various purposes. Plautus makes it
subservient to comic effect (Capt. 903, quoted by Munro.).

"_Quanta pernis pestis veniet, quanta labes larido,
Quanta sumini absumedo, quanta callo calamitas
Quanta lanies lassitudo_."

Compare our verse:

"Right round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran."

Ennius and the tragedians make it express the stronger emotions, as

"_Priamo vi vitam evitari._"

So Virgil, imitating him: _fit via vi_; Lucr. _vivida vis animi pervicit_;
or again pity, which is expressed by the same letter (pronounced as w),
_e.g. neu patriae validas in viscera vertite vires; viva videns vivo
sepeliri viscera, busto_, from Virgil and Lucr. respectively. A hard
letter expresses difficulty or effort, _e.g. manibus magnos divellere
montis_. So Pope: _Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone_. Or
emphasis, _parare non potuit pedibus qui pontum per vada possent_, from
Lucretius; _multaque_ prae_terea vatum_ prae_di ta_ pri_orum_, from
Virgil. Rarely it has no special appropriateness, or is a mere display of
ingenuity, as: _O Tite tute Tati tibi tanta tyranne tulisti_ (Ennius).
Assonance is almost equally common, and is even more strange to our taste.
In Greek, Hebrew, and many languages, it occurs in the form of
_Paronomasia_, or play on words; but this presupposes a _rapport_ between
the name and what is implied by it. Assonance in Latin poetry has no such
relevance. It simply emphasizes or adorns, _e.g_. Aug_usto_ aug_urio
postquam incluta condita Roma est_ (Enn.); _pulcram pulcritudinem_
(Plaut.). It takes divers forms, _e.g._ the _omoioteleuton_ akin to our
rhyme. _Vincla recus_antum _et sera sub nocte rud_entum; _cornua
relat_arum _obvertimus antenn_arum._ The beginnings of rhyme are here
seen, and perhaps still more in the elegiac, _debuerant fusos evoluisse
meos_; or Sapphic, _Pone me pigris ubi nulla campis Arbor aestiva
recreatur aura._ Other varieties of assonance are the frequent employment
of the same preposition in the same part of the foot, _e.g. insontem,
infando indicio--disjectis disque supatis_; the mere repetition of the
same word, _lacerum crudeliter ora, ora manusque_; or of a different
inflexion of it, _omnis feret omnia tellus, non omnia possumus omnes_;
most of all, by employing several words of a somewhat similar sound, what
is in fact a jingle, _e.g._ the well-known line, Cedant _arma togae
con_cedat lau_rea_ lau_di_; or again, mente _cle_mente _edita_ (Laberius).
Instances of this are endless; and in estimating the mechanical structure
of Latin poetry, which is the chief side of it, we observe the care with
which the greatest artists retain every method of producing effect, even
if somewhat old fashioned (see on this subject Munro's Lucr. preface to
Notes II. which has often been referred to.)

NOTE II.--_Some additional details on the History of the Mimus_ (from
Woelfflin. _Publ. Syri Sententiae_, Lips. 1869).

The mime at first differed from other kinds of comedy--(1) in having no
proper plot; (2) in not being presented primarily on the stage; (3) in
having but one actor. Eudicos imitated the gestures of boxing; Theodorus
the creaking of a windlass; Parmeno did the grunting of a pig to
perfection. Any one who raised a laugh by such kinds if imitation was
properly said _mimum agere_. Mimes are thus defined by Diomedes (p. 491,
13 k), _sermones cuiuslibet et molus sine reverentia vel factorum et
dictorum turpium cum lascivia imitatio_. Such mimes as these were often
held at banquets for the amusement of great men. Sulla was passionately
fond of them. Admitted to the stage, they naturally took the place of
interludes or afterpieces. When a man imitated _e.g._ a muleteer (Petr.
Sat. 68), he had his mule with him; or if he imitated a _causidicus_, or a
drunken ruffian (Ath. 14, 621, c.), some other person was by to play the
foil to his violence. Thus arose the distinction of parts and dialogue;
the chief actor was called _Archimimus_, and the mime was then developed
after the example of the Atellanae. When several actors took part in a
piece, each was said _mimum agere_, though this phrase originally applied
only to the single actor.

When the mime first came on the stage, it was acted in front of the
curtain (Fest. p. 326, _ed. Mull._), afterwards, as its proportions
increased, a new kind of curtain called _siparium_ was introduced, so that
while the mime was being performed on this new and enlarged _proscaenium_
the regular drama were going on behind the siparium. Pliny (xxxv. 199)
calls Syrus _mimicae scaenae conditorem_; and as he certainly did not
build a theatre, it is most probable that Pliny refers to his invention of
the siparium. He evidently had a natural genius for this kind of
representation, in which Macrobius (ii. 7. 6) and Quintilian allow him the
highest place. Laberius appears to have been a more careful writer. Syrus
was not a literary man, but an improvisator and moralist. His _sententiae_
were held in great honour in the rhetorical schools in the time of
Augustus, and are quoted by the elder Seneca (Contr. 206, 4). The younger
Seneca also frequently quotes them in his letters (Ep. 108, 8, &c.), and
often imitates their style. There are some interesting lines in Petronius
(Satir. 55), which are almost certainly from Syrus. Being little known,
they are worth quoting as a popular denunciation of luxury--

"Luxuriae rictu Martis marcent moenia,
Tuo palato clausus pavo pascitur
Plumato amictus aureo Babylonico;
Gallina tibi Numidica, tibi gallus spado:
Ciconia etiam grata peregrina hospita
Pietaticultrix gracilipes crotalistria
Avis, exul hiemis, titulus tepidi temporis
Nequitiae nidum in cacabo fecit modo.
Quo margarita cara tribaca Indica?
An ut matrona ornata phaleris pelagiis
Tollat pedes indomita in strato extraneo?
Zmaragdum ad quam rem viridem, pretiosum vitrum.
Quo Carchedonios optas ignes lnpideos
Nisi ut scintilles? _probitas est carbunculus_."

There is a rude but unmistakable vigour in these lines which, when
compared with the quotation from Laberius given in the text of the work,
cause us to think very highly of the mime as patronized by Caesar.

NOTE III.--_Fragments of Valerius Soranus_.

This writer, who was somewhat earlier than the present epoch, having been
a contemporary of Sulla but having outlived him, was noted for his great
learning. He is mentioned by Pliny as the first to prefix a table of
contents to his book. His native town, Sora, was well known for its
activity in liberal studies. He is said by Plutarch to have announced
publicly the secret name of Rome or of her tutelary deity, for which the
gods punished him by death. St. Augustine (C. D. vii. 9) quotes two
interesting hexameters as from him:

"Iupiter omnipotens, rerum rex ipse deusque
Progenitor genetrixque, deum deus, unus et omnes."

Servius (Aen. iv. 638) cites two verses of a similar character, which
are most probably from Soranus. Iupiter, addressing the gods, says,

"Caelicolae, mea membra, dei, quos nostra potestas
Officiis, diversa facit."

These fragments show an extraordinary power of condensed expression, as
well as a clear grasp on the unity of the Supreme Being, for which reason
they are quoted.





The Augustan Age in its strictest sense does not begin until after the
battle of Actium, when Augustus, having overthrown his competitor, found
himself in undisputed possession of the Roman world (31 B.C.). But as the
_Eclogues_, and many of Horace's poems, were written at an earlier date,
and none of these can be ranked with the Republican literature, it is best
to assign the commencement of the Augustan period to the year of the
battle of Philippi, when the defeat of Brutus and Cassius left the old
constitution without a champion and made monarchy in the person either of
Antonius or Octavius inevitable. This period of fifty-seven years,
extending to the death of Augustus, comprises a long list of splendid
writers, inferior to those of the Ciceronian age in vigour and boldness,
but superior to all but Cicero himself in finish and artistic skill as
well as in breadth of human sympathy and suggestive beauty of expression.
It marks the culmination of Latin poetry, as the last epoch marks the
perfection of Latin prose. But the bloom which had been so long expanding
was short-lived in proportion to its sweetness; and perfect as is the art
of Virgil, Horace, and Tibullus, within a few years of Horace's death both
style and thought had entered on the path of irretrievable decline. The
muse of Ovid, captivating and brilliant, has already lost the severe grace
that stamps the highest classic verse; and the false tendencies forgiven
in him from admiration for his talent, become painfully conspicuous in his
younger contemporaries. Livy, too, in the domain of history, shows traces
of that poetical colouring which began more and more to encroach on the
style of prose; while in the work of Vitruvius, on the one hand and in
that of the elder Seneca on the other, we observe two tendencies which
helped to accelerate decay; the one towards an entire absence of literary
finish, the other towards the substitution of rich decoration for chaste

There are certain common features shared by the chief Augustan authors
which distinguish them from those of the closing Republic. While the
latter were men of birth and eminence in the state, the former were mostly
Italians or provincials, [1] often of humble origin, neither warriors nor
statesmen, but peaceful, quiet natures, devoid of ambition, and desiring
only a modest independence and success in prosecuting their art. Horace
had indeed fought for Brutus; but he was no soldier, and alludes with
humorous irony to his flight from the field of battle. [2] Virgil prays
that he may live without glory among the forests and streams he loves. [3]
Tibullus [4] and Propertius [5] assert in the strongest terms their
incapacity for an active career, praying for nothing more than enjoyment
of the pleasures of love and song. Spirits like these would have had no
chance of rising to eminence amid the fierce contests of the Republic.
Gentle and diffident, they needed a patron to call out their powers or
protect their interests; and when, under the sway of Augustus, such a
patron was found, the rich harvest of talent that arose showed how much
letters had hitherto suffered from the unsettled state of the times. [6]
It is true that several writers of the preceding period survived into
this. Men like Varro, who kept aloof from the city, nursing in retirement
a hopeless loyalty to the past; men like Pollio and Messala, who accepted
the monarchy without compromising their principles, and who still appeared
in public as orators or jurists; these, together with a few poets of the
older school, such as Furius Bibaculus, continued to write during the
first few years of the Augustan epoch, but cannot properly be regarded as
belonging to it. [7] They pursued their own lines of thought, uninfluenced
by the Empire, except in so far as it forced them to select more trivial
themes, or to use greater caution in expressing their thoughts. But the
great authors who are the true representatives of Augustus's reign,
Virgil, Livy, and Horace, were brought into direct contact with the
emperor, and much of their inspiration centres round his office and

The conqueror of Actium was welcomed by all classes with real or feigned
enthusiasm. To the remnant of the republican families, indeed, he was an
object partly of flattery, partly of hatred, in no case, probably, of
hearty approval or admiration; but by the literary class, as by the great
mass of the people, he was hailed as the restorer of peace and good
government, of order and religion, the patron of all that was best in
literature and art, the adopted son of that great man whose name was
already a mighty power, and whose spirit was believed to watch over Rome
as one of her presiding deities. It is no wonder if his opening reign
stamped literature with new and imposing features, or if literature
expressed her sense of his protection by a constant appeal to his name.

Augustus has been the most fortunate of despots, for he has met with
nothing but praise. A few harsh spirits, it seems, blamed him in no
measured terms; but he repaid them by a wise neglect, at least as long as
Maecenas lived, who well knew, from temperament as well as experience, the
value of seasonable inactivity. As it is, all the authors that have come
to us are panegyrists. None seem to remember his early days; all centre
their thoughts on the success of the present and the promise of the
future. Yet Augustus himself could not forget those times. As chief of the
proscription, as the betrayer of Cicero, as the suspected murderer of the
consul Hirtius, as the pitiless destroyer of Cleopatra's children, he must
have found it no easy task to act the mild ruler; as a man of profligate
conduct he must have found it still less easy to come forward as the
champion of decency and morals. He was assisted by the confidence which
all, weary of war and bloodshed, were willing to repose in him, even to an
unlimited extent. He was assisted also by able administrators, Maecenas in
civil, and Agrippa in military affairs. But there were other forces making
themselves felt in the great city. One of these was literature, as
represented by the literary class, consisting of men to whom letters were
a profession not a relaxation, and who now first appear prominently in
Rome. Augustus saw the immense advantage of enlisting these on his side.
He could pass laws through the senate; he could check vice by punishment;
but neither his character nor his history could make him influence the
heart of the people. To effect real reforms persuasive voice must be found
to preach them. And who so efficacious as the band of cultured poets whom
he saw collecting round him? These he deliberately set himself to win; and
that he did win then, some to a half-hearted, others to an absolute
allegiance, is one of the best testimonies to his enlightened policy. Yet
he could hardly have effected his object had it not been for the able co-
operation of Maecenas, whose conciliatory manners well fitted him to be
the friend of literary men. This astute minister formed a select circle of
gifted authors, chiefly poets, whom he endeavoured to animate with the
enthusiasm of succouring the state. He is said to have suggested to
Augustus the necessity of restoring the decayed grandeur of the national
religion. The open disregard of morality and religion evinced by the
ambitious party-leaders during the Civil Wars had brought the public
worship into contempt and the temples into ruin. Augustus determined that
civil order should once more repose upon that reverence for the gods which
had made Rome great. [8] Accordingly, he repaired or rebuilt many temples,
and both by precept and example strove to restore the traditional respect
for divine things. But he must have experienced a grave difficulty in the
utter absence of religious conviction which had become general in Rome.
The authors of the _De Divinatione_ and the _De Rerum Natura_ could not
have written as they did, without influencing many minds. And if men so
admirable as Cicero and Lucretius denied, the one the possibility of the
science he professed, [9] the other the doctrine of Providence on which
all religion rests, it was little likely that ordinary minds should retain
much belief in such things. Augustus was relieved from this strait by the
appearance of a new literary class in Rome, young authors from the country
districts, with simpler views of life and more enthusiasm, of whom some at
least might be willing to consecrate their talents to furthering the
sacred interests on which social order depends. The author who fully
responded to his appeal, and probably exceeded his highest hopes, was
Virgil; but Horace, Livy, and Propertius, showed themselves not unwilling
to espouse the same cause. Never was power more ably seconded by
persuasion; the laws of Augustus and the writings of Virgil, Horace, and
Livy, in order to be fully appreciated, must be considered in their
connection, political and religious, with each other.

The emperor, his minister, and his advocates, thus working for the same
end, beyond doubt produced some effect. The _Odes_ of Horace in the first
three books, which are devoted to politics, show an attitude of antagonism
and severe expostulation; he boldly rebukes vice, and calls upon the
strong hand to punish it:

"Quid tristes querimoniae,
Si non supplicio culpa reciditur?
Quid leges sine moribus
Vanae proficiunt?" [10]

But when, some years later, he wrote the _Carmen Saeculare_, and the
fourth book of the Odes, his voice is raised in a paean of unmixed
triumph. "The pure home is polluted by no unchastity; law and morality
have destroyed crime; matrons are blessed with children resembling their
fathers; already faith and peace, honour and maiden modesty, have returned
to us," &c. [11] This can hardly be mere exaggeration, though no doubt the
picture is coloured, since the popularity of Ovid's _Art of Love_, even
during Horace's lifetime, is a sufficient proof that profligacy did not
lack its votaries.

To the student of human development the most interesting feature in this
attempted reform of manners is the universal tendency to connect it with
the deification of the emperor. It was in vain that Augustus claimed to
return to the old paths; everywhere he met this new apotheosis of himself
crowning the restored edifice of belief; so impossible was it for him, as
for others, to reconstruct the past. As the guardian of the people's
material welfare, he became, despite of himself, the people's chief
divinity. From the time that Virgil's gratitude expressed itself in the
first Eclogue--

"Namque erit ille mihi semper deus: illius aram
Saepe tener nostris ab ovilibus imbuet agnus," [12]

the emperor was marked out for this new form of adulation, and succeeding
poets only added to what Virgil had begun. Even in his _Epistles_, where
the conventionalities of mythology are never employed, Horace compares him
with the greatest deities, and declares that altars are raised to his
name, while all confess him to be the greatest person that has been or
will be among mankind. [13] Propertius and Ovid [14] accept this language
as proper and natural, and the striking rapidity with which it established
itself in universal use is one of the most speaking signs of the growing
degeneracy. Augustus himself was not cajoled, Tiberius still less, but
Caius and his successors were; even Vespasian, when dying, in jest or
earnest used the words "ut puto deus fio." As the satirist says, "Power
will believe anything that Flattery suggests." [15]

Side by side with this religious cultus of the emperor was a willingness
to surrender all political power into his hands. Little by little he
engrossed all the offices of state, and so completely had proscription and
indulgence in turn done their work that none were found bold enough to
resist these insidious encroachments. [16] The privileges of the senate
and the rights of the people were gradually abridged; and that pernicious
policy so congenial to a despotism, of satisfying the appetite for food
and amusement and so keeping the people quiet, was inaugurated early in
his reign, and set moving in the lines which it long afterwards followed.
Freedom of debate, which had been universal in the senate, was curtailed
by the knowledge that, as often as not, the business was being decided by
a secret council held within the palace. Eloquence could not waste itself
in abstract discussions; and even if it attempted to speak, the growing
servility made it perilous to utter plain truths. Thus the sphere of
public speaking was greatly restricted. Those who had poured forth before
the assembled people the torrents of their oratory were now by what
Tacitus so graphically calls the _pacification_ of eloquence [17] confined
to the tamer arena of the civil law courts. All those who felt that
without a practical object eloquence cannot exist, had to resign
themselves to silence. Others less serious-minded found a sphere for their
natural gift of speech in the halls of the rhetoricians. It is pitiable to
see men like Pollio content to give up all higher aims, and for want of
healthier exercise waste their powers in noisy declamation.

History, if treated with dignity and candour, was almost as dangerous a
field as eloquence. Hence we find that few were bold enough to cultivate
it. Livy, indeed, succeeded in producing a great masterwork, which, while
it did not conceal his Pompeian sympathies, entered so heartily into the
emperor's general point of view as to receive high praise at his hands.
But Livy was not a politician. Those who had been politicians found it
unwise to provoke the jealousy of Augustus by expressing their sentiments.
Hence neither Messala nor Pollio continued their works on contemporary
history; a deprivation which we cannot but strongly feel, as we have few
trustworthy accounts of those, times.

In law Augustus trenched less on the independent thought of the jurists,
but at the same time was better able to put forth his prerogative when
occasion was really needed. His method of accrediting the _Responsa
Prudentum_, by permitting only those who had his authorisation to exercise
that profession, was an able stroke of policy. [18] It gave the profession
as it were the safeguard of a diploma, and veiled an act of despotic power
under the form of a greater respect for law. The science of jurisprudence
was ably represented by various professors, but it became more and more
involved and difficult, and frequently draws forth from the satirists
abuse of its quibbling intricacies.

Poetry was the form of literature to which most favour was shown, and
which flourished more vigorously than any other. The pastoral, and the
metrical epistle, were now first introduced. The former was based on the
Theocritean idyll, but does not seem to have been well adapted to Roman
treatment; the latter was of two kinds; it was either a real communication
on some subject of mutual interest, as that of Horace, or else an
imaginary expression of feeling put into the mouth of a mythical hero or
heroine, of which the most brilliant examples are those of Ovid.
Philosophy and science flourished to a considerable extent. The desire to
find some compensation for the loss of all outward activity led many to
strive after the ideal of conduct presented by stoicism: and nearly all
earnest minds were more or less affected by this great system. Livy is
reported to have been an eloquent expounder of philosophical doctrines,
and most of the poets show a strong leaning to its study. Augustus wrote
_adhortationes_, and beyond doubt his example was often followed. The
speculative and therefore inoffensive topics of natural science were
neither encouraged nor neglected by Augustus; Vitruvius, the architect,
having showed some capacity for engineering, was kindly received by him,
but his treatise, admirable as it is, does not seem to have secured him
any special favour. It was such writers as he thought might be made
instruments of his policy that Augustus set himself specially to encourage
by every means in his power. The result of this patronage was an
increasing divergence from the popular taste on the part of the poets, who
now aspired only to please the great and learned. [19] It is pleasing,
however, to observe the entire absence of ill-feeling that reigned in this
society of _beaux esprits_ with regard to one another. Each held his own
special position, but all were equally welcome at the great man's
reunions, equally acceptable to one another; and each criticised the
other's works with the freedom of a literary freemasonry. [20] This select
cultivation of poetry reacted unfavourably on the thought and imagination,
though it greatly elevated the style of those that employed it. The
extreme delicacy of the artistic product shows it to have been due to some
extent to careful nursing, and its almost immediate collapse confirms this

While Augustus, through Maecenas, united men eminent for taste and culture
in a literary coterie, Messala, who had never joined the successful side,
had a similar but smaller following, among whom was numbered the poet
Tibullus. At the tables of these great men met on terms of equal
companionship their own friends and the authors whom they favoured or
assisted. For though the provincial poet could not, like those of the last
age, assume the air of one who owned no superior, but was bound by ties of
obligation as well as gratitude to his patron, still the works of Horace
and Virgil abundantly prove that servile compliment was neither expected
by him nor would have been given by them, as it was too frequently in the
later period to the lasting injury of literature as well as of character.
The great patrons were themselves men of letters. Augustus was a severe
critic of style, and, when he wrote or spoke, did not fall below the high
standard he exacted from others. Suetonius and Tacitus bear witness to the
clearness and dignity of his public speaking. [21]

MAECENAS, as we shall notice immediately, was, or affected to be, a writer
of some pretension; and MESSALA'S eloquence was of so high an order, that
had he been allowed the opportunity of freely using it, he would beyond
doubt have been numbered among the great orators of Rome.

Such was the state of thought and politics which surrounded and brought
out the celebrated writers whom we shall now proceed to criticise, a task
the more delightful, as these writers are household words, and their best
works familiar from childhood to all who have been educated to love the
beautiful in literature.

The excellent literary judgment shown by Augustus contributed to encourage
a high standard of taste among the rival authors. How weighty the
sovereign's influence was may be gathered from the extravagancies into
which the Neronian and Flavian authors fell through anxiety to please
monarchs of corrupt taste. The advantages of patronage to literature are
immense; but it is indispensable that the patron should himself be great.
The people were now so totally without literary culture that a popular
poet would necessarily have been a bad poet; careful writers turned from
them to the few who could appreciate what was excellent. Yet Maecenas, so
judicious as a patron, fell as an author into the very faults he blamed.
During the years he held office (30-8 B.C.) he devoted some fragments of
his busy days to composing in prose and verse writings which Augustus
spoke of as "_murobrecheis cincinni_," "curled locks reeking with
ointment." We hear of a treatise called _Prometheus_, certain dialogues,
among them a _Symposium_, in which Messala, Virgil, and Horace were
introduced; and Horace implies that he had planned a prose history of
Augustus's wars. [22] He did not shrink from attempting, and what was
worse, publishing, poetry, which bore imprinted on it the characteristics
of his effeminate mind. Seneca quotes one passage [23] from which we may
form an estimate of his level as a versifier. But, however feeble in
execution, he was a skilful adviser of others. The wisdom of his counsels
to Augustus is known; those he offered to Virgil were equally sound. It
was he who suggested the plan of the _Georgics_, and the poet acknowledges
his debt for a great idea in the words "_Nil altum sine te meas inchoat_."
He was at once cautious and liberal in bestowing his friendship. The
length of time that elapsed between his first reception of Horace and his
final enrolment of the poet among his intimates, shows that he was not
hasty in awarding patronage. And the difficulty which Propertius
encountered in gaining a footing among his circle proves that even great
talent was not by itself a sufficient claim on his regard. As we shall
have occasion to mention him again, we shall pass him over here, and
conclude the chapter with a short account of the earliest Augustan poet
whose name has come to us, L. VARIUS RUFUS (64 B.C.-9 A.D.), the friend of
Virgil, who introduced both him and Horace to Maecenas's notice, and who
was for some years accounted the chief epic poet of Rome. [24]

Born in Cisalpine Gaul, Varius was, like all his countrymen, warmly
attached to Caesar's cause, and seems to have made his reputation by an
epic on Caesar's death. [25] Of this poem we have scattered notices
implying that it was held in high esteem, and a fragment is preserved by
Macrobius, [26] which it is worth while to quote:

"Ceu canis umbrosam lustrans Gortynia vallem,
Si veteris potuit cervae comprendere lustra,
Saevit in absentem, et circum vestigia lustrans
Aethera per nitidum tenues sectatur odores;
Non amnes illam medii non ardua tentant,
Perdita nec serae meminit decedere nocti."

The rhythm here is midway between Lucretius and Virgil; the inartistic
repetition of _lustrans_ together with the use immediately before of the
cognate word _lustra_ point to a certain carelessness in composition; the
employment of epithets is less delicate than in Horace and Virgil; the
last line is familiar from its introduction unaltered, except by an
improved punctuation, into the _Eclogues_. [27] Two fine verses, slightly
modified in expression but not in rhythm, have found their way into the
_Aeneid_. [28]

"Vendidit hic Latium populis, agrosque Quiritum

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