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Latin Literature by J. W. Mackail

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only surviving child of the eminent soldier and administrator, Gnaeus
Julius Agricola, aided him in obtaining rapid promotion; he was praetor
in the year in which Domitian celebrated the Secular Games, and rose to
the dignity of the consulship during the brief reign of Nerva. He was
then a little over forty. When still quite a young man he had written the
dialogue on oratory, which is one of the most interesting of Latin works
on literary criticism; but throughout the reign of Domitian his pen was
wholly laid aside. The celebrated passage of the _Agricola_ in which he
accounts for this silence may or may not give an adequate account of the
facts, but at all events gives the keynote of the whole of his subsequent
work, and of that view of the imperial government of the first century
which his genius has fixed ineradicably in the imagination of the world.
Under Domitian a servile senate had ordered the works of the two most
eminent martyrs of reactionary Stoicism, Arulenus Rusticus and Herennius
Senecio, to be publicly burned in the forum; "thinking that in that fire
they consumed the voice of the Roman people, their own freedom, and the
conscience of mankind. Great indeed," he bitterly continues, "are the
proofs we have given of what we can endure. The antique time saw to the
utmost bounds of freedom, we of servitude; robbed by an inquisition of
the common use of speech and hearing, we should have lost our very memory
with our voice, were it as much in our power to forget as to be dumb. Now
at last our breath has come back; yet in the nature of human frailty
remedies are slower than their diseases, and genius and learning are more
easily extinguished than recalled. Fifteen years have been taken out of
our lives, while youth passed silently into age; and we are the wretched
survivors, not only of those who have been taken away from us, but of
ourselves." Even a colourless translation may give some idea of the
distilled bitterness of this tremendous indictment. We must remember that
they are the words of a man in the prime of life and at the height of
public distinction, under a prince of whose government he speaks in terms
of almost extravagant hope and praise, to realise the spirit in which he
addressed himself to paint his lurid portraits of Tiberius or Nero or

The exquisitely beautiful memoir of his father-in-law, in the
introduction to which this passage occurs, was written by Tacitus in the
year which succeeded his own consulship, and which saw the accession of
Trajan. He was then already meditating a large historical work on the
events of his own lifetime, for which he had, by reading and reflection,
as well as by his own administrative experience, accumulated large
materials. The essay _De Origine Situ Moribus ac Populis Germaniae_ was
published about the same time or a little later, and no doubt represents
part of the material which he had collected for the chapters of his
history dealing with the German wars, and which, as much of it fell
outside the scope of a general history of Rome, he found it worth his
while to publish as a separate treatise. The scheme of his work became
larger in the course of its progress. As he originally planned it, it was
to begin with the accession of Galba, thus dealing with a period which
fell entirely within his own lifetime, and indeed within his own
recollection. But after completing his account of the six reigns from
Galba to Domitian, he did not, as he had at first proposed, go on to
those of Nerva and Trajan, but resumed his task at an earlier period, and
composed an equally elaborate history of the empire from the death of
Augustus down to the point where his earlier work began. He still
cherished the hope of resuming his history from the accession of Nerva,
but it is doubtful whether he lived long enough to do so. Allusions to
the Eastern conquests of Trajan in the _Annals_ show that the work cannot
have been published till after the year 115, and it would seem--though
nothing is known as to the events or employments of his later life--that
he did not long survive that date. But the thirty books of his _Annals_
and _Histories,_ themselves splendid work for a lifetime, gave the
continuous history of the empire in the most crucial and on the whole the
most remarkable period of its existence, the eighty-two years which
succeeded the death of its founder.

As in so many other cases, this memorable work has only escaped total
loss by the slenderest of chances. As it is, only about one-half of the
whole work is extant, consisting of four large fragments. The first of
these, which begins at the beginning, breaks off abruptly in the
fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius. A gap of two years follows, and
the second fragment carries on the history to Tiberius' death. The story
of the reign of Caligula is wholly lost; the third fragment begins in the
seventh year of Claudius, and goes on as far as the thirteenth of Nero.
The fourth, consisting of the first four and part of the fifth book of
the earlier part of the work, contains the events of little more than a
year, but that the terrible "year of Emperors" which followed the
overthrow of Nero and shook the Roman world to its foundations. A single
manuscript has preserved the last two of these four fragments; to the
hand of one nameless Italian monk of the eleventh century we owe our
knowledge of one of the greatest masterpieces of the ancient world.

Not the least interesting point in the study of the writings of Tacitus
is the way in which we can see his unique style gradually forming and
changing from his earlier to his later manner. The dialogue _De
Oratoribus_ is his earliest extant work. Its scene is laid in or about
the year 75. But Tacitus was then little if at all over twenty, and it
may have been written some five or six years later. In this book the
influence of Quintilian and the Ciceronian school is strongly marked;
there is so much of Ciceronianism in the style that many scholars have
been inclined to assign it to some other author, or have even identified
it with the lost treatise of Quintilian himself, on the _Causes of the
Decay of Eloquence_. But its style, while it bears the general colour of
the Silver Age, has also large traces of that compressed and allusive
manner which Tacitus later carried to such an extreme degree of
perfection. Full as it is of the _ardor iuvenilis,_ page after page
recalling that Ciceronian manner with which we are familiar in the
_Brutus_ or the _De Oratore_ by the balance of the periods, by the
elaborate similes, and by a certain fluid and florid evolution of what is
really commonplace thought, a touch here and there, like _contemnebat
potius literas quam nesciebat_, or _vitio malignitatis humanae vetera
semper in laude, praesentia in fastidio esse_, or the criticism on the
poetry of Caesar and Brutus, _non melius quam Cicero, sed felicius, quia
illos fecisse pauciores sciunt_, anticipates the author of the _Annals,_
with his mastery of biting phrase and his unequalled power of innuendo.
The defence and attack of the older oratory are both dramatic, and to a
certain extent unreal; it is probable that the dialogue does in fact
represent the matter of actual discussions between the two principal
interlocutors, celebrated orators of the Flavian period, to which as a
young student Tacitus had himself listened. One phrase dropped by Aper,
the apologist of the modern school, is of special interest as coming from
the future historian; among the faults of the Ciceronian oratory is
mentioned a languor and heaviness in narration--_tarda et iners structura
in morem annalium_. It is just this quality in historical composition
that Tacitus set himself sedulously to conquer. By every artifice of
style, by daring use of vivid words and elliptical constructions, by
studied avoidance of the old balance of the sentence, he established a
new historical manner which, whatever may be its failings--and in the
hands of any writer of less genius they become at once obvious and
intolerable--never drops dead or says a thing in a certain way because it
is the way in which the ordinary rules of style would prescribe that it
should be said. A comparison has often been drawn between Tacitus and
Carlyle in this matter. It may easily be pressed too far, as in some
rather grotesque attempts made to translate portions of the Latin author
into phrases chosen or copied from the modern. But there is this
likeness: both authors began by writing in the rather mechanical and
commonplace style which was the current fashion during their youth; and
in both the evolution of the personal and inimitable manner from these
earlier essays into the full perfection of the _Annals_ and the _French
Revolution_ is a lesson in language of immense interest.

The fifteen silent years of Tacitus followed the publication of the
dialogue on oratory. In the _Agricola_ and _Germania_ the distinctively
Tacitean style is still immature, though it is well on the way towards
maturity. The _Germania_ is less read for its literary merit than as the
principal extant account, and the only one which professes to cover the
ground at all systematically, of Central Europe under the early Roman
Empire. It does not appear whether, in the course of his official
employments, Tacitus had ever been stationed on the frontier either of
the Rhine or of the Danube. The treatise bears little or no traces of
first-hand knowledge; nor does he mention his authorities, with the
single exception of a reference to Caesar's _Gallic War_. We can hardly
doubt that he made free use of the material amassed by Pliny in his
_Bella Germaniae,_ and it is quite possible that he really used few other
sources. For the work, though full of information, is not critically
written, and the historian constantly tends to pass into the moralist.
His Ciceronianism has now completely worn away, but his manner is still
as deeply rhetorical as ever. What he has in view throughout is to bring
the vices of civilised luxury into stronger relief by a contrast with the
idealised simplicity of the German tribes; and though his knowledge and
his candour alike make him stop short of falsifying facts, his selection
and disposition of facts is guided less by a historical than by an
ethical purpose. His lucid and accurate description of the amber of the
Baltic seems merely introduced in order to point a sarcastic reference to
Roman luxury; and the whole of the extremely valuable account of the
social life of the Western German tribes is drawn in implicit or
expressed contrast to the elaborate social conventions of what he
considers a corrupt and degenerate civilisation. The exaggeration of the
sentiment is more marked than in any of his other writings; thus the fine
outburst, _Nemo illic vitia ridet, nec corrumpere et corrumpi seculum
vocatur,_ concludes a passage in which he gravely suggests that the
invention of writing is fatal to moral innocence; and though he is candid
enough to note the qualities of laziness and drunkenness which the
Germans shared with other half-barbarous races, he glosses over the other
quality common to savages, want of feeling, with the sounding and
grandiose commonplace, expressed in a phrase of characteristic force and
brevity, _feminis lugere honestum est, viris meminisse_.

The _Agricola,_ perhaps the most beautiful piece of biography in ancient
literature, stands on a much higher level than the _Germania,_ because
here his heart was in the work. The rhetorical bent is now fully under
control, while his mastery over "disposition" (to use the term of the
schools), or what one might call the architectural quality of the book,
could only have been gained by such large and deep study of the art of
rhetoric as is inculcated by Quintilian. The _Agricola_ has the
stateliness, the ordered movement, of a funeral oration; the peroration,
as it might not unfairly be called, of the two concluding chapters,
reaches the highest level of the grave Roman eloquence, and its language
vibrates with a depth of feeling to which Lucretius and Virgil alone in
their greatest passages offer a parallel in Latin. The sentence, with its
subtle Virgilian echoes, in which he laments his own and his wife's
absence from Agricola's death-bed--_omnia sine dubio, optime parentum,
adsidente amantissima uxore superfuere honori tuo; paucioribus tamen
lacrimis comploratus es, et novissima in luce desideraverunt aliquid
oculi tui_--shows a new and strange power in Latin. It is still the
ancient language, but it anticipates in its cadences the language of the
Vulgate and of the statelier mediaeval prose.

Together with this remarkable power over new prose rhythms, Tacitus shows
in the _Agricola_ the complete mastery of mordant and unforgettable
phrase which makes his mature writing so unique. Into three or four
ordinary words he can put more concentrated meaning than any other
author. The likeness and contrast between these brief phrases of his and
the "half-lines" of Virgil might repay a long study. They are alike in
their simple language, which somehow or other is charged with the whole
personality of the author; but the personality itself is in the sharpest
antithesis. The Virgilian phrases, with their grave pity, are steeped in
a golden softness that is just touched with a far-off trouble, a pathetic
waver in the voice as if tears were not far below it. Those of Tacitus
are charged with indignation instead of pity; "like a jewel hung in
ghastly night," to use Shakespeare's memorable simile, or like the red
and angry autumnal star in the _Iliad_, they quiver and burn. Phrases
like the famous _ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant_, or the _felix
opportunitate mortis_, are the concentrated utterance of a great but
deeply embittered mind.

In this spirit Tacitus set himself to narrate the history of the first
century of the Empire. Under the settled equable government of Trajan,
the reigns of the Julio-Claudian house rapidly became a legendary epoch,
a region of prodigies and nightmares and Titanic crimes. Even at the time
they happened many of the events of those years had thrown the
imagination of their spectators into a fever. The strong taint of
insanity in the Claudian blood seemed to have communicated itself to the
world ruled over by that extraordinary series of men, about whom there
was something inhuman and supernatural. Most of them were publicly
deified before their death. The _Fortuna Urbis_ took in them successive
and often monstrous incarnations. Augustus himself was supposed to have
the gift of divination; his foreknowledge overleapt the extinction of his
own house, and foresaw, across a gap of fifty years, the brief reign of
Galba. Caligula threw an arch of prodigious span over the Roman Forum,
above the roofs of the basilica of Julius Caesar, that from his house on
the Palatine he might cross more easily to sup with his brother, Jupiter
Capitolinus. Nero's death was for years regarded over half the Empire as
incredible; men waited in a frenzy of excited terror for the reappearance
of the vanished Antichrist. Even the Flavian house was surrounded by much
of the same supernatural atmosphere. The accession of Vespasian was
signalised by his performing public miracles in Egypt; Domitian, when he
directed that he should be formally addressed as _Our Lord God_ by all
who approached him, was merely settling rules for an established practice
of court etiquette. In this thunderous unnatural air legends of all sorts
sprung up right and left; foremost, and including nearly all the rest,
the legend of the Empire itself, which (like that of the French
Revolution) we are only now beginning to unravel. The modern school of
historians find in authentic documents, written and unwritten, the story
of a continuous and able administration of the Empire through all those
years by the permanent officials, and traces of a continuous personal
policy of the Emperors themselves sustaining that administration against
the reactionary tendencies of the Senate. Even the massacres of Nero and
Domitian are held to have been probably dictated by imperious public
necessity. The confidential advisers of the Emperors acted as a sort of
Committee of Public Safety, silent and active, while the credit or
obloquy was all heaped on a single person. It took three generations to
carry the imperial system finally out of danger; but when this end was at
last attained, the era of the Good Emperors succeeded as a matter of
course; much as in France, the success of the Revolution once fairly
secured, the moderate government of the Directory and Consulate quietly
succeeded to the Terror and the Revolutionary Tribunal.

Such is one view now taken of the early Roman Empire. Its weakness is
that it explains too much. How or why, if the matter was really as simple
as this, did the traditional legend of the Empire grow up and extinguish
the real facts? Is it possible that the malignant genius of a single
historian should outweigh, not only perishable facts, but the large body
of imperialist literature which extends from the great Augustans down to
Statius and Quintilian? Even if we set aside Juvenal and Suetonius as a
rhetorician and a gossipmonger, that only makes the weight Tacitus has to
sustain more overwhelming. It is hardly possible to overrate the effect
of a single work of great genius; but the more we study works of great
genius the more certain does it appear that they are all founded on real,
though it may be transcendental, truth. Systems, like persons, are to be
known by their fruits. The Empire produced, as the flower of its culture
and in the inner circle of its hierarchy, the type of men of whom Tacitus
is the most eminent example; and the indignant hatred it kindled in its
children leaves it condemned before the judgment of history.

The surviving fragments of the _Annals_ and _Histories_ leave three great
pictures impressed upon the reader's mind: the personality of Tiberius,
the court of Nero, and the whole fabric and machinery of empire in the
year of the four Emperors. The lost history of the reigns of Caligula and
Domitian would no doubt have added two other pictures as memorable and as
dramatic, but could hardly make any serious change in the main structure
of the imperial legend as it is successively presented in these three
imposing scenes.

The character and statesmanship of Tiberius is one of the most vexed
problems in Roman history; and it is significant to observe how, in all
the discussions about it, the question perpetually reverts to another--
the view to be taken of the personality of the historian who wrote nearly
a century after Tiberius' accession, and was not born till long after his
death. In no part of his work does Tacitus use his great weapon,
insinuation of motive, with such terrible effect. All the speeches or
letters of the Emperor quoted by him, almost all the actions he records,
are given with this malign sidelight upon them: that, in spite of it, we
lose our respect for neither Emperor nor historian is strong evidence
both of the genius of the latter and the real greatness of the former.
The case of Germanicus Caesar is a cardinal instance. In the whole
account of the relations of Tiberius to his nephew there is nothing in
the mere facts as stated inconsistent with confidence and even with
cordiality. Tiberius pronounces a long and stately eulogy on Germanicus
in the senate for his suppression of the revolt of the German legions. He
recalls him from the German frontier, where the Roman supremacy was now
thoroughly re-established, and where the hot-headed young general was on
the point of entangling himself in fresh and dangerous conquests, in
order to place him in supreme command in the Eastern provinces; but first
he allows him the splendid pageant of a Roman triumph, and gives an
immense donative to the population of the capital in his nephew's name.
Germanicus is sent to the East with _maius imperium_ over the whole of
the transmarine provinces, a position more splendid than any that
Tiberius himself had held during the lifetime of Augustus, and one that
almost raised him to the rank of a colleague in the Empire. Then
Germanicus embroils himself hopelessly with his principal subordinate,
the imperial legate of Syria, and his illness and death at Antioch put an
end to a situation which is rapidly becoming impossible. His remains are
solemnly brought back to Rome, and honoured with a magnificent funeral;
the proclamation of Tiberius fixing the termination of the public
mourning is in its gravity and good sense one of the most striking
documents in Roman history. But in Tacitus every word and action of
Tiberius has its malignant interpretation or comment. He recalls
Germanicus from the Rhine out of mingled jealousy and fear; he makes him
viceroy of the East in order to carry out a diabolically elaborate scheme
for bringing about his destruction. The vague rumours of poison or magic
that ran during his last illness among the excitable and grossly
superstitious populace of Antioch are gravely recorded as ground for the
worst suspicions. That dreadful woman, the elder Agrippina, had, even in
her husband's lifetime, made herself intolerable by her pride and
jealousy after her husband's death she seems to have become quite insane,
and the recklessness of her tongue knew no bounds. To Tacitus all her
ravings, collected from hearsay or preserved in the memoirs of her
equally appalling daughter, the mother of Nero, represent serious
historical documents; and the portrait of Tiberius is from first to last
deeply influenced by, and indeed largely founded on, the testimony of a

The three books and a half of the _Annals_ which contain the principate
of Nero are not occupied with the portraiture of a single great
personality, nor are they full, like the earlier books, of scathing
phrases and poisonous insinuations. The reign of Nero was, indeed, one
which required little rhetorical artifice to present as something
portentous. The external history of the Empire, till towards its close,
was without remarkable incident. The wars on the Armenian frontier hardly
affected the general quiet of the Empire; the revolt of Britain was an
isolated occurrence, and soon put down. The German tribes, engaged in
fierce internal conflicts, left the legions on the Rhine almost
undisturbed. The provinces, though suffering under heavy taxation, were
on the whole well ruled. Public interest was concentrated on the capital;
and the startling events which took place there gave the fullest scope to
the dramatic genius of the historian. The court of Nero lives before us
in his masterly delineation. Nero himself, Seneca and Tigellinus, the
Empress-mother, the conspirators of the year 65, form a portrait-gallery
of sombre magnificence, which surpasses in vivid power the more elaborate
and artificial picture of the reign of Tiberius. With all his immense
ability and his deep psychological insight, Tacitus is not a profound
political thinker; as he approaches the times which fell within his own
personal knowledge he disentangles himself more and more from the
preconceptions of narrow theory, and gives his dramatic gift fuller play.

It is for this reason that the _Histories_, dealing with a period which
was wholly within his own lifetime, and many of the main actors in which
he knew personally and intimately, are a greater historical work than
even the _Annals_. He moves with a more certain step in an ampler field.
The events of the year 69, which occupy almost the whole of the extant
part of the _Histories_, offer the largest and most crowded canvas ever
presented to a Roman historian. And Tacitus rises fully to the amplitude
of his subject. It is in these books that the material greatness of the
Empire has found its largest expression. In the _Annals_ Rome is the core
of the world, and the provinces stretch dimly away from it, shaken from
time to time by wars or military revolts that hardly touch the great
central life of the capital. Here, though the action opens indeed in the
capital in that wet stormy January, the main interest is soon transferred
to distant fields; the life of the Empire still converges on Rome as a
centre, but no longer issues from it as from a common heart and brain.
The provinces had been the spoil of Rome; Rome herself is now becoming
the spoil of the provinces. The most splendid piece of narration in the
_Histories,_ and one of the finest in the work of any historian, is the
story of the second battle of Bedriacum, and the storm and sack of
Cremona by the Moesian and Pannonian legions. This is the central thought
which makes it so tragical. The little vivid touches in which Tacitus
excels are used towards this purpose with extraordinary effect; as in the
incident of the third legion saluting the rising sun--_ita in Suria mos
est_--which marks the new and fatal character of the great provincial
armies, or the casual words of the Flavian general, _The bath will soon
be heated,_ which were said to have given the signal for the burning of
Cremona. In these scenes the whole tragedy of the Empire rises before us.
The armies of the Danube and Rhine left the frontiers defenceless while
they met in the shock of battle on Italian soil, still soaking with Roman
blood and littered with unburied Roman corpses; behind them the whole
armed strength of the Empire--_immensa belli moles_--was gathering out of
Gaul, Spain, Syria, and Hungary; and before the year was out, the Roman
Capitol itself, in a trifling struggle between small bodies of the
opposing forces, went up in flame at the hands of the German troops of

This great pageant of history is presented by Tacitus in a style which,
in its sombre yet gorgeous colouring, is unique in literature. In mere
grammatical mechanism it bears close affinity to the other Latin writing
of the period, but in all its more intimate qualities it is peculiar to
Tacitus alone; he founded his own style, and did not transmit it to any
successor. The influence of Virgil over prose reaches in him its most
marked degree. Direct transferences of phrase are not infrequent; and
throughout, as one reads the _Histories,_ one is reminded of the
_Aeneid,_ not only by particular phrases, but by a more indefinable
quality permeating the style. The narrative of the siege and firing of
the Capitol, to take one striking instance, is plainly from the hand of a
writer saturated with the movement and language of Virgil's _Sack of
Troy_. A modern historian might have quoted Virgil in a note; with
Tacitus the Virgilian reminiscences are interwoven with the whole
structure of his narrative. The whole of the three fine chapters will
repay minute comparison; but some of the more striking resemblances are
worth noting as a study in language. _Erigunt aciem_, says the historian,
_usque ad primas Capitolinae arcis fores ... in tectum egressi saxis
tegulisque Vitellianos obruebant ... ni revolsas undique statuas, decora
maiorum, in ipso aditu obiecissent ... vis propior atque acrior ingruebat
... quam non Porsena dedita urbe neque Galli temerare potuissent ...
inrumpunt Vitelliani et cuncta sanguine ferro flammisque miscent_. We
seem to be present once more at that terrible night in Troy--

_Vestibulum ante ipsum primoque in limine Pyrrhus ...
Evado ad summi fastigia culminis ...
... turres ac tecta domorum Culmina convellunt ...
... veterum decora alia parentum
Devolvunt ... nec saxa, nec ullum Telorum interea cessat genus ...
... armorumque ingruit horror ...
... et iam per moenia clarior ignis
Auditur, propiusque aestus incendia volvunt ...
Quos neque Tydides, nec Larissaeus Achilles,
Non anni domuere decem, non mille carinae ...
Fit via vi; rumpunt aditus primosque trucidant
Inmissi Danai, et late loca milite complent._

These quotations indicate strikingly enough the way in which Tacitus is
steeped in the Virgilian manner and diction. The whole passage must be
read continuously to realise the immense skill with which he uses it, and
the tragic height it adds to the narrative.

Nor is the deep gloom of his history, though adorned with the utmost
brilliance of rhetoric, lightened by any belief in Providence or any
distinct hope for the future. The artificial optimism of the Stoics is
alien from his whole temper; and his practical acquiescence in the
existing system under the reign of Domitian only added bitterness to his
inward revolt from it. The phrases of religion are merely used by him to
darken the shades of his narrative; _Deum ira in rem Romanam,_ one of the
most striking of them, might almost be taken as a second title for his
history. On the very last page of the _Annals_ he concludes a brief
notice of the ruin and exile of Cassius Asclepiodotus, whose crime was
that he had not deserted an unfortunate friend, with the striking words,
"Such is the even-handedness of Heaven towards good and evil conduct."
Even his praises of the government of Trajan are half-hearted and
incredulous; "the rare happiness of a time when men may think what they
will, and say what they think," is to his mind a mere interlude, a brief
lightening of the darkness before it once more descends on a world where
the ambiguous power of fate or chance is the only permanent ruler, and
where the gods intervene, not to protect, but only to avenge.



From the name of Tacitus that of Juvenal is inseparable. The pictures
drawn of the Empire by the historian and the satirist are in such
striking accordance that they create a greater plausibility for the
common view they hold than could be given by any single representation;
and while Juvenal lends additional weight and colour to the Tacitean
presentment of the imperial legend, he acquires from it in return an
importance which could hardly otherwise have been sustained by his
exaggerated and glaring rhetoric.

As regards the life and personality of the last great Roman satirist we
are in all but total ignorance. Several lives of him exist which are
confused and contradictory in detail. He was born at Aquinum, probably in
the reign of Nero; an inscription on a little temple of Ceres, dedicated
by him there, indicates that he had served in the army as commander of a
Dalmatian cohort, and was superintendent (as one of the chief men of the
town) of the civic worship paid to Vespasian after his deification. The
circumstance of his banishment for offence given to an actor who was high
in favour with the reigning Emperor is well authenticated; but neither
its place nor its time can be fixed. It appears from the _Satires_
themselves that they were written late in life; we are informed that he
reached his eightieth year, and lived into the reign of Antoninus Pius.
Martial, by whom he is repeatedly mentioned, alludes to him only as a
rhetorician, not as a satirist. The sixteen satires (of which the last
is, perhaps, not genuine) were published at intervals under Trajan and
Hadrian. They fall into two groups; the first nine, which are at once the
most powerful and the least agreeable, being separated by a considerable
interval of years from the others, in which a certain softening of tone
and a tendency to dwell on the praise of virtue more than on the ignoble
details of vice is united with a failing power that marks the approach of

Juvenal is the most savage--one might almost say the most brutal--of all
the Roman satirists. Lucilius, when he "scourged the town," did so in the
high spirits and voluble diction of a comparatively simple age. Horace
soon learned to drop the bitterness which appears in his earlier satires,
and to make them the vehicle for his gentle wisdom and urbane humour. The
writing of Persius was that of a student who gathered the types he
satirised from books rather than from life. Juvenal brought to his task
not only a wide knowledge of the world--or, at least, of the world of the
capital--but a singular power of mordant phrase, and a mastery over crude
and vivid effect that keeps the reader suspended between disgust and
admiration. In the commonplaces of morality, though often elevated and
occasionally noble, he does not show any exceptional power or insight;
but his graphic realism, combined (as realism often is) with a total
absence of all but the grimmest forms of humour, makes his verses cut
like a knife. _Facit indignatio versum_, he truly says of his own work;
with far less flexibility, he has all the remorselessness of Swift. That
singular product of the last days of paganism, the epigrammatist Palladas
of Alexandria, is the only ancient author who shows the same spirit. Of
his earlier work the second and ninth satires, and a great part of the
sixth, have a cold prurience and disgustingness of detail, that even
Swift only approaches at his worst moments. Yet the sixth satire, at all
events, is an undeniable masterpiece; however raw the colour, however
exaggerated the drawing, his pictures of Roman life have a force that
stamps them permanently on the imagination; his _Legend of Bad Women,_ as
this satire might be called, has gone far to make history.

It is in the third satire that his peculiar gift of vivid painting finds
its best and easiest scope. In this elaborate indictment of the life of
the capital, put into the mouth of a man who is leaving it for a little
sleepy provincial town, he draws a picture of the Rome he knew, its
social life and its physical features, its everyday sights and sounds,
that brings it before us more clearly and sharply than even the Rome of
Horace or Cicero. The drip of the water from the aqueduct that passed
over the gate from which the dusty squalid Appian Way stretched through
its long suburb; the garret under the tiles where, just as now, the
pigeons sleeked themselves in the sun and the rain drummed on the roof;
the narrow crowded streets, half choked with builders' carts, ankle-deep
in mud, and the pavement ringing under the heavy military boots of
guardsmen; the tavern waiters trotting along with a pyramid of hot dishes
on their head; the flowerpots falling from high window ledges; night,
with the shuttered shops, the silence broken by some sudden street brawl,
the darkness shaken by a flare of torches as some great man, wrapped in
his scarlet cloak, passes along from a dinner-party with his long train
of clients and slaves: these scenes live for us in Juvenal, and are
perhaps the picture of ancient Rome that is most abidingly impressed on
our memory. The substance of the satire is familiar to English readers
from the fine copy of Johnson, whose _London_ follows it closely, and is
one of the ablest and most animated modern imitations of a classical
original. The same author's noble poem on the _Vanity of Human Wishes_ is
a more free, but equally spirited rendering of the tenth satire, which
stands at the head of the later portion of Juvenal's work. In this, and
in those of the subsequent satires which do not show traces of declining
power, notably the eleventh and thirteenth, the rhetoric is less gaudy
and the thought rises to a nobler tone. The fine passage at the end of
the tenth satire, where he points out what it is permitted mankind to
pray for, and that in the thirteenth, where he paints the torments of
conscience in the unpunished sinner, have something in them which
combines the lofty ardour of Lucretius with the subtle psychological
insight of Horace, and to readers in all ages have been, as they still
remain, a powerful influence over conduct. Equally elevated in tone, and
with a temperate gravity peculiar to itself, is the part of the
fourteenth satire which deals with the education of the young. We seem to
hear once more in it the enlightened eloquence of Quintilian; in the
famous _Maxima debetur puero reverentia_ he sums up in a single memorable
phrase the whole spirit of the instructor and the moralist. The allusions
to childhood here and elsewhere show Juvenal on his most pleasing side;
his rhetorical vices had not infected the real simplicity of his nature,
or his admiration for goodness and innocence. In his power over trenchant
expression he rivals Tacitus himself. Some of his phrases, like the one
just quoted, have obtained a world-wide currency, and even reached the
crowning honour of habitual misquotation; his _Hoc volo sic iubeo_, his
_Mens Sana in corpore sano_, his _Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?_ are
more familiar than all but the best-known lines of Virgil and Horace. But
perhaps his most characteristic lines are rather those where his moral
indignation breaks forth in a sort of splendid violence quite peculiar to
himself; lines like--

_Et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas,_


_Magnaque numinibus vota exaudita malignis,_

in which the haughty Roman language is still used with unimpaired weight
and magnificence.

To pass from Juvenal to the other distinguished contemporary of Tacitus,
the younger Pliny, is like exchanging the steaming atmosphere and
gorgeous colours of a hot-house for the commonplace trimness of a
suburban garden. The nephew and adopted son of his celebrated uncle,
Pliny had received from his earliest years the most elaborate training
which ever fell to the lot of mediocrity. His uncle's death left him at
the age of seventeen already a finished pedant. The story which he tells,
with obvious self-satisfaction, of how he spent the awful night of the
eruption of Vesuvius in making extracts from Livy for his commonplace
book, sets the whole man before us. He became a successful pleader in the
courts, and passed through the usual public offices up to the consulate.
At the age of fifty he was imperial legate of Bithynia: the extant
official correspondence between him and the Emperor during this
governorship shows him still unchanged; upright and conscientious, but
irresolute, pedantic, and totally unable to think and act for himself in
any unusual circumstances. The contrast between Pliny's fidgety
indecision and the quiet strength and inexhaustible patience of Trajan,
though scarcely what Pliny meant to bring out, is the first and last
impression conveyed to us by this curious correspondence. The nine books
of his private letters, though prepared, and in many cases evidently
written for publication, give a varied and interesting picture of the
time. Here, too, the character of the writer in its virtues and its
weakness is throughout unmistakable. Pliny, the patriotic citizen,--
Pliny, the munificent patron,--Pliny, the eminent man of letters,--Pliny,
the affectionate husband and humane master,--Pliny, the man of principle,
is in his various phases the real subject of the whole collection. His
opinions are always just and elegant; few writers can express truisms
with greater fervour. The letters to Tacitus with whom he was throughout
life in close intimacy, are among the most interesting and the fullest of
unintentional humour. Tacitus was the elder of the two; and Pliny, "when
very young"--the words are his own,--had chosen him as his model and
sought to follow his fame. "There were then many writers of brilliant
genius; but you," he writes to Tacitus, "so strong was the affinity of
our natures, seemed to me at once the easiest to imitate and the most
worthy of imitation. Now we are named together; both of us have, I may
say, some name in literature, for, as I include myself, I must be
moderate in my praise of you." This to the author who had already
published the _Histories!_ Before so exquisite a self-revelation
criticism itself is silenced.

The cult of Ciceronianism established by Quintilian is the real origin of
the collection of Pliny's _Letters_. Cicero and Pliny had many weaknesses
and some virtues in common, and the desire of emulating Cicero, which
Pliny openly and repeatedly expresses, had a considerable effect in
exaggerating his weaknesses. Cicero was vain, quick-tempered, excitable;
his sensibilities were easily moved, and found natural and copious
expression in the language of which he was a consummate master. Pliny,
the most steady-going of mankind, sets himself to imitate this excitable
temperament with the utmost seriousness; he cultivates sensibility, he
even cultivates vanity. His elaborate and graceful descriptions of
scenery--the fountain of Clitumnus or the villa overlooking the Tiber
valley--are no more consciously insincere than his tears over the death
of friends, or the urgency with which he begs his wife to write to him
from the country twice a day. But these fine feelings are meant primarily
to impress the public; and a public which could be impressed by the
spectacle of a man giving a dinner-party, and actually letting his
untitled guests drink the same wine that was being drunk at the head of
the table, put little check upon lapses of taste.

Yet with all his affectations and fatuities, Pliny compels respect, and
even a measure of admiration, by the real goodness of his character.
Where a good life is lived, it hardly becomes us to be too critical of
motives and springs of action; and in Pliny's case the practice of
domestic and civic virtue was accompanied by a considerable literary
gift. Had we a picture drawn with equal copiousness and grace of the Rome
of Marcus Aurelius half a century later, it would be a priceless addition
to history. Pliny's world--partly because it is presented with such rich
detail--reminds us, more than that of any other period of Roman history,
of the society of our own day. To pass from Cicero's letters to his is
curiously like passing from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. In
other respects, indeed, they have what might be called an eighteenth
century flavour. Some of the more elaborate of them would fall quite
naturally into place among the essays of the _Spectator_ or the
_Rambler;_ in many others the combination of thin and lucid common-sense
with a vein of calculated sensibility can hardly be paralleled till we
reach the age of Rousseau.

Part of this real or assumed sensibility was the interest in scenery and
the beauties of nature, which in Pliny, as in the eighteenth century
authors, is cultivated for its own sake as an element in self-culture. In
the words with which he winds up one of the most elaborate of his
descriptive pieces, that on the lake of Vadimo in Tuscany--_Me nihil
aeque ac naturae opera delectant_--there is an accent which hardly recurs
till the age of the _Seasons_ and of Gray's _Letters_. Like Gray, Pliny
took a keen pleasure in exploring the more romantic districts of his
country; his description of the lake in the letter just mentioned is
curiously like passages from the journal in which Gray records his
discovery--for it was little less--of Thirlmere and Derwentwater. He
views the Clitumnus with the eye of an accomplished landscape-gardener;
he notes the cypresses on the hill, the ash and poplar groves by the
water's edge; he counts the shining pebbles under the clear ice-cold
water, and watches the green reflections of the overhanging trees; and
finally, as Thomson or Cowper might have done, mentions the abundance of
comfortable villas as the last charm of the landscape.

The munificent benefactions of Pliny to his native town of Comum, and his
anxiety that, instead of sending its most promising boys to study at
Milan--only thirty miles off--it should provide for them at home what
would now be called a university education, are among the many
indications which show us how Rome was diffusing itself over Italy, as
Italy was over the Latin-speaking provinces. Under Hadrian and the
Antonines this process went on with even growing force. Country life, or
that mixture of town and country life afforded by the small provincial
towns, came to be more and more of a fashion, and the depopulation of the
capital had made sensible progress long before the period of renewed
anarchy that followed the assassination of Commodus. Whether the rapid
decay of Latin literature which took place after the death of Pliny and
Tacitus was connected with this weakening of the central life of Rome, is
a question to which we hardly can hazard a definite answer. Under the
three reigns which succeeded that of Trajan, a period of sixty-four years
of internal peace, of beneficent rule, of enlightened and humane
legislation, the cultured society shown to us in Pliny's _Letters_ as
diffused all over Italy remained strangely silent. Of all the streams of
tradition which descended on this age, the schools of law and grammar
alone kept their course; the rest dwindle away and disappear. Sixty years
pass without a single poet or historian, even of the second rate; one or
two eminent jurists share the field with one or two inconsiderable
extract-makers and epitomators, who barely rise out of the common herd of
undistinguished grammarians. Among the obscure poets mentioned by Pliny,
the name of Vergilius Romanus may excite a momentary curiosity; he was
the author of Terentian comedies, which probably did not long survive the
private recitations for which they were composed. The epitome of the
_History_ of Pompeius Trogus, made by the otherwise unknown Marcus
Junianus Justinus, has been already mentioned; like the brief and poorly
executed abridgment of Livy by Julius or Lucius Annaeus Florus (one of
the common text-books of the Middle Ages), it is probably to be placed
under Hadrian. Javolenus Priscus, a copious and highly esteemed juridical
writer, and head of one of the two great schools of Roman jurisprudence,
is best remembered by the story of his witty interruption at a public
recitation, which Pliny (part of whose character it was to joke with
difficulty) tells with a scandalised gravity even more amusing than the
story itself. His successor as head of the school, Salvius Julianus, was
of equal juristic distinction; his codification of praetorian law
received imperial sanction from Hadrian, and became the authorised civil
code. He was one of the instructors of Marcus Aurelius. The wealth he
acquired by his profession was destined, in the strange revolutions of
human affairs, to be the purchase-money of the Empire for his great-
grandson, Didius Julianus, when it was set up at auction by the
praetorian guards. More eminent as a man of letters than either of these
is their contemporary Gaius, whose _Institutes of Civil Law_, published
at the beginning of the reign of Marcus Aurelius, have ever since
remained one of the foremost manuals of Roman jurisprudence.

But the literary poverty of this age in Latin writing is most strikingly
indicated by merely naming its principal author. At any previous period
the name of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus would have been low down in the
second rank: here it rises to the first; nor is there any other name
which fairly equals his, either in importance or in interest. The son of
an officer of the thirteenth legion, Suetonius practised in early life as
an advocate, subsequently became one of Hadrian's private secretaries,
and devoted his later years to literary research and compilation,
somewhat in the manner, though without the encyclopedic scope, of Varro.
In his youth he had been an intimate friend of the younger Pliny, who
speaks in high terms of his learning and integrity. The greater part of
his voluminous writings are lost; they included many works on grammar,
rhetoric, and archaeology, and several on natural history and physical
science. Fragments survive of his elaborate treatise _De Viris
Illustribus,_ an exhaustive history of Latin literature up to his own
day: excerpts made from it by St. Jerome in his _Chronicle_ are the
source from which much of our information as to Latin authors is derived,
and several complete lives have been prefixed to manuscripts of the works
of the respective authors, and thus independently preserved. But his most
interesting, and probably his most valuable work, the _Lives of the
Twelve Caesars_, has made him one of the most widely known of the later
classical writers. It was published under Hadrian in the year 120, and
dedicated to his praetorian prefect, Septicius Clarus. Tacitus (perhaps
because he was still alive) is never mentioned, and not certainly made
use of. Both authors had access, in the main, to the same materials; but
the confidential position of Suetonius as Hadrian's secretary no doubt
increased his natural tendency to collect stories and preserve all sorts
of trivial or scandalous gossip, rather than make any attempt to write
serious history. It is just this, however, which gives unique interest
and value to the _Lives of the Caesars_. We can spare political insight
or consecutive arrangement in an author who is so lavish in the personal
detail that makes much of the life of history; who tells us the colour of
Caesar's eyes, who quotes from a dozen private letters of Augustus, who
shows us Caligula shouting to the moon from his palace roof, and Nero
lecturing on the construction of the organ. There perhaps never was a
series of biographies so crammed with anecdote. Nor is the style without
a certain sort of merit, from its entire and unaffected simplicity. After
all the fine writing of the previous century it is, for a little while,
almost a relief to come on an author who is frankly without style, and
says what he has to say straightforwardly. But it is only the absorbing
interest of the matter which makes this kind of writing long endurable.
It is, in truth, the beginning of barbarism; and Suetonius measures more
than half the distance from the fine familiar prose of the Golden Age to
the base jargon of the authors of the _Augustan History_ a century and a
half later, under Diocletian.

Amid the decay of imagination and of the higher qualities of style, the
tradition of industry and accuracy to some degree survived. The
biographies of Suetonius show considerable research and complete honesty;
and the same qualities, though united with a feebler judgment, appear in
the interesting miscellanies of his younger contemporary, Aulus Gellius.
This work, published under the fanciful title of _Noctes Atticae_, is
valuable at once as a collection of extracts from older writers and as a
source of information regarding the knowledge and studies of his own age.
Few authors are more scrupulously accurate in quotation; and by this
conscientiousness, as well as by his real admiration for the great
writers, he shows the pedantry of the time on its most pleasing side.

The twenty books of the _Noctes Atticae_ were the compilation of many
years; but the title was chosen from the fact of the work having been
begun during a winter spent by the author at Athens, when about thirty
years of age. He was only one among a number of his countrymen, old as
well as young, who found the atmosphere of that university town more
congenial to study than the noisy, unhealthy, and crowded capital, or
than the quiet, but ill-equipped, provincial towns of Italy. Athens once
more became, for a short time, the chief centre of European culture.
Herodes Atticus, that remarkable figure who traced his descent to the
very beginnings of Athenian history and the semi-mythical Aeacidae of
Aegina, and who was consul of Rome under Antoninus Pius, had taken up his
permanent residence in his native town, and devoted his vast wealth to
the architectural embellishment of Athens, and to a munificent patronage
of letters. Plutarch and Arrian, the two most eminent authors of the age,
both spent much of their time there; and the Emperor Hadrian, by his
repeated and protracted visits--he once lived at Athens for three years
together--established the reputation of the city as a fashionable resort,
and superintended the building of an entirely new quarter to accommodate
the great influx of permanent residents. The accident of imperial
patronage doubtless added force to the other causes which made Greek take
fresh growth, and become for a time almost the dominant language of the
Empire. Though two centuries were still to pass before the foundation of
Constantinople, the centre of gravity of the huge fabric of government
was already passing from Italy to the Balkan peninsula, and Italy itself
was becoming slowly but surely one of the Western provinces. Nature
herself seemed to have fixed the Eastern limit of the Latin language at
the Adriatic, and even in Italy Greek was equally familiar with Latin to
the educated classes. Suetonius, Fronto, Hadrian himself, wrote in Latin
and Greek indifferently. Marcus Aurelius used Greek by preference, even
when writing of his predecessors and the events of Roman history. From
Plutarch to Lucian the Greek authors completely predominate over the
Latin. In the sombre century which followed, both Greek and Latin
literature were all but extinguished; the partial revival of the latter
in the fourth century was artificial and short-lived; and though the
tradition of the classical manner took long to die away, the classical
writers themselves completely cease with Suetonius. A new Latin, that of
the Middle Ages, was already rising to take the place of the speech
handed down by the Republic to the Empire.



Though the partial renascence in art and letters which took place in the
long peaceful reign of Hadrian was on the whole a Greek, or, at all
events, a Graeco-Roman movement, an attempt at least towards a
corresponding movement in purely Latin literature, both in prose and
verse, was made about the same time, and might have had important results
had outward circumstances allowed it a reasonable chance of development.
As it is, Apuleius and Fronto in prose, and the new school of poets, of
whom the unknown author of the _Pervigilium Veneris_ is the most striking
and typical, represent not merely a fresh refinement in the artificial
management of thought and language, but the appearance on the surface of
certain native qualities in Latin, long suppressed by the decisive
supremacy of the manner established as classical under the Republic, but
throughout latent in the structure and temperament of the language. Just
when Latin seemed to be giving way on all hands to Greek, the signs are
first seen of a much more momentous change, the rise of a new Latin,
which not only became a common speech for all Europe, but was the
groundwork of the Romance languages and of half a dozen important
national literatures. The decay of education, the growth of vulgarisms,
and the degradation of the fine, but extremely artificial, literary
language of the classical period, went hand in hand towards this change
with the extreme subtleties and refinements introduced by the ablest of
the new writers, who were no longer content, like Quintilian and Pliny,
to rest satisfied with the manner and diction of the Golden Age. The work
of this school of authors is therefore of unusual interest; for they may
not unreasonably be called a school, as working, though unconsciously,
from different directions towards the same common end.

The theory of this new manner has had considerable light thrown upon it
by the fragments of the works of Marcus Cornelius Fronto, recovered early
in the present century by Angelo Mai from palimpsests in the Vatican and
Ambrosian libraries at Rome and Milan. Fronto was the most celebrated
rhetorician of his time, and exercised a commanding influence on literary
criticism. The reign of the Spanish school was now over; Fronto was of
African origin; and though it does not follow that he was not of pure
Roman blood, the influence of a semi-tropical atmosphere and African
surroundings altered the type, and produced a new strain, which we can
trace later under different forms in the great African school of
ecclesiastical writers headed by Tertullian and Cyprian, and even to a
modified degree in Augustine himself. He was born in the Roman colony of
Cirta, probably a few years after the death of Quintilian. He rose to a
conspicuous position at Rome under Hadrian, and was highly esteemed by
Marcus Antoninus, who not only elevated him to the consulship, but made
him one of the principal tutors of the joint-heirs to the Empire, Marcus
Aurelius and Lucius Verus. He died a few years before Marcus Aurelius.
The recovered fragments of his writings, which are lamentably scanty and
interrupted, are chiefly from his correspondence with his two imperial
pupils. With both of them, and Marcus Aurelius especially, he continued
in later years to be on the most intimate and affectionate relations. The
elderly rhetorician, a martyr, as he keeps complaining, to gout, and the
philosophic Emperor write to each other with the effusiveness of two
school-girls. It is impossible to suspect Marcus Aurelius of insincerity,
and it is easy to understand what a real fervour of admiration his
saintly character might awaken in any one who had the privilege of
watching and aiding its development; but the endearments exchanged in the
letters that pass between "my dearest master" and "my life and lord" are
such as modern taste finds it hard to sympathise with, or even to

The single cause for complaint that Fronto had against his pupil was
that, as he advanced in life, he gradually withdrew from the study of
literature to that of philosophy. To Fronto, literature was the one
really important thing in the world; and in his perpetual recurrence to
this theme, he finds occasion to lay down in much detail his own literary
theories and his canons of style. The _Elocutio Novella_, which he
considered it his great work in life to expound and to practise, was
partly a return upon the style of the older Latin authors, partly a new
growth based, as theirs had been, on the actual language of common life.
The prose of Cato and the Gracchi had been, in vocabulary and structure,
the living spoken language of the streets and farms, wrought into shape
in the hands of men of powerful genius. To give fresh vitality to Latin,
Fronto saw, and saw rightly, that the same process of literary genius
working on living material must once more take place. His mistake was in
fancying it possible to go back again to the second century before
Christ, and make a fresh start from that point as though nothing had
happened in the meantime. In our own age we have seen a somewhat similar
fallacy committed by writers who, in their admiration of the richness and
flexibility of Elizabethan English, have tried to write with the same
copiousness of vocabulary and the same freedom of structure as the
Elizabethans. Between these and their object lies an insuperable barrier,
the formed and finished prose of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries;
between Fronto and his lay the whole mass of what, in the sustained and
secure judgment of mankind, is the classical prose of the Latin language,
from Cicero to Tacitus. In the simplicity which he pursued there was
something ineradicably artificial, and even unnatural, and the fresh
resources from which he attempted to enrich the literary language and to
form his new Latin resembled, to use his own striking simile, the
exhausted and unwilling population from which the legions could only now
be recruited by the most drastic conscription.

Yet if Fronto hardly succeeded in founding a new Latin, he was a powerful
influence in the final collapse and disappearance of the old. His
reversion to the style and language of pre-Ciceronian times was only a
temporary fashion; but in the general decay of taste and learning it was
sufficient to break the continuity of Latin literature. The bronze age of
Ennius and Cato had been succeeded, in a broad and stately development,
by the Golden and Silver periods. Under this fresh attack the Latin of
the Silver Age breaks up and goes to pieces, and the failure of Fronto
and his contemporaries to create a new language opens the age of the base
metals. The collapse of the imperial system after the death of Marcus
Aurelius is not more striking or more complete than the collapse of
literature after that of his tutor.

Of the actual literary achievement of this remarkable critic, when he
turned from criticism and took to construction, the surviving fragments
give but an imperfect idea. Most of the fragments are from private
letters; the rest are from rhetorical exercises, including those of the
so-called _Principia Historiae_, a panegyric upon the campaigns and
administration of Verus in the Asiatic provinces. But among the letters
there are some of a more studied eloquence, which show pretty clearly the
merits and defects of their author as a writer. In narrative he is below
mediocrity: his attempt, for instance, to tell the story of the ring of
Polycrates is incredibly languid and tedious. Where his style reaches its
highest level of force and refinement is in the more imaginative
passages, and in the occasional general reflections where he makes the
thought remarkable by an unexpected cadence of language. A single
characteristic passage may be quoted, the allegory of the Creation of
Sleep. It occurs in a letter urging the Emperor to take a brief rest from
the cares of government during a few days that he was spending at a
little seaside town in Etruria. The admirably sympathetic rendering given
by the late Mr. Pater in _Marius the Epicurean_ will show more clearly
than abstract criticism the distinctively romantic or mediaeval note
which, except in so far as it had been anticipated by the genius of Plato
and Virgil, appears now in literature almost for the first time.

"They say that our father Jupiter, when he ordered the world at the
beginning, divided time into two parts exactly equal; the one part he
clothed with light, the other with darkness; he called them Day and
Night; and he assigned rest to the night and to the day the work of life.
At that time Sleep was not yet born, and men passed the whole of their
lives awake: only, the quiet of the night was ordained for them, instead
of sleep. But it came to pass, little by little, being that the minds of
men are restless, that they carried on their business alike by night as
by day, and gave no part at all to repose. And Jupiter, when he perceived
that even in the night-time they ceased not from trouble and disputation,
and that even the courts of law remained open, resolved to appoint one of
his brothers to be the overseer of the night and have authority over
man's rest. But Neptune pleaded in excuse the gravity of his constant
charge of the seas, and Father Dis the difficulty of keeping in
subjection the spirits below: and Jupiter, having taken counsel with the
other gods, perceived that the practice of nightly vigils was somewhat in
favour. It was by night, for the most part, that Juno gave birth to her
children; Minerva, the mistress of all art and craft, loved the midnight
lamp; Mars delighted in the night for his plots and sallies; and the
favour of Venus and Bacchus was with those who roused by night. Then it
was that Jupiter formed the design of creating Sleep; and he added him to
the number of the gods, and gave him the charge over night and rest,
putting into his hands the keys of human eyes. With his own hands he
mingled the juices wherewith Sleep should soothe the hearts of mortals--
herb of Enjoyment and herb of Safety, gathered from a grove in Heaven;
and, from the meadows of Acheron, the herb of Death; expressing from it
one single drop only, no bigger than a tear that one might hide. 'With
this juice,' he said, 'pour slumber upon the eyelids of mortals. So soon
as it hath touched them they will lay themselves down motionless, under
thy power. But be not afraid: they will revive, and in a while stand up
again upon their feet.' After that, Jupiter gave wings to Sleep,
attached, not to his heels like Mercury's, but to his shoulders like the
wings of Love. For he said, 'It becomes thee not to approach men's eyes
as with the noise of a chariot and the rushing of a swift courser, but
with placid and merciful flight, as upon the wings of a swallow--nay! not
so much as with the fluttering of a dove.'"

Alike in the naive and almost childlike simplicity of its general
structure, and in its minute and intricate ornament, like that of a
diapered wall or a figured tapestry, where hardly an inch of space is
ever left blank--this new style is much more akin to the manner of the
thirteenth or fourteenth century than to that of the classical period. A
similar quality is shown, not more strikingly, but on a larger scale and
with a more certain touch, in the celebrated prose romance of Fronto's
contemporary, Lucius Apuleius.

Like Fronto, Apuleius was of African origin. He was born at the Roman
colony of Madaura in Numidia, and educated at Carthage, from which he
proceeded afterwards to the university of Athens. The epithets of _semi-
Numida_ and _semi-Gaetulus_, which he applies to himself, indicate that
he fully felt himself to belong to a civilisation which was not purely
European. Together with the Graeco-Syrian Lucian, this Romano-African
represents the last extension which ancient culture took before finally
fading away or becoming absorbed in new forms. Both were by profession
travelling lecturers; they were the nearest approach which the ancient
world made to what we should now call the higher class of journalist.
Lucian, in his later life--like a journalist nowadays who should enter
Parliament--combined his profession with high public employment; but
Apuleius, so far as is known, spent all his life in writing and
lecturing. Though he was not strictly either an orator or a philosopher,
his works include both speeches and philosophical treatises; but his
chief distinction and his permanent interest are as a novelist both in
the literal and in the accepted sense of the word--a writer of prose
romances in which he carried the _novella elocutio_ to the highest point
it reached. He was born about the year 125; the _Metamorphoses_, his most
famous and his only extant romance, was written at Rome before he was
thirty, soon after he had completed his course of study at Athens. The
philosophical or mystical treatises of his later life, _On the Universe,
On the God of Socrates, On Plato and his Doctrine_, do not rise above the
ordinary level of the Neo-Platonist school, Platonism half understood,
mixed with fanciful Orientalism, and enveloped in a maze of verbiage.
That known as the _Apologia_, an elaborate literary amplification of the
defence which he had to make before the proconsul of Africa against an
accusation of dealing in magic, is the only one which survives of his
oratorical works; and his miscellaneous writings on many branches of
science and natural history, which are conjectured to have formed a sort
of encyclopedia like those of Celsus and Pliny, are all but completely
lost: but the _Florida_, a collection, probably made by himself, of
twenty-four selected passages from the public lectures which he delivered
at Carthage, give an idea of his style as a lecturer, and of the scope
and variety of his talent. The Ciceronian manner of Quintilian and his
school has now completely disappeared. The new style may remind one here
and there of Seneca, but the resemblance does not go far. Fronto, who
speaks of Cicero with grudging and lukewarm praise, regards Seneca as on
the whole the most corrupt among Roman writers, and Apuleius probably
held the same view. He produces his rhetorical effects, not by daring
tropes or accumulations of sonorous phrases, but by a perpetual
refinement of diction which keeps curiously weighing and rejecting words,
and giving every other word an altered value or an unaccustomed setting.
The effect is like that of strange and rather barbarous jewellery. A
remarkable passage, on the power of sight possessed by the eagle, may be
cited as a characteristic specimen of his more elaborate manner. _Quum se
nubium tenus altissime sublimavit_, he writes, _evecta alis totum istud
spatium, qua pluitur et ningitur, ultra quod cacumen nec fulmini nec
fulguri locus est, in ipso, ut ita dixerim, solo aetheris et fastigio
hiemis ... nutu clementi laevorsum vel dextrorsum tota mole corporis
labitur ... inde cuncta despiciens, ibidem pinnarum eminus indefesso
remigio, ac paulisper cunctabundo volatu paene eodem loco pendula
circumtuetur et quaerit quorsus potissimum in praedam superne se proruat
fulminis vice, de caelo improvisa simul campis pecua, simul montibus
feras, simul urbibus homines, uno obtutu sub eodem impetu cernens_. The
first thing that strikes a reader accustomed to classical Latin in a
passage like this is the short broken rhythms, the simple organism of
archaic prose being artificially imitated by carefully and deliberately
breaking up all the structure which the language had been wrought into
through the handling of centuries. The next thing is that half the
phrases are, in the ordinary sense of the word, barely Latin. Apuleius
has all the daring, though not the genius, of Virgil himself in inventing
new Latin or using old Latin in new senses. But Virgil is old Latin to
him no less than Ennius or Pacuvius; in this very passage, with its
elaborate archaisms, there are three phrases taken directly from the
first book of the _Aeneid_.

In the _Metamorphoses_ the elaboration of the new style culminates. In
its main substance this curious and fantastic romance is a translation
from a Greek original. Its precise relation to the version of the same
story, extant in Greek under the name of Lucian, has given rise to much
argument, and the question cannot be held to be conclusively settled; but
the theory which seems to have most in its favour is that both are
versions of a lost Greek original. Lucian applied his limpid style and
his uncommon power of narration to rewrite what was no doubt a ruder and
more confused story. Apuleius evidently took the story as a mere
groundwork which he might overlay with his own fantastic embroidery. He
was probably attracted to it by the supernatural element, which would
appeal strongly to him, not merely as a professed mystic and a dabbler in
magic, but as a _decadent_ whose art sought out strange experiences and
romantic passions no less than novel rhythms and exotic diction. Under
the light touch of Lucian the supernaturalism of the story is merely that
of a fairy-tale, not believed in or meant to be believed; in the
_Metamorphoses_ a brooding sense of magic is over the whole narrative. In
this spirit he entirely remodels the conclusion of the story. The whole
of the eleventh book, from the vision of the goddess, with which it
opens, to the reception of the hero at the conclusion into the fellowship
of her holy servants, is conceived at the utmost tension of mystical
feeling. "With stars and sea-winds in her raiment," flower-crowned, shod
with victorious palm, clad, under the dark splendours of her heavy pall,
in shimmering white silk shot with saffron and rose like flame, an awful
figure rises out of the moonlit sea: _En adsum_, comes her voice, _rerum
natura parens, elementorum omnium domina, seculorum progenies initialis,
summa numinum, regina manium, prima caelitum, deorum dearumque facies
uniformis, quae caeli luminosa culmina, maris salubria flamina, inferorum
deplorata silentia nutibus meis dispenso_. It was in virtue of such
passages as that from which these words are quoted that Apuleius came to
be regarded soon after his death as an incarnation of Antichrist, sent to
perplex the worshippers of the true God. Already to Lactantius he is not
a curious artist in language, but a magician inspired by diabolical
agency; St. Augustine tells us that, like Apollonius of Tyana, he was set
up by religious paganism as a rival to Jesus Christ.

Of the new elements interwoven by Apuleius in the story of the
transformations and adventures of Lucius of Patrae (Lucius of Madaura, he
calls him, thus hinting, to the mingled awe and confusion of his readers,
that the events had happened to himself), the fervid religious enthusiasm
of the conclusion is no doubt historically the most important; but what
has made it immortal is the famous story of Cupid and Psyche, which fills
nearly two books of the _Metamorphoses_. With the strangeness
characteristic of the whole work, this wonderful and exquisitely told
story is put in the mouth of a half crazy and drunken old woman, in the
robbers' cave where part of the action passes. But her first half-dozen
words, the _Erant in quadam civitate rex et regina_, lift it in a moment
into the fairy world of pure romance. The story itself is in its
constituent elements a well-known specimen of the _maerchen,_ or popular
tale, which is not only current throughout the Aryan peoples, but may be
traced in the popular mythology of all primitive races. It is beyond
doubt in its essential features of immemorial antiquity; but what is
unique about it is its sudden appearance in literature in the full flower
of its most elaborate perfection. Before Apuleius there is no trace of
the story in Greek or Roman writing; he tells it with a daintiness of
touch and a wealth of fanciful ornament that have left later story-
tellers little or nothing to add. The version by which it is best known
to modern readers, that in the _Earthly Paradise_, while, after the
modern poet's manner, expanding the descriptions for their own sake,
follows Apuleius otherwise with exact fidelity.

In the more highly wrought episodes, like the _Cupid and Psyche_, the new
Latin of Apuleius often approximates nearly to assonant or rhymed verse.
Both rhyme and assonance were to be found in the early Latin which he had
studied deeply, and may be judged from incidental fragments of the
popular language never to have wholly disappeared from common use during
the classical period. Virgil, in his latest work, as has been noticed,
shows a tendency to experiment in combining their use with that of the
Graeco-Latin rhythms. The combination, in the writing of the new school,
of a sort of inchoate verse with an elaborate and even pedantic prose was
too artificial to be permanent; but about the same time attempts were
made at a corresponding new style in regular poetry. Rhymed verse as such
does not appear till later; the work of the _novelli poetae_, as they
were called by the grammarians, partly took the form of reversion to the
trochaic metres which were the natural cadence of the Latin language,
partly of fresh experiments in hitherto untried metres, in both cases
with a large employment of assonance, and the beginnings of an accentual
as opposed to a quantitative treatment. Of these experiments few have
survived; the most interesting is a poem of remarkable beauty preserved
in the Latin Anthology under the name of the _Pervigilium Veneris_. Its
author is unknown, nor can its date be determined with certainty. The
worship of Venus Genetrix, for whose spring festival the poem is written,
had been revived on a magnificent scale by Hadrian; and this fact,
together with the internal evidence of the language, make it assignable
with high probability to the age of the Antonines. The use of the
preposition _de_, almost as in the Romance languages, where case-
inflexions would be employed in classical Latin, has been held to argue
an African origin; while its remarkable mediaevalisms have led some
critics, against all the other indications, to place its date as low as
the fourth or even the fifth century.

The _Pervigilium Veneris_ is written in the trochaic septenarian verse
which had been freely used by the earliest Roman poets, but had since
almost dropped out of literary use. With the revival of the trochaic
movement the long divorce between metrical stress and spoken accent
begins to break down. The metre is indeed accurate, and even rigorous, in
its quantitative structure; but instead of the prose and verse stresses
regularly clashing as they do in the hexameter or elegiac, they tend
broadly towards coinciding, and do entirely coincide in one-third of the
lines of the poem. We are on the very verge of the accentual Latin poetry
of the Middle Ages, and the affinity is made closer by the free use of
initial and terminal assonances, and even of occasional rhyme. The use of
stanzas with a recurring refrain was not unexampled; Virgil, following
Theocritus and Catullus, had employed the device with singular beauty in
the eighth _Eclogue_; but this is the first known instance of the refrain
being added to a poem in stanzas of a fixed and equal length;[11] it is
more than halfway towards the structure of an eleventh-century Provencal
_alba_. The keen additional pleasure given by rhyme was easily felt in a
language where accidental rhymes come so often as they do in Latin, but
the rhyme here, so far as there is any, is rather incidental to the way
in which the language is used, with its silvery chimes and recurrences,
than sought out for its own sake; there is more of actual rhyming in some
of the prose of Apuleius. The refrain itself-

_Cras amet qui nunquam amavit, quique amavit cras amet--_

has its internal recurrence, the folding back of the musical phrase upon
itself; and as it comes over and over again it seems to set the whole
poem swaying to its own music. In one of the most remarkable of his
lyrics (like this poem, a song of spring), Tennyson has come very near,
as near perhaps as it is possible to do in words, towards explaining the
actual process through which poetry comes into existence: _The fairy
fancies range, and lightly stirr'd, Ring little bells of change from word
to word_. In the _Pervigilium Veneris_ with its elaborate simplicity--
partly a conscious literary artifice, partly a real reversion to the
childhood of poetical form--this process is, as it were, laid bare before
our eyes; the ringing phrases turn and return, and expand and interlace
and fold in, as though set in motion by a strain of music.

_Cras amet qui nunquam amavit, quique amavit cras amet;
Ver novum, ver iam canorum, ver renatus orbis est;
Vere concordant amores, vere nubunt alites
Et nemus comam resolvit de maritis imbribus:
Cras amet qui nunquam amavit, quique amavit cras amet--_

in these lines of clear melody the poem opens, and the rest is all a
series of graceful and florid variations or embroideries upon them; the
first line perpetually repeating itself through the poem like a thread of
gold in the pattern or a phrase in the music. In the soft April night the
tapering flame-shaped rosebud, soaked in warm dew, swells out and breaks
into a fire of crimson at dawn.

_Facta Cypridis de cruore deque Amoris osculo
Deque gemmis deque flammis deque solis purpuris
Cras ruborem qui latebat veste tectus ignea
Unico marita nodo non pudebit solvere.
Cras amet qui nunquam amavit, quique amavit cras amet._

Flower-garlanded and myrtle-shrouded, the Spring worshippers go dancing
through the fields that break before them into a sheet of flowers; among
them the boy Love goes, without his torch and his arrows; amid gold-
flowered broom, under trees unloosening their tresses, in myrtle-thicket
and poplar shade, the whole land sings with the voices of innumerable
birds. Then with a sudden sob the pageant ceases:--

_Ilia cantat, nos tacemus: quando ver venit meum?
Quando fiam uti chelidon ut tacere desinam?_

A second spring, in effect, was not to come for poetry till a thousand
years later; once more then we hear the music of this strange poem, not
now in the bronze utterance of a mature and magnificent language, but
faintly and haltingly, in immature forms that yet have notes of new and
piercing sweetness.

_Bels dous amicx, fassam un joc novel
Ins el jardi on chanton li auzel--_

so it rings out in Southern France, "in an orchard under the whitethorn
leaf;" and in England, later, but yet a century before Chaucer, the same
clear note is echoed, _bytuene Mershe ant Averil, whan spray bigineth to

But in the Roman Empire under the Antonines the soil, the race, the
language, were alike exhausted. The anarchy of the third century brought
with it the wreck of the whole fabric of civilisation; and the new
religion, already widely diffused and powerful, was beginning to absorb
into itself on all sides the elements of thought and emotion which tended
towards a new joy and a living art.



The new religion was long in adapting itself to literary form; and if,
between the era of the Antonines and that of Diocletian, a century passes
in which all the important literature is Christian, this is rather due to
the general decay of art and letters, than to any high literary quality
in the earlier patristic writing. Christianity began among the lower
classes, and in the Greek-speaking provinces of the Empire; after it
reached Rome, and was diffused through the Western provinces, it remained
for a long time a somewhat obscure sect, confined, in the first instance,
to the small Jewish or Graeco-Asiatic colonies which were to be found in
all centres of commerce, and spreading from them among the uneducated
urban populations. The persecution of Nero was directed against obscure
people, vaguely known as a sort of Jews, and the martyrdom of the two
great apostles was an incident that passed without remark and almost
without notice. Tacitus dismisses the Christians in a few careless words,
and evidently classes the new religion with other base Oriental
superstitions as hardly worth serious mention. The well-known
correspondence between Pliny and Trajan, on the subject of the repressive
measures to be taken against the Christians of Bithynia, indicates that
Christianity had, by the beginning of the second century, taken a large
and firm footing in the Eastern provinces; but it is not till a good many
years later that we have any certain indication of its obtaining a hold
on the educated classes. The legend of the conversion of Statius seems to
be of purely mediaeval origin. Flavius Clemens, the cousin of the Emperor
Domitian, executed on the ground of "atheism" during the year of his
consulship, is claimed, though without certainty, as the earliest
Christian martyr of high rank. Even in the middle of the second century,
the Church of Rome mainly consisted of people who could barely speak or
write Latin. The Muratorian fragment, the earliest Latin Christian
document, which general opinion dates within a few years of the death of
Marcus Aurelius, and which is part of an extremely important official
list of canonical writings issued by the authority of the Roman Church,
is barbarous in construction and diction. It is in the reign of Commodus,
amid the wreck of all other literature, that we come on the first
Christian authors. Victor, Bishop of Rome from the year 186, is mentioned
by Jerome as the first author of theological treatises in Latin; taken
together with his attempt to excommunicate the Asiatic Churches on the
question, already a burning one, of the proper date of keeping Easter,
this shows that the Latin Church was now gaining independent force and

Two main streams may be traced in the Christian literature which begins
with the reign of Commodus. On the one hand, there is what may be called
the African school, writing in the new Latin; on the other, the Italian
school, which attempted to mould classical Latin to Christian use. The
former bears a close affinity in style to Apuleius, or, rather, to the
movement of which Apuleius was the most remarkable product; the latter
succeeds to Quintilian and his contemporaries as the second impulse of
Ciceronianism. The two opposing methods appear at their sharpest contrast
in the earliest authors of each, Tertullian and Minucius Felix. The vast
preponderance of the former, alike in volume of production and fire of
eloquence, offers a suggestive parallel to the comparative importance of
the two schools in the history of ecclesiastical Latin. Throughout the
third and fourth centuries the African school continues to predominate,
but it takes upon itself more of the classical finish, and tames the
first ferocity of its early manner. Cyprian inclines more to the style of
Tertullian; Lactantius, "the Christian Cicero," reverts strongly towards
the classical forms: and finally, towards the end of the fourth century,
the two languages are combined by Augustine, in proportions which,
throughout the Middle Ages, form the accepted type of the language of
Latin Christianity.

In a fine passage at the opening of the fifth book of his _Institutes of
Divinity,_ Lactantius regrets the imperfect literary support given to
Christianity by his two eminent predecessors. The obscurity and harshness
of Tertullian, he says (and to this may be added his Montanism, which
fluctuated on the edge of heresy), prevent him from being read or
esteemed as widely as his great literary power deserves; while Minucius,
in his single treatise, the _Octavius,_ gave a brilliant specimen of his
grace and power as a Christian apologist, but did not carry out the task
to its full scope. This last treatise is, indeed, of unique interest, not
only as a fine, if partial, vindication of the new religion, but as the
single writing of the age, Christian or pagan, which in style and diction
follows the classical tradition, and almost reaches the classical
standard. As to the life of its author, nothing is known beyond the
scanty indications given in the treatise itself. Even his date is not
wholly certain, and, while the reign of Commodus is his most probable
period, Jerome appears to allude to him as later than Tertullian, and
some modern critics incline to place the work in the reign of Alexander
Severus. The _Octavius_ is a dialogue in the Ciceronian manner, showing
especially a close study of the _De Natura Deorum_. A brief and graceful
introduction gives an account of the scene of the dialogue. The narrator,
with his two friends, Octavius and Caecilius, the former a Christian, the
latter a somewhat wavering adherent of the old faith, are taking a walk
on the beach near Ostia on a beautiful autumn morning, watching the
little waves lapping on the sand, and boys playing duck-and-drake with
pieces of tile, when Caecilius kisses his hand, in the ordinary pagan
usage, to an image of Serapis which they pass. The incident draws them on
to a theological discussion. Caecilius sets forth the argument against
Christianity in detail, and Octavius replies to him point by point; at
the end, Caecilius professes himself overcome, and declares his adhesion
to the faith of his friend. Both in the attack and in the defence it is
only the rational side of the new doctrine which is at issue. The unity
of God, the resurrection of the body, and retribution in a future state,
make up the sum of Christianity as it is presented. The name of Christ is
not once mentioned, nor is his divinity directly asserted. There is no
allusion to the sacraments, or to the doctrine of the Redemption; and
Octavius neither quotes from nor refers to the writings of either Old or
New Testament. Among early Christian writings, this method of treatment
is unexampled elsewhere. The work is an attempt to present the new
religion to educated opinion as a reasonable philosophic system; as we
read it, we might be in the middle of the eighteenth century. With this
temperate rationalism is combined a clearness and purity of diction,
founded on the Ciceronian style, but without Cicero's sumptuousness of
structure, that recalls the best prose of the Silver Age.

The author of the _Octavius_ was a lawyer, who practised in the Roman
courts. The literary influence of Quintilian no doubt lasted longer among
the legal profession, for whose guidance he primarily wrote, than among
the grammarians and journalists, who represent in this age the general
tendency of the world of letters. But even in the legal profession the
new Latin had established itself, and, except in the capital, seems to
have almost driven out the classical manner. Its most remarkable exponent
among Christian writers was, up to the time of his conversion, a pleader
in the Carthaginian law-courts.

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was born at Carthage towards the
end of the reign of Antoninus Pius. When he was a young man, the fame of
Apuleius as a writer and lecturer was at its height; and though
Tertullian himself never mentions him (as Apuleius, on his side, never
refers in specific terms to the Christian religion), they must have been
well known to each other, and their antagonism is of the kind which grows
out of strong similarities of nature. Apuleius passed for a magician:
Tertullian was a firm believer in magic, and his conversion to
Christianity was, he himself tells us, very largely due to confessions of
its truth extorted from demons, at the strange spiritualistic seances_
which were a feature of the time among all classes. His conversion took
place in the last year of Commodus. The tension between the two
religions--for in Africa, at all events, the old and the new were
followed with equally fiery enthusiasm--had already reached breaking
point. A heathen mob, headed by the priestesses of the _Mater et Virgo
Caelestis,_ the object of the ecstatic worship afterwards transferred to
the mother of Christ, had two or three years before besieged the
proconsul of Africa in his own house because he refused to order a
general massacre of the Christians. In the anarchy after the
assassination of Commodus, the persecution broke out, and continued to
rage throughout the reign of Septimius Severus. It was in these years
that Tertullian poured forth the series of apologetic and controversial
writings whose fierce enthusiasm and impetuous eloquence open the history
of Latin Christianity. The _Apologeticum,_ the greatest of his earlier
works, and, upon the whole, his masterpiece, was composed towards the
beginning of this persecution, in the last years of the second century.
The terms in which its purport is stated, _Quod religio Christiana
damnanda non sit, nisi qualis sit prius intelligatur,_ might lead one to
expect a grave and reasoned defence of the new doctrine, like that of the
_Octavius_. But Tertullian's strength is in attack, not in defence; and
his apology passes almost at once into a fierce indictment of paganism,
painted in all the gaudiest colours of African rhetoric. Towards the end,
he turns violently upon those who say that Christianity is merely a
system of philosophy: and writers like Minucius are included with the
eclectic pagan schoolmen in his condemnation. Here, for the first time,
the position is definitely taken which has since then had so vast and
varied an influence, that the Holy Scriptures are the source of all
wisdom, and that the poetry and philosophy of the Graeco-Roman world were
alike derived or perverted from the inspired writings of the Old
Testament. Moses was five hundred years before Homer; and therefore, runs
his grandiose and sweeping fallacy, Homer is derived from the books of
Moses. The argument, strange to say, has lived almost into our own day.

In thus breaking with heathen philosophy and poetry, Tertullian
necessarily broke with the literary traditions of Europe for a thousand
years. The Holy Scriptures, as a canon of revealed truth, became
incidentally but inevitably a canon of literary style likewise. Writings
soaked in quotations from the Hebrew poets and prophets could not but be
affected by their style through and through. A current Latin translation
of the Old and New Testament--the so-called _Itala,_ which itself only
survives as the ground-work of later versions--had already been made, and
was in wide use. Its rude literal fidelity imported into Christian Latin
an enormous mass of Grecisms and Hebraisms--the latter derived from the
original writings, the former from the Septuagint version of the Old
Testament--which combined with its free use of popular language and its
relaxed grammar to force the new Latin further and further away from the
classical tradition. The new religion, though it met its educated
opponents in argument and outshone them in rhetorical embellishment,
still professed, after the example of its first founders, to appeal
mainly to the simple and the poor. "Stand forth, O soul!" cries
Tertullian in another treatise of the same period; "I appeal to thee, not
as wise with a wisdom formed in the schools, trained in libraries, or
nourished in Attic academy or portico, but as simple and rude, without
polish or culture; such as thou art to those who have thee only, such as
thou art in the crossroad, the highway, the dockyard."

In the ardour of its attacks upon the heathen civilisation, the rising
Puritanism of the Church bore hard upon the whole of culture. As against
the theatre and the gladiatorial games, indeed, it occupied an
unassailable position. There is a grim and characteristic humour in
Tertullian's story of the Christian woman who went to the theatre and
came back from it possessed with a devil, and the devil's crushing reply,
_In meo eam inveni,_ to the expostulation of the exorcist; a nobler
passion rings in his pleading against the butcheries of the amphitheatre,
"Do you wish to see blood? Behold Christ's!" His declamations against
worldly luxury and ornament in the sumptuous pages of the _De Cultu
Feminarum_ are not more sweeping or less sincere than those of Horace or
Juvenal; but the violent attack made on education and on literature
itself in the _De Idololatria_ shows the growth of that persecuting
spirit which, as it gathered material force, destroyed ancient art and
literature wherever it found them, and which led Pope Gregory, four
hundred years later, to burn the magnificent library founded by Augustus.
_Nos sumus in quos decucurrerunt fines seculorum,_ "upon us the ends of
the world are come," is the burden of Tertullian's impassioned argument.
What were art and letters to those who waited, from moment to moment, for
the glory of the Second Coming? Yet for ten years or more he continued to
pour forth his own brilliant essays; and while the substance of his
teaching becomes more and more harsh and vindictive, the force of his
rhetoric, his command over irony and invective, the gorgeous richness of
his vocabulary, remain as striking as ever. In the strange and often
romantic psychology of the _De Anima,_ and in the singular clothes-
philosophy of the _De Pallio,_ he appears as the precursor of Swedenborg
and Teufelsdrueckh. A remarkable passage in the former treatise, in which
he speaks of the growing pressure of over-population in the Empire,
against which wars, famines, and pestilences had become necessary if
unwelcome remedies, may lead us to reconsider the theory, now largely
accepted, that the Roman Empire decayed and perished for want of men.
With the advance of years his growing antagonism to the Catholic Church
is accompanied by a further hardening of his style. The savage Puritanism
of the _De Monogamia_ and _De Ieiunio_ is couched in a scholastic diction
where the tradition of culture is disappearing; and in the gloomy
ferocity of the _De Pudicitia,_ probably the latest of his extant works,
he comes to a final rupture alike with Catholicism and with humane

The African school of patristic writers, of which Tertullian is at once
the earliest and the most imposing figure, and of which he was indeed to
a large degree the direct founder, continued for a century after his
death to include the main literary production of Latin Christianity.
Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus, Bishop of Carthage from the year 248,
though a pupil and an admirer of Tertullian, reverts in his own writings
at once to orthodoxy and to an easy and copious diction. In earlier youth
he had been a professor of rhetoric; after his conversion in mature life,
he gave up all his wealth to the poor, and devoted his great literary
gifts to apologetic and hortatory writings. He escaped the Decian
persecution by retiring from Carthage; but a few years later he was
executed in the renewed outbreak of judicial massacres which sullied the
short and disastrous reign of Valerian. Forty years after Cyprian's death
the rhetorician Arnobius of Sicca in Numidia renewed the attack on
paganism, rather than the defence or exposition of Christianity, in the
seven books _Adversus Nationes_, which he is said to have written as a
proof of the sincerity of his conversion. "Uneven and ill-proportioned,"
in the phrase of Jerome, this work follows neither the elaborate rhetoric
of the early African school, nor the chaster and more polished style of
Cyprian, but rather renews the inferior and slovenly manner of the
earlier antiquarians and encyclopedists. A free use of the rhetorical
figures goes side by side with a general want of finish and occasional
lapses into solecism. His literary gift is so small, and his knowledge of
the religion he professes to defend so slight and so excessively
inaccurate, that theologians and men of letters for once agree that his
main value consists in the fragments of antiquarian information which he
preserves. But he has a further claim to notice as the master of a
celebrated pupil.

Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius, a name eminent among patristic
authors, and not inconsiderable in humane letters, had, like Cyprian,
been a professor of rhetoric, and embraced Christianity in mature life.
That he was a pupil of Arnobius is established by the testimony of
Jerome; his African birth is only a doubtful inference from this fact.
Towards the end of the third century he established a school at
Nicomedia, which had practically become the seat of empire under the rule
of Diocletian; and from there he was summoned to the court of Gaul to
superintend the education of Crispus, the ill-fated son of Constantine.
The new religion had passed through its last and sharpest persecution
under Diocletian; now, of the two joint Emperors Constantine openly
favoured the Christians, and Licinius had been forced to relax the
hostility towards them which he had at first shown. As it permeated the
court and saw the reins of government almost within its grasp, the Church
naturally dropped some of the anathematising spirit in which it had
regarded art and literature in the days of its earlier struggles.
Lactantius brought to its service a taste trained in the best literary
tradition; and while some doubt was cast on his dogmatic orthodoxy as
regards the precise definition of the Persons of the Trinity, his pure
and elegant diction was accepted as a model for later writers. His
greatest work, the seven books of the _Institutes of Divinity_, was
published a few years before the victory of Constantine over Maxentius
outside the walls of Rome, which was the turning-point in the contest
between the two religions. It is an able exposition of Christian doctrine
in a style which, for eloquence, copiousness, and refinement, is in the
most striking contrast to the wretched prose produced by contemporary
pagan writers. The influence of Cicero is obvious and avowed throughout;
but the references in the work show the author to have been familiar with
the whole range of the Latin classics, poets as well as prose writers.
Ennius, the comedians and satirists, Virgil and Horace, are cited by him
freely; he even dares to praise Ovid. In his treatise _On Gods
Workmanship_--_De Opificio Dei_--the arguments are often borrowed with
the language from Cicero, but Lucretius is also quoted and combated. The
more fanatical side of the new religion appears in the curious work, _De
Mortibus Persecutorum_, written after Constantine had definitely thrown
in his lot with Christianity. It is famous as containing the earliest
record of the vision of Constantine before the battle of the Mulvian
Bridge; and its highly coloured account of the tragical fates of the
persecuting Emperors, from Nero to Diocletian, had a large effect in
fixing the tradition of the later Empire as viewed throughout the Middle
Ages. The long passionate protest of the Church against heathen tyranny
breaks out here into equally passionate exultation; the Roman Empire is
already seen, as it was later by St. Augustine, fading and crumbling away
with the growth of the new and imperial City of God.

Besides the large and continuous volume of its prose production, the
Latin Church of the third century also made its first essays in poetry.
They are both rude and scanty; it was not till late in the fourth century
that Christian poetry reached its full development in the hymns of
Ambrose and Prudentius, and the hexameter poems of Paulinus of Nola. The
province of Africa, fertile as it was in prose writers, never produced a
poet of any eminence. The pieces in verse--they can hardly be called
poems--ascribed to Tertullian and Cyprian are forgeries of a late period.
But contemporary with them is an African verse-writer of curious
linguistic interest, Commodianus. A bishop of Marseilles, who wrote, late
in the fifth century, a continuation of St. Jerome's catalogue of
ecclesiastical writers, mentions his work in a very singular phrase:
"After his conversion," he says, "Commodianus wrote a treatise against
the pagans in an intermediate language approximating to verse," _mediocri
sermone quasi versu_. This treatise, the _Carmen Apologeticum adversus
Iudaeos et Gentes_, is extant, together with other pieces by the same
author. It is a poem of over a thousand lines, which the allusions to the
Gothic war and the Decian persecution fix as having been written in or
very near the year 250. It is written in hexameters, composed on a system
which wavers between the quantitative and accentual treatment. These are
almost evenly balanced. The poem is thus a document of great importance
in the history of the development of mediaeval out of classical poetry.
Though not, of course, without his barbarisms, Commodianus was obviously
neither ignorant nor careless of the rules of classical versification,
some of which--for instance, the strong caesura in the middle of the
third foot--he retains with great strictness. His peculiar prosody is
plainly deliberate. Only a very few lines are wholly quantitative, and
none are wholly accentual, except where accent and quantity happen to
coincide. Much of the pronunciation of modern Italian may be traced in
his remarkable accentuation of some words; like Italian, he both throws
back the accent off a long syllable and slides it forward upon a short
one. Assonance is used freely, but there is not more rhyming than is
usual in the poetry of the late empire. Not only in pronunciation, but in
grammatical inflexion, the beginnings of Italian here and there appear.
The case-forms of the different declensions are beginning to run into one
another: the plural, for example, of _insignis_ is no longer _insignes_,
but, as in Italian, _insigni_; and the case-inflexions themselves are
dwindling away before the free use of prepositions, which was already
beginning to show itself in the _Pervigilium Veneris_.

Popular poetry was now definitely asserting itself alongside of book-
poetry formed on the classical model. But authors who kept up a high
literary standard in prose continued to do so in verse also. The poem _De
Ave Phoenice_, found in early mediaeval collections under the name of
Lactantius, and accepted as his by recent critics, is written in accurate
and graceful elegiac couplets, which are quite in accordance with the
admiration Lactantius, in his work _On the Wrath of God_, expresses for
Ovid. It is perhaps the earliest instance outside the field of prose of
the truce or coalition which was slowly forming itself between the new
religion and the old culture. Beyond a certain faint and almost
impalpable mysticism, which hints at the legend of the Phoenix as
symbolical of the doctrine of the Resurrection, there is nothing in the
poem which is distinctively Christian. Phoebus and the lyre of Cyllene
are invoked, as they might be by a pagan poet. But the language is from
beginning to end full of Christian or, at least, scriptural
reminiscences, which could only be possible to a writer familiar with the
Psalter. The description with which the poem opens of the Earthly
Paradise, a "land east of the sun," where the bird has its home, has
mingled touches of the Elysium of Homer and Virgil, and the New Jerusalem
of the Revelation; as in the Psalms, the sun is a bridegroom coming out
of his chamber, and night and day are full of a language that is not

In the literary revival of the latter half of the fourth century these
tendencies have developed themselves, and taken a more mature but a less
interesting form. After Christianity had become formally and irrevocably
the State religion, it took over what was left of Latin culture as part
of the chaotic inheritance which it had to accept as the price for civil
establishment. A heavy price was paid on both sides when Constantine, in
Dante's luminous phrase, "turned the eagle." The Empire definitively
parted with the splendid administrative and political tradition founded
on the classical training and the Stoic philosophy; though shattered as
it had been in the anarchy of the third century, that was perhaps in any
case irrecoverable. The Church, on its side, drew away in the persons of
its leaders from its earlier tradition, with all that it involved in the
growth of a wholly new thought and art, and armed or hampered itself with
that classicalism from which it never again got quite free. It is in the
century before Constantine, therefore, when old and new were in the
sharpest antagonism, and yet were both full of a strange ferment--the
ferment of dissolution in the one case, in the other that of quickening--
that the end of the ancient world, and with it the end of Latin
literature as such, might reasonably be placed. But the first result of
the alliance between the Empire and the Church was to give added dignity
to the latter and renewed energy to the former. The partial revival of
letters in the fourth century may induce us to extend our survey so far
as to include Ausonius and Claudian as legitimate, though remote,
successors of the Augustan poets.



For a full century after the death of Marcus Aurelius, Latin literature
was, apart from the Christian writers, practically extinct. The authors
of the least importance, or whose names even are known to any but
professional scholars, may be counted on the fingers of one hand. The
stream of Roman law, the one guiding thread down those dark ages,
continued on its steady course. Papinian and Ulpian, the two foremost
jurists of the reigns of Septimius and Alexander Severus, bear a
reputation as high as that of any of their illustrious predecessors. Both
rose to what was in this century the highest administrative position in
the Empire, the prefecture of the praetorian guards. Papinian, a native
it seems of the Syrian town of Emesa, and a kinsman of the Syrian wife of
Septimius Severus, was the author of numerous legal works, both in Greek
and Latin. Under Severus he was not only commander of the household
troops, but discharged what we should now call the duties of Home
Secretary. His genius for law was united with an independence of judgment
and a sense of equity which rose beyond the limits of formal
jurisprudence, and made him one of the great humanising influences of his
profession. He was murdered, with circumstances of great brutality, by
the infamous Caracalla, almost immediately after his accession to sole
power. Domitius Ulpianus, Papinian's successor as the head of Latin
jurists, was also a Syrian by birth. Already an assessor to Papinian, and
a member of the imperial privy council, he was raised to the praetorian
prefecture and afterwards removed from it by his countryman, the Emperor
Heliogabalus, but reinstated by Alexander Severus, under whom he was
second ruler of the Empire till killed in a revolt of the praetorian
guards in the year 228. He was succeeded in the prefecture by Julius
Paulus, a jurist of almost equal eminence, though inferior to Ulpian in
style and literary grace. Roman law practically remained at the point
where these three eminent men left it, or only followed in their
footsteps, until its final systematisation under Justinian.

Beyond the field of law, such prose as was written in this century was
mainly Greek. The historical works of Herodian and Dio Cassius, poor in
quality as they are, seem to have excelled anything written at the same
time in Latin. Their contemporary, Marius Maximus, continued the series
of biographies of the Emperors begun by Suetonius, carrying it down from
Nerva to Heliogabalus; but the work, such as it was, is lost, and is only
known as the main source used by the earlier compilers of the _Augustan
History_. Verse-making had fallen into the hands of inferior grammarians.
Of their numerous productions enough survives to indicate that a certain
technical skill was not wholly lost. The metrical treatises of
Terentianus Maurus, a scholar of the later years of the second century,
show that the science of metre was studied with great care, not only in
its common forms, but in the less familiar lyric measures. The didactic
poem on the art of medicine by Quintus Sammonicus Serenus, the son of an
eminent bibliophile, and the friend of the Emperor Alexander Severus,
though of little poetical merit, is written in graceful and fluent verse.
If of little merit as poetry, it is of even less as science. Medicine had
sunk lower towards barbarism than versification, when a sovereign remedy
against fevers was described in these polished lines:--

_Inscribis chartae quod dicitur Abracadabra,
Saepius et subter repetis, sed detrahe summam
Et magis atque magis desint elemenfa figuris,
Singula quae semper rapies et cetera figes
Donec in augustum redigatur litera conum:
His lino nexis collum redimire memento_.

Nor is his alternative remedy of a piece of coral hung round the
patient's neck much more rational. The drop from the science of Celsus is
much more striking here than the drop from the art of Celsus'
contemporary Manilius. An intermittent imperial patronage of letters
lingered on. The elder and younger Gordian (the latter a pupil of
Sammonicus' father, who bequeathed his immense library to him) had some
reputation as writers. Clodius Albinus, the governor of Britain who
disputed the empire with Septimius Severus, was a devoted admirer of
Apuleius, and wrote romances in a similar manner, which, according to his
biographer, had no inconsiderable circulation.

Under Diocletian and his successors there was a slight and partial
revival of letters, which chiefly showed itself on the side of verse. The
_Cynegetica_, a didactic poem on hunting, by the Carthaginian poet Marcus
Aurelius Olympius Nemesianus, is, together with four bucolic pieces by
the same author, the chief surviving fragment of the main line of
Virgilian tradition. The _Cynegetica_, in spite of its good taste and its
excellent versification, is on the whole a dull performance; but in the
other pieces, the pastoral form gives the author now and then an
opportunity of introducing a little touch of the romantic tone which is
partly imitated from Virgil, but partly natural to the new Latin.

_Perdit spina rosas nec semper lilia candent
Nec longum tenet uva comas nec populus umbras,
Donum forma breve est, nec se quod commodet annis:--_

in these graceful lines the copied Virgilian cadence is united with the
directness and the real or assumed simplicity which belongs to the second
childhood of Latin literature, and which is so remarkable in the authors
who founded the new style. The new style itself was also largely
practised, but only a few scattered remnants survive. Tiberianus, Count
of Africa, Vicar of Spain, and praetorian prefect of Gaul (the whole
nomenclature of the Empire is now passing from the Roman to the mediaeval
type) under Constantine the Great, is usually identified with the author
of some of the most strikingly beautiful of these fragmentary pieces. A
descriptive passage, consisting of twenty lines of finely written
trochaics, reminds one of the _Pervigilium Veneris_ in the richness of
its language and the delicate simplicity of its style. The last lines may
be quoted for their singular likeness to one of the most elaborately
beautiful stanzas of the _Faerie Queene_, that which describes the sounds
"consorted in one harmony" which Guyon hears in the gardens of Acrasia:--

_Has per umbras omnis ales plus canora quam putes
Cantibus vernis strepebat et susurris dulcibus:
Hic loquentis murmur amnis concinebat frondibus
Quas melos vocalis aurae, musa Zephyri, moverat:
Sic euntem per virecta pulcra odora et musica
Ales amnis aura lucus flos et umbra iuverat._

The principal prose work, however, which has come down from this age,
shows a continued and even increased degradation of style. The so-called
_Historia Augusta_, a series of memoirs, in continuation of Suetonius'
_Lives of the Twelve Caesars_, of the Roman Emperors from Hadrian to
Numerian (A.D. 117-284), was begun under Diocletian and finished under
Constantine by six writers--Aelius Spartianus, Julius Capitolinus,
Vulcacius Gallicanus, Trebellius Pollio, Aelius Lampridius, and Flavius
Vopiscus. Most of them, if not all, were officials of the imperial court,
and had free access to the registers of the senate as well as to more
private sources of information. The extreme feebleness of the contents of
this curious work is only exceeded by the poverty and childishness of the
writing. History had sunk into a collection of trivial gossip and details
of court life, couched in a language worthy of a second-rate chronicler
of the Dark Ages. The mere outward circumstances of the men whose lives
they narrated--the _purpurati Augusti,_ as one of the authors calls them
in a romantically sonorous phrase--were indeed of world-wide importance,
and among the masses of rubbish of which the memoirs chiefly consist
there is included much curious information and striking incident. But
their main interest is in the light they throw on the gradual sinking of
the splendid administrative organisation of the second century towards
the sterile Chinese hierarchy of the Byzantine Empire, and the concurrent
degradation of paganism, both as a political and a religious system.

Vopiscus, the last of the six authors, apologises, in drawing the work to
a close, for his slender literary power, and expresses the hope that his
material at least may be found useful to some "eloquent man who may wish
to unlock the actions of princes." What he had in his mind was probably
not so much regular history as the panegyrical oratory which about this
same time became a prominent feature of the imperial courts, and gave
their name to a whole school of writers known as the Panegyrici. Gaul,
for a long time the rival of Africa as the nurse of judicial oratory, was
the part of the Empire where this new form of literature was most
assiduously cultivated. Up to the age of Constantine, it had enjoyed
practical immunity from barbarian invasion, and had only had a moderate
share of the civil wars which throughout the third century desolated all
parts of the Empire. In wealth and civilisation, and in the arts of
peace, it probably held the foremost place among the provinces.
Marseilles, Narbonne, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Autun, Rheims, and Treves all
possessed famous and flourishing schools of oratory. The last-named town
was, after the supreme power had been divided among two or more Augusti,
a frequent seat of the imperial government of the Western provinces, and,
like Milan, became a more important centre of public life than Rome. Of
the extant collection of panegyrics, two were delivered there before
Diocletian's colleague, the Emperor Maximianus. A florid Ciceronianism
was the style most in vogue, and the phraseology, at least, of the old
State religion was, until the formal adoption of Christianity by the
government, not only retained, but put prominently forward. Eumenius of
Autun, the author of five or more pieces in the collection, delivered at
dates between the years 297 and 311, is the most distinguished figure of
the group. His fluent and ornate Latin may be read with some pleasure,
though the purpose of the orations leaves them little value as a record
of facts or a candid expression of opinions. Under the influence of these
nurseries of rhetoric a new Gallic school of Christian writers rose and
flourished during the fourth century. Hilarius of Poitiers, the most
eminent of the Gallic bishops of this period, wrote controversial and
expository works in the florid involved style of the neo-Ciceronian
orators, which had in their day a high reputation. As the first known
author of Latin hymns, he is the precursor of Ambrose and Prudentius.
Ambrose himself, though as Bishop of Milan he belongs properly to the
Italian school of theological writers, was born and probably educated at
Treves. But the literature of the province reached its highest point
somewhat later, in one of the most important authors of the century,
Decimus Magnus Ausonius of Bordeaux.

Ausonius was of Gallic blood by both parents; he was educated in grammar
and rhetoric at the university of Bordeaux, and was afterwards for many
years professor of both subjects at that of Treves. As tutor to Gratian,
son and successor of the Emperor Valentinian, he established himself in
court favour, and fulfilled many high State offices. After Gratian was
succeeded by Theodosius he retired to a lettered ease near his native
town, where he lived till nearly the end of the century. His numerous
poetical works are of the most miscellaneous kind, ranging from Christian
hymns and elegies on deceased relations to translations from the Greek
Anthology and centos from Virgil. Among them the volume of _Idyllia_
constitutes his chief claim to eminence, and gives him a high rank among
the later Latin poets. The gem of this collection is the famous
_Mosella,_ written at Treves about the year 370. The most beautiful of
purely descriptive Latin poems, it is unique in the felicity with which
it unites Virgilian rhythm and diction with the new romantic sense of the
beauties of nature. The feeling for the charm of landscape which we had
occasion to note in the letters of the younger Pliny is here fully
developed, with a keener eye and an enlarged power of expression. Pliny's
description of the Clitumnus may be interestingly compared with the
passage of this poem in which Ausonius recounts, with fine and observant
touches, the beauties of his northern river--the liquid lapse of waters,
the green wavering reflections, the belt of crisp sand by the water's
edge and the long weeds swaying with the stream, the gleaming gravel-beds
under the water with their patches of moss and the quick fishes darting
hither and thither over them; or the oftener-quoted and not less
beautiful lines where he breaks into rapture over the sunset colouring of
stream and bank, and the glassy water where, at evening, all the hills
waver and the vine-tendril shakes and the grape-bunches swell in the
crystal mirror. In virtue of this poem Ausonius ranks not merely as the
last, or all but the last, of Latin, but as the first of French poets.
His feeling for the country of his birth has all the romantic patriotism
which we are accustomed to associate with a much earlier or a much later
age. The language of Du Bellay in the sixteenth century--

_Plus que le marbre dur me plaist l'ardoise fine,
Plus mon Loire Gaulois que le Tybre Latin--_

is anticipated here. The softer northern loveliness, _la douceur
Angevine_, appeals to Ausonius more than all the traditional beauties of
Arcadia or Sicily. It is with the Gallic rivers that he compares his
loved Moselle: _Non tibi se Liger anteferet, non Axona praeceps ... te
sparsis incerta Druentia ripis._

_O lordly flow the Loire and Seine
And loud the dark Durance!--_

we seem to hear the very words of the modern ballad: and at the end of
the poem his imagination returns, with the fondness of a lover, to the
green lakes and sounding streams of Aquitaine, and the broad sea-like
reaches of his native Garonne.

In this poem, alike by the classic beauty of his language and the
modernism of his feeling, Ausonius marks one of the great divisions in
the history of poetry. He is the last of the poets of the Empire which
was still nominally co-extensive with the world, which held in itself
East and West, the old and the new. The final division of the Roman
world, which took place in the year 395 between the two sons of
Theodosius, synchronises with a division as definite and as final between
classical and mediaeval poetry; and in the last years of the fourth
century the parting of the two streams, the separation of the dying from
the dawning light, is placed in sharp relief by the works of two
contemporary poets, Claudian and Prudentius. The singular and isolated
figure of Claudian, the posthumous child of the classical world, stands
alongside of that of the first great Christian poet like the figures
which were fabled to stand, regarding the rising and setting sun, by the
Atlantic gates where the Mediterranean opened into the unknown Western

Claudius Claudianus was of Asiatic origin, and lived at Alexandria until,
in the year of the death of Theodosius, he passed into Italy and became
the laureate of the court of Milan. Till then he had, according to his
own statement, written in Greek, his life having been passed wholly in
the Greek-speaking provinces. But immediately on his arrival at the seat
of the Western or Latin Empire he showed himself a master of the language
and forms of Latin poetry such as had not been known since the end of the
first century. His poems, so far as they can be dated, belong entirely to
the next ten years. He is conjectured not to have long survived the
downfall of his patron Stilicho, the great Vandal general who, as
guardian of the young Emperor Honorius, was practically ruler of the
Western Empire. He was the last eminent man of letters who was a
professed pagan.

The historical epics which Claudian produced in rapid succession during
the last five years of the fourth and the first five of the fifth century
are now little read, except by historians who refer to them for details
of the wars or court intrigues of the period. A hundred years ago, when
Statius and Silius Italicus formed part of the regular course of
classical study, he naturally and properly stood alongside of them. His
Latin is as pure as that of the best poets of the Silver Age; in wealth
of language and in fertility of imagination he is excelled, if at all, by
Statius alone. Alone in his age he inherits the scholarly tradition which
still lingered among the libraries of Alexandria. Nonnus, the last and
not one of the least learned and graceful of the later Greek epicists,
who probably lived not long after Claudian, was also of Egyptian birth
and training, and he and Claudian are really the last representatives of
that Alexandrian school which had from the first had so large and deep an
influence over the literature of Rome. The immense range of time covered
by Greek literature is brought more vividly to our imagination when we
consider that this single Alexandrian school, which began late in the
history of Greek writing and came to an end centuries before its
extinction, thus completely overlaps at both ends the whole life of the
literature of Rome, reaching as it does from before Ennius till after

These historical epics of Claudian's--_On the Consulate of Stilicho, On
the Gildonic War, On the Pollentine War, On the Third, Fourth, and Sixth
Consulates of Honorius_--are accompanied by other pieces, written in the
same stately and harmonious hexameter, of a more personal interest:
invectives against Rufinus and Eutropius, the rivals of his patron; a
panegyric on Stilicho's wife, Serena, the niece of Theodosius; a fine
epithalamium on the marriage of Honorius with Maria, the daughter of
Stilicho and Serena; and also by a number of poems in elegiac metre, in
which he wrote with equal grace and skill, though not with so singular a
mastery. Among the shorter elegiac pieces, which are collected under the
title of _Epigrams,_ one, a poem on an old man of Verona who had never
travelled beyond his own little suburban property, is among the jewels of
Latin poetry. The lines in which he describes this quiet garden life--

_Frugibus alternis, non consule computat annum;
Auctumnum pomis, ver sibi flore notat;
Idem condit ager soles idemque reducit,
Metiturque suo rusticus orbe diem,
Ingentem meminit parvo qui germine quercum
Aequaevumque videt consenuisse nemus--_

are in grace and feeling like the very finest work of Tibullus; and the
concluding couplet--

_Erret, et extremos alter scrutetur Hiberos,
Plus habet hic vitae, plus habet ille viae--_

though, in its dependence on a verbal point, it may not satisfy the
purest taste, is not without a dignity and pathos that are worthy of the
large manner of the classical period.

Claudian used the heroic hexameter for mythological as well as historical
epics. Of his _Gigantomachia_ we possess only an inconsiderable fragment;
but the three books of the unfinished _Rape of Proserpine_ are among the
finest examples of the purely literary epic. The description of the
flowery spring meadows where Proserpine and her companions gather
blossoms for garlands is a passage perpetually quoted. It is interesting
to note how the rising tide of romanticism has here, as elsewhere, left
Claudian wholly untouched. The passage, though elaborately ornate, is
executed in the clear hard manner of the Alexandrian school; it has not a
trace of that sensitiveness to nature which vibrates in the _Pervigilium
Veneris_. We have gone back for a moment to that poetical style which
perpetually reminds us of the sculptured friezes of Greek art, severe in
outline, immensely adroit and learned in execution, but a little chilly
and colourless except in the hands of its greatest masters. After paying
to the full the tribute of admiration which is due to Claudian's refined
and dignified workmanship, we are still left with the feeling that this
kind of poetry was already obsolete. It is not only that, as has been
remarked with truth of his historical epics, the elaboration of the
treatment is disproportionate to the importance or interest of the
subject. _Materiam superabat opus_ might be said with equal truth of much
of the work of his predecessors. But a new spirit had by this time
penetrated literature, and any poetry wholly divorced from it must be not
only artificial--for that alone would prove nothing against it--but
unnatural. Claudian is a precursor of the Renaissance in its narrower
aspect; the last of the classics, he is at the same time the earliest,
and one of the most distinguished, of the classicists. It might seem a
mere chance whether his poetry belonged to the fourth or to the sixteenth

In Claudian's distinguished contemporary, the Spanish poet Aurelius
Prudentius Clemens, Christian Latin poetry reached complete maturity. His
collected poems were published at Rome in 404, the year celebrated by
Claudian as that of the sixth consulship of Honorius. Before Prudentius,
Christian poetry had been slight in amount and rude or tentative in
manner. We have already had occasion to notice its earliest efforts in
the rude verses of Commodianus. The revival of letters in the fourth
century, so far as it went, affected Christian as well as secular poetry.
Under Constantine, a Spanish deacon, one Gaius Vettius Aquilinus
Juvencus, put the Gospel narrative into respectable hexameters, which are
still extant. The poems and hymns which have come down under the name of
Bishop Hilary of Poitiers are probably spurious, and a similar doubt
attaches to those ascribed to the eminent grammarian and rhetorician,
Gaius Marius Victorinus, after his conversion. Before Prudentius
published his collection, the hymns of St. Ambrose had been written, and
were in use among the Western Churches. But these, though they formed the
type for all later hymn-writers, were few in number. Out of the so-called
Ambrosian hymns a rigorous criticism only allows five or six as
authentic. These, however, include two world-famed pieces, still in daily
use by the Church, the _Aeterne rerum Conditor_ and the _Deus Creator
omnium,_ and the equally famous _Veni Redemptor_.

To the form thus established by St. Ambrose, Prudentius, in his two books
of lyrical poems, gave a larger volume and a more sustained literary
power. The _Cathemerina,_ a series of poems on the Christian life, and
the _Peristephanon,_ a book of the praise of Christian martyrs--St.
Lawrence, St. Vincent, St. Agnes, among other less celebrated names--at
once represent the most substantial addition made to Latin lyrical poetry
since Horace, and the complete triumph of the new religion. They are not,
like the Ambrosian hymns, brief pieces meant for actual singing in
churches. Out of the twenty-six poems only three are under one hundred
lines in length, and that on the martyrdom of St. Romanus of Antioch runs
to no less than eleven hundred and forty, almost the proportions of a
small epic. But in the brilliance and vigour of their language, their
picturesque style, and the new joy that, in spite of their asceticism,
burns throughout them, they gave an impulse of immense force towards the

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