A History of Roman Literature by Charles Thomas CruttwellFrom the Earliest Period to the Death of Marcus Aurelius

This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 1877
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

Produced by Anne Soulard, Tiffany Vergon and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.





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

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

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

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

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

_November_, 1877.



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




_On the Earliest Remains of the Latin Language._

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

APPENDIX.–Examples of late corrupted dialects


_On the Beginnings of Roman Literature._

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

APPENDIX.–On some fragments of Sueius or Suevius.


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

APPENDIX.–On the _Annales Pontificum_.


_The History of Oratory before Cicero._

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


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

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







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

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


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

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

APPENDIX.–Poetry of M. and Q. Cicero.


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

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

APPENDIX.–On the _Acta Diurna_ and _Acta Senatus_.


_The History of Poetry to the Close of the Republic–Rise of Alexandrinism–Lucretius—Catullus._

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

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




_General Characteristics._

Common features of the Augustan authors–Augustus’s relation to them –Maecenas–The Apotheosis of the emperor–Rhetoricians not orators– Historians–Jurists–Poets–Messala–Varius–Anser–Macer.


_Virgil_ (70-19 B.C.)

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

APPENDIX.–Note I. Imitations of Virgil in Propertius, Ovid, and Manilius,
” II. On the shortening of final o in Latin poetry, ” III. On parallelism in Virgil’s poetry, ” IV. On the Legends connected with Virgil.


_Horace_ (65-8 B.C.).

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


_The Elegiac Poets–Gratius–Manilius._

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


_Prose Writers of the Augustan Age._

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

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




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

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


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

1. _Poets._

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


_The Reigns of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero._

2. _Prose Writers–Seneca._

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


_The Reigns of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero._

3. _Other Prose Writers_.

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

APPENDIX.–Note I. The _Testamentum Porcelli_, ” II. On the MS. of Petronius.


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

1. _Prose Writers_.

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

APPENDIX.–Quintilian’s Criticism on the Roman Authors.


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

2. _Poets_.

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

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


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

Pliny the younger–His oratory–His correspondence–Letter to Trajan –Velius Longus–Hyginus–Balbus–Flaccus–Juvenal–His life–A finished declaimer–His character–His political views–Style–Tacitus–Dialogue on eloquence–_Agricola_–_Germania_–_Histories_–Annals_ –Intended work on Augustus’s reign–Style.


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

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


_State of Philosophical and Religious Thought during the Period of the Antonines–Conclusion_.

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRIUMPE. (_Quinquies_)

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

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

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

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

The most probable transcription is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

pedemve struit, manum endo iacito iniicito

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

1. An epitaph of the fifth century.

“Hic requiescit in pace domna

Bonusa quix ann. xxxxxx et Domo
quae vixit Domino

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

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

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

quatuor Eugvangelia”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dist di enavant in quant
de isto die in posterum quantum

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fact, also, that the Romans possessed no native term for a poet is highly significant. _Poeta_, which we find as early as Naevius, [6] is Greek; and _vates_, which Zeuss [7] traces to a Celtic root, meant originally “soothsayer,” not “poet.” [8] Only in the Augustan period does it come into prominence as the nobler term, denoting that inspiration which is the gift of heaven and forms the peculiar privilege of genius. [9] The names current among the ancient Romans, _librarius_, _scriba_, were of a far less complimentary nature, and referred merely to the mechanical side of the art. [10] These considerations all tend to the conclusion that the true point from which to date the beginning of Roman literature is that assigned by Horace, [11] viz. the interval between the first and second Punic wars. It was then that the Romans first had leisure to contemplate the marvellous results of Greek culture, revealed to them by the capture of Tarentum (272 B.C.), and still more conspicuously by the annexation of Sicily in the war with Carthage. In Sicily, even more than in Magna Graecia, poetry and the arts had a splendid and enduring life. The long line of philosophers, dramatists, and historians was hardly yet extinct. Theocritus was still teaching his countrymen the new poetry of rustic life, and many of the inhabitants of the conquered provinces came to reside at Rome, and imported their arts and cultivation; and from this period the history of Roman poetry assumes a regular and connected form. [12]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So in the Scipionic epitaph,

“Qui | bus si in longa licuiset tibi utier vita.”

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

“Cor | nelius Lucius || Scipio Barbatus,”

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

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

“Dabunt malum Metelli | Naevio poetae.”

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

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

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

“Gnaivod patre prognatus | fortis vir sapiensque.”

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

per liquidum mare sudantes | ditem vexarant.

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

“ditem vexarant.”

In a line of Naevius–

“Runcus atque Purpureus | filii terras.”

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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