A History of Roman Literature
Charles Thomas Cruttwell

Part 2 out of 12

greatest masters. The plays of Plautus are the most important for this
purpose. Independently of their greater talent, they give a truer picture
of Roman manners, and reflect more accurately the popular taste and level
of culture. It is from them, therefore, that any general remarks on Roman
comedy would naturally be illustrated.

Comedy, being based on the fluctuating circumstances of real life, lends
itself more easily than tragedy to a change of form. Hence, while tragic
art after once passing its prime slowly but steadily declines, comedy
seems endued with greater vitality, and when politics and religion are
closed to it, readily contents itself with the less ambitious sphere of
manners. Thus, at Athens, Menander raised the new comedy to a celebrity
little if at all inferior to the old; while the form of art which he
created has retained its place in modern literature as perhaps the most
enduring which the drama has assumed. In Rome there was far too little
liberty of speech for the Aristophanic comedy to be possible. Outspoken
attacks in public on the leading statesmen did not accord with the
senatorial idea of government. Hence such poets as possessed a comic vein
were driven to the only style which could be cultivated with impunity,
viz. that of Philemon and Menander. But a difficulty met them at the
outset. The broad allusions and rough fun of Aristophanes were much more
intelligible to a Roman public than the refined criticism and quiet satire
of Menander, even supposing the poet able to reproduce these. The author
who aspired to please the public had this problem before him,--while
taking the Middle and New Comedy of Athens for his model, to adapt them to
the coarser requirements of Roman taste and the national rather than
cosmopolitan feeling of a Roman audience, without drawing down the wrath
of the government by imprudent political allusions.

It was the success with which Plautus fulfilled these conditions that
makes him pre-eminently the comic poet of Rome; and which, though purists
affected to depreciate him, [10] excited the admiration of such men as
Cicero, [11] Varro, and Sisenna, and secured the uninterrupted
representation of his plays until the fourth century of
the Empire.

The life of Plautus, which extended from 254 to 184 B.C. presents little
of interest. His name used to be written M. ACCIUS, but is now, on the
authority of the Ambrosian MS. changed to T. MACCIUS PLAUTUS. He was by
birth an Umbrian from Sassina, of free parents, but poor. We are told by
Gellius [12] that he made a small fortune by stage decorating, but lost it
by rash investment; he was then reduced to labouring for some years in a
corn mill, but having employed his spare time in writing, he established a
sufficient reputation to be able to devote the rest of his life to the
pursuit of his art. He did not, however, form a high conception of his
responsibility. The drudgery of manual labour and the hardships under
which he had begun his literary career were unfavourable to the finer
susceptibilities of an enthusiastic nature. So long as the spectators
applauded he was satisfied. He was a prolific writer; 130 plays are
attributed to him, but their genuineness was the subject of discussion
from a very early period. Varro finally decided in favour of only 21, to
which he added 19 more as probably genuine, the rest he pronounced
uncertain. We may join him in regarding it as very probable that the plays
falsely attributed to Plautus were productions of his own and the next
generation, which for business reasons the managers allowed to pass under
the title of "Plautine." Or, perhaps, Plautus may have given a few touches
and the benefit of his great name to the plays of his less celebrated
contemporaries, much as the great Italian painters used the services of
their pupils to multiply their own works.

Of the 20 plays that we possess (the entire Varronian list, except the
_Vidularia_, which was lost in the Middle Ages) all have the same general
character, with the single exception of the _Amphitruo_. This is more of a
burlesque than a comedy, and is full of humour. It is founded on the well-
worn fable of Jupiter and Alcmena, and has been imitated by Moliere and
Dryden. Its source is uncertain; but it is probably from Archippus, a
writer of the old comedy (415 B.C.). Its form suggests rather a
development of the Satyric drama.

The remaining plays are based on real life; the real life that is
pourtrayed by Menander, and by no means yet established in Rome, though
soon to take root there with far more disastrous consequences the life of
imbecile fathers made only to be duped, and spendthrift sons; of jealous
husbands, and dull wives; of witty, cunning, and wholly unscrupulous
slaves; of parasites, lost to all self-respect; of traffickers in vice of
both sexes, sometimes cringing, sometimes threatening, but almost always
outwitted by a duplicity superior to their own; of members of the _demi-
monde_, whose beauty is only equalled by their shameless venality, though
some of them enlist our sympathies by constancy in love, others by
unmerited sufferings (which, however, always end happily); and, finally,
of an array of cooks, go-betweens, confidantes, and nondescripts, who will
do any thing for a dinner--a life, in short, that suggests a gloomy idea
of the state into which the once manly and high-minded Athenians had sunk.

It may, however, be questioned whether Plautus did not exceed his models
in licentiousness, as he certainly fell below them in elegance. The drama
has always been found to exercise a decided influence on public morals;
and at Rome, where there was no authoritative teaching on the subject, and
no independent investigation of the foundations of moral truth, a series
of brilliant plays, in which life was regarded as at best a dull affair,
rendered tolerable by coarse pleasures, practical jokes, and gossip, and
then only as long as the power of enjoyment lasts, can have had no good
effect on the susceptible minds of the audience. The want of respect for
age, again, so alien to old Roman feeling, was an element imported from
the Greeks, to whom at all times the contemplation of old age presented
the gloomiest associations. But it must have struck at the root of all
Roman traditions to represent the aged father in any but a venerable
light; and inimitable as Plautus is as a humourist, we cannot regard him
as one who either elevates his own art, or in any way represents the
nobler aspect of the Roman mind.

The conventional refinement with which Menander invested his characters,
and which was so happily reproduced by Terence, was not attempted by
Plautus. His excellence lies rather in the bold and natural flow of his
dialogue, fuller, perhaps, of spicy humour and broad fun than of wit, but
of humour and fun so lighthearted and spontaneous that the soberest reader
is carried away by it. In the construction of his plots he shows no great
originality, though often much ingenuity. Sometimes they are adopted
without change, as that of the _Trinummus_ from the _Thaesauros_ of
Philemon; sometimes they are patched together [13] from two or more Greek
plays, as is probably the case with the _Epidicus_ and _Captivi_;
sometimes they are so slight as to amount to little more than a peg on
which to hang the witty speeches of the dialogue, as, for example, those
of the _Persa_ and _Curculio_.

The _Menaechmi_ and _Trinummus_ are the best known of his plays; the
former would be hard to parallel for effective humour: the point on which
the plot turns, viz. the resemblance between two pairs of brothers, which
causes one to be mistaken for the other, and so leads to many ludicrous
scenes, is familiar to all readers of Shakespeare from the _Comedy of
Errors_. Of those plays which border on the sentimental the best is the
_Captivi_, which the poet himself recommends to the audience on the score
of its good moral lesson, adding with truth--

"Huiusmodi paucas poetae reperiunt comoedias
Ubi boni meliores fiant."

We are told [14] that Plautus took the greatest pleasure in his
_Pseudolus_, which was also the work of his old age. The _Epidicus_ also
must have been a favourite with him. There is an allusion to it in the
_Bacchides_, [15] which shows that authors then were as much distressed by
the incapacity of the actors as they are now.

"Non herus sed actor mihi cor odio sauciat.
Etiam Epidicum quam ego fabulum aeque ac me ipsum amo
Nullam aeque invitus specto, si agit Pellio."

The prologues prefixed to nearly all the plays are interesting from their
fidelity to the Greek custom, whereas those of Terence are more personal,
and so resemble the modern prologue. In the former we see the arch
insinuating pleasantry of Plautus employed for the purpose of ingratiating
himself with the spectators, a result which, we may be sure, he finds
little difficulty in achieving. Among the other plays, the _Poenulus_
possesses for the philologist this special attraction, that it contains a
Phoenician passage, which, though rather carelessly transliterated, is the
longest fragment we possess of that important Semitic language. [16] All
the Plautine plays belong to the _Palliatae_, i.e. those of which the
entire surroundings are Greek, the name being taken from the _Pallium_ or
Greek cloak worn by the actors. There was, however, in the Italian towns a
species of comedy founded on Greek models but national in dress, manners,
and tone, known as _Comoedia Togata_, of which Titinius was the greatest
master. The _Amphitruo_ is somewhat difficult to class; if, as has been
suggested above, it be assigned to the old comedy, it will be a
_Palliata_. If, as others think, it be rather a specimen of the _Hilaro-
tragodia_ [17] or _Rhinthonica_ (so called from Rhinthon of Tarentum), it
would form the only existing specimen of another class, called by the
Greeks _Italikae komodia_. Horace speaks of Plautus as a follower of
Epicharmus, and his plots were frequently taken from mythological
subjects. With regard, however, to the other plays of Plautus, as well as
those of Caecilius, Trabea, Licinius Imbrex, Luscius Lavinius, Terence and
Turpilius, there is no ground for supposing that they departed from the
regular treatment of palliatae. [18]

Plautus is a complete master of the Latin language in its more colloquial
forms. Whatever he wishes to say he finds no difficulty in expressing
without the least shadow of obscurity. His full, flowing style, his
inexhaustible wealth of words, the pliancy which in his skilful hands is
given to the comparatively rude instrument with which he works, are
remarkable in the highest degree. In the invention of new words, and the
fertility of his combinations, [19] he reminds us of Shakespeare, and far
exceeds any other Latin author. But perhaps this faculty is not so much
absent from subsequent writers as kept in check by them. They felt that
Latin gained more by terse arrangement and exact fitness in the choice of
existing terms, than by coining new ones after the Greek manner. Plautus
represents a tendency, which, after him, steadily declines; Lucretius is
more sparing of new compounds than Ennius, Virgil than Lucretius, and
after Virgil the age of creating them had ceased.

It must strike every reader of Plautus, as worthy of note, that he assumes
a certain knowledge of the Greek tongue on the part of his audience. Not
only are many (chiefly commercial) terms directly imported from the Greek,
as _dica_, _tarpessita_, _logi_, _sycophantia_, _agoranomus_, but a large
number of Greek adjectives and adverbs are used, which it is impossible to
suppose formed part of the general speech--e.g. _thalassicus_, _euscheme_,
_dulice_, _dapsilis_: Greek puns are introduced, as "_opus est Chryso
Chrysalo_" in the _Bacchides_; and in the _Persa_ we have the following
hybrid title of a supposed Persian grandee, "_Vaniloquidorus
Virginisvendonides Nugipolyloquides Argentiexterebronides Tedigniloquides
Nummorumexpalpouides Quodsemelarripides Nunquamposteareddides_!"

Nevertheless, Plautus never uses Greek words in the way so justly
condemned by Horace, viz. to avoid the trouble of thinking out the proper
Latin equivalent. He is as free from this bad habit as Cato himself: all
his Graecisms, when not technical terms, have some humourous point; and,
as far as we can judge, the good example set by him was followed by all
his successors in the comic drama. Their superiority in this respect may
be appreciated by comparing them with the extant fragments of Lucilius.

In his metres he follows the Greek systems, but somewhat loosely. His
iambics admit spondees, &c. into all places but the last; but some of his
plays show much more care than others: the _Persa_ and _Stichus_ being the
least accurate, the _Menaechmi_ peculiarly smooth and harmonious. The
Trochaic tetrameter and the Cretic are also favourite rhythms; the former
is well suited to the Latin language, its beat being much more easily
distinguishable in a rapid dialogue than that of the Iambic. His metre is
regulated partly by quantity, partly by accent; but his quantities do not
vary as much as has been supposed. The irregularities consist chiefly of
neglect of the laws of position, of final long vowels, of inflexional
endings, and of double letters, which last, according to some grammarians,
were not used until the time of Ennius. His Lyric metres are few, and very
imperfectly elaborated. Those which he prefers are the Cretic and
Bacchiac, though Dactylic and Choriambic systems are not wholly unknown.
His works form a most valuable storehouse of old Latin words, idioms, and
inflexions; and now that the most ancient MSS. have been scientifically
studied, the true spelling of these forms has been re-established, and
throws the greatest light on many important questions of philology. [20]

After Plautus the most distinguished writer of comedy was STATIUS
CAECILIUS (219-166? B.C.), a native of Insubria, brought as a prisoner to
Rome, and subsequently (we know not exactly when) manumitted. He began
writing about 200 B.C., when Plautus was at the height of his fame. He
was, doubtless, influenced (as indeed could not but be the case) by the
prestige of so great a master; but, as soon as he had formed his own
style, he seems to have carried out a treatment of the originals much more
nearly resembling that of Terence. For while in Plautus some of the oddest
incongruities arise from the continual intrusion of Roman law-terms and
other everyday home associations into the Athenian _agora_ or
_dicasteries_, in Terence this effective but very inartistic source of
humour is altogether discarded, and the comic result gained solely by the
legitimate methods of incident, character, and dialogue. That this
stricter practice was inaugurated by Caecilius is probable, both from the
praise bestowed on him in spite of his deficiency in purity of Latin style
by Cicero, [21] and also from the evident admiration felt for him by
Terence. The prologue to the _Hecyra_ proves (what we might have well
supposed) that the earlier plays of such a poet had a severe struggle to
achieve success. [22] The actor, Ambivius Turpio, a tried servant of the
public, maintains that his own perseverance had a great deal to do with
the final victory of Caecilius; and he apologises for bringing forward a
play which had once been rejected, by his former success in similar
circumstances. Horace implies that he maintained during the Augustan age
the reputation of a dignified writer. [23] Of the thirty-nine titles of
his plays, by far the larger number are Greek, though a few are Latin, or
exist in both languages. Those of Plautus and Naevius, it will be
observed, are almost entirely Latin. This practice of retaining the Greek
title, indicating, as it probably does, a closer adherence to the Greek
style, seems afterwards to have become the regular custom. In his later
years Caecilius enjoyed great reputation, and seems to have been almost
dictator of the Roman stage, if we may judge from the story given by
Suetonius in his life of Terence. One evening, he tells us, as Caecilius
was at dinner, the young poet called on him, and begged for his opinion on
the _Andria_, which he had just composed. Unknown to fame and meanly
dressed, he was bidden to seat himself on a bench and read his work.
Scarcely had he read a few verses, when Caecilius, struck by the
excellence of the style, invited his visitor to join him at table; and
having listened to the rest of the play with admiration, at once
pronounced a verdict in his favour. This anecdote, whatever be its
pretensions to historical accuracy, represents, at all events, the
conception entertained of Caecilius's position and influence as introducer
of dramatic poets to the Roman public. The date of his death is uncertain:
he seems not to have attained any great age.

The judgment of Caecilius on TERENCE was ratified by the people. When the
_Andria_ was first presented at the Megalesian games (166 B.C.) it was
evident that a new epoch had arisen in Roman art. The contempt displayed
in it for all popular methods of acquiring applause is scarcely less
wonderful than the formed style and mature view of life apparent in the
poet of twenty-one years.

It was received with favour, and though occasional failures afterwards
occurred, chiefly through the jealousy of a rival poet, the dramatic
career of Terence may, nevertheless, be pronounced as brilliantly
successful as it was shortlived. His fame increased with each succeeding
play, till at the time of his early death, he found himself at the head of
his profession, and, in spite of petty rivalries, enjoying a reputation
almost equal to that of Plautus himself.

The elegance and purity of his diction is the more remarkable as he was a
Carthaginian by birth, and therefore spoke an idiom as diverse as can be
conceived from the Latin in syntax, arrangement, and expression. He came
as a boy to Rome, where he lived as the slave of the senator Terentius
Lucanus, by whom he was well educated and soon given his freedom. The best
known fact about him is his intimate friendship with Scipio Africanus the
younger, Laelius, and Furius, who were reported to have helped him in the
composition of his plays. This rumour the poet touches on with great
skill, neither admitting nor denying its truth, but handling it in such a
way as reflected no discredit on himself and could not fail to be
acceptable to the great men who were his patrons. [24] We learn from
Suetonius that the belief strengthened with time. To us it appears most
improbable that anything important was contributed by these eminent men.
They might have given hints, and perhaps suggested occasional expressions,
but the temptation to bring their names forward seems sufficiently to
account for the lines in question, since the poet gained rather than lost
by so doing. It has, however, been supposed that Scipio and his friends,
desiring to elevate the popular taste, really employed Terence to effect
this for them, their own position as statesmen preventing their coming
forward in person as labourers in literature; and it is clear that Terence
has a very different object before him from that of Plautus. The latter
cares only to please; the former is not satisfied unless he instructs. And
he is conscious that this endeavour gains him undeserved obloquy. All his
prologues speak of bitter opposition, misrepresentation, and dislike; but
he refuses to lower his high conception of his art. The people must hear
his plays with attention, throw away their prejudices, and pronounce
impartially on his merits. [25] He has such confidence in his own view
that he does not doubt of the issue. It is only a question of time, and if
his contemporaries refuse to appreciate him, posterity will not fail to do
so. This confidence was fully justified. Not only his friends but the
public amply recognised his genius; and if men like Cicero, Horace, and
Caesar, do not grant him the highest creative power, they at least speak
with admiration of his cultivated taste. The criticism of Cicero is as
discriminating as it is friendly: [26]

"Tu quoque, qui solus lecto sermone, Terenti,
Conversum espressumque Latina voce Menandrum
In medio populi sedatis vocibus effers;
Quidquid come loquens atque omnia dulcia dicens."

Caesar, in a better known epigram, [27] is somewhat less complimentary,
but calls him _puri sermonis amator_ ("a well of English undefiled").
Varro praises his commencement of the _Andria_ above its original in
Menander; and if this indicates national partisanship, it is at least a
testimony to the poet's posthumous fame.

The modern character of Terence, as contrasted with Plautus, is less
apparent in his language than in his sentiments. His Latin is
substantially the same as that of Plautus, though he makes immeasurably
fewer experiments with language. He never resorts to strange words,
uncouth compounds, puns, or Graecisms for producing effect; [28] his
diction is smooth and chaste, and even indelicate subjects are alluded to
without any violation of the proprieties; indeed it is at first surprising
that with so few appeals to the humourous instinct and so little witty
dialogue, Terence's comic style should have received from the first such
high commendation. The reason is to be found in the circumstances of the
time. The higher spirits at Rome were beginning to comprehend the drift of
Greek culture, its subtle mastery over the passions, its humanitarian
character, its subversive influence. The protest against traditional
exclusiveness begun by the great Scipio, and powerfully enforced by
Ennius, was continued in a less heroic but not less effective manner by
the younger Scipio and his friends Lucilius and Terence. All the plays of
Terence are written with a purpose; and the purpose is the same which
animated the political leaders of free thought. To base conduct upon
reason rather than tradition, and paternal authority upon kindness rather
than fear; [29] to give up the vain attempt to coerce youth into the
narrow path of age; to grapple with life as a whole by making the best of
each difficulty when it arises; to live in comfort by means of mutual
concession and not to plague ourselves with unnecessary troubles: such are
some of the principles indicated in those plays of Menander which Terence
so skilfully adapted, and whose lessons he set before a younger and more
vigorous people. The elucidation of these principles in the action of the
play, and the corresponding interchange of thought naturally awakened in
the dialogue and expressed with studied moderation, [30] form the charm of
the Terentian drama. In the bolder elements of dramatic excellence it must
be pronounced deficient. There is not Menander's many-sided knowledge of
the world, nor the racy drollery of Plautus, nor the rich humour of
Moliere, nor the sparkling wit of Sheridan,--all is toned down with a
severe self-restraint, creditable to the poet's sense of propriety, but
injurious to comic effect. His characters also lack variety, though
powerfully conceived. They are easily classified; indeed, Terence himself
summarises them in his prologue to the _Eanuchus_, [31] and as a rule is
true to the distinctions there laid down. Another defect is the great
similarity of names. There is a _Chremes_ in four plays who stands for an
old man in three, for a youth in one; while the names _Sostrata, Sophrona,
Bacchis, Antipho, Hegio, Phaedria, Davus_, and _Dromo_, all occur in more
than one piece. Thus we lose that close association of a name with a
character, which is a most important aid towards lively and definite
recollection. The characters become not so much individuals as
impersonations of social or domestic relationships, though drawn, it is
true, with a life-like touch. This defect, which is shared to a great
extent by Plautus, is doubtless due to the imitative nature of Latin
comedy. Menander's characters were analysed and classified by the critics,
and the translator felt bound to keep to the main outlines of his model.
It is said that Terence was not satisfied with his delineation of Greek
life, but that shortly before his death he started on a voyage to Greece,
to acquaint himself at first hand with the manners he depicted. [32] This
we can well believe, for even among Roman poets Terence is conspicuous for
his striking _realism_. His scenes are fictitious, it is true, and his
conversation is classical and refined, but both breathe the very spirit of
real life. There is, at least, nothing either ideal or imaginative about
them. The remark of Horace [33] that "Pomponius would have to listen to
rebukes like those of Demea if his father were living; that if you broke
up the elegant rhythmical language you would find only what every angry
parent would say under the same circumstances," is perfectly just, and
constitutes one of the chief excellences of Terence,--one which has made
him, like Horace, a favourite with experienced men of the world.

Terence as a rule does not base his play upon a single Greek original, but
levies contributions from two or more, and exercises his talent in
harmonising the different elements. This process is known as
_contamination_; a word that first occurs in the prologue to the _Andria_,
and indicates an important and useful principle in imitative dramatic
literature. The ground for this innovation is given by W. Wagner as the
need felt by a Roman audience for a quick succession of action, and their
impatience of those subtle dialogues which the Greeks had so much admired,
and which in most Greek plays occupy a somewhat disproportionate length.
The dramas in which "contamination" is most successfully used are, the
_Eunuchus_, _Andria_, and _Adelphoe_; the last-mentioned being the only
instance in which the two models are by different authors, viz. the
_Adelphoi_ of Menander and the _Synapothnaeskontes_ of Diphilus. So far as
the metre and language went, Terence seems to have followed the Greek much
more closely than Plautus, as was to be expected from his smaller
inventive power. Quintilian, in commending him, expresses a wish that he
had confined himself to the trimeter iambic rhythm. To us this criticism
is somewhat obscure. Did the Romans require a more forcible style when the
long iambic or the trochaic was employed? or is it the weakness of his
metrical treatment that Quintilian complains of? Certainly the trochaics
of Terence are less clearly marked in their rhythm than those of Ennius or

Terence makes no allusion by name to any of his contemporaries; [34] but a
line in the _Andria_ [35] is generally supposed to refer to Caecilius, and
to indicate his friendly feeling, somewhat as Virgil indicates his
admiration for Ennius in the opening of the third Georgic. [36] And the
"_vetus poeta_," (Luscius Lavinius) or "_quidam malevoli_," are alluded to
in all the prologues as trying to injure his fame. His first play was
produced in the year that Caecilius died, 166 B.C.; the _Hecyra_ next
year; the _Hauton Timorumenos_ in 163; the _Eunuchus_ and _Phormio_ in
161; the _Adelphoe_ in 160; and in the following year the poet died at the
age of twenty-six, while sailing round the coast of Greece. The maturity
of mind shown by so young a man is very remarkable. It must be remembered
that he belonged to a race whose faculties developed earlier than among
the Romans, that he had been a slave, and was therefore familiar with more
than one aspect of life, and that he had enjoyed the society of the
greatest in Rome, who reflected profoundly on social and political
questions. His influence, though imperfectly exercised in his lifetime,
increased after his death, not so much through the representation as the
reading of his plays. His language became one of the chief standards of
classical Latin, and is regarded by Mr. Munro as standing on the very
highest level--the same as that of Cicero, Caesar, and Lucretius. His
moral character was assailed soon after his death by Porcius Licinius, but
probably without good grounds. More might be said against the morality of
his plays--the morality of accommodation, as it is called by Mommsen.
There is no strong grasp of the moral principle, but decency and propriety
should be respected; if an error has been committed, the best way is, if
possible, to find out that it was no error after all, or at least to treat
it as such. In no point does ancient comedy stand further apart from
modern ideas than in its view of married life; the wile is invariably the
dull legal partner, love for whom is hardly thought of, while the
sentiment of love (if indeed it be worthy of the name) is reserved for the
Bacchis and Thais, who, in the most popular plays turn out to be Attic
citizens, and so are finally united to the fortunate lover.

But defective and erroneous as these views are, we must not suppose that
Terence tries to make vice attractive. On the contrary, he distinctly says
that it is useful to know things as they really are for the purpose of
learning to choose the good and reject the evil. [37] Moreover, his lover
is never a mere profligate, but proves the reality of his affection for
the victim of his wrong-doing by his readiness and anxiety in all cases to
become her husband.

Terence has suggested many modern subjects. The _Eunuchus_ is reflected in
the _Bellamira_ of Sir Charles Sedley and _Le Muet_ of Brueys; the
_Adelphi_ in Moliere's _Ecole des Maris_ and Baron's _L'Ecole des Peres_;
and the _Phormio_ in Moliere's _Les Fourberies de Scapin_.

We need do no more than just notice the names of LUSCIUS LAVINIUS, [38]
the older rival and detractor of Terence; ATILIUS, whose style is
characterised by Cicero [39] as extremely harsh; TRABEA, who, like
ATILIUS, was a contemporary of Caecilius, and LICINIUS IMBREX, who
belonged to the older generation; TURPILIUS, JUVENTIUS, and VALERIUS, [40]
who lived to a considerably later period. The former died as late as 103
B.C., having thus quite outlived the productiveness of the legitimate
dramatic art. He seems to have been livelier and more popular in his
diction than Terence; it is to be regretted that so little of him remains.

The earliest cultivation of the national comedy (_togata_) [41] seems to
date from after the death of Terence. Its first representative is
TITINIUS, about whom we know little or nothing, except that he based his
plays on the Attic comedy, changing, however, the scene and the costumes.
The pieces, according to Mommsen, were laid in Southern Latium, _e.g._
Setia, Ferentinum, or Velitrae, and delineated with peculiar freshness the
life of these busy little towns. The titles of his comedies are--_Coccus,
Fullones, Hortensius, Quintius, Varus, Gemina, Iurisperita, Prilia,
Privigna, Psaltria, Setina, Tibicina, Velitema, Ulubrana_. From these we
should infer that his peculiar excellence lay in satirizing the weaknesses
of the other sex. As we have before implied, this type of comedy
originally arose in the country towns and maintained a certain antagonism
with the Graecized comedy of Rome. In a few years, however, we find it
established in the city, under T. QUINTIUS ATTA and L. AFRANIUS. Of the
former little is known; of the latter we know that he was esteemed the
chief poet of _togatae_, and long retained his hold on the public.
Quintilian [42] recognises his talent, but condemns the morality of his
plays. Horace speaks of him as wearing a gown which would have fitted
Menander, but this is popular estimation, not his own judgment.
Nevertheless, we may safely assert that the comedies of Afranius and
Titinius, though often grossly indecent, had a thoroughly rich vein of
native humour, which would have made them very valuable indications of the
average popular culture of their day.



As the Italian talent for impromptu buffoonery might perhaps have in time
created a genuine native comedy, so the powerful and earnest rhetoric in
which the deeper feelings of the Roman always found expression, might have
assumed the tragic garb and woven itself into happy and original alliance
with the dramatic instinct. But what actually happened was different.
Tragedy, as well as comedy, took its subjects from the Greek; but though
comedy had the advantage of a far greater popularity, and also of a
partially native origin, there is reason to believe that tragedy came the
nearer of the two to a really national form of art. In the fullest and
noblest sense of the word Rome had indeed no national drama; for a drama,
to be truly representative, must be based on the deepest chords of
patriotic and even religious feeling. And that golden age of a people's
history when Patriotism and Religion are still wedded together, seeming
but varying reflections from the mirror of national life, is the most
favourable of all to the birth of dramatic art. In Greece this was pre-
eminently the case. The spirit of patriotism is ever present--rarely,
indeed, suggesting, as in the _Persae_ of Aeschylus, the subject of the
play, but always supplying a rich background of common sympathy where poet
and people can feel and rejoice together. Still more, if possible, is the
religious spirit present, as the animating influence which gives the drama
its interest and its vitality. The great moral and spiritual questions
which occupy the soul of man, in each play or series of plays, try to work
out their own solution by the natural human action of the characters, and
by those reflections on the part of the chorus to which the action
naturally gives rise. But with the transplanted tragedy of the Romans this
could no longer be the case. The religious ideas which spoke straight to
the Athenian's heart, spoke only to the acquired learning of the Roman.
The idea of man, himself free, struggling with a destiny which he could
not comprehend or avert, is foreign to the Roman conception of life. As
Schlegel has observed, a truly Roman tragic drama would have found an
altogether different basis. The binding force of "Religio," constraining
the individual to surrender himself for the good of the Supreme State, and
realising itself in acts of patriotic self-devotion; such would have been
the shape we should have expected Roman tragedy to take, and if it failed
to do this, we should not expect it in other respects to be a great

The strong appreciation which, notwithstanding its initial defects,
tragedy did meet with and retain for many generations, is a striking
testimony to the worth and talent of the men who introduced it. Their
position as elevators of the popular taste was not the less real because
they themselves were men of provincial birth, and only partially polished
minds. Both in the selection of their models and in the freedom of
treating them they showed that good sense which was characteristic of the
nation. As a rule, instead of trying to familiarise the people with
Aeschylus and Sophocles, poets who are essentially Athenian, they
generally chose the freethinking and cosmopolitan Euripides, who was
easily intelligible, and whose beauties did not seem so entirely to defy
imitation. What Euripides was to Greek tragedy Menander was to comedy.
Both denationalised their respective fields of poetry; both thereby
acquired a vast ascendancy over the Roman mind, ready as it was to be
taught, and only awaiting a teacher whose views it could understand. Now
although Livius actually introduced, and Naevius continued, the
translation of tragedies from the Greek, it was Ennius who first rendered
them with a definitely conceived purpose. This purpose was--to raise the
aesthetic sense of his countrymen, to set before them examples of heroic
virtue, and, above all, to enlighten their minds with what he considered
rational views on subjects of morals and and religion; though, after all,
the fatal facility with which the sceptical theories of Euripides were
disseminated and embraced was hardly atoned for by the gain to culture
which undoubtedly resulted from the tragedian's labours. Mommsen says with
truth that the stage is in its essence anti-Roman, just as culture itself
is anti-Roman; the one because it consumes time and interest on things
that interfere with the serious business of life, the other because it
creates degrees of intellectual position where the constitution intended
that all should be alike. But amid the vast change that came over the
Roman habits of thought, which men like Cato saw, resisted, and bewailed,
it mattered little whether old traditions were violated. The stage at once
became a powerful engine of popular education; and it rested with the poet
to decide whether it should elevate or degrade. Political interests, it is
true, were carefully guarded. The police system, with which senatorial
narrowness environed the stage as it did all corporations or voluntary
societies, rigidly repressed and made penal anything like liberty of
speech. But it was none the less possible to inculcate the stern Roman
virtues beneath the mask of an Ajax or Ulysses; and Sellar has brought out
with singular clearness in his work on the poets of the Republic the
national features which are stamped on this early tragedy, making it in
spite of its imperfections worthy of the great Republic.

The oratorical mould in which all Latin poetry except satire and comedy is
to a great extent cast, is visible from the beginning in tragedy. Weighty
sentences follow one another until the moral effect is reached, or the
description fully turned. The rhythm seems to have been much more often
trochaic [1] than iambic, at least than trimeter iambic, for the
tetrameter is more frequently employed. This is not to be wondered at,
since even in comedy, where such high-flown cadences are out of place, the
people liked to hear them, measuring excellence by stateliness of march
rather than propriety of diction.

The popular demand for grandiloquence ENNIUS (209-169 B.C.) was well able
to satisfy, for he had a decided leaning to it himself, and great skill in
attaining it. Moreover he had a vivid power of reproducing the original
emotion of another. That reflected fervour which draws passion, not direct
from nature, but from nature as mirrored in a great work of art, stamps
Ennius as a genuine Roman in talent, while it removes him from the list of
creative poets. The chief sphere of his influence was epic poetry, but in
tragedy he founded a school which only closed when the drama itself was
silenced by the bloody massacres of the civil wars. Born at Rudiae in
Calabria, and so half Greek, half Oscan, he served while a young man in
Sardinia, where he rose to the rank of centurion, and was soon after
brought to Rome by Cato. There is something striking in the stern
reactionist thus introducing to Rome the man who was more instrumental
than any other in overthrowing his hopes and fixing the new culture beyond
possibility of recall. When settled at Rome, Ennius gained a living by
teaching Greek, and translating plays for the stage. He also wrote
miscellaneous poems, and among them a panegyric on Scipio which brought
him into favourable notice. His fame must have been established before
B.C. 189, for in that year Fulvius Nobilior took him into Aetolia to
celebrate his deeds a proceeding which Cato strongly but ineffectually
impugned. In 184 B.C., the Roman citizenship was conferred on him. He
alluded to this with pride in his annals--

"Nos sumus Romani qui fuvimus ante Rudini."

During the last twenty years of his life his friendship with Scipio and
Fulvius must have ensured him respect and sympathy as well as freedom from
distasteful labour. But he was never in affluent circumstances; [2] partly
through his own fault, for he was a free liver, as Horace tells us [3]--

"Ennius ipse pater nunquam nisi potus ad arma
Prosiluit dicenda;"

and he himself alludes to his lazy habits, saying that he never wrote
poetry unless confined to the house by gout. [4] He died in the seventieth
year of his age and was buried in the tomb of the Scipios, where a marble
statue of him stood between those of P. and L. Scipio.

Ennius is not merely "the Father of Roman Poetry;" he held also as a man a
peculiar and influential position, which we cannot appreciate, without
connecting him with his patron and friend, the great Scipio Africanus.
Nearly of an age, united by common tastes and a common spiritual
enthusiasm, these two distinguished men wrought together for a common
object. Their familiarity with Greek culture and knowledge of Greek
religious ideas seem to have filled both with a high sense of their
position as teachers of their countrymen. Scipio drew around him a circle
of aristocratic liberals. Ennius appealed rather to the people at large.
The policy of the elder Scipio was continued by his adopted son with far
less breadth of view, but with more refined taste, and more concentrated
effort. Where Africanus would have sought his inspiration from the poetry,
Aemilianus went rather to the philosophy, of Greece; he was altogether of
a colder temperament, just as his literary friends Terence and Lucilius
were by nature less ardent than Ennius. Between them they laid the
foundation of that broader conception of civilisation which is expressed
by the significant word _humanitas_, and which had borne its intellectual
fruit when the whole people raised a shout of applause at the line in the

"Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto."

This conception, trite as it seems to us, was by no means so when it was
thus proclaimed: if philosophers had understood it (_apas anthropos
anthropo oikeion kai philon_.--_Ar. Eth. N._ lib. 9), they had never made
it a principle of action; and the teachers who had caused even the
uneducated Roman populace to recognise its speculative truth must be
allowed to have achieved something great. Some historians of Rome have
seen in this attitude a decline from old Roman exclusiveness, almost a
treasonable conspiracy against the Roman idea of the State. Hence they
have regarded Ennius with something of that disfavour which Cato in his
patriotic zeal evinced for him. The justification of the poet's course, if
it is to be sustained at all, must be sought in the necessity for an
expansion of national views to meet the exigences of an increasing foreign
empire. External coercion might for a time suffice to keep divergent
nationalities together; but the only durable power would be one founded on
sympathy with the subject peoples on the broad ground of a common
humanity. And for this the poet and his patron bore witness with a
consistent and solemn, though often irreverent, earnestness. Ennius had
early in life shown a tendency towards the mystic speculations of
Pythagoreanism: traces of it are seen in his assertion that the soul of
Homer had migrated into him through a peacock, [5] and that he had three
souls because he knew three languages; [6] while the satirical notice of
Horace seems to imply that he, like Scipio, regarded himself as specially
favoured of heaven--

"Leviter curare videtur
Quo promissa caadant et somnia Pythagorea." [7]

At the same time he studied the Epicurean system, and in particular, the
doctrines of Euhemerus, whose work on the origin of the gods he
translated. His denial of Divine Providence is well known [8]--

"Ego deum genus esse dixi et dicam semper caelitum:
Sed eos non curare opinor quid agat humanum genus.
Nam si curent, bene bonis sit, male malis, quod nunc abest."

Of these two inconsistent points of view, the second, as we should expect
in a nature so little mystical, finally prevailed, so that Ennius may well
be considered the preacher of scepticism or the bold impugner of popular
superstition according to the point of view which we assume. In addition
to these philosophic aspirations he had a strong desire to reach artistic
perfection, and to be the herald of a new literary epoch. Conscious of his
success and proud of the power he wielded over the minds of the people, he
alludes more than once to his performances in a self-congratulatory

"Enni poeta salve, qui mortalibus
Versus propinas flammeos medullitus."

"Hail! poet Ennius, who pledgest mankind in verses fiery to the heart's
core." And with even higher confidence in his epitaph--

"Aspicite, o cives, senis Enni imagini' formam:
Hic vostrum panxit maxima faeta patrum.
Nemo me lacrimis decoret nec funera fletu
Faxit. Cur? volito vivu' per ora virum."

We shall illustrate the above remarks by quoting one or two passages from
the fragments of his tragedies, which, it is true, are now easily
accessible to the general reader, but nevertheless will not be out of
place in a manual like the present, which is intended to lead the student
to study historically for himself the progress of the literature. The
first is a dialogue between Hecuba and Cassandra, from the _Alexander_.
Cassandra feels the prophetic impulse coming over her, the symptoms of
which her mother notices with alarm:

"Sed quid oculis rabere visa es derepente ar dentibus?
Ubi tua illa paulo ante sapiens virginali' modestia?

Mater optumarum multo mulier melior mulierum,
Missa sum superstitiosis ariolationibus.
Namque Apollo fatis fandis dementem invitam ciret:
Virgines aequales vereor, patris mei meum factmn pudet,
Optimi viri. Mea mater, tui me miseret, me piget:
Optumam progeniem Priamo peperisti extra me: hoc dolet:
Men obesse, illos prodesse, me obstare, illos obsequi!"

She then sees the vision--

* * * * *
"Adest adest fax obvoluta sanguine atque incendio!
Multos annos latuit: cives ferte opem et restinguite!
Iamque mari magno classis cita
Texitur: exitium examen rapit:
Advenit, et fera velivolantibus
Navibus complebit manus litora."

This is noble poetry. Another passage from the _Telamo_ is as follows:--

"Sed superstitiosi vates impudentesque arioli,
Aut inertes aut insani aut quibus egestas imperat,
Qui sibi semitam non sapiunt, alteri monstrant viam,
Quibus divitias pollicentur, ab eis drachumam ipsi petunt.
De his divitiis sibi deducant drachumam, reddant cetera."

Here he shows, like so many of his countrymen, a strong vein of satire.
The metre is trochaic, scanned, like these of Plautus and Terence, by
accent as much as by quantity, and noticeable for the careless way in
which whole syllables are slurred over. In the former fragment the fourth
line must be scanned--

___ ___ ____
"Virgi | nes ae | quales | vercor | patris mei | meum fac | tum pudet."

Horace mentions the ponderous weight of his iambic lines, which were
loaded with spondees. The anapaestic measure, of which he was a master,
has an impetuous swing that carries the reader away, and, while producing
a different effect from its Greek equivalent, in capacity is not much
inferior to it. Many of his phrases and metrical terms are imitated in
Virgil, though such imitation is much more frequently drawn from his
hexameter poems. He wrote one _Praetexta_ and several comedies, but these
latter were uncongenial to his temperament, and by no means successful. He
had little or no humour. His poetical genius was earnest rather than
powerful; probably he had less than either Naevius or Plautus; but his
higher cultivation, his serious view of his art, and the consistent
pursuit of a well-conceived aim, placed him on a dramatic level nearly as
high as Plautus in the opinion of the Ciceronian critics. His literary
influence will be more fully discussed under his epic poems.

His sister's son PACUVIUS (220-132 B.C.), next claims our attention. This
celebrated tragedian, on whom the complimentary epithet _doctus_ [9] was
by general consent bestowed, was brought up at Brundisium, where amid
congenial influences he practised with success the art of a painter. At
what time he came to Rome is not known, but he gained great renown there
by his paintings before attaining the position of chief tragic poet. Pliny
tells us of a picture in the Temple of Hercules in the Forum Boarium,
which was considered as only second to that of Fabius Pictor. With the
enthusiasm of the poet he united that genial breadth of temper which among
artists seems peculiarly the painter's gift. Happy in his twofold career
(for he continued to paint as well as to write), [10] free from jealousy
as from want, successful as a poet and as a man, he lived at Rome until
his eightieth year, the friend of Laelius and of his younger rival Accius,
and retired soon after to his native city where he received the visits of
younger writers, and died at the great age of eighty-eight (132 B.C.). His
long career was not productive of a large number of works. We know of but
twelve tragedies and one _praetexta_ by him. The latter was called
_Paullus_, and had for its hero the conqueror of Perseus, King of
Macedonia, but no fragments of it survive. The great authority which the
name of Pacuvius possessed was due to the care with which he elaborated
his writings. Thirteen plays and a few _saturae_ in a period of at least
thirty years [11] seems but a small result; but the admirable way in which
he sustained the dramatic situations made every one of them popular with
the nation. There were two, however, that stood decidedly above the rest--
the _Antiopa_ and the _Dulorestes_. Of the latter Cicero tells the
anecdote that the people rose as one man to applaud the noble passage in
which Pylades and Orestes contend for the honour of dying for one another.
[12] Of the former he speaks in the highest terms, though it is possible
that in his admiration for the severe and truly Roman sentiments it
inculcated, he may have been indulgent to its artistic defects. The few
lines that have come down to us resemble that ridiculed by Persius [13]
for its turgid mannerisms. A good instance of the excellences which a
Roman critic looked for in tragedy is afforded by the praise Cicero
bestows on the _Niptra_, a play imitated from Sophocles. The passage is so
interesting that it may well be added here. [14] Cicero's words are--

"The wise Greek (Ulysses) when severely wounded does not lament overmuch;
he curbs the expression of his pain. 'Forward gently,' he says, 'and with
quiet effort, lest by jolting me you increase the pangs of my wound.' Now,
in this Pacuvius excels Sophocles, who makes Ulysses give way to cries and
tears. And yet those who are carrying him, out of consideration for the
majesty of him they bear, do not hesitate to rebuke even this moderate
lamentation. 'We see indeed, Ulysses, that you have suffered grievous
hurt, but methinks for one who has passed his life in arms, you show too
soft a spirit.' The skilful poet knows that habit is a good teacher how to
bear pain. And so Ulysses, though in extreme agony, still keeps command
over his words. 'Stop! hold, I say! the ulcer has got the better of me.
Strip off my clothes. O, woe is me! I am in torture.' Here he begins to
give way; but in a moment he stops--'Cover me; depart, now leave me in
peace; for by handling me and jolting me you increase the cruel pain.' Do
you observe how it is not the cessation of bodily anguish, but the
necessity of chastening the expression of it that keeps him silent? And
so, at the close of the play, while himself dying, he has so far conquered
himself that he can reprove others in words like these,--'It is meet to
complain of adverse fortune, but not to bewail it. That is the part of a
man; but weeping is granted to the nature of woman.' The softer feelings
here obey the other part of the mind, as a dutiful soldier obeys a stern

We can go with Cicero in admiring the manly spirit that breathes through
these lines, and feel that the poet was justified in so far leaving the
original as without prejudice to the dramatic effect to inculcate a higher
moral lesson.

As to the treatment of his models we may say, generally, that Pacuvius
used more freedom than Ennius. He was more of an adapter and less of a
translator. Nevertheless this dependence on his own resources for
description appears to have cramped rather than freed his style. The early
Latin writers seem to move more easily when rendering the familiar Greek
originals than when essaying to steer their own path. He also committed
the mistake of generally imitating Sophocles, the untransplantable child
of Athens, instead of Euripides, to whom he could do better justice, as
the success of his Euripidean plays prove. [15] His style, though
emphatic, was wanting in naturalness. The author of the treatise to
Herennius contrasts the _sententiae_ of Ennius with the _periodi_ of
Pacuvius; and Lucilius speaks of a word "contorto aliquo ex Pacuviano

Quintilian [16] notices the inelegance of his compounds, and makes the
just remark that the old writers attempted to reproduce Greek analogies
without sufficient regard for the capacities of their language; thus while
the word _kyrtauchaen_ is elegant and natural, its Latin equivalent
_incurvicervicus_, borders on the ludicrous. [17] Some of his fragments
show the same sceptical tendencies that are prominent in Ennius. One of
them contains a comprehensive survey of the different philosophic systems,
and decides in favour of blind chance (_temeritas_) as the ruling power,
on the ground of sudden changes in fortune like that of Orestes, who in
one day was metamorphosed from a king into a beggar. Pacuvius either
improved his later style, or else confined its worst points to his
tragedies, for nothing can be more classical and elegant than his epitaph,
which is couched in diction as refined as that of Terence--

Adulescens, tametsi properas, te hoc saxum vocat
Ut sese aspicias, delude quod scriptumst legas.
Hic sunt poetae Pacuvi Marci sita
Ossa. Hoc volebam nescius ne esses. Vale.

When Pacuvius retired to Brundisium he left a worthy successor in L.
ATTIUS or ACCIUS (170-94 B.C.), whom, as before observed, he had assisted
with his advice, showing kindly interest as a fellow-workman rather than
jealousy as a rival. Accius's parents belonged to the class of
_libertini_; they settled at Pisaurum. The poet began his dramatic career
at the age of thirty with the _Atreus_, and continued to exhibit until his
death. He forms the link between the ante-classical and Ciceronian epochs;
for Cicero when a boy [18] conversed with him, and retained always a
strong admiration for his works. [19] He had a high notion of the dignity
of his calling. There is a story told of his refusing to rise to Caesar
when he entered the Collegium Poetarum; but if by this Julius be meant,
the chronology makes the occurrence impossible. Besides thirty-seven
tragedies, he wrote _Annales_ (apparently mythological histories in
hexameters, something of the character of Ovid's _Fasti_), _Didascalia_,
or a history of Greek and Roman poetry, and other kindred works, as well
as two _Praetextae_.

The fragments that have reached us are tolerably numerous, and enable us
to select certain prominent characteristics of his style. The loftiness
for which he is celebrated seems to be of expression rather than of
thought, _e.g._

"Quid? quod videbis laetum in Parnasi iugo
Bicipi inter pinos tripudiantem in circulis
Concutere thyrsos ludo, taedis fulgere;"

but sometimes a noble sentiment is simply and emphatically expressed--

"Non genus virum ornat, generi vir fortis loco." [20]

He was a careful chooser of words, _e.g._

"Tu _pertinaciam_ esse, Antiloche, hanc praedicas,
Ego _pervicaciam_ aio et ea me uti volo:
Haec fortis sequitur, illam indocti possident....
Nam pervicacem dici me esse et vincere
Perfacile patior, pertinaciam nil moror." [21]

These distinctions, obvious as they are to us, were by no means so to the
early Romans. Close resemblance in sound seemed irresistibly to imply some
connexion more than that of mere accident; and that turning over the
properties of words, which in philosophy as well as poetry seems to us to
have something childish in it, had its legitimate place in the development
of each language. Accius paints action with vigour. We have the following
spirited fragment--

"Constituit, cognovit, sensit, conlocat sese in locum
Celsum: hinc manibus rapere raudus saxeum et grave."

and again--

"Heus vigiles properate, expergite,
Pectora tarda, sopore exsurgite!"

He was conspicuous among tragedians for a power of reasoned eloquence of
the forensic type; and delighted in making two rival pleaders state their
case, some of his most successful scenes being of this kind. His opinions
resembled those of Ennius, but were less irreverent. He acknowledges the
interest of the gods in human things--

"Nam non facile sine deum opera humana propria [22] sunt bona,"

and in a fragment of the _Brutus_ he enforces the doctrine that dreams are
often heaven-sent warnings, full of meaning to those that will understand
them. Nevertheless his contempt for augury was equal to that of his

"Nil credo auguribus qui auris verbis divitant
Alienas, suas ut auro locupletent domos."

The often-quoted maxim of the tyrant _oderint dum metuant_ is first found
in him. Altogether, he was a powerful writer, with less strength perhaps,
but more polish than Ennius; and while manipulating words with greater
dexterity, losing but little of that stern grandeur which comes from the
plain utterance of conviction. His general characteristics place him
altogether within the archaic age. In point of time little anterior to
Cicero, in style he is almost a contemporary of Ennius. The very slight
increase of linguistic polish during the century and a quarter which
comprises the tragic art of Rome, is somewhat remarkable. The old-
fashioned ornaments of assonance, alliteration, and plays upon words are
as frequent in Accius as in Livius, or rather more so; and the number of
archaic forms is scarcely smaller. We see words like _noxitudo,
honestitudo, sanctescat, topper, domuitio, redhostire_, and wonder that
they could have only preceded by a few years the Latin of Cicero, and were
contemporary with that of Gracchus. Accius, like so many Romans, was a
grammarian; he introduced certain changes into the received spelling,
_e.g._ he wrote _aa, ee_, etc. when the vowel was long, reserving the
single _a, e_, etc. for the short quantity. It was in acknowledgment of
the interest taken by him in these studies that Varro dedicated to him one
of his many philological treatises. The date of his death is not quite
certain; but it may be safely assigned to about 90 B.C. With him died
tragic writing at Rome: scarcely a generation after we find tragedy has
donned the form of the closet drama, written only for recitation. Cicero
and his brother assiduously cultivated this rhetorical art. When writing
failed, however, acting rose, and the admirable performances of Aesopus
and Roscius did much to keep alive an interest in the old works. Varius
and Pollio seem for a moment to have revived the tragic muse under
Augustus, but their works had probably nothing in common with this early
but interesting drama; and in Imperial times tragedy became more and more
confused with rhetoric, until delineation of character ceased to be an
object, and declamatory force or fine point was the chief end pursued.



We must now retrace our steps, and consider Ennius in the capacity of epic
poet. It was in this light that he acquired his chief contemporary renown,
that he accredits himself to posterity in his epitaph, and that he
obtained that commanding influence over subsequent poetic literature,
which, stereotyped in Virgil, was never afterwards lost. The merit of
discerning the most favourable subject for a Roman epic belongs to
Naevius; in this department Ennius did but borrow of him; it was in the
form in which he cast his poem that his originality was shown. The
legendary history of Rome, her supposed connection with the issues of the
Trojan war, and her subsequent military achievements in the sphere of
history, such was the groundwork both of Naevius's and Ennius's
conception. And, however unsuitable such a consecutive narrative might be
for a heroic poem, there was something in it that corresponded with the
national sentiment, and in a changed form it re-appears in the _Aeneid_.
Naevius had been contented with a single episode in Rome's career of
conquest. Ennius, with more ambition but less judgment, aspired to grasp
in an epic unity the entire history of the nation; and to achieve this, no
better method occurred to him than the time-honoured and prosaic system of
annals. The difficulty of recasting these in a poetic mould might well
have staggered a more accomplished master of song; but to the enthusiastic
and laborious bard the task did not seem too great. He lived to complete
his work in accordance with the plan he had proposed, and though, perhaps,
the _manus ultima_ may have been wanting, there is nothing to show that he
was dissatisfied with his results. We may perhaps smile at the vanity
which aspired to the title of Roman Homer, and still more at the
partiality which so willingly granted it; nevertheless, with all
deductions on the score of rude conception and ruder execution, the
fragments that remain incline us to concur with Scaliger in wishing that
fate had spared us the whole, and denied us Silius, Statius, Lucan, "et
tous ces garcons la." The whole was divided into eighteen books, of which
the first contained the introduction, the earliest traditions, the
foundation of Rome, and the deification of Romulus; the second and third
contained the regal period; the fourth began the history of the Republic
and carried it down to the burning of the city by the Gauls; the fifth
comprised the Samnite wars; the sixth, that with Pyrrhus; the seventh, the
first Punic war; the eighth and ninth, the war with Hannibal; the tenth
and eleventh, that with Macedonia; the twelfth, thirteenth, and
fourteenth, that with Syria; the fifteenth, the campaign of Fulvius
Nobilior in Aetolia, and ended apparently with the death of the great
Scipio. The work then received a new preface, and continued the history
down to the poet's last years, containing many personal notices, until it
was finally brought to a close in 172 B.C. after having occupied its
author eighteen years. [1] "The interest of this last book," says
Conington, [2] "must have centred, at least to us, in the discourse about
himself, in which the old bard seems to have indulged in closing this his
greatest poem. Even now we may read with sympathy his boastful allusion to
his late enrolment among the citizens of the conquering city; we may be
touched by the mention he appears to have made of the year of his age in
which he wrote, bordering closely on the appointed term of man's life; and
we may applaud as the curtain falls on his grand comparison of himself to
a victorious racer laden with Olympian honours, and now at last consigned
to repose:--

'Sicut fortis equus, spatio qui saepe supremo
Vicit Olimpia, nunc senio confectus quiescit.'"

He was thus nearly fifty when he began to write, a fact which strikes us
as remarkable. We are accustomed to associate the poetic gift with a
highly-strung nervous system, and unusual bodily conditions not favourable
to long life, as well as with a precocious special development which
proclaims unmistakably in the boy the future greatness of the man. None of
these conditions seem to have been present in the early Roman school.
Livius was a quiet schoolmaster, Naevius a vigorous soldier, Ennius a
self-indulgent but hard-working _litterateur_, Plautus an active man,
whose animal spirits not even the flour-mill could quench, Pacuvius a
steady but genial student, Accius and Terence finished men of the world;
and all, except Terence (and he probably met his early death through an
accident), enjoyed the full term of man's existence. Moreover, few of them
began life by being poets, and some, as Ennius and Plautus, did not apply
themselves to poetry until they had reached mature years. With these facts
the character of their genius as a rule agrees. We should not expect in
such men the fine inspiration of a Sophocles, a Goethe, or a Shelley, and
we do not find it. The poetic frenzy, so magnificently described in the
_Phaedrus_ of Plato, which caused the Greeks to regard the poet in his
moments of creation as actually possessed by the god, is nowhere manifest
among the early Romans; and if it claims to appear in their later
literature, we find it after all a spurious substitute, differing widely
from the emotion of creative genius. It is not mere accident that Rome is
as little productive in the sphere of speculative philosophy as she is in
that of the highest poetry, for the two endowments are closely allied. The
problem each sets before itself is the same; to arrest and embody in an
intelligible shape the idea that shall give light to the dark questionings
of the intellect, or the vague yearnings of the heart. To Rome it has not
been given to open a new sphere of truth, or to add one more to the mystic
voices of passion; her epic mission is the humbler but still not ignoble
one of bracing the mind by her masculine good sense, and linking together
golden chains of memory by the majestic music of her verse.

There were two important elements introduced into the mechanism of the
story by Ennius; the Olympic Pantheon, and the presentation of the Roman
worthies as heroes analogous to those of Greece. The latter innovation was
only possible within narrow limits, for the idea formed by the Romans even
of their greatest heroes, as Romulus, Numa, or Camillus was different in
kind from that of the Greek hero-worshipper. Thus we see that Virgil
abstains from applying the name to any of his Italian characters,
confining it to such as are mentioned in Homer, or are connected with the
Homeric legends. Still we find at a later period Julius Caesar publicly
professing his descent on both sides from a superhuman ancestor, for such
he practically admits Ancus Martius to be. [3] And in the epic of Silius
Italicus the Roman generals occupy quite the conventional position of the

The admission of the Olympic deities as a kind of divine machinery for
diversifying and explaining the narrative was much more pregnant with
consequences. Outwardly, it is simply adopted from Homer, but the spirit
which animates it is altogether different. The Greek, in spite of his
intellectual scepticism, retained an aesthetic and emotional belief in his
national gods, and at any rate it was natural that he should celebrate
them in his verse; but the Roman poet claimed to utilize the Greek
Pantheon for artistic purposes alone. He professed no belief in the beings
he depicted. They were merely an ornamental, supernatural element, either
introduced at will, as in Horace, or regulated according to traditional
conceptions, as in Ennius and Virgil. Apollo, Minerva, and Bacchus, were
probably no more to him than they are to us. They were names, consecrated
by genius and convenient for art, under which could be combined the
maximum of beautiful associations with the minimum of trouble to the poet.
The custom, which perpetuated itself in Latin poetry, revived again with
the rise of Italian art; and under a modified form its influence may be
seen in the grand conceptions of Milton. The true nature of romantic
poetry is, however, alien to any such mechanical employment of the
supernatural, and its comparative infrequency in the highest English and
German poetry, stamps these as products of the modern spirit. Had the
Romans left Olympus to itself, and occupied themselves only with the
rhetorical delineation of human action and feeling, they would have chosen
a less ambitious but certainly more original path. Lucretius struggles
against the prevailing tendency; but so unable were the Romans to invest
their finer fancies with any other shape, that even while he is blaming
the custom he unawares falls into it.

It was in the metrical treatment that Ennius's greatest achievement lay.
For the first time in any consecutive way he introduced the hexameter into
Latin poetry. It is true that Plautus had composed his epitaph in that
measure, if we may trust Varro's judgment on its genuineness. [4] And the
Marcian oracles, though their rhythm has been disputed, were in all
probability written in the same. [5] But these last were translations, and
were in no sense an epoch in literature. Ennius compelled the intractable
forms of Latin speech to accommodate themselves to the dactylic rhythm.
Difficulties of two kinds met him, those of accent and those of quantity.
The former had been partially surmounted by the comic writers, and it only
required a careful extension of their method to render the deviations from
the familiar emphasis of daily life harmonious and acceptable. In respect
of quantity the problem was more complex. Plautus had disregarded it in
numerous instances (_e.g. dari_), and in others had been content to
recognize the natural length or shortness of a vowel (_e.g. senex ipse_),
neglecting the subordinate laws of position, &c. This custom had, as far
as we know, guided Ennius himself in his dramatic poems; but for the epos
he adopted a different principle. Taking advantage of the tendency to
shorten final vowels, he fixed almost every doubtful case as short, _e.g.
musa, patre, dare, omnibus, amaveris, pater_, only leaving the long
syllable where the metre required it, as _condiderit_. By this means he
gave a dactylic direction to Latin prosody which it afterwards, though
only slightly, extended. At the same time he observed carefully the Greek
laws of position and the doubled letters. He admitted hiatus, but not to
any great extent, and chiefly in the caesura. The lengthening of a short
vowel by the ictus occurs occasionally in his verses, but almost always in
words where it was originally by nature long. In such words the
lengthening may take place even in the thesis of the foot, as in--

"non enim rumores ponebat ante salutem."

Elision played a prominent part in his system. This was natural,
since with all his changes many long or intractable terminations
remained, _e.g. enim, quidem, omnium_, &c. These were generally
elided, sometimes shortened as in the line quoted, sometimes
lengthened as in the comedians,--

"inimicitiam agitantes."

Very rarely does he improperly shorten a naturally long vowel, _e.g.
contra_ (twice); terminations in _o_ he invariably retains, except _ego_
and _modo_. The final _s_ is generally elided before a consonant when in
the thesis of the foot, but often remains in the arsis (_e.g. plenu'
fidei, Isque dies_). The two chief blots on his versification are his
barbarous examples of tmesis,--_saxo cere comminuit brum: Massili portant
invenes ad litora tanas_ (= cerebrum, Massilitanas), and his quaint
apocope, _cael, gau, do_ (_caelum, gaudium, domum_), probably reflected
from the Homeric _do, kri_, in which Lucilius imitates him, _e.g. nol._
(for _nolueris_). The caesura, which forms the chief feature in each
verse, was not understood by Ennius. Several of his lines have no caesura
at all; and that delicate alternation of its many varieties which charms
us in Homer and Virgil, is foreign to the conception, as it would have
been unattainable by the efforts, of the rugged epic bard. Nevertheless
his labour achieved a great result. He stamped for centuries the character
and almost the details of subsequent versification. [6] If we study the
effect of his passages, we shall observe far greater power in single lines
or sentences than in a continuous description. The solemn grandeur of some
of his verses is unsurpassable, and, enshrined in the Aeneid, their
dignity seems enhanced by their surroundings. Such are--

"Tuque pater Tiberine tuo cum ilumino sancto."

"Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem."

"Quae neque Dardaniis campis potuere perire
Nec quom capta capi, nec quom combusta cremari,
Augusto augurio postquam incluta condita Roma est."

On the other hand he sometimes falls into pure prose;

"Cives Romani tum facti sunt Campani,"

and the like, are scarcely metre, certainly not poetry. Later epicists in
their desire to avoid this fault over elaborate their commonplace
passages. Ennius tries, however clumsily, to copy Homer in dismissing them
without ornament. The one or two similes that are preserved are among his
least happy efforts. [7] Among battle scenes he is more at home, and these
he paints with reality and strength. There are three passages of
considerable length, which the reader who desires to judge of his
narrative power should study. They are the dream of Ilia and the auspices
of Romulus in the first book, and the description of the friend of
Servilius in the seventh. This last is generally thought to be a picture
of the poet himself, and to intimate in the most pleasing language his
relations to his great patron. For a singularly appreciative criticism of
these fragments the student is referred to Sellar's _Poets of the
Republic_. The massive Roman vigour of treatment which shone forth in the
_Annals_ and made them as it were a rock-hewn monument of Rome's glory,
secured to Ennius a far greater posthumous renown than that of any of the
other early poets. Cicero extols him, and has no words too contemptuous
for those who despise him, Lucretius praises him in the well known words--

"Ennius ut noster cecinit, qui primus amoeno
Detulit ex Helicone perenni fronde coronam,
Per gentis Italas hominum quae clara clueret." [8]

Virgil, it is true, never mentions him, but he imitates him continually.
Ovid, with generous appreciation, allows the greatness of his talent,
though he denies him art; [9] and the later imperial writers are even
affected in their admiration of him. He continued to be read through the
Middle Ages, and was only lost as late as the thirteenth century.

Ennius produced a few scattered imitators, but not until upwards of two
generations after his death, if we except the doubtful case of Accius. The
first is MATIUS, who translated the Iliad into hexameters. This may be
more properly considered as the sequel to Livius, but the few fragments
remaining show that his versification was based on that of Ennius.
Gellius, with his partiality for all that was archaic, warmly praises this

HOSTIUS wrote the _Bellum Istricum_ in three books. This was no doubt a
continuation of the great master's _Annales_. What the war was is not
quite certain. Some fix it at 178 B.C.; others as late as 129 B.C. The
earlier date is the more probable. We then have to ask when Hostius
himself lived. Teuffel inclines to place him before Accius; but most
commentators assign him a later date. A few lines are preserved in
Macrobius, [10] which seem to point to an early period, _e.g._

"non si mihi linguae
Centum atque ora sient totidem vocesque liquatae,"

and again,

"Dia Minerva, semol autem tu invictus Apollo
Arquitenens Latonius."

His object in quoting these is to show that they were copied by Virgil. A
passage in Propertius has been supposed to refer to him, [11]

"Splendidaque a docto fama refulget avo,"

where he would presumably be the grandfather of that Hostia whom under the
name of Cynthia so many of Propertius's poems celebrate. Another poet of
whom a few lines are preserved in Gellius and Macrobius is A. FURIUS of
Antium, which little town produced more than one well-known writer. His
work was entitled _Annals_. Specimens of his versification are--

"Interea Oceani linquens Aurora cubile."

"Quod genus hoc hominum Saturno sancte create?"

"Pressatur pede pes, mucro mucrone, viro vir." [12]



200-103 B.C.

Satire, as every one knows, is the one branch of literature claimed by the
Romans as their own. [1] It is, at any rate, the branch in which their
excellence is most characteristically displayed. Nor is the excellence
confined to the professed satirists; it was rather inherent in the genius
of the nation. All their serious writings tended to assume at times a
satirical spirit. Tragedy, so far as we can judge, rose to her clearest
tones in branding with contempt the superstitions of the day. The epic
verses of Ennius are not without traces of the same power. The prose of
Cato abounds with sarcastic reflections, pointedly expressed. The
arguments of Cicero's theological and moral treatises are largely
sprinkled with satire. The whole poem of Lucretius is deeply imbued with
it: few writers of any age have launched more fiery sarcasm upon the fear
of death, or the blind passion of love than he has done in his third and
fourth books. Even the gentle Virgil breaks forth at times into earnest
invective, tipped with the flame of satire: [2] Dido's bitter irony,
Turnus' fierce taunts, show that he could wield with stern effect this
specially Roman weapon. Lucan and Seneca affect a style which, though
grotesque, is meant to be satirical; while at the close of the classical
period, Tacitus transforms the calm domain of history into satire, more
burning because more suppressed than that of any of his predecessors. [3]

The claim to an independent origin advanced by Quintilian has been more
than once disputed. The name _Satire_ has been alleged as indicative of a
Greek original (_Satyrion_). [4] It is true this can no longer be
maintained. Still some have thought that the poems of Archilochus or the
_Silli_ may have suggested the Roman form of composition. But the former,
though full of invective, were iambic or personal, not properly satirical.
And the _Silli_, of which examples are found in Diogenes Laertius and Dio
Chrysostom, were rather patched together from the verses of serious
writers, forming a kind of _Cento_ like the _Carmen Nuptiale_ of Ausonius,
than original productions. The Roman Satire differed from these in being
essentially _didactic_. Besides ridiculing the vices and absurdities of
individuals or of society, it had a serious practical purpose, viz. the
improvement of public culture or morals. Thus it followed the old Comedy
of Athens in its plain speaking, and the method of Archilochus in its
bitter hostility to those who provoked attack. But it differed from the
former in its non-political bias, as well as its non-dramatic form: and
from the latter in its motive, which is not personal enmity, but public
spirit. Thus the assertion of Horace, that Lucilius is indebted to the old
comedians, [5] must be taken in a general sense only, and not be held to
invalidate the generally received opinion that, in its final and perfected
form, Satire was a genuine product of Rome.

The metres adopted by Satire was originally indifferent. The _Saturae_ of
Ennius were composed in trochaics, hexameters, and iambics; those of Varro
(called _Menippean_, from Menippus of Gadara), mingled together prose and
verse. [6] But from Lucilius onwards, Satire, accurately so called, was
always treated in hexameter verse. [7]

Nevertheless, Horace is unquestionably right in saying that it had more
real affinity for prose than for poetry of any kind--

"Primum ego me illorum, dederim quibus esse poetis,
Excerpam numero: neque enim concludere versum
Dixeris esse satis; neque si quis scribat, uti nos,
Sermoni propiora, pates hunc esse poetam." [8]

The essence of satiric talent is that it should be able to understand the
complexities of real life, that it should penetrate beneath the surface to
the true motives of action, and if these are bad, should indicate by life-
like touches their ridiculous or contemptible nature. There is room here
for great variety of treatment and difference of _personnel_. One may have
a broad and masculine grasp of the main outlines of social intercourse;
another with subtler analysis may thread his way through the intricacies
of dissimulation, and lay bare to the hypocrite secrets which he had
concealed even from himself; a third may select certain provinces of
conduct or thought, and by a good-humoured but discriminating portraiture,
throw them into so new and clear a light, as to enable mankind to look at
them, free from the prejudices with which convention so often blinds our

The qualifications for excelling in this kind of writing are clearly such
as have no special connection with poetry. Had the modern prose essay
existed at Rome, it is probable the satirists would have availed
themselves of it. From the fragments of Lucilius we should judge that he
found the trammels of verse somewhat embarrassing. Practice had indeed
enabled him to write with unexampled fluency; [9] but except in this
mechanical facility he shows none of the characteristics of a poet. The
accumulated experience of modern life has pronounced in favour of
abandoning the poetic form, and including Satire in the domain of prose.
No doubt many celebrated poets in France and England have cultivated verse
satire; but in most cases they have merely imitated, whereas the prose
essay is a true formation of modern literary art. Conington, in an
interesting article, [10] regards the progressive enlargement of the
sphere of prose composition as a test of a nation's intellectual advance.
Thus considered, poetry is the imperfect attempt to embody in vivid
language ideas which have themselves hardly assumed definite form, and
necessarily gives way to prose when clearness of thought and sequence of
reasoning have established for themselves a more perfect vehicle. However
inadequate such a view may be to explain the full nature of poetry, it is
certainly true so far as concerns the case at present before us. The
assignment of each special exercise of mind to its proper department of
literature is undoubtedly a late growth of human culture, and such nations
as have not attained to it, whatever may be the splendour of their
literary creations, cannot be said to have reached the full maturity of
intellectual development.

The conception of Satire by the ancients is illustrated by a passage in
Diomedes: [11] "_Satira dicitur carmen apud Romanos nunc quidem maledicum
et ad carpenda hominum vitia archaeae comoediae charactere compositum,
quale scripserunt Lucilius et Horatius et Persius; at olim carmen quod ex
variis poematibus constabat satira cocabatur, quale scripserunt Pacuvius
et Ennius_." This old-fashioned _satura_ of Ennius may be considered as
half-way between the early semi-dramatic farce and the classical Satire.
It was a genuine medley, containing all kinds of subjects, often couched
in the form of dialogue, but intended for recitation, not for action. The
poem on Scipio was classed with it, but what this poem was is not by any
means clear; from the fragment that remains, describing a calm after storm
in sonorous language, we should gather that Scipio's return voyage from
Africa may have formed its theme. [12] Other subjects, included in the
_Saturae_ of Ennius, were the _Hedyphagetica_, a humorous didactic poem on
the mysteries of gastronomy, which may have suggested similar effusions by
Lucilius and Horace; [13] the _Epicharmus_ and _Euhemerus_, both in
trochaics, the latter a free translation of the _iera anagraphae_, or
explanation of the gods as deified mortals; and the _Epigrams_, among
which two on the great Scipio are still preserved, the first breathing the
spirit of the Republic, the second asserting with some arrogance the
exploits of the hero, and his claims to a place among the denizens of
heaven. [14]

Of the _Saturae_ of Pacuvius nothing is known. C. LUCILIUS (148-103 B.C.),
the founder of classical Satire, was born in the Latin town of Suessa
Aurunca in Campania. He belonged to an equestrian family, and was in easy
circumstances. [15] He is supposed to have fought under Scipio in the
Numantine war (133 B.C.) when he was still quite a youth; and it is
certain from Horace that he lived on terms of the greatest intimacy, both
with him, Laelius, and Albinus. He is said to have possessed the house
which had been built at the public expense for the son of King Antiochus,
and to have died at Naples, where he was honoured with a public funeral,
in the forty-sixth year of his age. His position, at once independent and
unambitious (for he could not hold office in Rome), gave him the best
possible chance of observing social and political life, and of this chance
he made the fullest use. He lived behind the scenes: he saw the corruption
prevalent in high circles; he saw also the true greatness of those who,
like Scipio, stood aloof from it, and he handed down to imperishable
infamy each most signal instance of vice, whether in a statesman, as
Lupus, [16] Metellus, or Albucius, or in a private person, as the glutton

It is possible that he now and then misapplied his pen to abuse his own
enemies or those of his friends, for we know that the honourable Mucius
Scaevola was violently attacked by him; [17] and there is a story that
being once lampooned in the theatre in a libellous manner, the poet sued
his detractor, but failed in obtaining damages, on the ground that he
himself had done the same to others. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt
whatever that on the whole he nobly used the power he possessed, that his
trenchant pen was mainly enlisted on the side of patriotism, virtue, and
enlightenment, and that he lashed without mercy corruption, hypocrisy, and
ignorance. The testimony of Horace to his worth, coming from one who
himself was not easily deceived, is entitled to the highest consideration;
[18] that of Juvenal, though more emphatic, is not more weighty, [19] and
the opinion, blamed by Quintilian, [20] that he should be placed above all
other poets, shows that his plain language did not hinder the recognition
of his moral excellence.

Although a companion of the great, he was strictly popular in his tone. He
appealed to the great public, removed on the one hand from accurate
learning, on the other from indifference to knowledge. "_Nec
doctissimis_," he says, [21] "_Manium Persium haec legere nolo, Junium
Congum volo._" And in another passage quoted by Cicero, [22] he professes
to desire that his readers may be the Tarentines, Consentines, and
Sicilians,--those, that is, whose Latin grammar and spelling most needed
improvement. But we cannot extend this humility [23] to his more famous
political allusions. Those at any rate would be nothing if not known to
the parties concerned; neither the poet's genius nor the culprit's guilt
could otherwise be brought home to the individual.

In one sense Lucilius might be called a moderniser, for he strove hard to
enlarge the people's knowledge and views; but in another and higher sense
he was strictly national: luxury, bribery, and sloth, were to him the very
poison of all true life, and cut at the root of those virtues by which
alone Rome could remain great. This national spirit caused him to be
preferred to Horace by conservative minds in the time of Tacitus, but it
probably made his critics somewhat over-indulgent. Horace, with all his
admiration for him, cannot shut his eyes to his evident faults, [24] the
rudeness of his language, the carelessness of his composition, the habit
of mixing Greek and Latin words, which his zealous admirers construed into
a virtue, and, last but not least, the diffuseness inseparable from a
hasty draft which he took no trouble to revise. Still his elegance of
language must have been considerable. Pliny speaks of him as the first to
establish a severe criticism of style, [25] and the fragments reveal
beneath the obscuring garb of his uncouth hexameters, a terse and pure
idiom not unlike that of Terence. His faults are numerous, [26] but do not
seriously detract from his value. The loss of his works must be considered
a serious one. Had they been extant we should have found useful
information in his pictures of life and manners in a state of moral
transition, amusement in such pieces as his journal of a progress from
Rome to Capua, [27] and material for philological knowledge in his careful
distinctions of orthography and grammar.

As a favourable specimen of his style, it will be sufficient to quote his
definition of virtue:

"Virtus, Albine, est pretium persolvere verum
Quis in versamur, quis vivimus rebus potesse.
Virtus est homini scire id quod quaeque habeat res.
Virtus scire homini rectum, utile, quid sit honestum,
Quae bona, quae mala item, quid inutile, turpe, inhonestum.
Virtus, quaerendae finem rei scire modumque;
Virtus divitiis pretium persolvere posse.
Virtus, id dare quod reipsa debetur honori,
Hostem esse atque inimicum hominum morumque malorum
Contra, defensorem hominum morumque bonorum;
Magnificare hos, his bene velle, his vivere amicum;
Commoda praeterea patriai prima putare,
Deinde parentum, tertia iam postremaque nostra."

We see in these lines a practical and unselfish standard--that of the
cultivated but still truly patriotic Roman, admitting the necessity of
knowledge in a way his ancestors might have questioned, but keeping
steadily to the main points of setting a true price upon all human things,
and preferring the good of one's country to personal advantage. This is a
morality intelligible to all, and if it falls below the higher
enlightenment of modern, knowledge, it at least soars above the average
practice. We are informed [28] that Lucilius did not spare his immediate
predecessors and contemporaries in literature any more than in politics.
He attacked Accius for his unauthorised innovations in spelling, Pacuvius
and Ennius for want of a sustained level of dignity. His satire seems to
have ranged over the whole field of life, so far as it was known to him;
and though his learning was in no department deep, [29] it was sound so
far as it went, and was guided by natural good taste. He will always
retain an interest for us from the charming picture given by Horace of his
daily life; how he kept his books beside him like the best of friends, as
indeed they were, and whatever he felt, thought, or saw, intrusted to
their faithful keeping, whence it comes that the man's life stands as
vividly before one's eyes as if it had been painted on a votive tablet.
Then the way in which Laelius and Scipio unbent in his company, mere youth
as he was compared to them, gives us a pleasing notion of his social
gifts; he who could make the two grave statesmen so far forget their
decorum as to romp in the manner Horace describes, must at least have been
gifted with contagious light-heartedness. This genial humour Horace tried
with success to reproduce, but he is conscious of inferiority to the
master. In English literature Dryden is the writer who most recalls him,
though rather in his higher than in his more sportive moods.



The last class of dramatic poets whom we shall mention in the first period
are the writers of _Atellanae_. These entertainments originated at the
little town of Atella, now St Arpino, between Capua and Naples in the
Oscan territory, and were at first composed in the Oscan dialect. Their
earliest cultivation at Rome seems to date not long after 360 B.C., in
which year the Etruscan histriones were first imported into Rome. The
novelty of this amusement attracted the Roman youths, and they began to
imitate both the Etruscan dancers and the Oscan performers, who had
introduced the Atellane fables into Rome. After the libellous freedom of
speech in which they at first indulged had been restrained by law, the
Atellanae seem to have established themselves as a privileged form of
pleasantry, in which the young nobles could, without incurring the
disgrace of removal from their tribe or incapacity for military service,
indulge their readiness of speech and impromptu dramatic talent. [1]
During rather more than two centuries this custom continued, the
performance consisting of detached scenes without any particular
connection, but full of jocularity, and employing a fixed set of
characters. The language used may have been the Oscan, but, considering
the fact that a knowledge of that dialect was not universal at Rome, [2]
it was more probably the popular or plebeian Latin interspersed with Oscan
elements. No progress towards a literary form is observable until the time
of Sulla, but they continued to receive a countenance from the authorities
that was not accorded to other forms of the drama. We find, for example,
that when theatrical representations were interdicted, an exception was
made in their favour. [3] Though coarse and often obscene, they were
considered as consistent with gentlemanly behaviour; thus Cicero, in a
well-known passage in one of his letters, [4] contrasts them with the
Mimes, _secundum Oenomaum Accii non, ut olim solebat, Atellanam, sed, ut
nunc fit, mimum introduxisti_; and Valerius Maximus implies that they did
not carry their humour to extravagant lengths, [5] but tempered it with
Italian severity. From the few fragments that remain to us we should be
inclined to form a different opinion, and to suspect that national
partiality in contrasting them with the Graecized form of the Mimi kept
itself blind to their more glaring faults. The characters that oftenest
reappear in them are Maccus, Bucco, and Pappus; the first of these is
prefixed to the special title, _e.g. Maccus miles, Maccus virgo_. He seems
to have been a personage with an immense head, who, corresponding to our
clown or harlequin, came in for many hard knocks, but was a general
favourite. Pappus took the place of pantaloon, and was the general butt.

NOVIUS (circ. 100 B.C.), whom Macrobius [6] calls _probatissimus
Atellanarum scriptor_, was the first to reduce this species to the rules
of art, giving it a plot and a written dialogue. Several fragments remain,
but for many centuries they were taken for those of Naevius, whence great
confusion ensued. A better known writer is L. POMPONIUS (90 B.C.) of
Bononia, who flourished in the time of Sulla, and is said to have
persuaded that cultured sensualist to compose Atellanae himself. Upwards
of thirty of his plays are cited; [7] but although a good many lines are
preserved, no fragments are long enough to give a good notion of his
style. The commendations, however, with which Cicero, Seneca, Gellius, and
Priscian load him, prove that he was classed with good writers. From the
list given below, it will be seen that the subjects were mostly, though
not always, from low life; some remind us of the regular comedies, as the
_Syri_ and _Dotata_. The old-fashioned ornaments of puns and alliteration
abound in him, as well as extreme coarseness. The fables, which were
generally represented after the regular play as an interlude or farce, are
mentioned by Juvenal in two of his satires: [8]

"Urbicus exodio risum movet Atellanae Gestibus Autonoes;"

and in his pretty description of a rustic fete--

"Ipsa dierum
Festorum herboso colitur si quando theatro
Maiestas, tandemque redit ad pulpita notum
Exodium, cum personae pallentis hiatum
In gremio matris formidat rusticus infans;
Aequales habitus illic, similemque videbis
Orchestram et populum...."

They endured a while under the empire, when we hear of a composer named
MUMMIUS, of some note, but in the general decline they became merged in
the pantomime, into which all kinds of dramatic art gradually converged.

If the Atellanae were the most indigenous form of literature in which the
young nobles indulged, the different kinds of love-poem were certainly the
least in accordance with the Roman traditions of art. Nevertheless,
unattainable as was the spontaneous grace of the Greek erotic muse, there
were some who aspired to cultivate her.

Few kinds of verse more attracted the Roman amateurs than the Epigram.
There was something congenial to the Roman spirit in the pithy distich or
tetrastich which formed so considerable an element in the "elegant
extracts" of Alexandria. The term _epigram_ has altered its meaning with
the lapse of ages. In Greek it signified merely an inscription
commemorative of some work of art, person, or event; its virtue was to be
short, and to be appropriate. The most perfect writer of epigrams in the
Greek sense was Simonides,--nothing can exceed the exquisite simplicity
that lends an undying charm to his effusions. The epigrams on Leonides and
on Marathon are well known. The metre selected was the elegiac, on account
of its natural pause at the close of the second line. The nearest approach
to such simple epigrams are the epitaphs of Naevius, Ennius, and
especially Pacuvius, already quoted. This natural grace, however, was,
even in Greek poetry, superseded by a more artificial style. The sparkling
epigram of Plato addressed to a fair boy has been often imitated, and most
writers after him are not satisfied without playing on some fine thought,
or turning some graceful point; so that the epigram by little and little
approached the form which in its purest age the Italian sonnet possessed.
In this guise it was cultivated with taste and brilliancy at Alexandria,
Callimachus especially being a finished master of it. The first Roman
epigrammatists imitate the Alexandrine models, and, making allowance for
the uncouth hardness of their rhythm, achieve a fair success. Of the
epigrams of Ennius, only the three already quoted remain. [9] Three
authors are mentioned by Aulus Gellius [10] as having raised the Latin
Epigram to a level with Anacreon in sweetness, point, and neatness. This
is certainly far too high praise. Nor, even if it were so, can we forget
that the poems he quotes (presumably the best he could find) are obvious
imitations, if not translations, from the Greek. The first is by Q.
LUTATIUS CATULUS, and dates about 100 B.C. It is entitled _Ad Theotimum_:

"Aufugit mi animus; credo, ut solet, ad Theotimum
Devenit: sic est: perfugium illud habet.
Quid si non interdixem ne illuc fugitivum
Mitteret ad se intro, sed magis eiiceret?
Ibimus quaesitum: verum ne ipsi teneamur
Formido: quid ago? Da, Venus, consilium."

A more pleasing example of his style, and this time perhaps original, is
given by Cicero. [11] It is on the actor Roscius, who, when a boy, was
renowned for his beauty, and is favourably compared with the rising orb of

"Constiteram exorientem Auroram forte salutans,
Cum subito e laeva Roscius exoritur.
Pace mihi liceat, caelestes, dicere vestra:
Mortalis visust pulcrior esse deo."

This piece, as may be supposed, has met with imitators both in French and
Italian literature. A very similar _jeu d'esprit_ of PORCIUS LICINUS is

"Custodes ovium, teneraeque propaginis agnum,
Quaeritis ignem? ite huc: Quaeritis? ignis homo est.
Si digito attigero, incendam silvam simul omnem,
Omne pecus: flamma est omnia quae video."

This Porcius wrote also on the history of literature. Some rather ill-
natured lines on Terence are preserved in Suetonius. [12] He there implies
that the young poet, with all his talent, could not keep out of poverty, a
taunt which we have good reason for disbelieving as well as disapproving.
Two lines on the rise of poetry at Rome deserve quotation--

"Poenico bello secundo Musa pinnato gradu
Intulit se bellicosam Romuli in gentem feram."

A certain POMPILIUS is mentioned by Varro as having epigrammatic tastes;
one distich that is preserved gives us no high notion of his powers--

"Pacvi [13] discipulus dicor: porro is fuit Enni:
Ennius Musarum: Pompilius clueor."

Lastly, VALERIUS AEDITUUS, who is only known by the short notices in Varro
and Gellius, wrote similar short pieces, two of which are preserved.


"Dicere cum conor curam tibi, Pamphila, cordis,
Quid mi abs te quaeram? verba labris abeunt
Per pectus miserum manat subito mihi sudor.
Si tacitus, subidus: duplo ideo pereo."


"Quid faculam praefers, Phileros, qua nil opus nobis?
Ibimus, hoc lucet pectore flamma satis.
Illam non potis est vis saeva exstinguere venti,
Aut imber caelo candidus praecipitans.
At contra, hunc ignem Veneris, si non Venus ipsa,
Nulla est quae possit vis alia opprimare."

We have quoted these pieces, not from their intrinsic merit, for they have
little or none, but to show the painful process by which Latin
versification was elaborated. All these must be referred to a date at
least sixty years after Ennius, and yet the rhythm is scarcely at all
improved. The great number of second-rate poets who wrought in the same
laboratory did good work, in so far that they made the technical part less
wearisome for poets like Lucretius and Catullus. With mechanical dexterity
taste also slowly improved by the competing effort of many ordinary minds;
but it did not make those giant strides which nothing but genius can
achieve. The later developments of the Epigram will be considered in a
subsequent book.



There are nations among whom the imagination is so predominant that they
seem incapable of regarding things as they are. The literature of such
nations will always be cast in a poetical mould, even when it takes the
outward form of prose. Of this class India is a conspicuous example. In
the opposite category stand those nations which, lacking imaginative
power, supply its place by the rich colouring of rhetoric, but whose
poetry, judged by the highest standard, does not rise above the sphere of
prose. Modern France is perhaps the best example of this. The same is so
far true of ancient Rome that she was unquestionably more productive of
great prose writers than of poets. Her utilitarian and matter-of-fact
genius inclined her to approach the problems of thought and life from a
prosaic point of view. Her perceptions of beauty were defective; her sense
of sympathy between man and nature (the deepest root of poetry) slumbered
until roused by a voice from without to momentary life. The aspirations
and destiny of the individual soul which had kindled the brightest light
of Greek song, were in Rome replaced by the sovereign claims of the State.
The visible City, throned on Seven Hills, the source and emblem of
imperial power, and that not ideal but actual, was a theme fitted to
inspire the patriot orator or historian, but not to create the finer
susceptibilities of the poet. We find in accordance with this fact, that
Prose Literature was approached, not by strangers or freedmen, but by
members of the noblest houses in Rome. The subjects were given by the
features of national life. The wars that had gained dominion abroad, the
eloquence that had secured power at home, the laws that had knit society
together and made the people great; these were the elements on which Prose
Literature was based. Its developments, though influenced by Greece, are
truly national, and on them the Roman character is indelibly impressed.
The first to establish itself was history. The struggles of the first
Punic war had been chronicled in the rude verse of Naevius; those of the
second produced the annals of Fabius and Cincius Alimentus.

From the earliest period the Romans had a clear sense of the value of
contemporary records. The _Annales Maximi_ or _Commentarii Pontificum_
contained the names of magistrates for each year, and a daily record [1]
of all memorable events from the regal times until the Pontificate of P.
Mucius Scaevola (133 B.C.). The occurrences noted were, however, mostly of
a trivial character, as Cato tells us in a fragment of his _Origines_, and
as we can gather from the extracts found in Livy. The _Libri Lintei_,
mentioned several times by Livy, [2] were written on rolls of linen cloth,
and, besides lists of magistrates, contained many national monuments, such
as the treaty between Rome and Carthage, and the truce made with Ardea and
Gabii. Similar notes were kept by the civil magistrates (_Commentarii
Consulares, Libri Praetorum, Tabulae Censoriae_) and stored up in the
various temples. The greater number of these records perished in the
capture of Rome by the Gauls, and when Livy speaks of them as existing
later, he refers not to the originals, but to copies made after that
event. Such yearly registers were continued to a late period. One of the
most important was discovered in the sixteenth century, embracing a list
of the great magistracies from 509 B.C. till the death of Augustus, and
executed in the reign of Tiberius. Another source of history was the
family register kept by each of the great houses, and treasured with
peculiar care. It was probably more than a mere catalogue of actions
performed or honours gained, since many of the more distinguished families
preserved their records as witnesses of glories that in reality had never
existed, but were the invention of flattering chroniclers or clients.

The radical defect in the Roman conception of history was its narrowness.
The idea of preserving and handing down truth for its own sake was foreign
to them. The very accuracy of their early registers was based on no such
high principle as this. It arose simply from a sense of the continuity of
the Roman commonwealth, from national pride, and from considerations of
utility. The catalogue of prodigies, pestilences, divine visitations,
expiations and successful propitiatory ceremonies, of which it was chiefly
made up, was intended to show the value of the state religion, and to
secure the administration of it in patrician hands. It was indeed
praiseworthy that considerations so patriotic should at that rude period
have so firmly rooted themselves in the mind of the governing class; but
that their object was rather to consolidate their own power and advance
that of the city than to instruct mankind, is clear from the totally
untrustworthy character of the special gentile records; and when history
began to be cultivated in a literary way, we do not observe any higher
motive at work. Fabius and Cincius wrote in Greek, partly, no doubt,
because in the unformed state of their own language it was easier to do
so; but that this was not in itself a sufficient reason is shown by the
enthusiasm with which not only their contemporary Ennius, but their
predecessors Livius and Naevius, studied and developed the Latin tongue.
Livius and Ennius worked at Latin in order to construct a literary dialect
that should also be the speech of the people. Fabius and Cincius, we
cannot help suspecting, wrote in Greek, because that was a language which
the people did _not_ understand.

Belonging to an ancient house whose traditions were exclusive and
aristocratic, FABIUS (210 B.C.) addressed himself to the limited circle of
readers who were conversant with the Greek tongue; to the people at large
he was at no pains to be intelligible, and he probably was as indifferent
to their literary, as his ancestors had been to their political, claims or
advantages. The branch to which he belonged derived its distinguishing
name from Fabius Pictor the grandfather of the historian, who, in 312 B.C.
painted the temple of Salus, which was the oldest known specimen of Roman
art, and existed, applauded by the criticism of posterity, until the era
of Claudius. This single incident proves that in a period when Roman
feeling as a rule recoiled from practising the arts of peace, members of
this intellectual _gens_ were already proficients in one of the proscribed
Greek accomplishments, and taken into connection with the polished
cultivation of the Claudii, and perhaps of other _gentes_, shows that in
their private life the aristocratic party were not so bigoted as for
political purposes they chose to represent themselves. [3] As to the value
of Fabius's work we have no good means of forming an opinion. Livy
invariably speaks of him with respect, as _scriptorum longe
antiquissimus_; and there can be little doubt that he had access to the
best existing authorities on his subject. Besides the public chronicles
and the archives of his own house, he is said to have drawn on Greek
sources. Niebuhr, also, takes a high view of his merits; and the
unpretending form in which he clothed his work, merely a bare statement of
events without any attempt at literary decoration, inclines us to believe
that so far as national prejudices allowed, he endeavoured to represent
faithfully the facts of history.

Of L. CINCIUS ALIMENTUS (flor. 209 B.C.) we should he inclined to form a
somewhat higher estimate, from the fact that, when taken prisoner by
Hannibal, he received greater consideration from him than almost any other
Roman captive. He conversed freely with him, and informed him of the route
by which he had crossed the Alps, and of the exact number of his invading
force. Cincius was praetor in Sicily 209 B.C. He thus had good
opportunities for learning the main events of the campaign. Niebuhr [4]
says of him, "He was a critical investigator of antiquity, who threw light
on the history of his country by researches among its ancient monuments.
He proceeded in this work with no less honesty than diligence; [5] for it
is only in his fragments that we find a distinct statement of the early
relations between Rome and Latium, which in all the Annals were
misrepresented from national pride. That Cincius wrote a book on the old
Roman calendar, we are told by Macrobius; [6] that he examined into
ancient Etruscan and Roman chronology, is clear from Livy." [7] The point
in which he differed from the other authorities most strikingly is the
date he assigns for the origin of the city; but Niebuhr thinks that his
method of ascertaining it shows independent investigation. [8] Cincius,
like Fabius, began his work by a rapid summary of the early history of
Rome, and detailed at full length only those events which had happened
during his own experience.

A third writer who flourished about the same time was C. ACILIUS (circ.
184 B.C.), who, like the others, began with the foundation of the city,
and apparently carried his work down to the war with Antiochus. He, too,
wrote in Greek, [9] and was afterwards translated into Latin by Claudius
Quadrigarius, [10] in which form he was employed by Livy. Aulus Postumius
Albinus, a younger contemporary of Cato, is also mentioned as the author
of a Greek history. It is very possible that the selection of the Greek
language by all these writers was partly due to their desire to prove to
the Greeks that Roman history was worth studying; for the Latin language
was at this time confined to the peninsula, and was certainly not studied
by learned Greeks, except such as were compelled to acquire it by
relations with their Roman conquerors. Besides these authors, we learn
from Polybius that the great Scipio furnished contributions to history:
among other writings, a long Greek letter to king Philip is mentioned
which contained a succinct account of his Spanish and African campaigns.
His son, and also Scipio Nasica, appear to have followed his example in
writing Greek memoirs.

The creator of Latin prose writing was CATO (234-149 B.C.). In almost
every department he set the example, and his works, voluminous and varied,
retained their reputation until the close of the classical period. He was
the first thoroughly national author.

The character of the rigid censor is generally associated in our minds
with the contempt of letters. In his stern but narrow patriotism, he
looked with jealous eyes on all that might turn the citizens from a
single-minded devotion to the State. Culture was connected in his mind
with Greece, and her deleterious influence. The embassy of Diogenes,
Critolaus, and Carneades, 155 B.C. had shown him to what uses culture
might be turned. The eloquent harangue pronounced in favour of justice,
and the equally eloquent harangue pronounced next day against it by the
same speaker without a blush of shame, had set Cato's face like a flint in
opposition to Greek learning. "I will tell you about those Greeks," he
wrote in his old age to his son Marcus, "what I discovered by careful
observation at Athens, and how far I deem it good to skim through their
writings, for in no case should they be deeply studied. I will prove to
you that they are one and all, a worthless and intractable set. Mark my
words, for they are those of a prophet: whenever that nation shall give us
its literature, it will corrupt everything." [11]

With this settled conviction, thus emphatically expressed at a time when
experience had shown the realization of his fears to be inevitable, and
when he himself had so far bent as to study the literature he despised,
the long and active public life of Cato is in complete harmony. He is the
perfect type of an old Roman. Hard, shrewd, niggardly, and narrow-minded,
he was honest to the core, unsparing of himself as of others, scorning
every kind of luxury, and of inflexible moral rectitude. He had no respect
for birth, rank, fortune, or talent; his praise was bestowed solely on
personal merit. He himself belonged to an ancient and honourable house,
[12] and from it he inherited those harsh virtues which, while they
enforced the reverence, put him in conflict with the spirit, of the age.
No man could have set before himself a more uphill task than that which
Cato struggled all his life vainly to achieve. To reconstruct the past is
but one step more impossible than to stem the tide of the present. If Cato
failed, a greater than Cato would not have succeeded. Influences were at
work in Rome which individual genius was powerless to resist. The
ascendancy of reason over force, though it were the noblest form that
force has ever assumed, was step by step establishing itself; and no
stronger proof of its victory could be found than that Cato, despite of
himself, in his old age studied Greek. We may smile at the deep-rooted
prejudice which confounded the pure glories of the old Greek intellect
with the degraded puerilities of its unworthy heirs; but though Cato could
not fathom the mind of Greece, he thoroughly understood the mind of Rome,
and unavailing as his efforts were, they were based on an unerring
comprehension of the true issues at stake. He saw that Greece was unmaking
Rome; but he did not see that mankind required that Rome should be unmade.
It is the glory of men like Scipio and Ennius, that their large-
heartedness opened their eyes, and carried their vision beyond the horizon
of the Roman world into that dimly-seen but ever expanding country in
which all men are brethren. But if from the loftiest point of view their
wide humanity obtains the palm, no less does Cato's pure patriotism shed
undying radiance over his rugged form, throwing into relief its massive
grandeur, and ennobling rather than hiding its deformities.

We have said that Cato's name is associated with the contempt of letters.
This is no doubt the fact. Nevertheless, Cato was by far the most original
writer that Rome ever produced. He is the one man on whose vigorous mind
no outside influence had ever told. Brought up at his father's farm at
Tusculum, he spent his boyhood amid the labours of the plough. Hard work
and scant fare toughened his sinews, and service under Fabius in the
Hannibalic war knit his frame into that iron strength of endurance, which,
until his death, never betrayed one sign of weakness or fatigue. A saying
of his is preserved [13]--"Man's life is like iron; if you use it, it
wears away, if not, the rust eats it. So, too, men are worn away by hard
work; but if they do no work, rest and sloth do more injury than
exercise." On this maxim his own life was formed. In the intervals of
warfare, he did not relax himself in the pleasures of the city, but went
home to his plough, and improved his small estate. Being soon well known
for his shrewd wit and ready speech, he rose into eminence at the bar; and
in due time obtained all the offices of state. In every position he made
many enemies, but most notably in his capacity of censor. No man was
oftener brought to trial. Forty-four times he spoke in his own defence,
and every time he was acquitted. [14] As Livy says, he wore his enemies
out, partly by accusing them, but still more by the pertinacity with which
he defended himself. [15] Besides private causes, he spoke in many
important public trials and on many great questions of state: Cicero [16]
had seen or heard of 150 orations by him; in one passage he implies that
he had delivered as many as Lysias, _i.e._ 230. [17] Even now we have
traces, certainly of 80, and perhaps of 13 more. [18] His military life,
which had been a series of successes, was brought to a close 190 B.C., and
from this time until his death, he appears as an able civil administrator,
and a vehement opponent of lax manners. In the year of his censorship (184
B.C.) Plautus died. The tremendous vigour with which he wielded the powers
of this post stirred up a swarm of enemies. His tongue became more bitter
than ever. Plutarch gives his portrait in an epigram.

_Pyrron, pandaketaen, glaukommaton, oude thanonta
Porkion eis aidaen Persephonae dechetai._

Here, at 85 years of age, [19] the man stands before us. We see the crisp,
erect figure, bristling with aggressive vigour, the coarse, red hair, the
keen, grey eyes, piercingly fixed on his opponent's face, and reading at a
glance the knavery he sought to hide; we hear the rasping voice, launching
its dry, cutting sarcasms one after another, each pointed with its sting
of truth; and we can well believe that the dislike was intense, which
could make an enemy provoke the terrible armoury of the old censor's

As has been said, he so far relaxed the severity of his principles as to
learn the Greek language and study the great writers. Nor could he help
feeling attracted to minds like those of Thucydides and Demosthenes, in
sagacity and earnestness so congenial to his own. Nevertheless, his
originality is in nothing more conspicuously shown than in his method of
treating history. He struck a line of inquiry in which he found no
successor. The _Origines_, if it had remained, would undoubtedly have been
a priceless storehouse of facts about the antiquities of Italy. Cato had
an enlarged view of history. It was not his object to magnify Rome at the
expense of the other Italian nationalities, but rather to show how she had
become their greatest, because their truest, representative. The divisions
of the work itself will show the importance he attached to an
investigation of their early annals. We learn from Nepos that the first
book comprised the regal period; the second and third were devoted to the
origin and primitive history of each Italian state; [20] the fourth and
fifth embraced the Punic wars; the last two carried the history as far as
the Praetorship of Servius Galba, Cato's bold accusation of whom he
inserted in the body of the work. Nepos, echoing the superficial canons of
his age, characterises the whole as showing industry and diligence, but no
learning whatever. The early myths were somewhat indistinctly treated.
[21] His account of the Trojan immigration seems to have been the basis of
that of Virgil, though the latter refashioned it in several points. [22]
His computation of dates, though apparently exact, betrays a mind
indifferent to the importance of chronology. The fragments of the next two
books are more copious. He tells us that Gaul, then as now, pursued with
the greatest zeal military glory and eloquence in debate. [23] His notice
of the Ligurians is far from complimentary. "They are all deceitful,
having lost every record of their real origin, and being illiterate, they
invent false stories and have no recollection of the truth." [24] He
hazards a few etymologies, which, as usual among Roman writers, are quite
unscientific. Graviscae is so called from its unhealthy climate (_gravis
aer_), Praeneste from its conspicuous position on the mountains (_quia
montibus praestet_). A few scattered remarks on the food in use among
different tribes are all that remain of an interesting department which
might have thrown much light on ethnological questions. In the fourth
book, Cato expresses his disinclination to repeat the trivial details of
the Pontifical tables, the fluctuations of the market, the eclipses of the
sun and moon, &c. [25] He narrates with enthusiasm the self-devotion of
the tribune Caedicius, who in the first Punic war offered his life with
that of 400 soldiers to engage the enemy's attention while the general was
executing a necessary manoeuvre. [26] "The Laconian Leonides, who did the
same thing at Thermopylae, has been rewarded by all Greece for his virtue
and patriotism with all the emblems of the highest possible distinction--
monuments, statues, epigrams, histories; his deed met with their warmest
gratitude. But little praise has been given to our tribune in comparison
with his merits, though he acted just as the Spartan did, and saved the
fortunes of the State." As to the title _Origines_, it is possible, as
Nepos suggests, that it arose from the first three books having been
published separately. It certainly is not applicable to the entire
treatise, which was a genuine history on the same scale as that of
Thucydides, and no mere piece of antiquarian research. He adhered to truth
in so far as he did not insert fictitious speeches; he conformed to Greek
taste so far as to insert his own. One striking feature in the later hooks
was his omission of names. No Roman worthy is named in them. The reason of
this it is impossible to discover. Fear of giving offence would be the
last motive to weigh with him. Dislike of the great aristocratic houses
into whose hands the supreme power was steadily being concentrated, is a
more probable cause; but it is hardly sufficient of itself. Perhaps the
omission was a mere whim of the historian. Though this work obtained great
and deserved renown, yet, like its author, it was praised rather than
imitated. Livy scarcely ever uses it; and it is likely that, before the
end of the first century A.D. the speeches were published separately, and
were the only part at all generally read. Pliny, Gellius, and Servius, are
the authors who seem most to have studied it; of these Pliny was most
influenced by it. The Natural History, especially in its general
discussions, strongly reminds us of Cato.


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