THE period from which the earliest remains of Latin literature have survived was one of vast significance for Rome and for civilization. In the annals of mankind there is no more wonderful evolution than that of the premier city-state of Italy into the controller of the Mediterranean world. At the opening of the strictly literary period, in 240 bc, Rome, now mistress of the peninsula south of Cisalpine Gaul, had defeated Carthage, her formidable rival in the West, and had just secured her first province; a century and a half later, her power had spread eastwards at the expense of the Hellenistic monarchies. Herculean tasks of organization remained; but Macedon, Greece and much of Asia Minor lay subject to her as truly as did Spain and southern Gaul. History shows how pervasive were the political and social effects of this aggrandizement, and how alarmed some leading citizens were at novel habits distrusted as over-refined or denounced as pernicious. The literature displays a parallel enhancement in taste and sophistication, though it never loses a Roman tone. Writers faced the new circumstances of the victorious republic, and to meet a Roman need for entertainment, as in drama, or to deal with Roman themes, as in epic, they freely re-handled models from the extensive repertory of Greece.

The study of incipient Roman literature exercises an enlivening fascination in virtue of problems which make it a field of vigorous and at times contentious inquiry. We ask, what traces exist of archaic Latin; how far we can believe in legendary lays in ancient Rome; what legacy of poetic inspiration or what modicum of historical truth such lays transmitted; what was the metrical character of the native Saturnian verse; whether the native satura was dramatic; and how records were kept by pontiffs and priestly colleges. Passing into the literary period, we realize the need for assessing Greek influence in relation to Roman individuality—a matter of difficulty where, as in Roman comedy, all Greek originals are lost, and conversely where, as in tragedy, we possess many originals without the copies. An aesthetic estimate of the period is hindered by the paucity of works preserved. In poetry, no complete remains are available except a score of Plautus’s plays and six by Terence. In prose, Cato’s de agricultura is well represented, and portions of speeches survive; but most of the oratory and history exists only in fragments, often quoted, as much of the poetry was, by grammarians to illustrate some curiously obsolete word or expression. Difficulties also arise in the texts, which suffered from both modernization and false archaizing.

Latin literature, in so far as a literature can begin with a par­ticular year, starts at 240 bc. In that year, Livius Andronicus, a Tarentine freedman who came to Rome as far back as 272, was called upon for plays to be performed at the public games. He responded with a tragedy and a comedy from the Greek. It was a time of rejoicing over the victories of the First Punic War, and henceforward, except for dark intervals during the next war, literary activity kept pace with national exaltation. The terminus a quo may indeed be set back, nine years earlier than 240, to the occasion when the Romans, depressed by the duration of hostilities and by disaster in Sicily, introduced at the bidding of the Sibylline books a carmen saeculare to be chanted at ‘Tarentine’ games for the appeasement of two Greek deities, Dis and Proserpina. Long afterwards, in 207, when threatened by Hannibal and Hasdrubal, Rome turned to the poet Andronicus for a solemn hymn; and it is a plausible guess that the same Tarentine author fully forty years before had been commissioned to compose the chorus Proserpinae. To be meticulously nice, one might claim a more remote date still in prose; for, as the oration by Appius Claudius against peace with Pyrrhus in 280 was extant in Cicero’s day, it must have been written down. But, whatever the variation in fixing an initial date, the origins lie deeper. It is reasonable, then, to notice the language which authors had to use, and certain primitive products of the native Roman and Italian mind—the raw materials which made possible the quick growth of a literature when Greek fertilization came to operate fully.





Latin was the dialect spoken by the tribesmen of Latium, the plain-lands on the left bank of the lower Tiber. An Indo-European language, it exhibits in roots and inflections marked affinities with two prehistoric congeners, Greek and Celtic. These resemblances, due to primeval contact, are independent of words borrowed in historic times from Celtic and the much larger borrowing from Greek. Among Italic kinds of speech Latin is classed with Faliscan as a ‘q’ dialect in contradistinction to the Umbro-Sabellian ‘p’ group, so called because of the labial pronunciation of an Indo-European guttural velar. Thus Latin quis corresponds to Oscan and Umbro-Volscian pis. But the Latin vocabulary was affected by Oscan and Umbrian importations, such as rufus (red) and scrofa (a sow), where true Latin would have b for f, and popina (cook-shop) for the Latin coquina.

The oldest official inscription in Latin is the partially legible one upon an incomplete rectangular stele exhumed in the comitium near the Forum Romanum: among its words is regei, perhaps the archaic dative of rex, who may here be the rex sacrorum. An instructive example from the sixth century is the oldest Latin in­scription on metal, that on a gold brooch found at Praeneste. The letters, running in retrograde order, are modelled on the Greek alphabet. ‘Manios med fhéfhaked Numasioi’ is the legend, equivalent to ‘Manius me fecit Numerio’. Numasioi, with archaic stress-accent on its first syllable, has not yet reduced a to e, or changed intervocalic s into r. An unreduplicated and weakened descendant of fhéfhaked is feked in the Duenos inscription, referred on epigraphical grounds to the fourth century. The diversity of interpretations put upon this inscription illustrates the archaic unintelligibility of the Latin of 400 bc and the magnitude of the task awaiting those who shaped the language into a literary instrument. Its accomplishment is one of the triumphs of the period between 240 and 100 bc. In its earliest examples Latin displays almost barbaric uncouthness. It was weighted with endings in -orum, -arum, -bam and -bo, lacking in the fine subtlety of Greek grammar and syntax, clumsy in its compounds, and slow to invent abstract terms for philosophy and science, as was felt by Lucretius in his moan over ‘the poverty of the ancestral tongue’. Yet it was destined to become one of the greatest means for the utterance of poetry, pathos and thought. It had, from of old, its merits. It was logical, direct, compact and sonorous, with an ideal capacity for the expression of legal enactment or ritual devotion. A tool for a practical people, Latin was certain in time admirably to serve moralist, orator, and administrator. But, even after literature was well begun, a striking course of development was necessary between the heavy spondaic verse of Ennius (like the ‘hexameter minimus’ olli respondit rex Albai Longai) and the charming lightness of movement and enjambement which marks Virgil’s poetry at his comparatively early stage in the Eclogues, This transformation of a rude tongue was the achievement of will­power guided by increasing taste; neither Rome nor its language was built in a day. Authors, however, besides improving it by literary experiment, studied it theoretically. Ennius, Accius and Lucilius all took interest in grammatical investigation: it was a Greek thing thus to pursue scholarly inquiry, and it helps to explain the divergence of literary from spoken Latin.





How in early times was this language used as a medium of expression ? Many events in life seem naturally to call for something more rhythmic than ordinary speech: so in Latium lullabies (Ialla lalla lalla: i aut dormi aut lacta), wedding-songs, neniae over the dead, accompaniments to dancing or to the work of peasants in the field or of women at the loom, showed the primitive instinct for singing. Old-world wisdom in proverbs and everything didactic gained from being in some sort of verse. A charm against illness, like an Anglo-Saxon spell or a medieval exorcism, sounded more effective if its set form (carmen) fell into rhythm, with assonance, it might be, or rhyme added (terra pestem teneto: salus hic maneto, Varro). The essential features of a carmen were Italic, and can be as well illustrated from the Umbrian of the Iguvine tables as from Latin. Religion and festivals also fostered rhythmic expression. Formulae proper in addressing gods, hymns chanted in the hour of peril, plague, drought or victory, prophecies, oracles, curses, even certain sentences of the law in prose, were alike carmina. The fragments of the Saliar litany, unintelligible by Horace’s day to its priestly singers, and the quaint forms of the Arvai hymn beginning Enos, Luses, iuvate (‘Help us, O Lares!’) bear the imprint of a distant past. This indigenous sense of rhythm and natural liking for song should be remembered in connection with Plautus’s elaboration of a lyric element in his comedies.

The existence of heroic lays sung on convivial occasions to celebrate great lives or deeds cannot reasonably be denied in the face of clear statements from ancient authors. Cicero wishes that these songs, for whose vogue Cato vouched in his Origines were still available. The Dutch scholar Voorbroek, or ‘Perizonius’, first discussed their importance in shaping Roman legends; and Niebuhr based on the evidence his theory of a mass of popular poems—miniature epics about the most interesting figures of regal and early republican times. Hence, he argued, came much of the poetic substance and colour in Livy. Though this romantic hypothesis captivated many, including Macaulay, it suffered destructive criticism from Sir G. C. Lewis and others. Schwegler, laying stress on the cramping limitations of early Roman life, asked in a tone of ironical disdain “How could these Romans have been expected to develop a saga-poetry?” Taine, while he subjected the theory to a vivacious refutation, was judicial enough to declare that it was a case of truth pushed to the verge of error. One may, then, disbelieve in Niebuhr’s complete fabric of plebeian ballads, one may fail to hear the ballads echoing in Livy’s sentences, and yet accept both Varro’s record that boys once sang to banqueters such lays either with or without musical accompaniment, and Cato’s record that banqueters personally took turns in contributing songs, as long afterwards the English etiquette of Caedmon’s age required. Since these two accounts vary, it has been contended that one may imply an earlier and the other a later custom; it is, however, fully as reasonable to suppose that the custom itself varied according to place and family. The subsequent non-existence of the lays does not prove them mere figments : their disappearance may be due to the emergence of more artistic poetry which brought neglect upon primitive ruggedness. But the songs themselves must have left their mark on oral legend.

These lays were presumably in Saturnian verse, as afterwards were the sepulchral inscriptions of the Scipios. The name ‘Saturnian’ marks either ritual associations or primeval character. Caesius Bassus, in the first century ad, notes a common opinion that the Saturnian was native to Italy, but declares this erroneous. The error, however, was his own, and.not unnatural, because like other ancient metrists he approached all verse from the standpoint of Greek metres. The apparent absence of fixed principle in the verses which he examined and their variation in length, so puzzled Bassus that he owns he could scarcely find lines in Naevius to adduce as normal examples. While, however, he cites other instances, he gives what has become the standard specimen, Malum dabunt Metelli Naevio poetae. The typical line consists of five words or word-groups separated into two cola by a strong diaeresis; but as to its fundamental nature scholars are divided, and the case cannot be argued here. The old strictly quantitative theory has tended towards a semi-quantitative one. Most French opinion, which usually denies that Latin had a tonic accent, upholds the quantitative view. But a powerful array of authority maintains that the verse is accentual and has descended from a primitive Indo-European type in which the minstrel’s beat was the determining characteristic. A parallel might then be found in such Anglo-Saxon poetry as Beowulf. But even on the accentual theory questions arise. Did the word-accent vary in the history of the verse ? And can it be said that this primitive verse, at first accentual, did in time fall under rules suggested by Greek metre? If so, there is nothing surprising in the difficulty of finding a form applicable to all Saturnians.

That there was an ingrained Italian aptitude for some kind of drama might have been guessed from traits of character in the people and from analogy with other civilizations. The licence of scurrilous Fescennine verses sung in amoebean fashion to avert the evil eye, at a marriage or a triumph, descended from the primitive banter of the harvest-home or vintage-festival, when rustic mummery gave outlet to improvisation in sharp dialogue and to the Italum acetum of mockery. The name is most likely drawn from the Faliscan town of Fescennium. From Atelia in Campania came the Oscan farce, fabula Atellana, increasingly familiar at Rome in both Oscan and Latin from the fourth century, after the Via Appia secured closer contact with Campania. Its stock characters were male—Pappus, the greybeard; Bucco, the glutton; Dossennus, the humpback; and Maccus, the clown. To this last person Plautus alludes in a pun on his own gentile name, Demophilus scripsit, ‘Maccus’ vortit barbare. This crude improvisation, in which masks were worn, enjoyed such a vogue that Roman citizens appeared in it without losing caste, like despised histriones. The locus classicus on the early drama is a vexed chapter of Livy. There we learn that in 364 bc. Etruscan dancers to flute-music were summoned to Rome when scenic performances were joined to the circus games: Roman youths followed their example, adding sportive amoebean verse: next, Fescennine rudeness was replaced by saturae with musical accompaniment, song and gesture. Later, ‘Livius’ (Andronicus) made a departure by introducing drama with a connected plot, i.e. the fabula palliata based on Greek models. The separation of singer and actor in Latin plays is set down to the failure of Andronicus’ voice after constant encores, necessitating the arrangement that a youth should sing in front of the musician while the actor concentrated on life-like gesticulations. Saturae being thus driven from the stage by more finished performances, young Romans turned as amateurs to acting Atellan plays, which came to be used for light after-pieces (exodia). Some modern scholars have impugned this account as a reconstruction by an antiquary desirous of making the history of Roman drama appear to run parallel to the Aristotelian account of Greek comedy. There have also been guesses at an intermediate source, such as Accius or Varro, for Livy’s passage. The whole intricate question cannot be argued or even fully stated here; but the traditional position has not lacked defenders against sceptical attacks. If—what cannot be said to be unanimously conceded—there was no such thing as dramatic satura, then satura in its sense of a critical miscellany begins with Ennius; and whether this typically Latin literary form had a dramatic ancestry or not, it exhibited throughout its course no little share of dramatic quality.

For centuries the Romans, amid struggles for civic privileges and economic fairness, underwent the best imaginable political training, just as outside their city they underwent constant training in war. If there was scant time for the poetic, they learned much concerning the duties of citizenship and the operation of law. Though the moulding of prose for written composition or finished utterance was slow, still, before 240, solid foundations were laid in documents at the outset mostly of an official nature. Priestly commentarii and acta, the calendar, fasti recording consulates or triumphs, the annales of the Pontifex Maximus, the Twelve Tables dating from c. 450 BC, and other legal codifications like the ius Papirianum and the ius Flavianum, all bear testimony to the development of formal expression. In time the proved value of records was sure to point towards connected history, even though annalistically wooden to begin with. Like religion, law insisted on the mot juste and on definite, if at first awkwardly expressed, formulae. The Twelve Tables, learned by rote in schools till Cicero’s days, influenced the mode of conveying thought; but, despite their utility in later life, a boy would declare them arid and unimaginative alongside the Odyssey, the rival school-book introduced by Andronicus. The jerkiness of the legal text is seen in the following extracts on the justifiable homicide of a burglar: ‘If the debtor is summoned to court, he must go: if he does not, let one get witnesses, then seize him. If he plays false and takes leg bail, lay a hand on him: if illness or age be the default, let him give a beast of burden’. Towards oratory the stimulus came from occasions of domestic bereavement calling for a laudatio funebris, which tended to replace the nenia, or from national crises. Politics and especially political conflict, as Tacitus reminds us, inevitably fostered public speaking.





Most of the verse and prose so far considered may be called raw material—promise rather than fulfilment. It is as useless to speculate whether fine literary art could have sprung from indigenous germs alone as to ask why Etruscans or Oscans never developed a literature. Our present concern is to sketch the operation of Greek influence upon Rome, and to consider what the individual genius of early Latin writers achieved towards fusing the two streams of Hellenic precedent and Roman tradition. The manifold changes between 240 and 100 bc could not fail to affect deeply the native genius. The quick elevation into world­power, the accretion of riches and luxury, the decline of agriculture, and the eventual democratic inroad upon the ancient primacy of the Senate brought in their train serious responsibilities which worked as a disturbing ferment in politics and society. The magnitude of the change in external relations, in internal politics, and in social conditions may be grasped from the historical features of the period. Here it is essential to lay stress on the stimulus given to intellectual and aesthetic advance in Rome by Greece and the Greeks.

Greece, whose literature manifested the superiority of simple, concise, restrained beauty over complicated, verbose, extravagant formlessness, had in a spirit of triumphant adventure travelled for centuries far beyond the experimental stage at which a Latin writer found himself about 240 bc. Greece had attained to unsurpassed eminence in the main divisions of literature—in epic, lyric, drama both tragic and comic, history and oratory: she had won results of permanent value in philosophy, criticism, science and medicine. If in her politics the communal spirit had been too stringently limited to the conceptions of the city-state, she had bequeathed imperishable ideas of constitutional government and of individual liberty. The introduction of Greek writings into Rome implied an extraordinary confluence of currents. The Romans, at an epoch of exhilarating victory, but as yet innocent of elevated artistic creation, were confronted with this splendidly varied literature. Everything might seem to have been already felt, known, expressed in such a galaxy of letters, which in all its phases had long since risen to its zenith, but which even in its decline, whether at Athens or Alexandria, was for the relatively un­tutored Roman rich in patterns of aesthetic construction and style.

There is nothing in literary history comparable with the opening of Roman eyes to the potentialities of such a vista. Just as the international horizon had widened, there now dawned a revelation of new worlds of thought and of creative artistry, presenting the far-off heroic age, the lyric utterance of reflection or love, the problems in the drama of human life, the record of political clash or momentous wars, as well as philosophical inquiries into the meaning of the universe and into the bases of the State and of morality. The Latin author could and did find models in all periods of this literature from its alpha to its omega. At the outset, Andronicus shows the influence of Homer, of the Attic drama, and of the New Comedy side by side. Indeed, the latest phases of Greek literature, being nearest in time, were likely to make the most direct appeal. Although under the catastrophes of Greece literature had lost the old sureness of touch and sublimity of tone, it had yet in it much to reinforce the expansion of spirit already begun in Rome. The cosmopolitanism and individualism of the New Comedy struck fresh notes for a Roman mind. To watch a Plautine play was to get a novel sensation of imaginary contact with social life at Athens, with money­making journeys in the archipelago, or with the Orient, from which soldiers of fortune came home to boast, like the Miles Gloriosus, of adventures as campaigner and gallant.

Not in all its spheres, however, did Greek activity capture the Roman with equal immediacy. Greeks had lavished their keen energy of brain on literature, art and philosophy: with a free instinct for beauty, they had been unafraid lest thought might prove a deterrent to action. The Roman never quite renounced a shy suspicion that thinking might impede doing. The insistent call of utility, while it explains why art came slowly up the Roman way, also explains a recurrent distrust of philosophers, as well as explicit warnings that it is judicious to dip but not to plunge into philosophy. Yet, after all, one of the greatest gifts of Hellas to the western world was its faith in ideas which stimulated the use of pure intellect and the enjoyment of beauty—something that for Latin literature ensured an ascent above the level of folk-song, heroic lays, proverbial wisdom, rustic mumming and dry annals into art more aesthetic and universal. So Greece won her immortal revenge for political overthrow when the elegant elasticity of her culture mastered her conquerors. This was the domination of a wider and subtler spirit, inherited from a long past, over a circumscribed and less sophisticated spirit; but it was no enslave­ment, because the traditional sense and moral dignity of Rome served in turn to mould what was borrowed. It was well that the almost embarrassing wealth of Greek literature, instead of paralyzing effort, actually provoked a vigorous appropriation from originals which at first it lay beyond the power of imitators to rival. The task before a Latin author was to make this heritage vitally expressive for a different civilization and towards this end to shape a comparatively formless language into a finished instru­ment destined even in the Middle Ages to preserve for a Greekless Western Europe some essentials in the Hellenic legacy. If the Roman ethos excelled in war, administration and engineering, there was also, if not genius, at any rate an infinite capacity for taking pains, underlying the pioneer efforts which fitted to contemporary needs the best that was available from Greece. Appius Claudius’ saying that ‘every one is the fashioner of his own fortune’ can be transferred to a people who with their talent for expansion combined an impressive power of assimilation.

Before examining the reaction of Latin writers to Greek example, we have to look at certain other channels of Hellenism. Commercial, diplomatic and military dealings with Hellenes in Italy, Sicily and Greece itself, caused a prolonged infiltration of foreign things, words and ideas. In 282 bc the Roman envoy Postumius was able to address the Tarentines in their own language, and Pyrrhus’ emissary, Cineas, needed no interpreter in the Roman Senate two years later. The establishment of the Ludi Apollinares in 212 and of the cult of Cybele in 205 illustrates the operation of what was not merely mythology but religion. Greek opulence came home to the popular mind on occasions like Flamininus’ triumph in 194 for victories over Philip V of Macedon, regarding which Plutarch quotes Tuditanus’ testimony to the gorgeous spoils paraded. Objects of art grew familiar: in 212 Marcellus brought an imposing array of statues and pictures from Syracuse; Capua on its recapture next year was stripped of its art; from Tarentum, ransacked by Q. Fabius in 209, there came the colossal Heracles by Lysippus. Where, as at Syracuse, opportunity offered for seeing masterpieces of sculpture, and of drama in plays by Euripides and Menander, Romans could not but awaken to their backwardness in plastic and literary skill. To those who had eyes to see some aesthetic education was thus inevitably conveyed, though the soldier-consul Mummius in 146 might prove himself so incapable of valuing unique master­pieces in Corinth as to bargain naively with his contractors that any damaged in transport to Rome should be made good. This constant stream of beauty was augmented by the royal treasures of Pergamum in 133 bc.

Other instruments of culture were books. When in 167 Aemilius Paullus brought to Rome the library of Perseus of Macedon, he reinforced the action of Greek erudition on savants and particularly on the circle of Aemilianus, Paullus’ son, who had been adopted into the Scipio family. By this time Greeks had taken an active part in many spheres of Roman life for some generations: household slaves, teachers, architects, musicians, ship-captains, and physicians were largely Greek. According to Cassius Hemina, the first practising doctor in Rome was Archagathon, a Peloponnesian, whose popularity waned when his ruthless surgery earned him the nickname of ‘executioner’. The intransigent Cato himself could not avoid Hellenic infection: the sentiment, for instance, cited from his Origines by Cicero, that the employment of leisure by eminent men should be as important as their work, looks quite Roman but is really from Xenophon. Nothing, however, rooted Hellenism more firmly at Rome than education. Greek professors directed the study of the principles of expression through grammar and rhetoric, the study of consummate examples of Greek poetry, history and oratory, and the study of the great systems of Hellenic thought. By 173 BC two Epicureans had become sufficientlysuspecttobe banished, and in 161 an edict went forth against some resident rhetors and philosophers. Yet nothing—neither senatorial decree nor Catonian fulmination—could check the inrush.

A few occurrences within a dozen years may be adduced for their significance. The first happened about the time when the Macedonian library was conveyed to Rome. One thousand Achaean hostages, men of social standing, were deported to Italy and lodged at various centres. Among these influential exiles was Polybius, a traveller and a thinker, who expressed admiration for the Roman character in a broad-minded history of the times. His influence in determining the Greek studies of nobles and authors, like Terence and Lucilius, in the younger Scipio’s circle, was strengthened by Panaetius, who had been invited from Greece to expound one of the most impressive of ancient philosophies, Stoicism. The Stoic creed, through magnifying virtue, found a response in the semi-puritanical austerity of Roman gravitas. Its effect on society was immediate, while its imprint on law, that typical monument of Roman genius, was destined to be ineffaceable. Scipio’s own training in Greek records embodying historical experience and political wisdom equipped him to be at once the literary patron of his day and a sagacious discerner of dangers threatening the State from unbridled imperialism, pleasure-hunting, cupidity, celibacy and social weaknesses such as his friend Lucilius satirized. Yet by a strange irony it fell to this lover of cultured moderation to carry through the destruction of Carthage and Numantia. Another event fraught with far-reaching consequences was the visit paid to Rome by Crates as envoy from Attalus of Pergamum. He broke his leg in the city, and during his convalescence delivered lectures on ‘Grammar’ in the broad sense of literature. His treatment was fresh in contrast with the deadly dullness of Alexandrian pedants.

The next suggestive event was the arrival in 155 of three philo­sophers deputed from Athens to plead for remission of a fine. The trio consisted of Critolaus the Peripatetic, Diogenes the Stoic, and Carneades the Academic. They did more than represent three schools: they illustrated different styles of oratory; for Gellius quotes, on the authority of Rutilius and Polybius, the reports that Critolaus spoke with art and polish (scita et teretia), Diogenes with restraint and sobriety (modesta et sobria), Carneades with vehemence and force (violenta et rapida). We can infer that the visit left its mark on systematic thought and on oratorical composition. Carneades made a particularly inter­esting figure. A professed Academic, he was an apostle of probability, rather than dogmatism, in the realm of intellect and conduct. His adroit eclecticism might well attract some Romans as sound sense, but his applied scepticism was certain to shock others as subversive of truth and morality. We learn without surprise that Cato clamoured for an unceremonious dismissal of the deputation. But new manners had come to stay at Rome: already for three generations Menandrian laxities had been witnessed on the comic stage.





Livius Andronicus (c. 284-204 bc) has importance out of all proportion to his surviving fragments—not a hundred lines altogether, and no passage over three lines long. Into mistakes about his date made by Jerome and before Jerome, certainly by Accius and possibly by Suetonius, we need not enter. There are well-attested facts to secure his place in Roman epic and education, drama and lyric. Brought a slave-boy to Rome on the capture of Tarentum in 272, this ‘half-Greek,’ to use Suetonius’ term, had nearly all his Latin to learn. Recollections of the gay Tarentine enthusiasm for the theatre may have prompted his study of Athenian dramatists; and he must have utilized such study in teaching the children of his master Livius Salinator. If Andronicus cannot be proved to have been exactly a schoolmaster, he unquestionably exercised a potent influence on schools. We may imagine two questions often crossing his mind—why had Romans no literary text in Latin for school-reading to relieve the drab monotony of the Twelve Tables? and why had they no plays such as his own people enjoyed at Tarentum? He was to supply both wants. A stroke of genius sent him to the Odyssey, which he latinized by employing the Saturnian metre and by introducing Roman turns of thought and typical Italian words or forms like Camena, Mercurius and Ulixes. While the Odyssey was both romantic and domestic in interest, perhaps the homelier scenes in Ithaca held a Roman as much as the thrilling adventures, and its deities propitious or hostile fitted Roman religious conceptions. But in this pioneer transplanting of Homeric epic no approach to a varied Virgilian colour is to be expected. The translation, sometimes exact, is at other times defective or overfull or erroneous. Virum mihi, Camena, insece versutum renders with adequacy the familiar opening Avδpa μoι έvveπe Moϋσα πoλύτπρoπόν; but ore, later, makes a weak substitute for ‘the barrier of the teeth’ (Od. 1, 64); and topper facit homines ut prius fuerunt, ‘quick she (Circe) turns them to men as they were before’, alters the original sense. Scaliger considered that in affatim edi, bibi, lusi, the lusi was a misunderstanding of the Greek; the four words, however, may be from a comedy. By calling Livius’ Odyssia an opus Daedali Cicero suggests its earliness and strange craftsmanship; for the author’s task involved a wrestle with a language not his mother-tongue and a metre never before put to so continuous a test. Horace, though a stickler for polish, refrained from advocating the expulsion of Livius’ translation from schools: clearly he credited the rough Saturnians with living force despite a juvenile grudge against them and a critical disdain for their lack of Augustan refinement.

It may have been this provision of a good literary reader that drew upon Andronicus, now a freedman, the notice of the aediles in 240. Here was the man to vary a Roman holiday with tragedy and comedy. Thus his career as dramatic adapter and actor­manager began in the prime of his life. The titles of nine of his tragedies are accepted: three comedies are represented by scraps, and in two cases by uncertain titles. In tragedy Sophoclean models attracted him, and titles such as Achilles, Aegisthus, Aiax, Equos Troianus, prove his belief in the Trojan cycle as up-to-date material for the stage. It was but recently in Sicily that the Romans first encountered the pleasant fable that their ancestors had long ago come from Troy. The dramatic activity in Rome, particularly the flourishing of comedy, which continued during the grim struggle against Hannibal, may be at first sight surprising. Yet there was method in a governmental policy which sanctioned popular amusement at festival-times to counteract the effect of repeated disasters in war. It was the Senate that voted funds to furnish plays, and, if these exhibited a questionable morality, the more puritanical senators might argue that they were at most permitting the erection of a temporary stage. Archaic in style, Andronicus’ plays were dismissed by Cicero as not worth a second reading. But this is not the last word, and does injustice to his great services as an innovator. Increase of metrical skill is evident where he had to use iambic, trochaic and lyric measures. Examples retaining the native alliteration may be quoted:

turn autem lascivum Nerei simum pecus

ludens ad cantu. classem lustratur [chore] :

‘Then Nereus’ wanton snub-nosed flock in fun

Frolic to music choir-like round the fleet’s

or his rapid septenarius

Confluges ubi conventu campum totum inumigant:

‘When the waters in their concourse congregate to flood the plain.’

The creation of a literary diction is evident in phrases like florem Liberi for ‘wine’, or the abstract expression for ‘a mother’s milk’ in lacteam immulgens opem. To mark the old poet’s lyric ability in composing the carmen of 207 bc the state decreed the foundation on the Aventine of an Athenaeum for scribae and histriones, a combined club and academy of letters.

A still more original genius was the Italian-born Cn. Naevius (c. 270-c. 199 bc). He was daringly independent in his public criticism; he set the fashion of ‘contaminating’ two borrowed plots into a new play; the first to handle Roman subjects in tragedy, he began the fabula praetexia with his Alimonia Romuli et Remi and Clastidium (commemorating Marcellus’ fight in 222 bc against a Gallic chieftain); finally, he chose for epic treatment a national theme—the First Punic War, in which he served. His earliest piece was played in 235. We know of seven tragedies by him from Greek mythology, and about five times as many comedies. Enough is left of his Lycurgus to make us wish for more of this drama on the theme of Euripides’ Bacchae : his forte, however, lay in lighter plays, where the Campanian arrogance assigned to him found vent in satiric ridicule. The Colax, a Menandrian comedy, shows that he shares such Greek characters as the swash­buckler (Gladiolus) with Andronicus and Plautus: some titles, e.g. Colax, are Greek: several, e.g. Carbonaria or Nervolaria (sc. Fabula) have the Latin ending familiar in Mostellaria and other plays by Plautus. The Hariolus, to judge by its passage about dainty dishes fit to set before the folk of Praeneste or Lanuvium, looks like a drama of native life (togata); and we have missed genuine fun in losing ‘The Girl from Tarentum’, Tarentilla, from which comes the lively delineation of a flirt with several strings to her bow. A man of irrepressible self-confidence and democratic leanings, Naevius might have taken as motto his line ‘at the festival of Bacchus shall our words flow frank and free (libera lingua loquemur ludis Liberalibus). Frankness of speech, according to a famous story, brought him into conflict with the noble Metelli, when his ambiguous senarius fato Metelli Romae fiunt consules evoked the Saturnian rejoinder dabunt malum Metelli Naevio poetae. Doubt has been thrown on the authenticity of the lines and on the story about Naevius’ consequent incarceration; but, though a parallel case of punishment for criticism of political personages in republican times may be hard to find, it is reasonable to suppose that during war some over-zealous praetor of the Scipionic party strained a clause of the Twelve Tables on offensive carmina to bring Naevius within its scope.

The Bellum Punicum was the work of his advanced years. Its earlier portion (the division into seven books is due to Lampadio) relates the legendary origins of Rome; for he does not plunge in medias res. Later, when he reaches the Punic War, the fact that he was an eyewitness of certain events gives him historical value. His literary position is intelligible if he is viewed as the last Saturnian poet. Despite experience in naturalizing Greek metres, he selected the native verse for his epic, a choice scarcely im­aginable unless it had been already used for narratives of some dimensions. But, while we learn from Macrobius and Servius how much Virgil borrowed from Naevius, the fragments are disappointingly bald. ‘Valerius the consul led a portion of his army on an expedition’ may be our unique record of a military movement in Sicily; but it is even less poetic than the English lines about that ‘noble Duke of York’ who had ten thousand men. It is but a rugged force that appears in his alliterative vicissatim volvi victoriam on the ‘turns of the tide in triumphs’ or in the lines which we owe to Festus’ interest in the word stuprum with the general sense of ‘dishonour.’ They describe the gallant disdain felt by the entrapped remnant of Regulus’ army for terms of surrender:

seseque ei perire marvolunt ibidem

quam cum stupro redire ad suos popularis.

The tragedies show more poetic feeling: a few memorable senti­ments have survived (e.g. male parta male dilabuntur and laudari a laudato viro). Compounds like arquitenens, frundiferos, suavisonum and thyrsigerae mark the divergence from spoken Latin. His contribution to style is one of the claims made in the Saturnian epitaph, which he is credited with having written:

Were it heaven’s will that the immortals weep

For mortal men, our goddesses of song

Must weep to lose the poet Naevius.

When he was ta’en to Orcus’ treasury

Folk lost the power of Latin speech at Rome.


Q. Ennius (239-169), born at Rudiae in Calabria, served in the Roman army after his education at Tarentum, and in 204 was brought by Cato to Rome. There he taught Greek and followed the fashion of adapting Attic tragedies (Jabulae crepidatae). Intimate with the Scipios and the Fulvii, he accompanied Fulvius Nobilior on his Aetolian campaign, and through his son received citizenship (nos sumti Romani qui fuimus ante Rudini). A Southerner with ‘three hearts’, he said, Oscan, Greek and Roman, he grew enamoured of the greatness of his adoptive city. Although he modelled quite twenty tragedies on Greek plays, put much Greek thought into Latin dress, and introduced the hexameter, it was his epic, ‘the tale of the years’ (Annales) which earned him for generations the affectionate reverence of Rome. To say without qualification that Ennius hellenized Roman literature is to overlook his intense absorption of the national spirit. His Latin reproduction of some of the finest plays of Sophocles and Euripides during the first two decades of the second century, when Rome was using a Hellenic policy to checkmate Macedon, may have materially aided the national policy. His Sabinae, and perhaps the Ambracia, dramatized episodes in Roman history. Comedy he attempted slightly, but he wrote a good deal of miscellaneous work. His saturae (iambic, trochaic, hexametric and sotadic) contained anecdotes such as the fable of the lark and her young, designed to teach the moral:

This will be a proved conclusion always close at hand for you—

Never look for friends’ assistance in what you yourself can do.

Though enthusiastically receptive of Roman traditions, Ennius was a fresh force in thought as well as in metre. In South Italy, he had imbibed ideas from Pythagoreanism, Epicureanism and Euhemerism, while the rationalistic spirit of Euripides led him back to the sceptical outlook of the Sicilian Epicharmus. The fruit appeared in his minor works—Epicharmus, the beginning of dream literature in Latin, and Euhemerus, on gods as deified men. Quotations from the latter in Lactantius suggest that there we have echoes of a prose work by Ennius written in an unpretentious style with a well-marked rhythm. Morality was preached in the Protrepticus and gastronomy in the Hedyphagetica, a ‘Gourmet’s Guide’ based on Archestratus of Gela. The quotation nunquam poetor nisi si podager from Ennius and his recorded death from gout may support Horace’s allusion to the inspiration which he found in his cups.

A critical spirit invades his plays. He loves the sententious element in his originals, knowing that it would make unerring appeal to the Roman mind. One of his iambic adaptations will illustrate this:

Kindly to point a wanderer to the way

Is but to light another’s lamp from ours:

Ours glows no less for setting his aflame.

(nilo minus ipsi lucet, cum illi accenderiti)

But, with his fondness for Greek speculation, he is not content simply to transplant a safe proverbial wisdom. There is a turn for satiric observation in the trochaics of the Telamo jesting at fortune­telling impostors who

             Point the highroad to another, though a path they cannot see.

From the same play comes an Epicurean denial of Providence:

’Tis my creed both now and ever—there are gods beyond the skies;

But I hold they never trouble what we human beings do,

Else the good would thrive and villains wither—which is far from true!

(nam si curent, bene bonis sit, male malis—quod nunc abest)

His version of the opening of Euripides’ Medea possesses a vic­torious beauty of its own, in the vain sigh over the building of the Argo and over the quest for the Golden Fleece, harmoniously leading up to two lines of wonderful pity for the heroine as a victim of unrequited self-sacrifice—the princess Medea, who is called by a subtly symbolic word-play an era errans,

In her sick heart wounded by ruthless love.

(Medea animo aegro amove saevo saucial)

A passage from the Iphigenia has an effective anapaestic movement, which may be rendered:

Say, what of the night in the resonant height

Of the shield of the sky? The Wain is on high,

Driving star after star from near and from far,

Along the road sped of the night overhead.

The eighteen books of Annales recounted in hexameters (of which 600 survive) the story of Rome. Here was a gallery of valorous heroes and ideal virtue. In this poem, which began with an invocation to the Greek Muses whose feet do great Olympus tread ’, there was much to thrill the patriotic Roman—the coming of Trojan Aeneas, the auspicious dream of his Vestal daughter Ilia, the fortunes of her twin boys, the founding of the city, the mysterious assumption of Romulus, all in the first book, to be followed by regal legends, figures like Numa, Ancus Marcius, the Tarquin, and so on to dangers from Samnite or Epirote. ‘Who can unfold the mighty tracts of war?’ (quis ports ingentes or as evolvere belli?) he asks, conscious of his lofty theme. In dispensing himself from narrating the First Punic War he made an allusion meant for Naevius’ Saturnians:

                                    Others have writ the tale

In verse which whilome elves and warlocks crooned

When no man yet had scaled the Muses’ scaurs

Or felt the lure of style.

The eighth and ninth were the Hannibalic books, and the fifteenth had the personal interest of sketching the Aetolian War. The mystic vein of a poet who believed himself Homer reincarnate found freest outlet in the earlier books, where Ilia’s dream is a fair example. While, however, he can express feeling as in the farewell to Romulus, and has an eye for colour, it cannot be pretended that there is sustained beauty in the narrative: rough and caesuraless lines with a plethora of spondees and uncouth forms often spoil all musical effect, while there are lapses into the prosaic, such as septingenti sunt paulo plus aut minus anni. Yet Roman memories cherished the undeniable dignity of many old-fashioned verses such as those on the masterly inactivity of Fabius Cunctator, unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem; on an invincible general, quem nemo ferro potuit superare neque auro; on a nation that never knew defeat, qui vincit non est victor nisi victu’ fatetur; and on the secret of national strength, moribus antiquis res stat Romana virisque (‘Rome’s pillars are old customs and her men’). The few elegiac verses ascribed to him are of a memorial character—sepulchral tributes to Scipio or to his own position in poetry:

Let none shed tears—none for my passing grieve:

I flit upon the lips of men and live.





T. Maccius Plautus (c. 254—184 bc), an Umbrian, is the first Latin writer whose genius can be judged by complete surviving works, and the first who restricted himself to a single métier. When after hardships in Rome he found his true vocation, he amused his contemporaries in a succession of plays, all the more natural for his experience in life and his practical acquaintance with the theatre. So strong was his popular appeal that 130 pieces circulated under his name and a notable Plautine revival on the stage took place in Terence’s time. Nothing is more likely than that he anticipated his eighteenth-century compatriot Goldoni in comic fertility, and that many of his plays have perished. Scholars like Accius and Aelius Stilo busied themselves with his text, and Varro drew up a canon of twenty-one genuine plays, which correspond with those now extant, except that the Vidularia is in fragments and some others have gaps. Only a few can be dated exactly. The Miles Gloriosus, which seems to allude to Naevius’ imprisonment (211—212), must have been written about 205 bc; and the Cistellaria preceded the close of the Hannibalic War, as is plain from its advice given through the god Auxilium to the Romans :


Farewell: may victory crown you evermore

By veriest valour won, as heretofore!

Bind fast your allies, old or new: secure

Fresh aid in warfare by your justice pure.

Lay low your foemen: laud and laurels gain:

Let conquered Carthage pay the price in pain!


Most of the surviving plays, however, belong to the first fifteen years of the second century.

The New Comedy, from which Plautus mainly drew, has been described. We can name some of his lost originals by Diphilus, Demophilus, Menander and Philemon, and guess plausibly at others. But these models were not slavishly followed, nor does any one formula fit the adaptations or contaminations. Amid the predominant atmosphere of intrigue considerable variety in motive and incident is attained, and much is added by the author. One is unique, the Amphitruo, a tragi-comedy with an admixture of a South Italian type of humour, burlesquing the myth of Alcmena’s betrayal by Jupiter. Mercury, as Jupiter’s jackal, creates farcical merriment by getting himself up as a double of the slave Sosia. Yet the play has a spice of that serious element which, often overlooked amidst Plautus’ rollicking gaiety, is neverthe­less present to elevate his comedy to a higher level than mere jest; for the dignity of the wronged queen in contrast with the libertine Jupiter or the flippant Mercury stirs questioning reflection. Another stands alone, the Captivi, without any love element it turns on the self-effacing devotion of man to master through a dangerous impersonation. Its dénoument, a ‘recognition’ of two lost sons, is contrived differently from the recovery of a lost daughter in the Cistellaria, Epidicus and Rudens. The mistakes due to the confusion between twin brothers act as sure provocatives of laughter in the Menaechmi. Some plays gain from a psychological interest—the boastful Miles, the two faithful young grasswidows in the Stichus, a greedy meretrix and a repulsive profligate in the Truculentus. The miserly nervousness of Euclio in the Aulularia is not all caricature; the hardening of Hegio’s heart in the Captivi owing to the loss of his son is unpleasantly true to human weakness; the loyal friendship of old Callicles in the Trinummus for the absent Charmides, and, in the same play, the concern of Lysiteles for his intemperate comrade, and the fidelity of the slave Stasimus to the old house are winning traits effectively presented. But, no doubt, the changes are prevailingly though ingeniously rung on the smart trickery requisite in a slave (or in a parasite, Curculio) to secure money for a young master’s amour. The intrigue may be combined with a scheme to defeat an amorous greybeard (Bacchides, Casina, Mercator), or the turning­point may be the outwitting of a rapacious leno (Persa, Poenulus, Pseudolus, Rudens). The brazen ingenuity of Chrysalus in the Bacchides, Tranio in the Mostellaria, and Pseudolus in the clever play of that name compels an enjoyable amazement, although in the Epidicus the plot is so involved that modern taste will scarcely share Plautus’ own liking for it. The slave’s rascality and his familiarity with his master accorded rather with Greek custom. Nevertheless Rome transmitted this feature to live again in Les fourberies de S capin and the Danish drama of Holberg. The trickster is an engaging scamp who views himself as an artist in fraud :


The poet, taking tablets up, pursues

What nowhere is on earth, yet finds the same,

And turns a fib to semblance of the truth.

So now let me play poet: eighty pounds

That nowhere are on earth, I yet must find.


The parasite, though his Gargantuan raptures over a feast contain Plautine additions, was an imported figure. It was also a foreign fashion which conceded to a courtesan her prominent role. Presumably, therefore, the lost comedies on Roman life (togatae) laid more stress on normal domestic scenes and less on the illicit connections of the Hellenic stage. Certainly in the palliata married life is not made attractive: we meet in Eunomia of the Aulularia a sensible matron whose ironic humility towards the other sex is amusing, but in general the wives are shrewish. The housewife in the Asinaria keeps, not without reason, a tight hand over her husband and his money; and in the Casina, where an old fellow has become a perfumed dandy again since he grew infatuated with a young damsel, it is no wonder if his spouse proves ‘a surly Juno to her Jupiter,’ whom she calls ‘a worthless grey mosquito.’ The exposure of such slack-principled seniors, who believe in continuing to sow the wild oats of youth, shows that, if political satire was tabooed, the comedy of manners could indulge in social criticism. A definitely satiric picture is drawn in trochaics by the paedagogus Lydus when he shakes his head over the new-fangled doctrine of self-expression in education (Bacch. 438 sqq.):


In the past a youth took office chosen by the people’s vote

Ere he’d ceased his tutor’s precepts most obediently to note.

Nowadays, before he’s seven, if you give him but a smack,

 This young hopeful with his notebook straight his teacher’s crown will crack!

When you take the case to father, this is what he tells his son:

‘Show the family spirit, sonny, and stand up for number one!’

Next the tutor gets his summons: ‘Hey, you worthless dotard there!

Don’t you touch the boy for acting with an independent air....’

That’s the verdict—case is over! Can a pedagogue retain

On such lines control o’er others, if he first must feel the cane?


The cleavage between the Rome of the day and the Greek social world staged in the palliata served to flavour with piquancy a spectator’s enjoyment. While the drama transported him to distant surroundings, it enabled him, if Roman gravitas ran the risk of being unduly shocked, to look on with complacent superiority at depraved foreigners ‘going the whole Greek hog’ (pergraecari) in extravagance, amours and junketings, while slaves ventured on impudence inconceivable in a Roman household. The audience could remember that the scene was somewhere in the East—at Athens, Ephesus, or Cyrene. Yet a purely alien drama could not have kept hold on Roman playgoers. If society and scene were Hellenic, comedy had to reflect enough of universal human nature to guarantee its successful appeal. Besides, Plautus incorporated plentiful Roman colour. He may logically refer to the Roman law as barbarica (Capt. 492) or to a Roman artist as ‘a porridge-eating barbarian’ (Most. 828); but he does not trouble uniformly to be so strict. If it suits, an Aetolian town shall have one of the gates of Rome, or the Capitol shall be transported to Epidaurus. Greek slaves are threatened with Roman punish­ments, lora, furea or crux, or the place

Where naughty slaves grind barley-meal in tears,

The Whackland Islands, Ironclanky Isles,

Where dead ox-leather slashes living men.

Some jests have, it is true, a Greek flavour; a cook after a sound drubbing says ‘the old boy treated me like a gymnasium’, or Chrysalus affects a Socratic ignorance about money he means to steal. But much of the humour is Plautus’ own, drawn from ingenious inroads on the spoken language and from reminiscences of native drama to give the dialogue a natural swing, with an accumulated patter of synonyms and epithets not seldom abusive, with parodies, alliterations and puns. Then there is the typically Plautine fun of a boisterous order; the nerve-shattering pranks of the disguised male bride with an elephantine tread, the cock-a-hoop slave who makes his young master carry him on his back to celebrate their joint triumph in chicanery; the rowdy banging at doors, a piece of Tomic business’ handed on from Greek to modern times; the mutual buffetings of slaves; the itching of fists to be ‘tooth-crackers’while the menaced parasite fears for his ‘nut-crackers’; and the wild revels which cut short the promising psychology of the Stichus.

Nearly all the scheming turns ultimately on sexual passion: as Ovid has it, ‘Love comes in gay Menander’s every play’. It is, then, of interest to note Plautus’ attitude to so central a theme. That these attachments, where intentions might or might not be honourable, were usually romantic, no one will pretend: too often the chink of money can be overheard. The comic capital made out of them is obvious; but Plautus has a way of linking, as Menander did, the humorous with the serious: so his treatment of love varies. Half jocularly, half gravely, it is regarded as an incalculably risky adventure. Punning on amare and amarum a girl asks:

Is a bit of true love, tell me, but a bit of bitterness ?

to be answered

Heavens! Love is big with honey, honey mixed with gall galore—

Just a snack of sweets but heaps of bitter till you hold no more.

One friend delivers to another a homily on the dangers of love:

Love is like artillery-shooting: nothing has such speed or wings.

Mad and moody are the manners which this love to mortal brings:

Urge a lover—will he do it? Urge him not to, and he will!

When a thing is scarce, it’s longed for; when there’s plenty, wants are nil.

Warning-off appears inducement: good advice is shunned like sin.

’Tis insanely bad for travellers to put up at Cupid’s Inn.

The very friend thus lectured had earlier in the play uttered an unromantic farewell to love, serving on it notice of divorce.

Begone, O Love, take yours and go!

Henceforth be never friend to me:

Some you can hold in pain and woe—

The victims of your tyranny.

On the other hand, we have an impetuous lover’s serenade in cretics to a barred door.

Ho, you bolts! Ho, you bolts! to salute you is sweet:

I’m in love with you, want you, and crave and entreat.

Will you humour, my pretties, a lover’s desire,

And to help me, please, turn to a wild dancing choir?

Make a leap, I implore you, and bring to my sight

Her who drains the heart’s blood of this love-stricken wight... .

But just see how the blackguardly bolts won’t awake,

And don’t trouble to budge for a true lover’s sake!

The course of true love never did run smooth, and we find Philaenium arguing in trochaics against her mother’s sordid advice to throw her sweetheart over because he is short of money:


Daughter. Shall I pay my dues to duty, mother, if I mould my mind

And, to please you, play precisely every part by you defined ?. . .

Mother. Is it paying dues to duty not to do what mother says ?

Daughter. Mothers who do right are blameless; those who don’t I cannot praise.

Mother. What a chattering little baggage!

Daughter.    Mother, there’s my capital—

Wheedling tongue, attractive figure, fancy’s lure, the moment’s call.


Later, when the lovers meet and for the moment dread a final parting, even under the ‘laughing’ measure of the iambic septenarius the notes of feeling are discernible:


She. Where haste you?

He. Ah, farewell! In Death’s realm we’ll be meeting;

For I, as far as in me lies, from life must be retreating.

She. Why, prythee—what I don’t deserve—desire that Death should seize me?

He. What! I? Your deaths If you had need, no sacrifice could please me Like giving up my life for yours or making your life longer.

She. Why, then, against your threats of death the case for life grows stronger; For what d’you think that 1 shall do, if you do what you mention? To treat myself the selfsame way is fully my intention.

He. That’s sweet, quite honey-sweet, of you!

She. Without you life were frightful.

So kiss me.

He. Willingly.

She. Ah, so—the grave would be delightful.


This is not the place to discuss Plautine prosody. The clue to much of its difficulty, to its shortenings like domi or voluptatem, to its slurrings and hiatus, lies ultimately in the stress-accent of spoken Latin. Plautus was an independent versifier who made departures from Menander’s verse-technique even in the iambic senarius of his recitative (diverbium) while in the cantica sung to musical accompaniment, though their lineage may be traceable to the hilarotragoedia of Sicily and to the Euripidean monody, he exhibited a genuine originality and a steadily increasing lyrical skill.

After Plautus the palliata became more hellenized. Caecilius Statius (c. 219—166 bc), an Insubrian captive and the first Celtic author in Rome, chose Greek titles more often than not for his plays and so marks the transition to Terence. Gellius’ examination of his Plocium has been mentioned. Though Gellius preferred Menander, Caecilius was set highest among the ten Latin comic writers by the critic Sedigitus (c. 100 bc), and Varro awarded him the palm for plots. He retained stock characters like the slave, parasite and courtesan, and the quotation from his Heiress (Epicleros) in the de Amicitia indicates that the old gentleman of his stage was there traditionally to be cheated:

Today, beyond all greybeard fools in comedy,

You’ve choused and cozened me most handsomely.

Contemporary composers of palliatae were Trabea, commended by Varro for range of feeling; Atilius, who also wrote tragedy; Aquilius, author, it is likely, of a Boeotian Licinius Imbrex; and Luscius Lanuvinus, the ‘spiteful old poet’ with whom Terence in five of his prologues was at daggers drawn, and whose Menandrian adaptations he criticized for blunders. Though Terence himself was rather a literary than a popular success, the writing of palliatae lasted to the end of our period; for Turpilius, who died in 103, composed plays with exclusively Greek titles—Boethuntes (The Rescue), Hetaera (La Fille de Joie), Paraterusa (The Woman on the Prowl). Like Caecilius, he rehandled Menander’s Epicleros, and his Lady of Leucas was a burlesque on the story of Sappho.


We turn to the author who in Latin comedy approached most nearly to Attic grace. P.Terentius Afer (c. 195—159 bc), brought a slave to Rome, was educated and emancipated by his owner. Possibly his African origin recommended him to Scipio Africanus the younger: in any case, he enjoyed the intimacy of members of the Scipionic circle who, gossip alleged, did far more than make occasional contributions to the young foreigner’s dramas. The anecdote about the encouragement he got on reading his first play to Caecilius at dinner deserves to be true, but is no more guaranteed than his birth-year or the exact chronology of his plays. Between 166 and 160, drawing freely from Menander and to a less extent from Apollodorus and Diphilus, he produced under Greek titles The Girl from Andros, The Self-Punisher, The Eunuch, Phormio, The Brothers, and finally a play twice unsuccessfully tried on the stage, The Mother-in-Law. Throughout he had to contend with rival popular attractions and ill-natured strictures. He therefore used his prologues, not as dramatic introductions in Plautus’ way, but partly as explanations of his literary method, partly as polemics against unfair criticism. With a disarming modesty he owns his debt to Menander—a double debt, in truth, for those ingeniously contaminated plots at which contemporary critics cavilled. But what should it matter, he argues, if he did combine the Menandrian Andria and Perinthia, ‘he that knows the one as good as knows the other’—an acknowledgment of sameness which Menander might have scouted but which anticipates the feeling of some modern readers about Terentian comedy. In reality his deft interweaving of a twofold plot testifies to his originality and independence in craftsmanship. For his language he does not pitch his claim too high in what looks a frank confession of plagiarism, ‘naught here is said but has been said before.’ A justifiably emended form would run ‘what’s borrowed here was ne’er so well expressed’; for one of Terence’s charms lies in that terse simplicity to which the world owes many quotations expressing familiar thoughts like ‘many men, many minds,’ ‘fortune favours the brave,’ and ‘while there’s life, there’s hope.’

His world is Plautus’s—with a difference: its characters are more refined, more studied. The very grace of manner and expres­sion in this society makes its lapses more seductive. Young men in amorous difficulties have perhaps a little more initiative than in Plautus—they may seem less dependent on the callidus servus. but how unromantic the treatment is I In the Andria, though the play turns on Pamphilus’ passion for Glycerium and on the question who is to marry Chremes’ other daughter, yet the former girl appears only in the background and the latter not at all. Compared with Plautus, there is more dexterous plot-construction, more careful psychology, more finesse in language: there is, however, a falling off in vis comica and the gift of song. Terentian comedy awakes not laughter but thought: even smiles are rare. It is a serious and consistent attention to character-drawing which helps towards developing so well-knit a plot as that which in The Mother-in-Law leads through a network of cross-purposes to a half-cryptic conclusion. A spectator’s psychological interest is at once aroused and the dramatic keynote struck when Menedemus in The Self-Punisher is challenged by Chremes to reveal his reason for imposing field-labour on himself. Curiosity regarding a secret in his past is whetted when, by telling the solicitous inquirer to mind his own business, he evokes the most famous retort in Terence:

Men. Chremes, do your affairs leave you alone

To mind what’s others’ business, not your own?

Chr. I’m human: what’s a man’s affair is mine.

A few simple strokesbring out the airy cynicism of Phormio’s confidence that he can elude detection in impostures of the sort bequeathed to an English comedy like Vanbrugh’s Confederacy. A clever little scene occurs later in the Phormio where the dialogue satirizes the futility of friends’ advice by showing that even in a trio of counsellors there is con­fusion. It is with human sympathy that Terence loves to draw the easy-going character from several angles. There is a pleasant irony in the shrewd comment by the freedman Sosia on the agreeable disposition of young Pamphilus which his father has been praising:

How wise a start in life—he’s up to date.

Complaisance wins you friends, but frankness hate.

So the bigamist in the Phormio has drifted into his predicament more through weakness than through calculated villainy. Again in The Self-Punisher and The Brothers there is a contrast drawn between strictness and indulgence in handling the young. In­herent kindliness underlies Chremes’ character in the Andria, and a similar spirit distinguishes some of Terence’s women. Thais, the meretrix of the Dunuchus, with some of the possibilities of La Dame aux Camelias, has sparks of genuine feeling. Notably in The Mother-in-Law feminine interest predominates; for around the slighted bride, though she never appears, her bridegroom’s conduct revolves, as well as that of all four parents of the young couple: the two matrons and Bacchis, once the bridegroom’s mistress, are excellently portrayed.

Caesar’s well-known characterization of Terence as ‘Menander halved’ is not so much an exact arithmetical valuation as a reminder of his adroitness in weaving two dramas into one. His praise of Terence as ‘a lover of pure Latin’ (puri sermonis amator) indicates the value attached to sheer literary skill. The dramatist himself asked for applause on the score of sound idiom: clearly, then, professors of rhetoric had not taught in vain, when such a standard could be set up. Fundamentally it is the same quality which Cicero admired in him:

O Terence, you alone in choicest style

Have turned Menander into Latin speech.

With tones restrained you set him in our midst:

Much you refined, to all you lent a charm.

Mainly after Terence, and partly because of his literary aloof­ness, there set in a reaction in favour of togatae dramatizing the everyday life of Italy. Three names stand out here: Titinius, perhaps slightly senior to Terence; Afranius, an admirer of Menandrian and Terentian comedy; and Atta, who died in 77 bc. In this bourgeois drama, whose remains are regrettably scarce, women and family life played a great part, as the titles, no longer Greek, suggest. Among other plays Titinius composed A Lady Lawyer, A Twin Sister, A Step daughter; Afranius, from whom over forty titles survive, wrote The Girl He Ran Off With, Auction, Divorce, A Letter, and not only Husbands but in separate plays Sisters (Sorores), Cousins (Consobrini) and Aunts (Materterae). Atta’s titles include The Watering-Place, The Mother-in-Law (Socrus), Thanksgiving, and The Start of the Recruit. About the end of the period the Atellan farce was made more literary by Pomponius and Novius. Their adaptations of native drama, however, could not long hold their own against the coarse and lively mime imported from Greece through Southern Italy.


In tragedy the Ennian tradition descended through Ennius’ nephew Pacuvius (c. 220—c. 130 bc), a native of Brundusium, to Accius (170—c. 86 b.c.), who when young submitted his Atreus to Pacuvius for criticism. Neither of the two was so entirely specialist in tragedy as Plautus and Terence were in comedy; for Pacuvius, besides his praetexta entitled Paul(T)us, wrote saturae, and Accius, besides two national dramas, Brutus and Decius, produced work (including prose) on literary history and agriculture. But their strength lay in tragedy, and ancient opinion varied as to which of the two was the greatest tragic author of Rome. A list of titles, mainly from Sophocles and Euripides, and fragments amounting to several hundred lines cannot now give a sufficient basis for a decision between their merits. Certain qualities, however, stand out. A cumbrous pomposity in Pacuvius exposed him to Lucilius’ satire; and in imperial days, Persius, solemn young Stoic though he was, could not refrain from joking at his overstrained compounds or from burlesquing the elephantine legerdemain of his style in a reference to ‘wartful Antiopa in tribulation propping her dolorific heart.’ Critics found fair game in a description of dolphins as ‘Nereus’ turn-up-snouted bandy-throated herd’ (Nerei repandirostrum incurvicervicum pecus). But there was more in him than eccentric mannerism. The questioning trend of thought observable in Ennius is continued by the nephew: and Cicero testifies to his depth of feeling. An elegiac quatrain ascribed to him has caught the restrained neatness of a Greek epigram and is a modest epitaph compared with the claims made for Naevius, Ennius and Plautus:

‘Youth, though thou haste, this stone asks thee to heed

And look on it, then what is written read:

Here doth Pacuvius the poet lie

In death. I wished to tell thee this. Good-bye.’

Accius, born on the Celtic fringe of Umbria, wrote over forty tragedies. Like Pacuvius, but with departures from his plot, he treated in an Armorum Iudicium the fateful claim of Ajax to the arms of Achilles—a theme burlesqued in one of Pomponius’s Atellanes. Accius renders the Sophoclean prayer of Ajax for his son, virtuti sis par, dispppar fortunis fatris”. But his most immortal words are those from the Atreus—oderint dum metuant! At Rome republican sentiment kept such utterances alive. Descriptive power he distinctly possessed. The Medea gave a picture of the gigantic Argo, and a choral fragment can still transport one to a shore where the startled seabird circles among the resounding rocks with weirdly sardonic cry:

simul et circum merga sonantibus

excita saxis saeva sonando

crepitu clangente cachinnat.

For some plays, e.g. Philoctetes, all three of the great tragic poets of Greece were laid under contribution. He deserved equally with Pacuvius the coveted epithet doctus, for he was acquainted with Greek criticism (perhaps both Pergamene and Alexandrian) as well as with Greek drama. Faulty he may have been in chronology and trivial in his absurd contention that Hesiod preceded Homer; but the disappearance of his Didascalica, except for a few scraps, left a serious blank in literary history. Among its subjects were epic, drama (Greek and Roman) and theatrical apparatus. Accius is the last great name—and even he but a magni nominis umbra— in the chronicle of Latin tragedy. Plays continued to be written and staged in the Augustan age and later; but nothing has survived except Seneca’s declamatory dramas, more notable for influence than for intrinsic worth. The question how far Seneca knew or used these early tragic poets of Rome has received various answers. As to praetextae, neither Accius’s fame nor national interest kept them alive. They tended to degenerate into spectacular pageantry, if we may judge from Horace’s disdainful words about the ludicrous parade of capptiva Corinthus on the stage. Tragedy had to be more than a mere show of fallen kings or opulent spoil; and dramatic art could not flourish on a vulgar appeal to the eye. We know, however, of a few fraetextae in the first century ad, but the sole surviving example, the post-Neronian Octavia, cannot be expected to recall the notes of the lost republican drama.





Satire was a distinctively Roman invention in the sense of a poem, moderate in length, subjecting to raillery more or less easy­going any theme of public, moral or literary interest. The medley of subjects within its purview and its semi-conversational manner allied satire to prose: scraps of the common speech found an entry into it. Lucilius (180—102 bc), a native of Suessa Aurunca on the Campanian confines of Latium, called his writings sermones (‘talks’), and it was he who fixed the type of satire in the main and ultimately its metre, so that from him the other three eminent satirists of Rome, Horace, Persius and Juvenal, drew inspiration. His service under Scipio in 134—133 bc negatives his birth in 148, the date got from Jerome. The mistake is best rectified by supposing that Jerome confused the consuls of that year with the similarly named ones of 180. An Italian of good standing, Lucilius was in touch with the Scipionic circle: Scipio’s political enemies were his enemies and his butts. Possibly his invectives escaped the attention of the law because lampoons circulating in a friendly coterie did not constitute a public attack as the old Greek comedy did. There is no proof that he ever resided in Greece, though he was well acquainted with Greek manners and thought, and Clitomachus, head of the Academy at Athens, dedicated a work to him. Lucilius’ literary activity belonged to his later life, extending from 132 till his death thirty years after. His works were collected in a posthumous edition of thirty books, of which the last five had probably been the first issued in 123; but the whole chronology presents difficulties. Many of his 1400 complete or partial lines (mostly preserved by Nonius) have been patched together with varying plausibility by a series of scholars. Attempts have also been made to infer the themes of different satires in a given book. But while metrical reasons suggest, for instance, that, since Book 28 yields trochaic, iambic and hexametric quotations, it had at least three separate satires, yet transitions of thought are so abrupt in a satiric medley that different subject-matter does not necessarily imply a different satire. Caution is imperative when it is found that in Book 26 one scholar distinguishes three satires, another four, a third seven. Without problematic reconstruction, however, we may illustrate from the fragments of this book the diversity of his topics: it touches on aims in writing, on history, tragedy, marriage, luxury, management of life, literary squabbles. So with the rest: everything in human experience which might attract or offend this intensely critical ego went to constitute an astonishing miscellany. His own personality, too, interested the author so much that Horace admired the way in which the old man’s life (vita senis) stood out in his books as if in a picture. Frank self-disclosure had its counterpart in outspoken strictures on the grievances, abuses, shams and oddities of the Gracchan age. Aggressive personalities, a dramatic ring, and actual Aristophanic echoes link him in spirit with the old Attic comedy, and go towards justifying Horace’s too sweeping declaration of his dependence on Eupolis, Cratinus and Aristophanes. His indignant fervour was bequeathed to Persius and Juvenal. But he had a lighter vein. Jests were launched at Albucius’ Greek ways and at his style:

A smart compote de phrases like pavement-cubes

In wriggly lines inlaid mosaic-wise.

In Book I the amusing debate among the gods (whether Rome should perish or the unjust judge Lupus die) was a Naevian and Ennian device thus handed on to Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis : as in the imperial skit, Lucilius introduced the deities in senatorial fashion to parody the rhetoric of the day—‘how mankind worries, and how vain is all!’ (O curas hominum! O quantum est in rebus inane!). Book in contained the pattern for Horace’s Journey to Brundisium. The extant scraps of Lucilius’ Journey to the Sicilian Straits relate to muddy roads, the ups and downs of the route, places visited, a Syrian hostess, deficiencies in food—just teasingly enough to make us wish for the full tale. Elsewhere literary epistles handled questions of expression, grammar, orthography or the style of other poets. He allowed himself compounds like monstrificabile and contemnificus; but he seems to be glancing at Pacuvius in his verbs for a burglar’s raid, depoclassere (‘debeakerize’) and deargentassere (‘desilverplatize’). If those poems were none the better in Horace’s eyes for being written by Pompey’s grand-uncle, and if they fell short of the Horatian standard of elegance, still as an experiment Lucilius’ adaptation of the hexameter was not to be despised. Rambling talk was compatible with skill and vigour, while his final adherence to the hexameter was endorsed by its acceptance throughout Roman literature as the proper medium for satire.





An era of self-consciousness and reflection tended to produce prose as well as, though more slowly than, poetry. The task of history, the literary recreation of the past, was even harder than that of oratory. The pattern of the annales, an arid string of occurrences, made a deadening weight for experimenters in historical composition. In its earlier phases history was simply annalistic and, as a more critical age felt, nothing could be drier. A long way, then, had to be travelled before prose became either artistic or scientific; but the desire for improvement grew. Quintilian remarks that without advance on models Rome in his day would have had nothing better in history than the pontifical annals. This aim at a higher standard is evident in the distinction drawn by Sempronius Asellio (who served under Scipio in 134) between annals baldly recording events in order and history investigating motives and reasons. Shortly before 200 bc the first prose history of Rome from its origins was written. It was composed in Greek by the senator Fabius Pictor. For material he relied mainly on pontifical records, treaties, laws, family archives and oral tradition. That he used Greek was not entirely due to his recognition of the supremacy of the Greeks as historians: he had also a patriotic wish to produce an account of Rome’s wonderful rise which should be read by Greeks and impress the world. His not unnatural Roman bias incurs the censure of Polybius, who, however, acknowledges that veracity which won Fabius respect from Livy and the elder Pliny. The story of Romulus and Remus taken from him by Dionysius gives an inkling of his straightforward manner in narrative. It was probably a later Fabius who turned his work into Latin. Three other Roman historians used Greek—Cincius Alimentus (a man of military experience and one of Hannibal’s war-prisoners), whose annales from 729 bc were outlived by those of Fabius; Albinus, praetor in 155 (fifty years after Cincius), whose apology for his Greek did not deter Polybius from calling him a babbler; and Acilius (or Aculius) who started from the legendary age and was perhaps identical with the interpreter for the Athenian mission of 155. It is noticeable that, while the early poets were mostly strangers and of humble rank, the prose-writers were Romans of old family, themselves makers of history.

A great stimulus towards the development of Latin prose was given by M. Porcius Cato (234—149), ‘the Censor’, who stands in the forefront of a group of historians using their own language. Old-fashioned even in his own day to the verge of eccentricity, he transmitted to his great-grandson Cato ‘of Utica’ the traits of honesty, parsimony and intransigence. He did not confine himself to history. Affecting a brusque disdain for culture, he yet showed a rugged versatility in oratory and in encyclopaedic writings on law, medicine, war and agriculture, of which the last is well preserved. He addressed praecepta to his son and wrote verse on morals. Nepos tells us the subjects of the books of the lost Origines. I, the kings;II, III, the rise of Italian states, whence the title; IV, V, Punic Wars; vi, vii, later wars down to the plundering of Lusitania by Galba, whom Cato impeached in the year of his death, 149. From this speech, given in Origines vii, Gellius cites a passage verbatim. In contemporary history Cato neither spared political opponents nor failed to register his own deeds and words. But apart from insertions in the Origines which link together his oratorical and historical style, Cato’s speeches were published to the number of about 150, and just as they had been listened to for their pith and fire, so were they enjoyed in the reading. His oratory, as we should expect on the analogy of the extant de agricultura, was blunt and forcible: it ignored polish, but made palpable hits with its homely illustrations. The guiding principle lay in his maxim rem tene, verba sequentur, and the moral weight was conformable to his definition of an orator as vir bonus dicendi peritus. The artless, if not inartistic, effect in the tautological accumulation of words is seen in this exordium: multa me dehortata sunt huc pro dire, anni, aetas, vox, vires, senectus. His de agricultura, a quaintly interesting social document, was a handbook for the Italian farmer, and based, far from methodically, on personal notes. Its instructions on details of estate-management, on production of crops, live-stock, vines and olives, on the treatment of slaves, and on cures for ailments, constantly echo the ring of ancient Latin formulae of law or religion. The staccato imperative sentences smack of the Twelve Tables.

A group of Latin annalists, including several consuls, followed Cato. They were L. Cassius Hemina; L. Calpurnius Censorius Frugi, an anti-Gracchan, whose pleasant gift of narrative Aulus Gellius notes; C. Fannius; Vennonius; C. Sempronius Tuditanus, who treated of Italian aborigines and, like his contemporary M. Junius ‘Gracchanus,’ wrote upon magisterial powers; and Cn. Gellius, whose interest in such inventions as letters, mud-houses, and mineral medicines attracted the elder Pliny. A more eminent historian was Coelius Antipater, to whose special study of the Second Punic War Livy was beholden. Though he reached no high level in style , even his limited rhetoric marks a revolt against merely annalistic work. The interest in contemporary history is shown by the publication of the Letters of Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, and of memoirs by sundry public men. Other kinds of learning were also advanced, jurisprudence by the Scaevolae and their legal brethren, astronomy by Sulpicius Gallus (consul, 166) and natural history by Trebius Niger.

In oratory, little survives to illustrate a long list of speakers and speeches. For the most part, we must be content with Cicero’s skilled criticisms in the Brutus and through them discern a development from the rugged oratory of a Cethegus in the Second Punic War towards systematically grounded eloquence. Steady advance in technique was made on Cato, who, though well worth study, had by Cicero’s time come to be neglected as antiquated and harsh—too like the stiffness of archaic statuary. The three periods in pre-Ciceronian oratory were the Catonian; the Scipionic and Gracchan; and that of Antonius and Crassus. In the first, the funeral speeches by Fabius Cunctator on his son and by Q. Caecilius Metellus on his father circulated for a time; oratorical ability was shown by the elder Scipio, by Sempronius, the father of the Gracchi, and by Aemilius Paullus, who delivered a renowned speech on his Macedonian exploits. The increasing influence of Greek rhetoric is seen in the younger Scipio and Laelius, and then in the Gracchi as well as in their supporters or opponents. Scipio’s oratiunculae were among the studies of Marcus Aurelius: and in a climax like ex innocentia nascitur dignitas, ex dignitate honor, ex honore imperium., ex imperio libertas we note the progress towards variety of rhythm. Of the Gracchi, Gaius was more passionate than Tiberius, and, if too rapid for consummate finish, still the master of an intricate and harmonious period beyond the reach of Cato. M. Antonius and L. Crassus were the great orators in the generation before Cicero, and are introduced as chief interlocutors in the de Oratore. Perhaps a jealous patriotism led them to understate their debt to Greek theory and practice, but enough is left to prove that Greek models guided them in rhythm and arrangement. Antonius, expert in marshalling material, stressed an orator’s need for wide learning less than did Crassus, whose strength lay in style and delivery: on the other hand, the ideal standard of eloquence set up in Antonius’ single published treatise won Cicero’s approbation. Different in many ways, both left an impress on oratorical prose and shaped it further for the supreme touch of Cicero.

It may be claimed that unique interest attaches to a period when the foundations of Latin literature were well and truly laid. The Roman power of response to Greek epic, drama and prose, and Alexandrian erudition, has been everywhere manifest. If the imported hexameter eclipsed the native Saturnian, a national ring is unmistakable in the Ennian epic itself and explains its powerful attraction for Virgil. An equally national spirit pervaded Plautine anachronisms, Lucilian invective, serious praetextae, light togatae, history, law and eloquence. While we may view the period as an indispensable preliminary to the Golden Age, yet its own positive achievement deserves clear recognition. In language, advance was marked. At the outset, aspirants after artistic production had little, except archaic poetry, ritual chants, and legal formulae, to draw upon outside the common tongue. Two vitalizing forces, however, were operative: Greek was a stimulating model, and the fulness of the national life supplied sustenance. The prime material lay, notin a conventional vocabulary weakened through over-use or divorce from reality, but largely in the speech of ordinary folk. We come nearest to this sermo cotidianus in the rollicking dialogue of Plautus; but in general it made a memorable contribution to the earliest literary phases before a sublimated diction was evolved. Prose and verse alike owed a great debt to the varied features of colloquial Latin— its forthright strength, its preference for a forcible word over a feebler synonym, its penchant for long compounds (despite a liking for simplicity), its turn for diminutives, now tender, now disdainful, and its readiness to invigorate conversation by expressive novelties. Out of such material a long process of inventive refinement hammered the Latin of literature. In Ennius especially uncouthness is outshone by dignified utterance, sometimes indeed by a strange beauty which seems a harbinger of romance. Finally, as regards literary accomplishment, Roman drama may almost be said to have lived its life during this period; epic and satire took a form which influenced every Roman successor in these fields: in prose, miscellaneous learning, including criticism and philology, began its career alongside of notable development in oratory, history and law.