The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Etext Book III From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States - in the Public Domain
Literature and ArtThe influences which stimulated the growth of Roman literature were of a character altogether peculiar and hardly paralleled in any other nation. To estimate them correctly, it is necessary in the first place that we should glance at the instruction of the people and its recreations during this period.
Knowledge of LanguagesLanguage lies at the root of all mental culture; and this was especially the case in Rome. in a community where so much importance was attached to speeches and documents, and where the burgess, at an age which is still according to modern ideas regarded as boyhood, was already entrusted with the uncontrolled management of his property and might perhaps find it necessary to make formal speeches to the assembled community, not only was great value set all along on the fluent and polished use of the mother-tongue, but efforts were early made to acquire a command of it in the years of boyhood. The Greek language also was already generally diffused in Italy in the time of Hannibal. in the higher circles a knowledge of that language, which was the general medium of intercourse for ancient civilization, had long been a far from uncommon accomplishment; and now, when the change of Rome's position in the world had so enormously increased the intercourse with foreigners and the foreign traffic, such a knowledge was, if not necessary, yet presumably of very material importance to the merchant as well as the statesman. By means of the Italian slaves and freedmen, a very large portion of whom were Greek or half-Greek by birth the Greek language and Greek knowledge to a certain extent reached even the lower ranks of the population, especially in the capital. The comedies of this period may convince us that even the humbler classes of the capital were familiar with a sort of Latin, which could no more be properly understood without a knowledge of Greek than the English of Sterne or the German of Wieland without a knowledge of French.(1) Men of senatorial families, however, not only addressed a Greek audience in Greek, but even published their speeches--Tiberius Gracchus (consul in 577 and 591) so published a speech which he had given at Rhodes--and in the time of Hannibal wrote their chronicles in Greek, as we shall have occasion to mention more particularly in the sequel. Individuals went still farther. The Greeks honoured Flamininus by complimentary demonstrations in the Roman language,(2) and he returned the compliment; the "great general of the Aeneiades" dedicated his votive gifts to the Greek gods after the Greek fashion in Greek distichs.(3) Cato reproached another senator with the fact, that he had the effrontery to deliver Greek recitations with the due modulation at Greek revels.
Under the influence of such circumstances Roman instruction developed itself. It is a mistaken opinion, that antiquity was materially inferior to our own times in the general diffusion of elementary attainments. Even among the lower classes and slaves there was much reading, writing, and counting: in the case of a slave steward, for instance, Cato, following the example of Mago, takes for granted the ability to read and write. Elementary instruction, as well as instruction in Greek, must have been long before this period imparted to a very considerable extent in Rome. But the epoch now before us initiated an education, the aim of which was to communicate not merely an outward expertness, but a real mental culture. Hitherto in Rome a knowledge of Greek had conferred on its possessor as little superiority in civil or social life, as a knowledge of French perhaps confers at the present day in a hamlet of German Switzerland; and the earliest writers of Greek chronicles may have held a position among the other senators similar to that of the farmer in the fens of Holstein who has been a student and in the evening, when he comes home from the plough, takes down his Virgil from the shelf. A man who assumed airs of greater importance by reason of his Greek, was reckoned a bad patriot and a fool; and certainly even in Cato's time one who spoke Greek ill or not at all might still be a man of rank and become senator and consul. But a change was already taking place. The internal decomposition of Italian nationality had already, particularly in the aristocracy, advanced so far as to render the substitution of a general humane culture for that nationality inevitable: and the craving after a more advanced civilization was already powerfully stirring the minds of men. Instruction in the Greek language as it were spontaneously met this craving. The classical literature of Greece, the Iliad and still more the Odyssey, had all along formed the basis of that instruction; the overflowing treasures of Hellenic art and science were already by this means spread before the eyes of the Italians. Without any outward revolution, strictly speaking, in the character of the instruction the natural result was, that the empirical study of the language became converted into a higher study of the literature; that the general culture connected with such literary studies was communicated in increased measure to the scholars; and that these availed themselves of the knowledge thus acquired to dive into that Greek literature which most powerfully influenced the spirit of the age --the tragedies of Euripides and the comedies of Menander.
In a similar way greater importance came to be attached to instruction in Latin. The higher society of Rome began to feel the need, if not of exchanging their mother-tongue for Greek, at least of refining it and adapting it to the changed state of culture; and for this purpose too they found themselves in every respect dependent on the Greeks. The economic arrangements of the Romans placed the work of elementary instruction in the mother-tongue--like every other work held in little estimation and performed for hire--chiefly in the hands of slaves, freedmen, or foreigners, or in other words chiefly in the hands of Greeks or half-Greeks;(4) which was attended with the less difficulty, because the Latin alphabet was almost identical with the Greek and the two languages possessed a close and striking affinity. But this was the least part of the matter; the importance of the study of Greek in a formal point of view exercised a far deeper influence over the study of Latin. Any one who knows how singularly difficult it is to find suitable matter and suitable forms for the higher intellectual culture of youth, and how much more difficult it is to set aside the matter and forms once found, will understand how it was that the Romans knew no mode of supplying the desideratum of a more advanced Latin instruction except that of simply transferring the solution of this problem, which instruction in the Greek language and literature furnished, to instruction in Latin. in the present day a process entirely analogous goes on under our own eyes in the transference of the methods of instruction from the dead to the living languages.
But unfortunately the chief requisite for such a transference was wanting. The Romans could, no doubt, learn to read and write Latin by means of the Twelve Tables; but a Latin culture presupposed a literature, and no such literature existed in Rome.
The Stage Under Greek InfluenceTo this defect was added a second. We have already described the multiplication of the amusements of the Roman people. The stage had long played an important part in these recreations; the chariot-races formed strictly the principal amusement in all of them, but these races uniformly took place only on one, viz. the concluding, day, while the earlier days were substantially devoted to stage- entertainments. But for long these stage-representations consisted chiefly of dances and jugglers' feats; the improvised chants, which were produced on these occasions, had neither dialogue nor plot.(5) It was only now that the Romans looked around them for a real drama. The Roman popular festivals were throughout under the influence of the Greeks, whose talent for amusing and for killing time naturally rendered them purveyors of pleasure for the Romans. Now no national amusement was a greater favourite in Greece, and none was more varied, than the theatre; it could not but speedily attract the attention of those who provided the Roman festivals and their staff of assistants. The earlier Roman stage-chant contained within it a dramatic germ capable perhaps of development; but to develop the drama from that germ required on the part of the poet and the public a genial power of giving and receiving, such as was not to be found among the Romans at all, and least of all at this period; and, had it been possible to find it, the impatience of those entrusted with the amusement of the multitude would hardly have allowed to the noble fruit peace and leisure to ripen. in this case too there was an outward want, which the nation was unable to satisfy; the Romans desired a theatre, but the pieces were wanting.
Rise of a Roman LiteratureOn these elements Roman literature was based; and its defective character was from the first and necessarily the result of such an origin. All real art has its root in individual freedom and a cheerful enjoyment of life, and the germs of such an art were not wanting in Italy; but, when Roman training substituted for freedom and joyousness the sense of belonging to the community and the consciousness of duty, art was stifled and, instead of growing, could not but pine away. The culminating point of Roman development was the period which had no literature. It was not till Roman nationality began to give way and Hellenico-cosmopolite tendencies began to prevail, that literature made its appearance at Rome in their train. Accordingly from the beginning, and by stringent internal necessity, it took its stand on Greek ground and in broad antagonism to the distinctively Roman national spirit. Roman poetry above all had its immediate origin not from the inward impulse of the poets, but from the outward demands of the school, which needed Latin manuals, and of the stage, which needed Latin dramas. Now both institutions--the school and the stage--were thoroughly anti-Roman and revolutionary. The gaping and staring idleness of the theatre was an abomination to the sober earnestness and the spirit of activity which animated the Roman of the olden type; and--inasmuch as it was the deepest and noblest conception lying at the root of the Roman commonwealth, that within the circle of Roman burgesses there should be neither master nor slave, neither millionnaire nor beggar, but that above all a like faith and a like culture should characterize all Romans--the school and the necessarily exclusive school-culture were far more dangerous still, and were in fact utterly destructive of the sense of equality. The school and the theatre became the most effective levers in the hands of the new spirit of the age, and all the more so that they used the Latin tongue. Men might perhaps speak and write Greek and yet not cease to be Romans; but in this case they accustomed themselves to speak in the Roman language, while the whole inward being and life were Greek. It is not one of the most pleasing, but it is one of the most remarkable and in a historical point of view most instructive, facts in this brilliant era of Roman conservatism, that during its course Hellenism struck root in the whole field of intellect not immediately political, and that the -maitre de plaisir- of the great public and the schoolmaster in close alliance created a Roman literature.
Livius AndronicusIn the very earliest Roman author the later development appears, as it were, in embryo. The Greek Andronikos (from before 482, till after 547), afterwards as a Roman burgess called Lucius(6) Livius Andronicus, came to Rome at an early age in 482 among the other captives taken at Tarentum(7) and passed into the possession of the conqueror of Sena(8) Marcus Livius Salinator (consul 535, 547). He was employed as a slave, partly in acting and copying texts, partly in giving instruction in the Latin and Greek languages, which he taught both to the children of his master and to other boys of wealthy parents in and out of the house. He distinguished himself so much in this way that his master gave him freedom, and even the authorities, who not unfrequently availed themselves of his services--commissioning him, for instance, to prepare a thanksgiving-chant after the fortunate turn taken by the Hannibalic war in 547--out of regard for him conceded to the guild of poets and actors a place for their common worship in the temple of Minerva on the Aventine. His authorship arose out of his double occupation. As schoolmaster he translated the Odyssey into Latin, in order that the Latin text might form the basis of his Latin, as the Greek text was the basis of his Greek, instruction; and this earliest of Roman school-books maintained its place in education for centuries. As an actor, he not only like every other wrote for himself the texts themselves, but he also published them as books, that is, he read them in public and diffused them by copies. What was still more important, he substituted the Greek drama for the old essentially lyrical stage poetry. It was in 514, a year after the close of the first Punic war, that the first play was exhibited on the Roman stage. This creation of an epos, a tragedy, and a comedy in the Roman language, and that by a man who was more Roman than Greek, was historically an event; but we cannot speak of his labours as having any artistic value. They make no sort of claim to originality; viewed as translations, they are characterized by a barbarism which is only the more perceptible, that this poetry does not naively display its own native simplicity, but strives, after a pedantic and stammering fashion, to imitate the high artistic culture of the neighbouring people. The wide deviations from the original have arisen not from the freedom, but from the rudeness of the imitation; the treatment is sometimes insipid, sometimes turgid, the language harsh and quaint.(9) We have no difficulty in believing the statement of the old critics of art, that, apart from the compulsory reading at school, none of the poems of Livius were taken up a second time. Yet these labours were in various respects norms for succeeding times. They began the Roman translated literature, and naturalized the Greek metres in Latium. The reason why these were adopted only in the dramas, while the Odyssey of Livius was written in the national Saturnian measure, evidently was that the iambuses and trochees of tragedy and comedy far more easily admitted of imitation in Latin than the epic dactyls.
But this preliminary stage of literary development was soon passed. The epics and dramas of Livius were regarded by posterity, and undoubtedly with perfect justice, as resembling the rigid statues of Daedalus destitute of emotion or expression--curiosities rather than works of art.
But in the following generation, now that the foundations were once laid, there arose a lyric, epic, and dramatic art; and it is of great importance, even in a historical point of view, to trace this poetical development.
DramaBoth as respects extent of production and influence over the public, the drama stood at the head of the poetry thus developed in Rome. In antiquity there was no permanent theatre with fixed admission-money; in Greece as in Rome the drama made its appearance only as an element in the annually-recurring or extraordinary amusements of the citizens. Among the measures by which the government counteracted or imagined that they counteracted that extension of the popular festivals which they justly regarded with anxiety, they refused to permit the erection of a stone building for a theatre.(10) Instead of this there was erected for each festival a scaffolding of boards with a stage for the actors (-proscaenium-, -pulpitum-) and a decorated background (-scaena-); and in a semicircle in front of it was staked off the space for the spectators (-cavea-), which was merely sloped without steps or seats, so that, if the spectators had not chairs brought along with them, they squatted, reclined, or stood.(11) The women were probably separated at an early period, and were restricted to the uppermost and worst places; otherwise there was no distinction of places in law till 560, after which, as already mentioned,(12) the lowest and best positions were reserved for the senators.
AudienceThe audience was anything but genteel. The better classes, it is true, did not keep aloof from the general recreations of the people; the fathers of the city seem even to have been bound for decorum's sake to appear on these occasions. But the very nature of a burgess festival implied that, while slaves and probably foreigners also were excluded, admittance free of charge was given to every burgess with his wife and children;(13) and accordingly the body of spectators cannot have differed much from what one sees in the present day at public fireworks and -gratis- exhibitions. Naturally, therefore, the proceedings were not too orderly; children cried, women talked and shrieked, now and then a wench prepared to push her way to the stage; the ushers had on these festivals anything but a holiday, and found frequent occasion to confiscate a mantle or to ply the rod.
The introduction of the Greek drama increased the demands on the dramatic staff, and there seems to have been no redundance in the supply of capable actors: on one occasion for want of actors a piece of Naevius had to be performed by amateurs. But this produced no change in the position of the artist; the poet or, as he was at this time called, the "writer," the actor, and the composer not only belonged still, as formerly, to the class of workers for hire in itself little esteemed,(14) but were still, as formerly, placed in the most marked way under the ban of public opinion, and subjected to police maltreatment.(15) of course all reputable persons kept aloof from such an occupation. The manager of the company (-dominus gregis-, -factionis-, also -choragus-), who was ordinarily also the chief actor, was generally a freedman, and its members were ordinarily his slaves; the composers, whose names have reached us, were all of them non-free. The remuneration was not merely small--a -honorarium- of 8000 sesterces (80 pounds) given to a dramatist is described shortly after the close of this period as unusually high--but was, moreover, only paid by the magistrates providing the festival, if the piece was not a failure. With the payment the matter ended; poetical competitions and honorary prizes, such as took place in Attica, were not yet heard of in Rome--the Romans at this time appear to have simply applauded or hissed as we now do, and to have brought forward only a single piece for exhibition each day.(16) Under such circumstances, where art worked for daily wages and the artist instead of receiving due honour was subjected to disgrace, the new national theatre of the Romans could not present any development either original or even at all artistic; and, while the noble rivalry of the noblest Athenians had called into life the Attic drama, the Roman drama taken as a whole could be nothing but a spoiled copy of its predecessor, in which the only wonder is that it has been able to display so much grace and wit in the details.
That only one piece was produced each day we infer from the fact, that the spectators come from home at the beginning of the piece (Poen. 10), and return home after its close (Epid. Pseud. Rud. Stich. Truc. ap. fin.). They went, as these passages show, to the theatre after the second breakfast, and were at home again for the midday meal; the performance thus lasted, according to our reckoning, from about noon till half-past two o'clock, and a piece of Plautus, with music in the intervals between the acts, might probably occupy nearly that length of time (comp. Horat. Ep. ii. i, 189). The passage, in which Tacitus (Ann. xiv. 20) makes the spectators spend "whole days" in the theatre, refers to the state of matters at a later period.
ComedyIn the dramatic world comedy greatly preponderated over tragedy; the spectators knit their brows, when instead of the expected comedy a tragedy began. Thus it happened that, while this period exhibits poets who devoted themselves specially to comedy, such as Plautus and Caecilius, it presents none who cultivated tragedy alone; and among the dramas of this epoch known to us by name there occur three comedies for one tragedy. of course the Roman comic poets, or rather translators, laid hands in the first instance on the pieces which had possession of the Hellenic stage at the time; and thus they found themselves exclusively(17) confined to the range of the newer Attic comedy, and chiefly to its best-known poets, Philemon of Soli in Cilicia (394?-492) and Menander of Athens (412-462). This comedy came to be of so great importance as regards the development not only of Roman literature, but even of the nation at large, that even history has reason to pause and consider it.
Character of the Newer Attic ComedyThe pieces are of tiresome monotony. Almost without exception the plot turns on helping a young man, at the expense either of his father or of some -leno-, to obtain possession of a sweetheart of undoubted charms and of very doubtful morals. The path to success in love regularly lies through some sort of pecuniary fraud; and the crafty servant, who provides the needful sum and performs the requisite swindling while the lover is mourning over his amatory and pecuniary distresses, is the real mainspring of the piece. There is no want of the due accompaniment of reflections on the joys and sorrows of love, of tearful parting scenes, of lovers who in the anguish of their hearts threaten to do themselves a mischief; love or rather amorous intrigue was, as the old critics of art say, the very life-breath of the Menandrian poetry. Marriage forms, at least with Menander, the inevitable finale; on which occasion, for the greater edification and satisfaction of the spectators, the virtue of the heroine usually comes forth almost if not wholly untarnished, and the heroine herself proves to be the lost daughter of some rich man and so in every respect an eligible match. Along with these love-pieces we find others of a pathetic kind. Among the comedies of Plautus, for instance, the -Rudens- turns on a shipwreck and the right of asylum; while the -Trinummus- and the -Captivi- contain no amatory intrigue, but depict the generous devotedness of the friend to his friend and of the slave to his master. Persons and situations recur down to the very details like patterns on a carpet; we never get rid of the asides of unseen listeners, of knocking at the house-doors, and of slaves scouring the streets on some errand or other. The standing masks, of which there was a certain fixed number--viz., eight masks for old men, and seven for servants--from which alone in ordinary cases at least the poet had to make his choice, further favoured a stock-model treatment. Such a comedy almost of necessity rejected the lyrical element in the older comedy--the chorus--and confined itself from the first to conversation, or at most recitation; it was devoid not of the political element only, but of all true passion and of all poetical elevation. The pieces judiciously made no pretence to any grand or really poetical effect: their charm resided primarily in furnishing occupation for the intellect, not only through their subject-matter --in which respect the newer comedy was distinguished from the old as much by the greater intrinsic emptiness as by the greater outward complication of the plot--but more especially through their execution in detail, in which the point and polish of the conversation more particularly formed the triumph of the poet and the delight of the audience. Complications and confusions of one person with another, which very readily allowed scope for extravagant, often licentious, practical jokes--as in the -Casina-, which winds up in genuine Falstaffian style with the retiring of the two bridegrooms and of the soldier dressed up as bride--jests, drolleries, and riddles, which in fact for want of real conversation furnished the staple materials of entertainment at the Attic table of the period, fill up a large portion of these comedies. The authors of them wrote not like Eupolis and Aristophanes for a great nation, but rather for a cultivated society which spent its time, like other clever circles whose cleverness finds little fit scope for action, in guessing riddles and playing at charades. They give us, therefore, no picture of their times; of the great historical and intellectual movements of the age no trace appears in these comedies, and we need to recall, in order to realize, the fact that Philemon and Menander were really contemporaries of Alexander and Aristotle. But they give us a picture, equally elegant and faithful, of that refined Attic society beyond the circles of which comedy never travels. Even in the dim Latin copy, through which we chiefly know it, the grace of the original is not wholly obliterated; and more especially in the pieces which are imitated from Menander, the most talented of these poets, the life which the poet saw and shared is delicately reflected not so much in its aberrations and distortions as in its amiable every day course. The friendly domestic relations between father and daughter, husband and wife, master and servant, with their love-affairs and other little critical incidents, are portrayed with so broad a truthfulness, that even now they do not miss their effect: the servants' feast, for instance, with which the -Stichus- concludes is, in the limited range of its relations and the harmony of the two lovers and the one sweetheart, of unsurpassed gracefulness in its kind. The elegant grisettes, who make their appearance perfumed and adorned, with their hair fashionably dressed and in variegated, gold- embroidered, sweeping robes, or even perform their toilette on the stage, are very effective. in their train come the procuresses, sometimes of the most vulgar sort, such as one who appears in the -Curculio-, sometimes duennas like Goethe's old Barbara, such as Scapha in the -Mostettaria-; and there is no lack of brothers and comrades ready with their help. There is great abundance and variety of parts representing the old: there appear in turn the austere and avaricious, the fond and tender-hearted, and the indulgent accommodating, papas, the amorous old man, the easy old bachelor, the jealous aged matron with her old maid-servant who takes part with her mistress against her master; whereas the young men's parts are less prominent, and neither the first lover, nor the virtuous model son who here and there occurs, lays claim to much significance. The servant- world--the crafty valet, the stern house-steward, the old vigilant tutor, the rural slave redolent of garlic, the impertinent page--forms a transition to the very numerous professional parts. A standing figure among these is the jester (-parasitus-) who, in return for permission to feast at the table of the rich, has to entertain the guests with drolleries and charades, or, according to circumstances, to let the potsherds be flung at his head. This was at that time a formal trade in Athens; and it is certainly no mere poetical fiction which represents such a parasite as expressly preparing himself for his work by means of his books of witticisms and anecdotes. Favourite parts, moreover, are those of the cook, who understands not only how to boast of unheard-of sauces, but also how to pilfer like a professional thief; the shameless -leno-, complacently confessing to the practice of every vice, of whom Ballio in the -Pseudolus- is a model specimen; the military braggadocio, in whom we trace a very distinct reflection of the free-lance habits that prevailed under Alexander's successors; the professional sharper or sycophant, the stingy money-changer, the solemnly silly physician, the priest, mariner, fisherman, and the like. To these fall to be added, lastly, the parts delineative of character in the strict sense, such as the superstitious man of Menander and the miser in the -Aulularia- of Plautus. The national-Hellenic poetry has preserved, even in this its last creation, its indestructible plastic vigour; but the delineation of character is here copied from without rather than reproduced from inward experience, and the more so, the more the task approaches to the really poetical. It is a significant circumstance that, in the parts illustrative of character to which we have just referred, the psychological truth is in great part represented by abstract development of the conception; the miser here collects the parings of his nails and laments the tears which he sheds as a waste of water. But the blame of this want of depth in the portraying of character, and generally of the whole poetical and moral hollowness of this newer comedy, lay less with the comic writers than with the nation as a whole. Everything distinctively Greek was expiring: fatherland, national faith, domestic life, all nobleness of action and sentiment were gone; poetry, history, and philosophy were inwardly exhausted; and nothing remained to the Athenian save the school, the fish-market, and the brothel. It is no matter of wonder and hardly a matter of blame, that poetry, which is destined to shed a glory over human existence, could make nothing more out of such a life than the Menandrian comedy presents to us. It is at the same time very remarkable that the poetry of this period, wherever it was able to turn away in some degree from the corrupt Attic life without falling into scholastic imitation, immediately gathers strength and freshness from the ideal. in the only remnant of the mock-heroic comedy of this period--the -Amphitruo- of Plautus--there breathes throughout a purer and more poetical atmosphere than in all the other remains of the contemporary stage. The good-natured gods treated with gentle irony, the noble forms from the heroic world, and the ludicrously cowardly slaves present the most wonderful mutual contrasts; and, after the comical course of the plot, the birth of the son of the gods amidst thunder and lightning forms an almost grand concluding effect But this task of turning the myths into irony was innocent and poetical, as compared with that of the ordinary comedy depicting the Attic life of the period. No special accusation may be brought from a historico- moral point of view against the poets, nor ought it to be made matter of individual reproach to any particular poet that he occupies the level of his epoch: comedy was not the cause, but the effect of the corruption that prevailed in the national life. But it is necessary, more especially with a view to judge correctly the influence of these comedies on the life of the Roman people, to point out the abyss which yawned beneath all that polish and elegance. The coarsenesses and obscenities, which Menander indeed in some measure avoided, but of which there is no lack in the other poets, are the least part of the evil. Features far worse are, the dreadful desolation of life in which the only oases are lovemaking and intoxication; the fearfully prosaic atmosphere, in which anything resembling enthusiasm is to be found only among the sharpers whose heads have been turned by their own swindling, and who prosecute the trade of cheating with some sort of zeal; and above all that immoral morality, with which the pieces of Menander in particular are garnished. Vice is chastised, virtue is rewarded, and any peccadilloes are covered by conversion at or after marriage. There are pieces, such as the -Trinummus- of Plautus and several of Terence, in which all the characters down to the slaves possess some admixture of virtue; all swarm with honest men who allow deception on their behalf, with maidenly virtue wherever possible, with lovers equally favoured and making love in company; moral commonplaces and well-turned ethical maxims abound. A finale of reconciliation such as that of the -Bacchides-, where the swindling sons and the swindled fathers by way of a good winding up all go to carouse together in the brothel, presents a corruption of morals thoroughly worthy of Kotzebue.
Roman ComedySuch were the foundations, and such the elements which shaped the growth, of Roman comedy. Originality was in its case excluded not merely by want of aesthetic freedom, but in the first instance, probably, by its subjection to police control. Among the considerable number of Latin comedies of this sort which are known to us, there is not one that did not announce itself as an imitation of a definite Greek model; the title was only complete when the names of the Greek piece and of its author were also given, and if, as occasionally happened, the "novelty" of a piece was disputed, the question was merely whether it had been previously translated. Comedy laid the scene of its plot abroad not only frequently, but regularly and under the pressure of necessity; and that species of art derived its special name (-fabula palliata-) from the fact, that the scene was laid away from Rome, usually in Athens, and thai the -dramatis personae- were Greeks or at any rate not Romans. The foreign costume is strictly carried out even in detail, especially in those things in which the uncultivated Roman was distinctly sensible of the contrast, Thus the names of Rome and the Romans are avoided, and, where they are referred to, they are called in good Greek "foreigners" (-barbari-); in like manner among the appellations of moneys and coins, that occur ever so frequently, there does not once appear a Roman coin. We form a strange idea of men of so great and so versatile talents as Naevius and Plautus, if we refer such things to their free choice: this strange and clumsy "exterritorial" character of Roman comedy was undoubtedly due to causes very different from aesthetic considerations. The transference of such social relations, as are uniformly delineated in the new Attic comedy, to the Rome of the Hannibalic period would have been a direct outrage on its civic order and morality. But, as the dramatic spectacles at this period were regularly given by the aediles and praetors who were entirely dependent on the senate, and even extraordinary festivals, funeral games for instance, could not take place without permission of the government; and as the Roman police, moreover, was not in the habit of standing on ceremony in any case, and least of all in dealing with the comedians; the reason is self-evident why this comedy, even after it was admitted as one of the Roman national amusements, might still bring no Roman upon the stage, and remained as it were banished to foreign lands.
Its Hellenism A Necessary Result of the Law
Political NeutralityThe compilers were still more decidedly prohibited from naming any living person in terms either of praise or censure, as well as from any captious allusion to the circumstances of the times. in the whole repertory of the Plautine and post-Plautine comedy, there is not, so far as we know, matter for a single action of damages. in like manner--if we leave out of view some wholly harmless jests--we meet hardly any trace of invectives levelled at communities (invectives which, owing to the lively municipal spirit of the Italians, would have been specially dangerous), except the significant scoff at the unfortunate Capuans and Atellans (18) and, what is remarkable, various sarcasms on the arrogance and the bad Latin of the Praenestines.(19) In general no references to the events or circumstances of the present occur in the pieces of Plautus. The only exceptions are, congratulations on the course of the war(20) or on the peaceful times; general sallies directed against usurious dealings in grain or money, against extravagance, against bribery by candidates, against the too frequent triumphs, against those who made a trade of collecting forfeited fines, against farmers of the revenue distraining for payment, against the dear prices of the oil-dealers; and once--in the -Curculio- --a more lengthened diatribe as to the doings in the Roman market, reminding us of the -parabases- of the older Attic comedy, and but little likely to cause offence(21) But even in the midst of such patriotic endeavours, which from a police point of view were entirely in order, the poet interrupts himself;
-Sed sumne ego stultus, qui rem curo publicam
Ubi sunt magistratus, quos curare oporteat?-
and taken as a whole, we can hardly imagine a comedy politically more tame than was that of Rome in the sixth century.(22) The oldest Roman comic writer of note, Gnaeus Naevius, alone forms a remarkable exception. Although he did not write exactly original Roman comedies, the few fragments of his, which we possess, are full of references to circumstances and persons in Rome. Among other liberties he not only ridiculed one Theodotus a painter by name, but even directed against the victor of Zama the following verses, of which Aristophanes need not have been ashamed:
-Etiam qui res magnas manu saepe gessit gloriose,
Cujus facta viva nunc vigent, qui apud gentes solus praestat,
Eum suus pater cum pallio uno ab amica abduxit.-
As he himself says,
-Libera lingua loquemur ludis Liberalibus,-
he may have often written at variance with police rules, and put dangerous questions, such as:
-Cedo qui vestram rem publicam tantam amisistis tam cito?-
which he answered by an enumeration of political sins, such as:
-Proveniebant oratores novi, stulti adulescentuli.-
But the Roman police was not disposed like the Attic to hold stage- invectives and political diatribes as privileged, or even to tolerate them at all. Naevius was put in prison for these and similar sallies, and was obliged to remain there, till he had publicly made amends and recantation in other comedies. These quarrels, apparently, drove him from his native land; but his successors took warning from his example--one of them indicates very plainly, that he has no desire whatever to incur an involuntary gagging like his colleague Naevius. Thus the result was accomplished--not much less unique of its kind than the conquest of Hannibal--that, during an epoch of the most feverish national excitement, there arose a national stage utterly destitute of political tinge.
Character of the Editing of Roman ComedyBut the restrictions thus stringently and laboriously imposed by custom and police on Roman poetry stifled its very breath, Not without reason might Naevius declare the position of the poet under the sceptre of the Lagidae and Seleucidae enviable as compared with his position in free Rome.(23) The degree of success in individual instances was of course determined by the quality of the original which was followed, and by the talent of the individual editor; but amidst all their individual variety the whole stock of translations must have agreed in certain leading features, inasmuch as all the comedies were adapted to similar conditions of exhibition and a similar audience. The treatment of the whole as well as of the details was uniformly in the highest degree free; and it was necessary that it should be so. While the original pieces were performed in presence of that society which they copied, and in this very fact lay their principal charm, the Roman audience of this period was so different from the Attic, that it was not even in a position rightly to understand that foreign world. The Roman comprehended neither the grace and kindliness, nor the sentimentalism and the whitened emptiness of the domestic life of the Hellenes. The slave-world was utterly different; the Roman slave was a piece of household furniture, the Attic slave was a servant. Where marriages of slaves occur or a master carries on a kindly conversation with his slave, the Roman translators ask their audience not to take offence at such things which are usual in Athens;(24) and, when at a later period comedies began to be written in Roman costume, the part of the crafty servant had to be rejected, because the Roman public did not tolerate slaves of this sort overlooking and controlling their masters. The professional figures and those illustrative of character, which were sketched more broadly and farcically, bore the process of transference better than the polished figures of every-day life; but even of those delineations the Roman editor had to lay aside several--and these probably the very finest and most original, such as the Thais, the match-maker, the moon-conjuress, and the mendicant priest of Menander --and to keep chiefly to those foreign trades, with which the Greek luxury of the table, already very generally diffused in Rome, had made his audience familiar. If the professional cook and the jester in the comedy of Plautus are delineated with so striking vividness and so much relish, the explanation lies in the fact, that Greek cooks had even at that time daily offered their services in the Roman market, and that Cato found it necessary even to instruct his steward not to keep a jester. in like manner the translator could make no use of a very large portion of the elegant Attic conversation in his originals. The Roman citizen or farmer stood in much the same relation to the refined revelry and debauchery of Athens, as the German of a provincial town to the mysteries of the Palais Royal. A science of cookery, in the strict sense, never entered into his thoughts; the dinner-parties no doubt continued to be very numerous in the Roman imitation, but everywhere the plain Roman roast pork predominated over the variety of baked meats and the refined sauces and dishes of fish. of the riddles and drinking songs, of the Greek rhetoric and philosophy, which played so great a part in the originals, we meet only a stray trace now and then in the Roman adaptation.
Persons and Situations
Construction of the PlotThe havoc, which the Roman editors were compelled in deference to their audience to make in the originals, drove them inevitably into methods of cancelling and amalgamating incompatible with any artistic construction. It was usual not only to throw out whole character- parts of the original, but also to insert others taken from other comedies of the same or of another poet; a treatment indeed which, owing to the outwardly methodical construction of the originals and the recurrence of standing figures and incidents, was not quite so bad as it might seem. Moreover the poets, at least in the earlier period, allowed themselves the most singular liberties in the construction of the plot. The plot of the -Stichus- (performed in 554) otherwise so excellent turns upon the circumstance, that two sisters, whom their father urges to abandon their absent husbands, play the part of Penelopes, till the husbands return home with rich mercantile gains and with a beautiful damsel as a present for their father-in-law. In the -Casina-, which was received with quite special favour by the public, the bride, from whom the piece is named and around whom the plot revolves, does not make her appearance at all, and the denouement is quite naively described by the epilogue as "to be enacted later within." Very often the plot as it thickens is suddenly broken off, the connecting thread is allowed to drop, and other similar signs of an unfinished art appear. The reason of this is to be sought probably far less in the unskilfulness of the Roman editors, than in the indifference of the Roman public to aesthetic laws. Taste, however, gradually formed itself. in the later pieces Plautus has evidently bestowed more care on their construction, and the -Captivi- for instance, the -Pseudolus-, and the -Bacchides- are executed in a masterly manner after their kind. His successor Caecilius, none of whose pieces are extant, is said to have especially distinguished himself by the more artistic treatment of the subject.
Roman BarbarismIn the treatment of details the endeavour of the poet to bring matters as far as possible home to his Roman hearers, and the rule of police which required that the pieces should retain a foreign character, produced the most singular contrasts. The Roman gods, the ritual, military, and juristic terms of the Romans, present a strange appearance amid the Greek world; Roman -aediles- and -tresviri- are grotesquely mingled with -agoranomi- and -demarchi-; pieces whose scene is laid in Aetolia or Epidamnus send the spectator without scruple to the Velabrum and the Capitol. Such a patchwork of Roman local tints distributed over the Greek ground is barbarism enough; but interpolations of this nature, which are often in their naive way very ludicrous, are far more tolerable than that thorough alteration of the pieces into a ruder shape, which the editors deemed necessary to suit the far from Attic culture of their audience. It is true that several even of the new Attic poets probably needed no accession to their coarseness; pieces like the -Asinaria- of Plautus cannot owe their unsurpassed dulness and vulgarity solely to the translator. Nevertheless coarse incidents so prevail in the Roman comedy, that the translators must either have interpolated them or at least have made a very one-sided selection. in the endless abundance of cudgelling and in the lash ever suspended over the back of the slaves we recognize very clearly the household-government inculcated by Cato, just as we recognize the Catonian opposition to women in the never-ending disparagement of wives. Among the jokes of their own invention, with which the Roman editors deemed it proper to season the elegant Attic dialogue, several are almost incredibly unmeaning and barbarous.(25)
Metrical TreatmentSo far as concerns metrical treatment on the other hand, the flexible and sounding verse on the whole does all honour to the composers. The fact that the iambic trimeters, which predominated in the originals and were alone suitable to their moderate conversational tone, were very frequently replaced in the Latin edition by iambic or trochaic tetrameters, is to be attributed not so much to any want of skill on the part of the editors who knew well how to handle the trimeter, as to the uncultivated taste of the Roman public which was pleased with the sonorous magnificence of the long verse even where it was not appropriate.
Scenic ArrangementsLastly, the arrangements for the production of the pieces on the stage bore the like stamp of indifference to aesthetic requirements on the part of the managers and the public. The stage of the Greeks--which on account of the extent of the theatre and from the performances taking place by day made no pretension to acting properly so called, employed men to represent female characters, and absolutely required an artificial strengthening of the voice of the actor--was entirely dependent, in a scenic as well as acoustic point of view, on the use of facial and resonant masks. These were well known also in Rome; in amateur performances the players appeared without exception masked. But the actors who were to perform the Greek comedies in Rome were not supplied with the masks--beyond doubt much more artificial--that were necessary for them; a circumstance which, apart from all else in connection with the defective acoustic arrangements of the stage,(26) not only compelled the actor to exert his voice unduly, but drove Livius to the highly inartistic but inevitable expedient of having the portions which were to be sung performed by a singer not belonging to the staff of actors, and accompanied by the mere dumb show of the actor within whose part they fell. As little were the givers of the Roman festivals disposed to put themselves to material expense for decorations and machinery. The Attic stage regularly presented a street with houses in the background, and had no shifting decorations; but, besides various other apparatus, it possessed more especially a contrivance for pushing forward on the chief stage a smaller one representing the interior of a house. The Roman theatre, however, was not provided with this; and we can hardly therefore throw the blame on the poet, if everything, even childbirth, was represented on the street.
Aesthetic ResultSuch was the nature of the Roman comedy of the sixth century. The mode in which the Greek dramas were transferred to Rome furnishes a picture, historically invaluable, of the diversity in the culture of the two nations; but in an aesthetic and a moral point of view the original did not stand high, and the imitation stood still lower. The world of beggarly rabble, to whatever extent the Roman editors might take possession of it under the benefit of the inventory, presented in Rome a forlorn and strange aspect, shorn as it were of its delicate characteristics: comedy no longer rested on the basis of reality, but persons and incidents seemed capriciously or carelessly mingled as in a game of cards; in the original a picture from life, it became in the reproduction a caricature. Under a management which could announce a Greek agon with flute-playing, choirs of dancers, tragedians, and athletes, and eventually convert it into a boxing-match;(27) and in presence of a public which, as later poets complain, ran away en masse from the play, if there were pugilists, or rope-dancers, or even gladiators to be seen; poets such as the Roman composers were--workers for hire and of inferior social position--were obliged even perhaps against their own better judgment and their own better taste to accommodate themselves more or less to the prevailing frivolity and rudeness. It was quite possible, nevertheless, that there might arise among them individuals of lively and vigorous talent, who were able at least to repress the foreign and factitious element in poetry, and, when they had found their fitting sphere, to produce pleasing and even important creations.
NaeviusAt the head of these stood Gnaeus Naevius, the first Roman who deserves to be called a poet, and, so far as the accounts preserved regarding him and the few fragments of his works allow us to form an opinion, to all appearance as regards talent one of the most remarkable and most important names in the whole range of Roman literature. He was a younger contemporary of Andronicus--his poetical activity began considerably before, and probably did not end till after, the Hannibalic war--and felt in a general sense his influence; he was, as is usually the case in artificial literatures, a worker in all the forms of art produced by his predecessor, in epos, tragedy, and comedy, and closely adhered to him in the matter of metres. Nevertheless, an immense chasm separates the poets and their poems. Naevius was neither freedman, schoolmaster, nor actor, but a citizen of unstained character although not of rank, belonging probably to one of the Latin communities of Campania, and a soldier in the first Punic war.(28) in thorough contrast to the language of Livius, that of Naevius is easy and clear, free from all stiffness and affectation, and seems even in tragedy to avoid pathos as it were on purpose; his verses, in spite of the not unfrequent -hiatus- and various other licences afterwards disallowed, have a smooth and graceful flow.(29) While the quasi-poetry of Livius proceeded, somewhat like that of Gottsched in Germany, from purely external impulses and moved wholly in the leading-strings of the Greeks, his successor emancipated Roman poetry, and with the true divining-rod of the poet struck those springs out of which alone in Italy a native poetry could well up --national history and comedy. Epic poetry no longer merely furnished the schoolmaster with a lesson-book, but addressed itself independently to the hearing and reading public. Composing for the stage had been hitherto, like the preparation of the stage costume, a subsidiary employment of the actor or a mechanical service performed for him; with Naevius the relation was inverted, and the actor now became the servant of the composer. His poetical activity is marked throughout by a national stamp. This stamp is most distinctly impressed on his grave national drama and on his national epos, of which we shall have to speak hereafter; but it also appears in his comedies, which of all his poetic performances seem to have been the best adapted to his talents and the most successful. It was probably, as we have already said,(30) external considerations alone that induced the poet to adhere in comedy so much as he did to the Greek originals; and this did not prevent him from far outstripping his successors and probably even the insipid originals in the freshness of his mirth and in the fulness of his living interest in the present; indeed in a certain sense he reverted to the paths of the Aristophanic comedy. He felt full well, and in his epitaph expressed, what he had been to his nation:
-Immortales mortales si foret fas fiere,
Flerent divae Camenae Naevium poetam;
Itaque, postquam est Orci traditus thesauro,
Obliti sunt Romae loquier lingua Latina.-
Such proud language on the part of the man and the poet well befitted one who had witnessed and had personally taken part in the struggles with Hamilcar and with Hannibal, and who had discovered for the thoughts and feelings of that age--so deeply agitated and so elevated by mighty joy--a poetical expression which, if not exactly the highest, was sound, adroit, and national. We have already mentioned(31) the troubles into which his licence brought him with the authorities, and how, driven presumably by these troubles from Rome, he ended his life at Utica. in his instance likewise the individual life was sacrificed for the common weal, and the beautiful for the useful.
PlautusHis younger contemporary, Titus Maccius Plautus (500?-570), appears to have been far inferior to him both in outward position and in the conception of his poetic calling. A native of the little town of Sassina, which was originally Umbrian but was perhaps by this time Latinized, he earned his livelihood in Rome at first as an actor, and then--after he had lost in mercantile speculations what he had gained by his acting--as a theatrical composer reproducing Greek comedies, without occupying himself with any other department of literature and probably without laying claim to authorship properly so called. There seems to have been at that time a considerable number of persons who made a trade of thus editing comedies in Rome; but their names, especially as they did not perhaps in general publish their works,(32) were virtually forgotten, and the pieces belonging to this stock of plays, which were preserved, passed in after times under the name of the most popular of them, Plautus. The -litteratores- of the following century reckoned up as many as 130 such "Plautine pieces"; but of these a large portion at any rate were merely revised by Plautus or had no connection with him at all; the best of them are still extant. To form a proper judgment, however, regarding the poetical character of the editor is very difficult, if not impossible, since the originals have not been preserved. That the editors reproduced good and bad pieces without selection; that they were subject and subordinate both to the police and to the public; that they were as indifferent to aesthetical requirements as their audience, and to please the latter, lowered the originals to a farcical and vulgar tone--are objections which apply rather to the whole manufacture of translations than to the individual remodeller. On the other hand we may regard as characteristic of Plautus, the masterly handling of the language and of the varied rhythms, a rare skill in adjusting and working the situation for dramatic effect, the almost always clever and often excellent dialogue, and, above all, a broad and fresh humour, which produces an irresistible comic effect with its happy jokes, its rich vocabulary of nicknames, its whimsical coinage of words, its pungent, often mimic, descriptions and situations--excellences, in which we seem to recognize the former actor. Undoubtedly the editor even in these respects retained what was successful in the originals rather than furnished contributions of his own. Those portions of the pieces which can with certainty be traced to the translator are, to say the least, mediocre; but they enable us to understand why Plautus became and remained the true popular poet of Rome and the true centre of the Roman stage, and why even after the passing away of the Roman world the theatre has repeatedly reverted to his plays.
CaeciliusStill less are we able to form a special opinion as to the third and last--for though Ennius wrote comedies, he did so altogether unsuccessfully--comedian of note in this epoch, Statins Caecilius. He resembled Plautus in his position in life and his profession. Born in Cisalpine Gaul in the district of Mediolanum, he was brought among the Insubrian prisoners of war(33) to Rome, and earned a livelihood, first as a slave, afterwards as a freedman, by remodelling Greek comedies for the theatre down to his probably early death (586). His language was not pure, as was to be expected from his origin; on the other hand, he directed his efforts, as we have already said,(34) to a more artistic construction of the plot. His pieces experienced but a dull reception from his contemporaries, and the public of later times laid aside Caecilius for Plautus and Terence; and, if nevertheless the critics of the true literary age of Rome--the Varronian and Augustan epoch--assigned to Caecilius the first place among the Roman editors of Greek comedies, this verdict appears due to the mediocrity of the connoisseur gladly preferring a kindred spirit of mediocrity in the poet to any special features of excellence. These art-critics probably took Caecilius under their wing, simply because he was more regular than Plautus and more vigorous than Terence; notwithstanding which he may very well have been far inferior to both.
Moral ResultIf therefore the literary historian, while fully acknowledging the very respectable talents of the Roman comedians, cannot recognize in their mere stock of translations a product either artistically important or artistically pure, the judgment of history respecting its moral aspects must necessarily be far more severe. The Greek comedy which formed its basis was morally so far a matter of indifference, as it was simply on the same level of corruption with its audience; but the Roman drama was, at this epoch when men were wavering between the old austerity and the new corruption, the academy at once of Hellenism and of vice. This Attico-Roman comedy, with its prostitution of body and soul usurping the name of love--equally immoral in shamelessness and in sentimentality--with its offensive and unnatural generosity, with its uniform glorification of a life of debauchery, with its mixture of rustic coarseness and foreign refinement, was one continuous lesson of Romano-Hellenic demoralization, and was felt as such. A proof of this is preserved in the epilogue of the -Captivi- of Plautus:--
-Spectators, ad pudicos mores facta haec fabulast.
Neque in hoc subigitationes sunt neque ulla amatio
Nec pueri suppositio nec argenti circumductio,
Neque ubi amans adulescens scortum liberet clam suum patrem.
Huius modi paucas poetae reperiunt comoedias,
Ubi boni meliores fiant. Nunc vos, si vobis placet,
Et si placuimus neque odio fuimus, signum hoc mittite;
Qui pudicitiae esse voltis praemium, plausum date!-
We see here the opinion entertained regarding the Greek comedy by the party of moral reform; and it may be added, that even in those rarities, moral comedies, the morality was of a character only adapted to ridicule innocence more surely. Who can doubt that these dramas gave a practical impulse to corruption? When Alexander the Great derived no pleasure from a comedy of this sort which its author read before him, the poet excused himself by saying that the fault lay not with him, but with the king; that, in order to relish such a piece, a man must be in the habit of holding revels and of giving and receiving blows in an intrigue. The man knew his trade: if, therefore, the Roman burgesses gradually acquired a taste for these Greek comedies, we see at what a price it was bought. It is a reproach to the Roman government not that it did so little in behalf of this poetry, but that it tolerated it at all Vice no doubt is powerful even without a pulpit; but that is no excuse for erecting a pulpit to proclaim it. To debar the Hellenic comedy from immediate contact with the persons and institutions of Rome, was a subterfuge rather than a serious means of defence. in fact, comedy would probably have been much less injurious morally, had they allowed it to have a more free course, so that the calling of the poet might have been ennobled and a Roman poetry in some measure independent might have been developed; for poetry is also a moral power, and, if it inflicts deep wounds, it can do much to heal them. As it was, in this field also the government did too little and too much; the political neutrality and moral hypocrisy of its stage-police contributed their part to the fearfully rapid breaking up of the Roman nation.
National ComedyBut, while the government did not allow the Roman comedian to depict the state of things in his native city or to bring his fellow-citizens on the stage, a national Latin comedy was not absolutely precluded from springing up; for the Roman burgesses at this period were not yet identified with the Latin nation, and the poet was at liberty to lay the plot of his pieces in the Italian towns of Latin rights just as in Athens or Massilia. in this way, in fact, the Latin original comedy arose (-fabula togata- (35)): the earliest known composer of such pieces, Titinius, flourished probably about the close of this period.(36)
This comedy was also based on the new Attic intrigue-piece; it was not translation, however, but imitation; the scene of the piece lay in Italy, and the actors appeared in the national dress,(37) the -toga-. Here the Latin life and doings were brought out with peculiar freshness. The pieces delineate the civil life of the middle-sized towns of Latium; the very titles, such as -Psaltria- or -Ferentinatis- , -Tibicina-, -Iurisperita-, -Fullones-, indicate this; and many particular incidents, such as that of the townsman who has his shoes made after the model of the sandals of the Alban kings, tend to confirm it. The female characters preponderate in a remarkable manner over the male.(38) With genuine national pride the poet recalls the great times of the Pyrrhic war, and looks down on his new Latin neighbours,--
Qui Obsce et Volsce fabulantur; nam Latine nesciunt.-
This comedy belongs to the stage of the capital quite as much as did the Greek; but it was probably animated by something of that rustic antagonism to the ways and the evils of a great town, which appeared contemporaneously in Cato and afterwards in Varro. As in the German comedy, which proceeded from the French in much the same way as the Roman comedy from the Attic, the French Lisette was very soon superseded by the -Frauenzimmerchen- Franziska, so the Latin national comedy sprang up, if not with equal poetical power, at any rate with the same tendency and perhaps with similar success, by the side of the Hellenizing comedy of the capital.
TragediesGreek tragedy as well as Greek comedy came in the course of this epoch to Rome. It was a more valuable, and in a certain respect also an easier, acquisition than comedy. The Greek and particularly the Homeric epos, which was the basis of tragedy, was not unfamiliar to the Romans, and was already interwoven with their own national legends; and the susceptible foreigner found himself far more at home in the ideal world of the heroic myths than in the fish-market of Athens. Nevertheless tragedy also promoted, only with less abruptness and less vulgarity, the anti-national and Hellenizing spirit; and in this point of view it was a circumstance of the most decisive importance, that the Greek tragic stage of this period was chiefly under the sway of Euripides (274-348). This is not the place for a thorough delineation of that remarkable man and of his still more remarkable influence on his contemporaries and posterity; but the intellectual movements of the later Greek and the Graeco-Roman epoch were to so great an extent affected by him, that it is indispensable to sketch at least the leading outlines of his character. Euripides was one of those poets who raise poetry doubtless to a higher level, but in this advance manifest far more the true sense of what ought to be than the power of poetically creating it The profound saying which morally as well as poetically sums up all tragic art--that action is passion--holds true no doubt also of ancient tragedy; it exhibits man in action, but it makes no real attempt to individualize him. The unsurpassed grandeur with which the struggle between man and destiny fulfils its course in Aeschylus depends substantially on the circumstance, that each of the contending powers is only conceived broadly and generally; the essential humanity in Prometheus and Agamemnon is but slightly tinged by poetic individualizing. Sophocles seizes human nature under its general conditions, the king, the old man, the sister; but not one of his figures displays the microcosm of man in all his aspects--the features of individual character. A high stage was here reached, but not the highest; the delineation of man in his entireness and the entwining of these individual--in themselves finished--figures into a higher poetical whole form a greater achievement, and therefore, as compared with Shakespeare, Aeschylus and Sophocles represent imperfect stages of development. But, when Euripides undertook to present man as he is, the advance was logical and in a certain sense historical rather than poetical. He was able to destroy the ancient tragedy, but not to create the modern. Everywhere he halted half-way. Masks, through which the expression of the life of the soul is, as it were, translated from the particular into the general, were as necessary for the typical tragedy of antiquity as they are incompatible with the tragedy of character; but Euripides retained them. With remarkably delicate tact the older tragedy had never presented the dramatic element, to which it was unable to allow free scope, unmixed, but had constantly fettered it in some measure by epic subjects from the superhuman world of gods and heroes and by the lyrical choruses. One feels that Euripides was impatient under these fetters: with his subjects he came down at least to semi-historic times, and his choral chants were of so subordinate importance, that they were frequently omitted in subsequent performance and hardly to the injury of the pieces; but yet he has neither placed his figures wholly on the ground of reality, nor entirely thrown aside the chorus. Throughout and on all sides he is the full exponent of an age in which, on the one hand, the grandest historical and philosophical movement was going forward, but in which, on the other hand, the primitive fountain of all poetry--a pure and homely national life--had become turbid. While the reverential piety of the older tragedians sheds over their pieces as it were a reflected radiance of heaven; while the limitation of the narrow horizon of the older Hellenes exercises its satisfying power even over the hearer; the world of Euripides appears in the pale glimmer of speculation as much denuded of gods as it is spiritualised, and gloomy passions shoot like lightnings athwart the gray clouds. The old deeply-rooted faith in destiny has disappeared; fate governs as an outwardly despotic power, and the slaves gnash their teeth as they wear its fetters. That unbelief, which is despairing faith, speaks in this poet with superhuman power. of necessity therefore the poet never attains a plastic conception overpowering himself, and never reaches a truly poetic effect on the whole; for which reason he was in some measure careless as to the construction of his tragedies, and indeed not unfrequently altogether spoiled them in this respect by providing no central interest either of plot or person--the slovenly fashion of weaving the plot in the prologue, and of unravelling it by a -Deus ex machina- or a similar platitude, was in reality brought into vogue by Euripides. All the effect in his case lies in the details; and with great art certainly every effort has in this respect been made to conceal the irreparable want of poetic wholeness. Euripides is a master in what are called effects; these, as a rule, have a sensuously-sentimental colouring, and often moreover stimulate the sensuous impression by a special high seasoning, such as the interweaving of subjects relating to love with murder or incest. The delineations of Polyxena willing to die and of Phaedra pining away under the grief of secret love, above all the splendid picture of the mystic ecstasies of the Bacchae, are of the greatest beauty in their kind; but they are neither artistically nor morally pure, and the reproach of Aristophanes, that the poet was unable to paint a Penelope, was thoroughly well founded. of a kindred character is the introduction of common compassion into the tragedy of Euripides. While his stunted heroes or heroines, such as Menelaus in the -Helena-, Andromache, Electra as a poor peasant's wife, the sick and ruined merchant Telephus, are repulsive or ridiculous and ordinarily both, the pieces, on the other hand, which keep more to the atmosphere of common reality and exchange the character of tragedy for that of the touching family-piece or that almost of sentimental comedy, such as the -Iphigenia in Aulis-, the -Ion-, the -Alcestis-, produce perhaps the most pleasing effect of all his numerous works. With equal frequency, but with less success, the poet attempts to bring into play an intellectual interest. Hence springs the complicated plot, which is calculated not like the older tragedy to move the feelings, but rather to keep curiosity on the rack; hence the dialectically pointed dialogue, to us non-Athenians often absolutely intolerable; hence the apophthegms, which are scattered throughout the pieces of Euripides like flowers in a pleasure-garden; hence above all the psychology of Euripides, which rests by no means on direct reproduction of human experience, but on rational reflection. His Medea is certainly in so far painted from life, that she is before departure properly provided with money for her voyage; but of the struggle in the soul between maternal love and jealousy the unbiassed reader will not find much in Euripides. But, above all, poetic effect is replaced in the tragedies of Euripides by moral or political purpose. Without strictly or directly entering on the questions of the day, and having in view throughout social rather than political questions, Euripides in the legitimate issues of his principles coincided with the contemporary political and philosophical radicalism, and was the first and chief apostle of that new cosmopolitan humanity which broke up the old Attic national life. This was the ground at once of that opposition which the ungodly and un-Attic poet encountered among his contemporaries, and of that marvellous enthusiasm, with which the younger generation and foreigners devoted themselves to the poet of emotion and of love, of apophthegm and of tendency, of philosophy and of humanity. Greek tragedy in the hands of Euripides stepped beyond its proper sphere and consequently broke down; but the success of the cosmopolitan poet was only promoted by this, since at the same time the nation also stepped beyond its sphere and broke down likewise. The criticism of Aristophanes probably hit the truth exactly both in a moral and in a poetical point of view; but poetry influences the course of history not in proportion to its absolute value, but in proportion as it is able to forecast the spirit of the age, and in this respect Euripides was unsurpassed. and thus it happened, that Alexander read him diligently; that Aristotle developed the idea of the tragic poet with special reference to him; that the latest poetic and plastic art in Attica as it were originated from him (for the new Attic comedy did nothing but transfer Euripides into a comic form, and the school of painters which we meet with in the designs of the later vases derived its subjects no longer from the old epics, but from the Euripidean tragedy); and lastly that, the more the old Hellas gave place to the new Hellenism, the more the fame and influence of the poet increased, and Greek life abroad, in Egypt as well as in Rome, was directly or indirectly moulded in the main by Euripides.
Roman TragedyThe Hellenism of Euripides flowed to Rome through very various channels, and probably produced a speedier and deeper effect there by indirect means than in the form of direct translation. The tragic drama in Rome was not exactly later in its rise than the comic;(39) but the far greater expense of putting a tragedy on the stage--which was undoubtedly felt as a consideration of moment, at least during the Hannibalic war--as well as the nature of the audience(40) retarded the development of tragedy. in the comedies of Plautus the allusions to tragedies are not very frequent, and most references of this kind may have been taken from the originals. The first and only influential tragedian of this epoch was the younger contemporary of Naevius and Plautus, Quintus Ennius (515-585), whose pieces were already travestied by contemporary comic writers, and were exhibited and declaimed by posterity down to the days of the empire.
The tragic drama of the Romans is far less known to us than the comic: on the whole the same features, which have been noticed in the case of comedy, are presented by tragedy also. The dramatic stock, in like manner, was mainly formed by translations of Greek pieces. The preference was given to subjects derived from the siege of Troy and the legends immediately connected with it, evidently because this cycle of myths alone was familiar to the Roman public through instruction at school; by their side incidents of striking horror predominate, such as matricide or infanticide in the -Eumenides-, the -Alcmaeon-, the -Cresphontes-, the -Melanippe-, the -Medea-, and the immolation of virgins in the -Polyxena-, the -Erechthides-, the -Andromeda-, the -Iphigenia- --we cannot avoid recalling the fact, that the public for which these tragedies were prepared was in the habit of witnessing gladiatorial games. The female characters and ghosts appear to have made the deepest impression. in addition to the rejection of masks, the most remarkable deviation of the Roman edition from the original related to the chorus. The Roman theatre, fitted up doubtless in the first instance for comic plays without chorus, had not the special dancing-stage (-orchestra-) with the altar in the middle, on which the Greek chorus performed its part, or, to speak more correctly, the space thus appropriated among the Greeks served with the Romans as a sort of pit; accordingly the choral dance at least, with its artistic alternations and intermixture of music and declamation, must have been omitted in Rome, and, even if the chorus was retained, it had but little importance. of course there were various alterations of detail, changes in the metres, curtailments, and disfigurements; in the Latin edition of the -Iphigenia- of Euripides, for instance, the chorus of women was--either after the model of another tragedy, or by the editor's own device--converted into a chorus of soldiers. The Latin tragedies of the sixth century cannot be pronounced good translations in our sense of the word;(41) yet it is probable that a tragedy of Ennius gave a far less imperfect image of the original of Euripides than a comedy of Plautus gave of the original of Menander.
Moral Effect of TragedyThe historical position and influence of Greek tragedy in Rome were entirely analogous to those of Greek comedy; and while, as the difference in the two kinds of composition necessarily implied, the Hellenistic tendency appeared in tragedy under a purer and more spiritual form, the tragic drama of this period and its principal representative Ennius displayed far more decidedly an anti-national and consciously propagandist aim. Ennius, hardly the most important but certainly the most influential poet of the sixth century, was not a Latin by birth, but on the contrary by virtue of his origin half a Greek. of Messapian descent and Hellenic training, he settled in his thirty-fifth year at Rome, and lived there--at first as a resident alien, but after 570 as a burgess(42)--in straitened circumstances, supported partly by giving instruction in Latin and Greek, partly by the proceeds of his pieces, partly by the donations of those Roman grandees, who, like Publius Scipio, Titus Flamininus, and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior, were inclined to promote the modern Hellenism and to reward the poet who sang their own and their ancestors' praises and even accompanied some of them to the field in the character, as it were, of a poet laureate nominated beforehand to celebrate the great deeds which they were to perform. He has himself elegantly described the client-like qualities requisite for such a calling.(43) From the outset and by virtue of the whole tenor of his life a cosmopolite, he had the skill to appropriate the distinctive features of the nations among which he lived--Greek, Latin, and even Oscan--without devoting himself absolutely to any cne of them; and while the Hellenism of the earlier Roman poets was the result rather than the conscious aim of their poetic activity, and accordingly they at least attempted more or less to take their stand on national ground, Ennius on the contrary is very distinctly conscious of his revolutionary tendency, and evidently labours with zeal to bring into vogue neologico-Hellenic ideas among the Italians. His most serviceable instrument was tragedy. The remains of his tragedies show that he was well acquainted with the whole range of the Greek tragic drama and with Aeschylus and Sophocles in particular; it is the less therefore the result of accident, that he has modelled the great majority of his pieces, and all those that attained celebrity, on Euripides. in the selection and treatment he was doubtless influenced partly by external considerations. But these alone cannot account for his bringing forward so decidedly the Euripidean element in Euripides; for his neglecting the choruses still more than did his original; for his laying still stronger emphasis on sensuous effect than the Greek; nor for his taking up pieces like the -Thyestes- and the -Telephus- so well known from the immortal ridicule of Aristophanes, with their princes' woes and woful princes, and even such a piece as Menalippa the Female Philosopher, in which the whole plot turns on the absurdity of the national religion, and the tendency to make war on it from the physicist point of view is at once apparent. The sharpest arrows are everywhere--and that partly in passages which can be proved to have been inserted(44)--directed against faith in the miraculous, and we almost wonder that the censorship of the Roman stage allowed such tirades to pass as the following:--
-Ego deum genus esse semper dixi et dicam caelitum,
Sed eos non curare opinor, quid agat humanum genus;
Nam si curent, bene bonis sit, male malis, quod nunc abest.-
We have already remarked(45) that Ennius scientifically inculcated the same irreligion in a didactic poem of his own; and it is evident that he was in earnest with this freethinking. With this trait other features are quite accordant--his political opposition tinged with radicalism, that here and there appears;(46) his singing the praises of the Greek pleasures of the table;(47) above all his setting aside the last national element in Latin poetry, the Saturnian measure, and substituting for it the Greek hexameter. That the "multiform" poet executed all these tasks with equal neatness, that he elaborated hexameters out of a language of by no means dactylic structure, and that without checking the natural flow of his style he moved with confidence and freedom amidst unwonted measures and forms--are so many evidences of his extraordinary plastic talent, which was in fact more Greek than Roman;(48) where he offends us, the offence is owing much more frequently to Greek alliteration(49) than to Roman ruggedness. He was not a great poet, but a man of graceful and sprightly talent, throughout possessing the vivid sensibilities of a poetic nature, but needing the tragic buskin to feel himself a poet and wholly destitute of the comic vein. We can understand the pride with which the Hellenizing poet looked down on those rude strains --
-quos olim Faunei vatesque canebant,-
and the enthusiasm with which he celebrates his own artistic poetry:
-Enni foeta, salve, Versus propinas flammeos medullitus.-
The clever man had an instinctive assurance that he had spread his sails to a prosperous breeze; Greek tragedy became, and thenceforth remained, a possession of the Latin nation.
National DramasThrough less frequented paths, and with a less favourable wind, a bolder mariner pursued a higher aim. Naevius not only like Ennius --although with far less success--adapted Greek tragedies for the Roman stage, but also attempted to create, independently of the Greeks, a grave national drama (-fabula praetextata-). No outward obstacles here stood in the way; he brought forward subjects both from Roman legend and from the contemporary history of the country on the stage of his native land. Such were his Nursing of Romulus and Remus or the Wolf, in which Amulius king of Alba appeared, and his -Clastidium-, which celebrated the victory of Marcellus over the Celts in 532.(49) After his example, Ennius in his -Ambracia- described from personal observation the siege of that city by his patron Nobilior in 565.(50) But the number of these national dramas remained small, and that species of composition soon disappeared from the stage; the scanty legend and the colourless history of Rome were unable permanently to compete with the rich cycle of Hellenic legends. Respecting the poetic value of the pieces we have no longer the means of judging; but, if we may take account of the general poetical intention, there were in Roman literature few such strokes of genius as the creation of a Roman national drama. Only the Greek tragedians of that earliest period which still felt itself nearer to the gods --only poets like Phrynichus and Aeschylus--had the courage to bring the great deeds which they had witnessed, and in which they had borne a part, on the stage by the side of those of legendary times; and here, if anywhere, we are enabled vividly to realize what the Punic wars were and how powerful was their effect, when we find a poet, who like Aeschylus had himself fought in the battles which he sang, introducing the kings and consuls of Rome upon that stage on which men had hitherto been accustomed to see none but gods and heroes.
Recitative PoetryRecitative poetry also took its rise during this epoch at Rome. Livius naturalized the custom which among the ancients held the place of our modern publication--the public reading of new works by the author--in Rome, at least to the extent of reciting them in his school. As poetry was not in this instance practised with a view to a livelihood, or at any rate not directly so, this branch of it was not regarded by public opinion with such disfavour as writing for the stage: towards the end of this epoch one or two Romans of quality had publicly come forward in this manner as poets.(51) Recitative poetry however was chiefly cultivated by those poets who occupied themselves with writing for the stage, and the former held a subordinate place as compared with the latter; in fact, a public to which read poetry might address itself can have existed only to a very limited extent at this period in Rome.
SaturaAbove all, lyrical, didactic, and epigrammatic poetry found but feeble representation. The religious festival chants--as to which the annals of this period certainly have already thought it worth while to mention the author--as well as the monumental inscriptions on temples and tombs, for which the Saturnian remained the regular measure, hardly belong to literature proper. So far as the minor poetry makes its appearance at all, it presents itself ordinarily, and that as early as the time of Naevius, under the name of -satura-. This term was originally applied to the old stage-poem without action, which from the time of Livius was driven off the stage by the Greek drama; but in its application to recitative poetry it corresponds in some measure to our "miscellaneous poems," and like the latter denotes not any positive species or style of art, but simply poems not of an epic or dramatic kind, treating of any matters (mostly subjective), and written in any form, at the pleasure of the author. in addition to Cato's "poem on Morals" to be noticed afterwards, which was presumably written in Saturnian verses after the precedent of the older first attempts at a national didactic poetry,(52) there came under this category especially the minor poems of Ennius, which that writer, who was very fertile in this department, published partly in his collection of -saturae-, partly separately. Among these were brief narrative poems relating to the legendary or contemporary history of his country; editions of the religious romance of Euhemerus,(53) of the poems dealing with natural philosophy circulating in the name of Epicharmus,(54) and of the gastronomies of Archestratus of Gela, a poet who treated of the higher cookery; as also a dialogue between Life and Death, fables of Aesop, a collection of moral maxims, parodies and epigrammatic trifles--small matters, but indicative of the versatile powers as well as the neological didactic tendencies of the poet, who evidently allowed himself the freest range in this field, which the censorship did not reach.
Metrical Annals NaeviusThe attempts at a metrical treatment of the national annals lay claim to greater poetical and historical importance. Here too it was Naevius who gave poetic form to so much of the legendary as well as of the contemporary history as admitted of connected narrative; and who, more especially, recorded in the half-prosaic Saturnian national metre the story of the first Punic war simply and distinctly, with a straightforward adherence to fact, without disdaining anything at all as unpoetical, and without at all, especially in the description of historical times, going in pursuit of poetical flights or embellishments--maintaining throughout his narrative the present tense.(55) What we have already said of the national drama of the same poet, applies substantially to the work of which we are now speaking. The epic, like the tragic, poetry of the Greeks lived and moved essentially in the heroic period; it was an altogether new and, at least in design, an enviably grand idea--to light up the present with the lustre of poetry. Although in point of execution the chronicle of Naevius may not have been much better than the rhyming chronicles of the middle ages, which are in various respects of kindred character, yet the poet was certainly justified in regarding this work of his with an altogether peculiar complacency. It was no small achievement, in an age when there was absolutely no historical literature except official records, to have composed for his countrymen a connected account of the deeds of their own and the earlier time, and in addition to have placed before their eyes the noblest incidents of that history in a dramatic form.
EnniusEnnius proposed to himself the very same task as Naevius; but the similarity of the subject only brings out into stronger relief the political and poetical contrast between the national and the anti- national poet. Naevius sought out for the new subject a new form; Ennius fitted or forced it into the forms of the Hellenic epos. The hexameter took the place of the Saturnian verse; the ornate style of the Homeridae, striving after plastic vividness of delineation, took the place of the homely historic narrative. Wherever the circumstances admit, Homer is directly translated; e. g. the burial of those that fell at Heraclea is described after the model of the burial of Patroclus, and under the helmet of Marcus Livius Stolo, the military tribune who fights with the Istrians, lurks none other than the Homeric Ajax; the reader is not even spared the Homeric invocation of the Muse. The epic machinery is fully set agoing; after the battle of Cannae, for instance, Juno in a full council of the gods pardons the Romans, and Jupiter after obtaining the consent of his wife promises them a final victory over the Carthaginians. Nor do the "Annals" fail to betray the neological and Hellenistic tendencies of the author. The very employment of the gods for mere decoration bears this stamp. The remarkable vision, with which the poem opens, tells in good Pythagorean style how the soul now inhabiting Quintus Ennius had previously been domiciled in Homer and still earlier in a peacock, and then in good physicist style explains the nature of things and the relation of the body to the mind. Even the choice of the subject serves the same purpose--at any rate the Hellenic literati of all ages have found an especially suitable handle for their Graeco-cosmopolite tendencies in this very manipulation of Roman history. Ennius lays stress on the circumstance that the Romans were reckoned Greeks:
- Contendunt Graecos, Graios memorare solent sos. -
The poetical value of the greatly celebrated Annals may easily be estimated after the remarks which we have already made regarding the excellences and defects of the poet in general. It was natural that as a poet of lively sympathies, he should feel himself elevated by the enthusiastic impulse which the great age of the Punic wars gave to the national sensibilities of Italy, and that he should not only often happily imitate Homeric simplicity, but should also and still more frequently make his lines strikingly echo the solemnity and decorum of the Roman character. But the construction of his epic was defective; indeed it must have been very lax and indifferent, when it was possible for the poet to insert a special book by way of supplement to please an otherwise forgotten hero and patron. on the whole the Annals were beyond question the work in which Ennius fell farthest short of his aim. The plan of making an Iliad pronounces its own condemnation. It was Ennius, who in this poem for the first time introduced into literature that changeling compound of epos and of history, which from that time up to the present day haunts it like a ghost, unable either to live or to die. But the poem certainly had its success. Ennius claimed to be the Roman Homer with still greater ingenuousness than Klopstock claimed to be the German, and was received as such by his contemporaries and still more so by posterity. The veneration for the father of Roman poetry was transmitted from generation to generation; even the polished Quintilian says, "Let us revere Ennius as we revere an ancient sacred grove, whose mighty oaks of a thousand years are more venerable than beautiful;" and, if any one is disposed to wonder at this, he may recall analogous phenomena in the successes of the Aeneid, the Henriad, and the Messiad. A mighty poetical development of the nation would indeed have set aside that almost comic official parallel between the Homeric Iliad and the Ennian
Annals as easily as we have set aside the comparison of Karschin with Sappho and of Willamov with Pindar; but no such development took place in Rome. Owing to the interest of the subject especially for aristocratic circles, and the great plastic talent of the poet, the Annals remained the oldest Roman original poem which appeared to the culture of later generations readable or worth reading; and thus, singularly enough, posterity came to honour this thoroughly anti- national epos of a half-Greek -litterateur- as the true model poem of Rome.
Prose LiteratureA prose literature arose in Rome not much later than Roman poetry, but in a very different way. It experienced neither the artificial furtherance, by which the school and the stage prematurely forced the growth of Roman poetry, nor the artificial restraint, to which Roman comedy in particular was subjected by the stern and narrow-minded censorship of the stage. Nor was this form of literary activity placed from the outset under the ban of good society by the stigma which attached to the "ballad-singer." Accordingly the prose literature, while far less extensive and less active than the contemporary poetical authorship, had a far more natural growth. While poetry was almost wholly in the hands of men of humble rank and not a single Roman of quality appears among the celebrated poets of this age, there is, on the contrary, among the prose writers of this period hardly a name that is not senatorial; and it is from the circles of the highest aristocracy, from men who had been consuls and censors--the Fabii, the Gracchi, the Scipios--that this literature throughout proceeds. The conservative and national tendency, in the nature of the case, accorded better with this prose authorship than with poetry; but here too--and particularly in the most important branch of this literature, historical composition--the Hellenistic bent had a powerful, in fact too powerful, influence both on matter and form.
Writing of HistoryDown to the period of the Hannibalic war there was no historical composition in Rome; for the entries in the book of Annals were of the nature of records and not of literature, and never made any attempt to develop the connection of events. It is a significant illustration of the peculiarity of Roman character, that notwithstanding the extension of the power of the Roman community far beyond the bounds of Italy, and notwithstanding the constant contact of the noble society of Rome with the Greeks who were so fruitful in literary activity, it was not till the middle of the sixth century that there was felt the need and desire of imparting a knowledge of the deeds and fortunes of the Roman people, by means of authorship, to the contemporary world and to posterity. When at length this desire was felt, there were neither literary forms ready at hand for the use of Roman history, nor was there a public prepared to read it, and great talent and considerable time were required to create both. in the first instance, accordingly, these difficulties were in some measure evaded by writing the national history either in the mother-tongue but in that case in verse, or in prose but in that case in Greek. We have already spoken of the metrical chronicles of Naevius (written about 550?) and of Ennius (written about 581); both belong to the earliest historical literature of the Romans, and the work of Naevius may be regarded as the oldest of all Roman historical works. at nearly the same period were composed the Greek "Histories" of Quintus Fabius Pictor(56) (after 553), a man of noble family who took an active part in state affairs during the Hannibalic war, and of Publius Scipio, the son of Scipio Africanus (about 590). in the former case they availed themselves of the poetical art which was already to a certain extent developed, and addressed themselves to a public with a taste for poetry, which was not altogether wanting; in the latter case they found the Greek forms ready to their hand, and addressed themselves --as the interest of their subject stretching far beyond the bounds of Latium naturally suggested--primarily to the cultivated foreigner. The former plan was adopted by the plebeian authors, the latter by those of quality; just as in the time of Frederick the Great an aristocratic literature in the French language subsisted side by side with the native German authorship of pastors and professors, and, while men like Gleim and Ramler wrote war-songs in German, kings and generals wrote military histories in French. Neither the metrical chronicles nor the Greek annals by Roman authors constituted Latin historical composition in the proper sense; this only began with Cato, whose "Origines," not published before the close of this epoch, formed at once the oldest historical work written in Latin and the first important prose work in Roman literature.(57)
All these works, while not coming up to the Greek conception of history,(58) were, as contrasted with the mere detached notices of the book of Annals, systematic histories with a connected narrative and a more or less regular structure. They all, so far as we can see, embraced the national history from the building of Rome down to the time of the writer, although in point of title the work of Naevius related only to the first war with Carthage, and that of Cato only to the very early history. They were thus naturally divided into the three sections of the legendary period, of earlier, and of contemporary, history.
History of the Origin of RomeIn the legendary period the history of the origin of the city of Rome was set forth with great minuteness; and in its case the peculiar difficulty had to be surmounted, that there were, as we have already shown,(59) two wholly irreconcileable versions of it in circulation: the national version, which, in its leading outlines at least, was probably already embodied in the book of Annals, and the Greek version of Timaeus, which cannot have remained unknown to these Roman chroniclers. The object of the former was to connect Rome with Alba, that of the latter to connect Rome with Troy; in the former accordingly the city was built by Romulus son of the Alban king, in the latter by the Trojan prince Aeneas. To the present epoch, probably either to Naevius or to Pictor, belongs the amalgamation of the two stories. The Alban prince Romulus remains the founder of Rome, but becomes at the same time the grandson of Aeneas; Aeneas does not found Rome, but is represented as bringing the Roman Penates to Italy and building Lavinium as their shrine, while his son Ascanius founds Alba Longa, the mother-city of Rome and the ancient metropolis of Latium. All this was a sorry and unskilful patchwork. The view that the original Penates of Rome were preserved not, as had hitherto been believed, in their temple in the Roman Forum, but in the shrine at Lavinium, could not but be offensive to the Romans; and the Greek fiction was a still worse expedient, inasmuch as under it the gods only bestowed on the grandson what they had adjudged to the grandsire. But the redaction served its object: without exactly denying the national origin of Rome, it yet deferred to the Hellenizing tendency, and legalized in some degree that desire to claim kindred with Aeneas and his descendants which was already at this epoch greatly in vogue;(60) and thus it became the stereotyped, and was soon accepted as the official, account of the origin of the mighty community.
Apart from the fable of the origin of the city, the Greek historiographers had otherwise given themselves little or no concern as to the Roman commonwealth; so that the presentation of the further course of the national history must have been chiefly derived from native sources. But the scanty information that has reached us does not enable us to discern distinctly what sort of traditions, in addition to the book of Annals, were at the command of the earliest chroniclers, and what they may possibly have added of their own. The anecdotes inserted from Herodotus(61) were probably still foreign to these earliest annalists, and a direct borrowing of Greek materials in this section cannot be proved. The more remarkable, therefore, is the tendency, which is everywhere, even in the case of Cato the enemy of the Greeks, very distinctly apparent, not only to connect Rome with Hellas, but to represent the Italian and Greek nations as having been originally identical. To this tendency we owe the primitive-Italians or Aborigines who were immigrants from Greece, and the primitive- Greeks or Pelasgians whose wanderings brought them to Italy.
The Earlier HistoryThe current story led with some measure of connection, though the connecting thread was but weak and loose through the regal period down to the institution of the republic; but at that point legend dried up; and it was not merely difficult but altogether impossible to form a narrative, in any degree connected and readable, out of the lists of magistrates and the scanty notices appended to them. The poets felt this most. Naevius appears for that reason to have passed at once from the regal period to the war regarding Sicily: Ennius, who in the third of his eighteen books was still describing the regal period and in the sixth had already reached the war with Pyrrhus, must have treated the first two centuries of the republic merely in the most general outline. How the annalists who wrote in Greek managed the matter, we do not know. Cato adopted a peculiar course. He felt no pleasure, as he himself says, "in relating what was set forth on the tablet in the house of the Pontifex Maximus, how often wheat had been dear, and when the sun or moon had been eclipsed;" and so he devoted the second and third books of his historical work to accounts of the origin of the other Italian communities and of their admission to the Roman confederacy. He thus got rid of the fetters of chronicle, which reports events year by year under the heading of the magistrates for the time being; the statement in particular, that Cato's historical work narrated events "sectionally," must refer to this feature of his method. This attention bestowed on the other Italian communities, which surprises us in a Roman work, had a bearing on the political position of the author, who leaned throughout on the support of the municipal Italy in his opposition to the doings of the capital; while it furnished a sort of substitute for the missing history of Rome from the expulsion of king Tarquinius down to the Pyrrhic war, by presenting in its own way the main result of that history--the union of Italy under the hegemony of Rome.
Contemporary HistoryContemporary history, again, was treated in a connected and detailed manner. Naevius described the first, and Fabius the second, war with Carthage from their own knowledge; Ennius devoted at least thirteen out of the eighteen books of his Annals to the epoch from Pyrrhus down to the Istrian war;(62) Cato narrated in the fourth and fifth books of his historical work the wars from the first Punic war down to that with Perseus, and in the two last books, which probably were planned on a different and ampler scale, he related the events of the last twenty years of his life. For the Pyrrhic war Ennius may have employed Timaeus or other Greek authorities; but on the whole the accounts given were based, partly on personal observation or communications of eye-witnesses, partly on each other.
Speeches and LettersContemporaneously with historical literature, and in some sense as an appendage to it, arose the literature of speeches and letters. This in like manner was commenced by Cato; for the Romans possessed nothing of an earlier age except some funeral orations, most of which probably were only brought to light at a later period from family archives, such as that which the veteran Quintus Fabius, the opponent of Hannibal, delivered when an old man over his son who had died in his prime. Cato on the other hand committed to writing in his old age such of the numerous orations which he had delivered during his long and active public career as were historically important, as a sort of political memoirs, and published them partly in his historical work, partly, it would seem, as independent supplements to it. There also existed a collection of his letters.
History of Other NationsWith non-Roman history the Romans concerned themselves so far, that a certain knowledge of it was deemed indispensable for the cultivated Roman; even old Fabius is said to have been familiar not merely with the Roman, but also with foreign, wars, and it is distinctly testified that Cato diligently read Thucydides and the Greek historians in general. But, if we leave out of view the collection of anecdotes and maxims which Cato compiled for himself as the fruits of this reading, no trace is discernible of any literary activity in this field.
Uncritical Treatment of HistoryThese first essays in historical literature were all of them, as a matter of course, pervaded by an easy, uncritical spirit; neither authors nor readers readily took offence at inward or outward inconsistencies. King Tarquinius the Second, although he was already grown up at the time of his father's death and did not begin to reign till thirty-nine years afterwards, is nevertheless still a young man when he ascends the throne. Pythagoras, who came to Italy about a generation before the expulsion of the kings, is nevertheless set down by the Roman historians as a friend of the wise Numa. The state- envoys sent to Syracuse in the year 262 transact business with Dionysius the elder, who ascended the throne eighty-six years afterwards (348). This naive uncritical spirit is especially apparent in the treatment of Roman chronology. Since according to the Roman reckoning--the outlines of which were probably fixed in the previous epoch--the foundation of Rome took place 240 years before the consecration of the Capitoline temple(63) and 360 years before the burning of the city by the Gauls,(64) and the latter event, which is mentioned also in Greek historical works, fell according to these in the year of the Athenian archon Pyrgion 388 B. C. Ol. 98, i, the building of Rome accordingly fell on Ol. 8, i. This was, according to the chronology of Eratosthenes which was already recognized as canonical, the year 436 after the fall of Troy; nevertheless the common story retained as the founder of Rome the grandson of the Trojan Aeneas. Cato, who like a good financier checked the calculation, no doubt drew attention in this instance to the incongruity; but he does not appear to have proposed any mode of getting over the difficulty--the list of the Alban kings, which was afterwards inserted with this view, certainly did not proceed from him.
The same uncritical spirit, which prevailed in the early history, prevailed also to a certain extent in the representation of historical times. The accounts certainly without exception bore that strong party colouring, for which the Fabian narrative of the commencement of the second war with Carthage is censured by Polybius with the calm severity characteristic of him. Mistrust, however, is more appropriate in such circumstances than reproach. It is somewhat ridiculous to expect from the Roman contemporaries of Hannibal a just judgment on their opponents; but no conscious misrepresentation of the facts, except such as a simple-minded patriotism of itself involves, has been proved against the fathers of Roman history.
ScienceThe beginnings of scientific culture, and even of authorship relating to it, also fall within this epoch. The instruction hitherto given had been substantially confined to reading and writing and a knowledge of the law of the land.(65) But a closer contact with the Greeks gradually suggested to the Romans the idea of a more general culture; and stimulated the endeavour, if not directly to transplant this Greek culture to Rome, at any rate to modify the Roman culture to some extent after its model.
GrammarFirst of all, the knowledge of the mother-tongue began to shape itself into Latin grammar; Greek philology transferred its methods to the kindred idiom of Italy. The active study of grammar began nearly at the same time with Roman authorship. About 520 Spurius Carvilius, a teacher of writing, appears to have regulated the Latin alphabet, and to have given to the letter -g, which was not previously included in it,(66) the place of the -z which could be dispensed with--the place which it still holds in the modern Occidental alphabets. The Roman school-masters must have been constantly working at the settlement of orthography; the Latin Muses too never disowned their scholastic Hippocrene, and at all times applied themselves to orthography side by side with poetry. Ennius especially--resembling Klopstock in this respect also--not only practised an etymological play on assonance quite after the Alexandrian style,(67) but also introduced, in place of the simple signs for the double consonants that had hitherto been usual, the more accurate Greek double writing. of Naevius and Plautus, it is true, nothing of the kind is known; the popular poets in Rome must have treated orthography and etymology with the indifference which is usual with poets.
Rhetoric and PhilosophyThe Romans of this epoch still remained strangers to rhetoric and philosophy. The speech in their case lay too decidedly at the very heart of public life to be accessible to the handling of the foreign schoolmaster; the genuine orator Cato poured forth all the vials of his indignant ridicule over the silly Isocratean fashion of ever learning, and yet never being able, to speak. The Greek philosophy, although it acquired a certain influence over the Romans through the medium of didactic and especially of tragic poetry, was nevertheless viewed with an apprehension compounded of boorish ignorance and of instinctive misgiving. Cato bluntly called Socrates a talker and a revolutionist, who was justly put to death as an offender against the faith and the laws of his country; and the opinion, which even Romans addicted to philosophy entertained regarding it, may well be expressed in the words of Ennius:
-Philosophari est mihi necesse, at paucis, nam omnino haut placet. Degustandum ex ea, non in eam ingurgitandum censeo.-
Nevertheless the poem on Morals and the instructions in Oratory, which were found among the writings of Cato, may be regarded as the Roman quintessence or, if the expression be preferred, the Roman -caput mortuum- of Greek philosophy and rhetoric. The immediate sources whence Cato drew were, in the case of the poem on Morals, presumably the Pythagorean writings on morals (along with, as a matter of course, due commendation of the simple ancestral habits), and, in the case of the book on Oratory, the speeches in Thucydides and more especially the orations of Demosthenes, all of which Cato zealously studied. Of the spirit of these manuals we may form some idea from the golden oratorical rule, oftener quoted than followed by posterity, "to think of the matter and leave the words to follow from it."(68)
MedicineSimilar manuals of a general elementary character were composed by Cato on the Art of Healing, the Science of War, Agriculture, and Jurisprudence--all of which studies were likewise more or less under Greek influence. Physics and mathematics were not much studied in Rome; but the applied sciences connected with them received a certain measure of attention. This was most of all true of medicine. in 535 the first Greek physician, the Peloponnesian Archagathus, settled in Rome and there acquired such repute by his surgical operations, that a residence was assigned to him on the part of the state and he received the freedom of the city; and thereafter his colleagues flocked in crowds to Italy. Cato no doubt not only reviled the foreign medical practitioners with a zeal worthy of a better cause, but attempted, by means of his medical manual compiled from his own experience and probably in part also from the medical literature of the Greeks, to revive the good old fashion under which the father of the family was at the same time the family physician. The physicians and the public gave themselves, as was reasonable, but little concern about his obstinate invectives: at any rate the profession, one of the most lucrative which existed in Rome, continued a monopoly in the hands of the foreigners, and for centuries there were none but Greek physicians in Rome.
MathematicsHitherto the measurement of time had been treated in Rome with barbarous indifference, but matters were now at least in some degree improved. With the erection of the first sundial in the Roman Forum in 491 the Greek hour (--ora--, -hora-) began to come into use at Rome: it happened, however, that the Romans erected a sundial which had been prepared for Catana situated four degrees farther to the south, and were guided by this for a whole century. Towards the end of this epoch we find several persons of quality taking an interest in mathematical studies. Manius Acilius Glabrio (consul in 563) attempted to check the confusion of the calendar by a law, which allowed the pontifical college to insert or omit intercalary months at discretion: if the measure failed in its object and in fact aggravated the evil, the failure was probably owing more to the unscrupulousness than to the want of intelligence of the Roman theologians. Marcus Fulvius Nobilior (consul in 565), a man of Greek culture, endeavoured at least to make the Roman calendar more generally known. Gaius Sulpicius Gallus (consul in 588), who not only predicted the eclipse of the moon in 586 but also calculated the distance of the moon from the earth, and who appears to have come forward even as an astronomical writer, was regarded on this account by his contemporaries as a prodigy of diligence and acuteness.
Agriculture and the Art of WarAgriculture and the art of war were, of course, primarily regulated by the standard of traditional and personal experience, as is very distinctly apparent in that one of the two treatises of Cato on Agriculture which has reached our time. But the results of Graeco- Latin, and even of Phoenician, culture were brought to bear on these subordinate fields just as on the higher provinces of intellectual activity, and for that reason the foreign literature relating to them cannot but have attracted some measure of attention.
JurisprudenceJurisprudence, on the other hand, was only in a subordinate degree affected by foreign elements. The activity of the jurists of this period was still mainly devoted to the answering of parties consulting them and to the instruction of younger listeners; but this oral instruction contributed to form a traditional groundwork of rules, and literary activity was not wholly wanting. A work of greater importance for jurisprudence than the short sketch of Cato was the treatise published by Sextus Aelius Paetus, surnamed the "subtle" (-catus-), who was the first practical jurist of his time, and, in consequence of his exertions for the public benefit in this respect, rose to the consulship (556) and to the censorship (560). His treatise --the "-Tripartita-" as it was called--was a work on the Twelve Tables, which appended to each sentence of the text an explanation--chiefly, doubtless, of the antiquated and unintelligible expressions--and the corresponding formula of action. While this process of glossing undeniably indicated the influence of Greek grammatical studies, the portion treating of the formulae of action, on the contrary, was based on the older collection of Appius(69) and on the whole system of procedure developed by national usage and precedent.
Cato's EncyclopaediaThe state of science generally at this epoch is very distinctly exhibited in the collection of those manuals composed by Cato for his son which, as a sort of encyclopaedia, were designed to set forth in short maxims what a "fit man" (-vir bonus-) ought to be as orator, physician, husbandman, warrior, and jurist. A distinction was not yet drawn between the propaedeutic and the professional study of science; but so much of science generally as seemed necessary or useful was required of every true Roman. The work did not include Latin grammar, which consequently cannot as yet have attained that formal development which is implied in a properly scientific instruction in language; and it excluded music and the whole cycle of the mathematical and physical sciences. Throughout it was the directly practical element in science which alone was to be handled, and that with as much brevity and simplicity as possible. The Greek literature was doubtless made use of, but only to furnish some serviceable maxims of experience culled from the mass of chaff and rubbish: it was one of Cato's commonplaces, that "Greek books must be looked into, but not thoroughly studied." Thus arose those household manuals of necessary information, which, while rejecting Greek subtlety and obscurity, banished also Greek acuteness and depth, but through that very peculiarity moulded the attitude of the Romans towards the Greek sciences for all ages.
Character and Historical Position of Roman LiteratureThus poetry and literature made their entrance into Rome along with the sovereignty of the world, or, to use the language of a poet of the age of Cicero:
-Poenico bello secundo Musa pennato gradu Intulit se bellicosam Romuli in gentem feram.-
In the districts using the Sabellian and Etruscan dialects also there must have been at the same period no want of intellectual movement Tragedies in the Etruscan language are mentioned, and vases with Oscan inscriptions show that the makers of them were acquainted with Greek comedy. The question accordingly presents itself, whether, contemporarily with Naevius and Cato, a Hellenizing literature like the Roman may not have been in course of formation on the Arnus and Volturnus. But all information on the point is lost, and history can in such circumstances only indicate the blank.
Hellenizing LiteratureThe Roman literature is the only one as to which we can still form an opinion; and, however problematical its absolute worth may appear to the aesthetic judge, for those who wish to apprehend the history of Rome it remains of unique value as the mirror of the inner mental life of Italy in that sixth century--full of the din of arms and pregnant for the future--during which its distinctively Italian phase closed, and the land began to enter into the broader career of ancient civilization. in it too there prevailed that antagonism, which everywhere during this epoch pervaded the life of the nation and characterized the age of transition. No one of unprejudiced mind, and who is not misled by the venerable rust of two thousand years, can be deceived as to the defectiveness of the Hellenistico-Roman literature. Roman literature by the side of that of Greece resembles a German orangery by the side of a grove of Sicilian orange-trees; both may give us pleasure, but it is impossible even to conceive them as parallel. This holds true of the literature in the mother-tongue of the Latins still more decidedly, if possible, than of the Roman literature in a foreign tongue; to a very great extent the former was not the work of Romans at all, but of foreigners, of half-Greeks, Celts, and ere long even Africans, whose knowledge of Latin was only acquired by study. Among those who in this age came before the public as poets, none, as we have already said, can be shown to have been persons of rank; and not only so, but none can be shown to have been natives of Latium proper. The very name given to the poet was foreign; even Ennius emphatically calls himself a -poeta-(70). But not only was this poetry foreign; it was also liable to all those defects which are found to occur where schoolmasters become authors and the great multitude forms the public. We have shown how comedy was artistically debased by a regard to the multitude, and in fact sank into vulgar coarseness; we have further shown that two of the most influential Roman authors were schoolmasters in the first instance and only became poets in the sequel, and that, while the Greek philology which only sprang up after the decline of the national literature experimented merely on the dead body, in Latium grammar and literature had their foundations laid simultaneously and went hand in hand, almost as in the case of modern missions to the heathen. In fact, if we view with an unprejudiced eye this Hellenistic literature of the sixth century--that poetry followed out professionally and destitute of all productiveness of its own, that uniform imitation of the very shallowest forms of foreign art, that repertoire of translations, that changeling of epos--we are tempted to reckon it simply one of the diseased symptoms of the epoch before us.
But such a judgment, if not unjust, would yet be just only in a very partial sense. We must first of all consider that this artificial literature sprang up in a nation which not only did not possess any national poetic art, but could never attain any such art. In antiquity, which knew nothing of the modern poetry of individual life, creative poetical activity fell mainly within the mysterious period when a nation was experiencing the fears and pleasures of growth: without prejudice to the greatness of the Greek epic and tragic poets we may assert that their poetry mainly consisted in reproducing the primitive stories of human gods and divine men. This basis of ancient poetry was totally wanting in Latium: where the world of gods remained shapeless and legend remained barren, the golden apples of poetry could not voluntarily ripen. To this falls to be added a second and more important consideration.
The inward mental development and the outward political evolution of Italy had equally reached a point at which it was no longer possible to retain the Roman nationality based on the exclusion of all higher and individual mental culture, and to repel the encroachments of Hellenism. The propagation of Hellenism in Italy had certainly a revolutionary and a denationalizing tendency, but it was indispensable for the necessary intellectual equalization of the nations; and this primarily forms the historical and even the poetical justification of the Romano-Hellenistic literature. Not a single new and genuine work of art issued from its workshop, but it extended the intellectual horizon of Hellas over Italy. Viewed even in its mere outward aspect, Greek poetry presumes in the hearer a certain amount of positive acquired knowledge. That self-contained completeness, which is one of the most essential peculiarities of the dramas of Shakespeare for instance, was foreign to ancient poetry; a person unacquainted with the cycle of Greek legend would fail to discover the background and often even the ordinary meaning of every rhapsody and every tragedy. If the Roman public of this period was in some degree familiar, as the comedies of Plautus show, with the Homeric poems and the legends of Herakles, and was acquainted with at least the more generally current of the other myths,(71) this knowledge must have found its way to the public primarily through the stage alongside of the school, and thus have formed at least a first step towards the understanding of the Hellenic poetry. But still deeper was the effect--on which the most ingenious literary critics of antiquity justly laid emphasis--produced by the naturalization of the Greek poetic language and the Greek metres in Latium. If "conquered Greece vanquished her rude conqueror by art," the victory was primarily accomplished by elaborating from the unpliant Latin idiom a cultivated and elevated poetical language, so that instead of the monotonous and hackneyed Saturnian the senarius flowed and the hexameter rushed, and the mighty tetrameters, the jubilant anapaests, and the artfully intermingled lyrical rhythms fell on the Latin ear in the mother-tongue. Poetical language is the key to the ideal world of poetry, poetic measure the key to poetical feeling; for the man, to whom the eloquent epithet is dumb and the living image is dead, and in whom the times of dactyls and iambuses awaken no inward echo, Homer and Sophocles have composed in vain. Let it not be said that poetical and rhythmical feeling comes spontaneously. The ideal feelings are no doubt implanted by nature in the human breast, but they need favourable sunshine in order to germinate; and especially in the Latin nation, which was but little susceptible of poetic impulses, they needed external nurture. Nor let it be said, that, by virtue of the widely diffused acquaintance with the Greek language, its literature would have sufficed for the susceptible Roman public. The mysterious charm which language exercises over man, and which poetical language and rhythm only enhance, attaches not to any tongue learned accidentally, but only to the mother-tongue. From this point of view, we shall form a juster judgment of the Hellenistic literature, and particularly of the poetry, of the Romans of this period. If it tended to transplant the radicalism of Euripides to Rome, to resolve the gods either into deceased men or into mental conceptions, to place a denationalized Latium by the side of a denationalized Hellas, and to reduce all purely and distinctly developed national peculiarities to the problematic notion of general civilization, every one is at liberty to find this tendency pleasing or disagreeable, but none can doubt its historical necessity. From this point of view the very defectiveness of the Roman poetry, which cannot be denied, may be explained and so may in some degree be justified. It is no doubt pervaded by a disproportion between the trivial and often bungled contents and the comparatively finished form; but the real significance of this poetry lay precisely in its formal features, especially those of language and metre. It was not seemly that poetry in Rome was principally in the hands of schoolmasters and foreigners and was chiefly translation or imitation; but, if the primary object of poetry was simply to form a bridge from Latium to Hellas, Livius and Ennius had certainly a vocation to the poetical pontificate in Rome, and a translated literature was the simplest means to the end. It was still less seemly that Roman poetry preferred to lay its hands on the most worn- out and trivial originals; but in this view it was appropriate. No one will desire to place the poetry of Euripides on a level with that of Homer; but, historically viewed, Euripides and Menander were quite as much the oracles of cosmopolitan Hellenism as the Iliad and Odyssey were the oracles of national Hellenism, and in so far the representatives of the new school had good reason for introducing their audience especially to this cycle of literature. The instinctive consciousness also of their limited poetical powers may partly have induced the Roman composers to keep mainly by Euripides and Menander and to leave Sophocles and even Aristophanes untouched; for, while poetry is essentially national and difficult to transplant, intellect and wit, on which the poetry of Euripides as well as of Menander is based, are in their very nature cosmopolitan. Moreover the fact always deserves to be honourably acknowledged, that the Roman poets of the sixth century did not attach themselves to the Hellenic literature of the day or what is called Alexandrinism, but sought their models solely in the older classical literature, although not exactly in its richest or purest fields. on the whole, however innumerable may be the false accommodations and sins against the rules of art which we can point out in them, these were just the offences which were by stringent necessity attendant on the far from scrupulous efforts of the missionaries of Hellenism; and they are, in a historical and even aesthetic point of view, outweighed in some measure by the zeal of faith equally inseparable from propagandism. We may form a different opinion from Ennius as to the value of his new gospel; but, if in the case of faith it does not matter so much what, as how, men believe, we cannot refuse recognition and admiration to the Roman poets of the sixth century. A fresh and strong sense of the power of the Hellenic world-literature, a sacred longing to transplant the marvellous tree to the foreign land, pervaded the whole poetry of the sixth century, and coincided in a peculiar manner with the thoroughly elevated spirit of that great age. The later refined Hellenism looked down on the poetical performances of this period with some degree of contempt; it should rather perhaps have looked up to the poets, who with all their imperfection yet stood in a more intimate relation to Greek poetry, and approached nearer to genuine poetical art, than their more cultivated successors. in the bold emulation, in the sounding rhythms, even in the mighty professional pride of the poets of this age there is, more than in any other epoch of Roman literature, an imposing grandeur; and even those who are under no illusion as to the weak points of this poetry may apply to it the proud language, already quoted, in which Ennius celebrates its praise:
-Enni poeta, salve, qui mortalibus Versus propinas flammeos medullitus.-
National OppositionAs the Hellenico-Roman literature of this period was essentially marked by a dominant tendency, so was also its antithesis, the contemporary national authorship. While the former aimed at neither more nor less than the annihilation of Latin nationality by the creation of a poetry Latin in language but Hellenic in form and spirit, the best and purest part of the Latin nation was driven to reject and place under the ban of outlawry the literature of Hellenism along with Hellenism itself. The Romans in the time of Cato stood opposed to Greek literature, very much as in the time of the Caesars they stood opposed to Christianity; freedmen and foreigners formed the main body of the poetical, as they afterwards formed the main body of the Christian, community; the nobility of the nation and above all the government saw in poetry as in Christianity an absolutely hostile power; Plautus and Ennius were ranked with the rabble by the Roman aristocracy for reasons nearly the same as those for which the apostles and bishops were put to death by the Roman government. In this field too it was Cato, of course, who took the lead as the vigorous champion of his native country against the foreigners. The Greek literati and physicians were in his view the most dangerous scum of the radically corrupt Greek people,(72) and the Roman "ballad- singers" are treated by him with ineffable contempt.(73) He and those who shared his sentiments have been often and harshly censured on this account, and certainly the expressions of his displeasure are not unfrequently characterized by the bluntness and narrowness peculiar to him; on a closer consideration, however, we must not only confess him to have been in individual instances substantially right, but we must also acknowledge that the national opposition in this field, more than anywhere else, went beyond the manifestly inadequate line of mere negative defence. When his younger contemporary, Aulus Postumius Albinus, who was an object of ridicule to the Hellenes themselves by his offensive Hellenizing, and who, for example, even manufactured Greek verses--when this Albinus in the preface to his historical treatise pleaded in excuse for his defective Greek that he was by birth a Roman--was not the question quite in place, whether he had been doomed by authority of law to meddle with matters which he did not understand? Were the trades of the professional translator of comedies and of the poet celebrating heroes for bread and protection more honourable, perhaps, two thousand years ago than they are now? Had Cato not reason to make it a reproach against Nobilior, that he took Ennius--who, we may add, glorified in his verses the Roman potentates without respect of persons, and overloaded Cato himself with praise--along with him to Ambracia as the celebrator of his future achievements? Had he not reason to revile the Greeks, with whom he had become acquainted in Rome and Athens, as an incorrigibly wretched pack? This opposition to the culture of the age and the Hellenism of the day was well warranted; but Cato was by no means chargeable with an opposition to culture and to Hellenism in general. On the contrary it is the highest merit of the national party, that they comprehended very clearly the necessity of creating a Latin literature and of bringing the stimulating influences of Hellenism to bear on it; only their intention was, that Latin literature should not be a mere copy taken from the Greek and intruded on the national feelings of Rome, but should, while fertilized by Greek influences, be developed in accordance with Italian nationality. With a genial instinct, which attests not so much the sagacity of individuals as the elevation of the epoch, they perceived that in the case of Rome, owing to the total want of earlier poetical productiveness, history furnished the only subject-matter for the development of an intellectual life of their own. Rome was, what Greece was not, a state; and the mighty consciousness of this truth lay at the root both of the bold attempt which Naevius made to attain by means of history a Roman epos and a Roman drama, and of the creation of Latin prose by Cato. It is true that the endeavour to replace the gods and heroes of legend by the kings and consuls of Rome resembles the attempt of the giants to storm heaven by means of mountains piled one above another: without a world of gods there is no ancient epos and no ancient drama, and poetry knows no substitutes. With greater moderation and good sense Cato left poetry proper, as a thing irremediably lost, to the party opposed to him; although his attempt to create a didactic poetry in national measure after the model of the earlier Roman productions --the Appian poem on Morals and the poem on Agriculture--remains significant and deserving of respect, in point if not of success, at least of intention. Prose afforded him a more favourable field, and accordingly he applied the whole varied power and energy peculiar to him to the creation of a prose literature in his native tongue. This effort was all the more Roman and all the more deserving of respect, that the public which he primarily addressed was the family circle, and that in such an effort he stood almost alone in his time. Thus arose his "Origines," his remarkable state-speeches, his treatises on special branches of science. They are certainly pervaded by a national spirit, and turn on national subjects; but they are far from anti-Hellenic: in fact they originated essentially under Greek influence, although in a different sense from that in which the writings of the opposite party so originated. The idea and even the title of his chief work were borrowed from the Greek "foundation- histories" (--ktoeis--). The same is true of his oratorical authorship; he ridiculed Isocrates, but he tried to learn from Thucydides and Demosthenes. His encyclopaedia is essentially the result of his study of Greek literature. of all the undertakings of that active and patriotic man none was more fruitful of results and none more useful to his country than this literary activity, little esteemed in comparison as it probably was by himself. He found numerous and worthy successors in oratorical and scientific authorship; and though his original historical treatise, which of its kind may be compared with the Greek logography, was not followed by any Herodotus or Thucydides, yet by and through him the principle was established that literary occupation in connection with the useful sciences as well as with history was not merely becoming but honourable in a Roman.
ArchitectureLet us glance, in conclusion, at the state of the arts of architecture, sculpture, and painting. So far as concerns the former, the traces of incipient luxury were less observable in public than in private buildings. It was not till towards the close of this period, and especially from the time of the censorship of Cato (570), that the Romans began in the case of the former to have respect to the convenience as well as to the bare wants of the public; to line with stone the basins (-lacus-) supplied from the aqueducts, (570); to erect colonnades (575, 580); and above all to transfer to Rome the Attic halls for courts and business--the -basilicae- as they were called. The first of these buildings, somewhat corresponding to our modern bazaars--the Porcian or silversmiths' hall--was erected by Cato in 570 alongside of the senate-house; others were soon associated with it, till gradually along the sides of the Forum the private shops were replaced by these splendid columnar halls. Everyday life, however, was more deeply influenced by the revolution in domestic architecture which must, at latest, be placed in this period. The hall of the house (-atrium-), court (-cavum aedium-), garden and garden colonnade (-peristylium-), the record-chamber (-tablinum-), chapel, kitchen, and bedrooms were by degrees severally provided for; and, as to the internal fittings, the column began to be applied both in the court and in the hall for the support of the open roof and also for the garden colonnades: throughout these arrangements it is probable that Greek models were copied or at any rate made use of. Yet the materials used in building remained simple; "our ancestors," says Varro, "dwelt in houses of brick, and laid merely a moderate foundation of stone to keep away damp."
Plastic Art and PaintingOf Roman plastic art we scarcely encounter any other trace than, perhaps, the embossing in wax of the images of ancestors. Painters and painting are mentioned somewhat more frequently. Manius Valerius caused the victory which he obtained over the Carthaginians and Hiero in 491 off Messana(74) to be depicted on the side wall of the senate- house--the first historical frescoes in Rome, which were followed by many of similar character, and which were in the domain of the arts of design what the national epos and the national drama became not much later in the domain of poetry. We find named as painters, one Theodotus who, as Naevius scoffingly said,
-Sedens in cella circumtectus tegetibus Lares ludentis peni pinxit bubulo;-
Marcus Pacuvius of Brundisium, who painted in the temple of Hercules in the Forum Boarium--the same who, when more advanced in life, made himself a name as an editor of Greek tragedies; and Marcus Plautius Lyco, a native of Asia Minor, whose beautiful paintings in the temple of Juno at Ardea procured for him the freedom of that city.(75) But these very facts clearly indicate, not only that the exercise of art in Rome was altogether of subordinate importance and more of a manual occupation than an art, but also that it fell, probably still more exclusively than poetry, into the hands of Greeks and half Greeks.
On the other hand there appeared in genteel circles the first traces of the tastes subsequently displayed by the dilettante and the collector. They admired the magnificence of the Corinthian and Athenian temples, and regarded with contempt the old-fashioned terra- cotta figures on the roofs of those of Rome: even a man like Lucius Paullus, who shared the feelings of Cato rather than of Scipio, viewed and judged the Zeus of Phidias with the eye of a connoisseur. The custom of carrying off the treasures of art from the conquered Greek cities was first introduced on a large scale by Marcus Marcellus after the capture of Syracuse (542). The practice met with severe reprobation from men of the old school of training, and the stern veteran Quintus Fabius Maximus, for instance, on the capture of Tarentum (545) gave orders that the statues in the temples should not be touched, but that the Tarentines should be allowed to retain their indignant gods. Yet the plundering of temples in this way became of more and more frequent occurrence. Titus Flamininus in particular (560) and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior (567), two leading champions of Roman Hellenism, as well as Lucius Paullus (587), were the means of filling the public buildings of Rome with the masterpieces of the Greek chisel. Here too the Romans had a dawning consciousness of the truth that an interest in art as well as an interest in poetry formed an essential part of Hellenic culture or, in other words, of modern civilization; but, while the appropriation of Greek poetry was impossible without some sort of poetical activity, in the case of art the mere beholding and procuring of its productions seemed to suffice, and therefore, while a native literature was formed in an artificial way in Rome, no attempt even was made to develop a native art.
3.1 notes | Mommsen Table of Contents