A History of Roman Literature - From the Earliest Period to the Death of Marcus Aurelius
by Charles Thomas Cruttwell
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"The iambus is not much in vogue among the Romans as a separate form of poetry; it is more often interspersed with other rhythms. Its bitterness is found in Catullus, Bibaculus, and Horace, though in the last the epode breaks its monotony.

"Of lyricists Horace is, I may say, the only one worth reading; for he sometimes rises, and he is always full of sweetness and grace, and most happily daring in figures and expressions. If any one else be added, it must be Caesius Bassus, whom we have lately seen, but there are living lyricists far greater than he.

"Of the ancient tragedians Accius and Pacuvius are the most renowned for the gravity of their sentiments, the weight of their words, and the dignity of their characters. But brilliancy of touch and the last polish in completing their work seems to have been wanting, not so much to themselves as to their times. Accius is held to be the more powerful writer; Pacuvius (by those who wish to be thought learned) the more learned. Next comes the Thyestes of Varius, which may be compared with any of the Greek plays. The Medea of Ovid shows what that poet might have achieved if he had but controlled instead of indulging his inspiration. Of those of my own day Pomponius Secundus is by far the greatest. The old critics, indeed, thought him wanting in tragic force, but they confessed his learning and brilliancy.

"In comedy we halt most lamentably. It is true that Varro declares (after Aelius Stilo) that the muses, had they been willing to talk Latin, would have used the language of Plautus. It is true also that the ancients had a high respect for Caecilius, and that they attributed the plays of Terence to Scipio—plays that are of their kind most elegant, and would be even more pleasing if they had kept within the iambic metre. We can scarcely reproduce in comedy a faint shadow of our originals, so that I am compelled to believe the language incapable of that grace, which even in Greek is peculiar to the Attic, or at any rate has never been attained in any other dialect. Afranius excels in the national comedy, but I wish he had not defiled his plots by licentious allusions.

"In history at all events, I would not yield the palm to Greece. I should have no fear in matching Sallust against Thucydides, nor would Herodotus disdain to be compared with Livy—Livy, the most delightful in narration, the most candid in judgment, the most eloquent in his speeches that can be conceived. Everything is perfectly adapted both to the circumstances and personages introduced. The affections, and, above all, the softer ones, have never (to say the least) been more persuasively introduced by any writer. Thus by a different kind of excellence he has equalled the immortal rapidity of Sallust. Servilius Nonianus well said to me: 'They are not like, but they are equal.' I used often to listen to his recitations; a man of lofty spirit and full of brilliant sentiments, but less condensed than the majesty of history demands. This condition was better fulfilled by Aufidius Bassus, who was a little his senior, at any rate in his books on the German War, in which the author was admirable in his general treatment, but now and then fell below himself. There still survives and adorns the literary glory of our age a man worthy of an immortal record, who will be named some day, but now is only alluded to. He has many to admire, none to imitate him, as if freedom, though he clips her wings, had injured him. But even in what he has allowed to remain you can detect a spirit full lofty, and opinions courageously stated. There are other good writers; but at present we are tasting, as it were, the samples, not ransacking the libraries.

"It is the orators who more than any have made Latin eloquence a match for that of Greece. For I could boldly pitch Cicero against any of their champions. Nor am I ignorant how great a strife I should be stirring up (especially as it is no part of my plan), were I to compare him with Demosthenes. This is the less necessary, since I think Demosthenes should be read (or rather learnt by heart) above every one else. Their excellences seem to me to be very similar; there is the same plan, order of division, method of preparation, proof, and all that belongs to invention. In the oratorical style there is some difference. The one is closer, the other more fluent; the one draws his conclusion with more incisiveness, the other with greater breadth; the one always wields a weapon with a sharp edge, the other frequently a heavy one as well; from the one nothing can be taken, to the other nothing can be added; the one shows more care, the other more natural gift. In wit and pathos, both important points, Cicero is clearly first. Perhaps the custom of his state did not allow Demosthenes to use the epilogue, but then neither does the genius of Latin oratory allow us to employ ornaments which the Athenians admire. In their letters, of which both have left several, there can be no comparison; nor in their dialogues, of which Demosthenes has not left any. In one point we must yield: Demosthenes came first, and of course had a great share in making Cicero what he was. For to me Cicero seems in his intense zeal for imitating the Greeks to have united the force of Demosthenes, the copiousness of Plato, and the sweetness of Isocrates. Nor has he only acquired by study all that was best in each, but has even exalted the majority if not the whole of their excellences by the inexpressible fertility of his glorious talent. For, as Pindar says, he does not collect rain-water, but bursts forth in a living stream; born by the gift of providence that eloquence might put forth and test all her powers. For who can teach more earnestly or move more vehemently? to whom was such sweetness ever given? The very concessions he extorts you think he begs, and while by his swing he carries the judge right across the course, the man seems all the while to be following of his own accord. Then in everything he advances there is such strength of assertion that one is ashamed to disagree; nor does he bring to bear the eagerness of an advocate, but the moral confidence of a juryman or a witness; and meanwhile all those graces, which separate individuals with the most constant care can hardly obtain, flow from him without any premeditation; and that eloquence which is so delicious to listen to seems to carry on its surface the most perfect freedom from labour. Wherefore his contemporaries did right to call him 'king of the courts;' and posterity to give him such renown that Cicero stands for the name not of a man but of eloquence itself. Let us then fix our eyes on him; let his be the example we set before us; let him who loves Cicero well know that his own progress has been great. In Asinius Pollio there is much invention, much, according to some, excessive, diligence; but he is so far from the brilliancy and sweetness of Cicero that he might be a generation earlier. But Messala is polished and open, and in a way carries his noble birth into his style of eloquence, but he lacks vigour. If Julius Caesar had only had leisure for the forum, he would be the one we should select as the rival of Cicero. He has such force, point, and vehemence of style, that it is clear he spoke with the same mind that he warred. Yet all is covered with a wondrous elegance of expression, of which he was peculiarly studious. There was much talent in Caelius, and in accusations chiefly he showed a great urbanity; he was a man worthy of a better mind and a longer life. I have found those who prefer Calvus to any orator; I have found others who thought with Cicero that by too strict criticism of himself he lost real power; but his style is weighty and noble, guarded, and often vehement. He was an enthusiastic atticist, and his early death may be considered a misfortune, if we can believe that a longer life would have added something to his over concise manner. Servius Sulpicius has earned considerable fame by his three speeches. Cassius Severus will give many points for imitation if he be read judiciously; if he had added colour and weight to his other good qualities of style, he would be placed extremely high. For he has great talent and wonderful power of satire. His urbanity, too, is great, but he gave himself up to passion rather than reason. And as his wit is always bitter, so the very bitterness of it sometimes makes it ludicrous. I need not enumerate the rest of this long list. Of my own contemporaries Domitius Afer and Julius Africanus are far the greatest; the former in art and general style, the latter in earnestness, and the sorting of words, which sorting, however, is perhaps excessive, as his arrangements are lengthy and his metaphors immoderate. There have been lately some great masters in this line. Trachalus was often sublime, and very open in his manner, a man to whom you gave credit for good motives; but he was much greater heard than read. For he had a beauty of voice such as I have never known in any other, an articulation good enough for the stage, and grace of person and every other external advantage were at their height in him. Vibius Crispus was neat, elegant, and pleasing, better for private than public causes. Had Julius Secundus lived longer, his renown as an orator would be first-rate. For he would have added, as indeed he had already began to add, all the desiderata for the highest ideal. He would have been more combative, and more attentive to the subject, even to an occasional neglect of the manner. Cut off as he was, he nevertheless merits a high place; such is his facility of speech, his charm in explaining what he has to say; his open, gentle, and specious style, his perfect selection of words, even those which are adopted on the spur of the moment; his vigorous application of analogies extemporaneously suggested. My successors in rhetorical criticism will have a rich field for praising those who are now living. For there are now great talents at work who do credit to the bar, both finished patrons, worthy rivals of the ancients, and industrious youths, following them in the path of excellence.

"There remain the philosophers, few of whom have attained to eloquence. Cicero, here as ever, is the rival of Plato. Brutus stands in this department much higher than as an orator; he suffices for the weight of his matter; you can see he feels what he says. Cornelius Celsus, following the Sextii, has written a good deal with point and elegance. Plancus among the Stoics is useful for his knowledge. Among Epicureans, Catius though a light is a pleasant writer. I have purposely deferred Seneca until the end, because of the false report current that I condemn him, and even personally dislike him. This results from my endeavour to recal to a severer standard a corrupt and effeminate taste. When I began my crusade, Seneca was almost the only writer in the hands of the young. Nor did I try to 'disestablish' him altogether, but only to prevent his being placed above better men, whom he continually attacked, from a consciousness that his special talents would never allow him to please in the way they pleased. And then his pupils loved him better than they imitated him, and in their imitations fell as much below him as he had fallen below the ancients. I only wish they could have been equals or seconds to such a man. But he pleased them solely through his faults; and it was to reproduce these that they all strove with their utmost efforts, and then, boasting that they spoke in his style, they greatly injured his fame. He, indeed, had many and great excellences; an easy and fertile talent, much study, much knowledge, though in this he was often led astray by those he employed to 'research' for him. He treated nearly the whole cycle of knowledge. For he has left speeches, poems, letters, and dialogues. In philosophy he was not very accurate, but he was a notable rebuker of vice. Many brilliant apophthegms are scattered through his works; much, too, may be read with a moral purpose. But from the point of view of eloquence his style is corrupt, and the more pernicious because he abounds in pleasant faults. One could wish he had used his own talent and another person's judgment. For had he despised some modes of effect, had he not striven after others (partem), if he had not loved all that was his own, if he had not broken the weight of his subjects by his short cut- up sentences, he would be approved by the consent of the learned rather than by the enthusiasm of boys. For all this, he should be read, but only by those who are robust and well prepared by a course of stricter models; and for this object, to exercise their judgment on both sides. For there is much that is good in him, much to admire; only it requires picking out, a thing he himself ought to have done. A nature which could always achieve its object was worthy of having striven after a better object than it did."




The poet is usually credited with a genius more independent of external circumstances than any other of nature's favourites. His inspiration is more creative, more unearthly, more constraining, more unattainable by mere effort. He seems to forget the world in his own inner sources of thought and feeling. As circumstances cannot produce him, so they do not greatly affect his genius. He is the product of causes as yet unknown to the student of human progress; he is a boon for which the age that has him should be grateful, a sort of aerii mellis caelestia dona. Modern literature is full of this conception. The poet "does but speak because he must; he sings but as the linnets sing." Never has the sentiment been expressed with deeper pathos than by Shelley's well-known lines:

"Like a poet hidden In the light of thought, Singing hymns unbidden, Till the world is wrought To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not."

The idea that the poet can neither be made on the one hand, nor repressed if he is there, on the other, has become deeply rooted in modern literary thought. And yet if we look through the epochs that have been most fertile of great poets, the instances of such self-sufficing hardiness are rare. In Greek poetry we question whether there is one to be found. In Latin poetry there is only Lucretius. In modern times, it is true, they are more numerous, owing to the greater complexity of our social conditions, and the greater difficulty for a strongly sensuous or deeply spiritual poetic nature to be in harmony with them all. Putting aside these solitary voices we should say on the whole that poetry, at least in ancient times, was the tenderest and least hardy of all garden flowers. It needed, so to say, a special soil, constant care, and shelter from the rude blast. It could blossom only in the summer of patronage, popular or imperial; the storms of war and revolution, and the chill frost of despotism, were equally fatal to its tender life. Where its supports were strong its own strength came out, and that with such luxuriance as to hide the props which lay beneath; but when once the inspiring consciousness of sympathy and aid was lost, its fair head drooped, its fragrance was forgotten, and its seeds were scattered to the waste of air.

If Lucan's claim to the name of poet be disputed, what shall we say to the so-called poets of the Flavian age? to Valerius Flaccus, Silius, Statius, and Martial? In one sense they are poets certainly; they have a thorough mastery over the form of their art, over the hackneyed themes of verse. But in the inspiration that makes the bard, in the grace that should adorn his mind, in the familiarity with noble thoughts which lends to the Pharsalia an undisputed greatness, they are one and all absolutely wanting. None of them raise in the reader one thrill of pleasure, none of them add one single idea to enrich the inheritance of mankind. The works of Pliny and Quintilian cannot indeed be ranked among the masterpieces of literature. But in elegant greatness they are immeasurably superior to the works of their brethren of the lyre. Science can seek a refuge in the contemplation of the material universe; if it can find no law there, no justice, no wisdom, no comfort, it at least bows before unchallenged greatness. Rhetoric can solace its aspirations in a noble though hopeless effort to rekindle an extinct past. Poetry, that should point the way to the ideal, that should bear witness if not to goodness at least to beauty and to glory, grovels in a base contentment with all that is meanest and shallowest in the present, and owns no source of inspiration but the bidding of superior force, or the insulting bribe of a despot's minion which derides in secret the very flattery it buys.

These poets need not detain us long. There is little to interest us in them, and they are of little importance in the history of literature. The first of them is C. VALERIUS FLACCUS SETINUS BALBUS. [1] He was born not, as his name would indicate, at Setia, but at Patavium. [2] We gather from a passage in his poem [3] that he filled the office of Quindecimvir sacris faciundis, and from Quintilian [4] that he was cut off by an early death. The date of this event may be fixed with probability to the year 88 A.D. [5] Dureau de la Malle has disputed this, and thinks it probable that he lived until the reign of Trajan; but this is in itself unlikely, and inconsistent with the obviously unfinished state of the poem. The legend of the Argonauts which forms its subject was one that had already been treated by Varro Atacinus apparently in the form of an imitation or translation from the same writer, Appollonius Rhodius, whom Valerius also chose as his model. But whereas Varro's poem was little more than a free translation, that of Valerius is an amplification and study from the original of a more ambitious character. It consists of eight books, of which the last is incomplete, and in estimating its merits or demerits we must not forget the immaturity of its author's talent.

The opening dedication to Vespasian fixes its composition under his reign. Its profane flattery is in the usual style of the period, but lacks the brilliancy, the audacity, and the satire of that of Lucan. From certain allusions it is probable that the poem was written soon after the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus [6] (A.D. 70). There is considerable learning shown, but a desire to compress allusions into a small space and to suggest trains of mythological recollection by passing hints, interfere with the lucidity of the style. In other respects the diction is classical and elegant, and both rhythm and language are closely modelled on those of Virgil. Licences of versification are rare. The spondaic line, rarely used by Ovid, almost discarded by Lucan, but which reappears in Statius, is sparingly employed by Valerius. Hiatus is still rarer, but the shortening of final o occurs in verbs and nominatives, such as Juno, Virgo, whenever it suits the metre. His speeches are rhetorical but not extravagant, some, e.g., that of Helle to Jason, are very pretty. In descriptive power he rises to his highest level; some of his subjects are extremely vivid and might form subjects for a painting. [7] During the time that he was writing the eruption of Vesuvius occurred, and he has described it with the zeal of a witness. [8]

"Sic ubi prorupti tonuit cum forte Vesevi Hesperiae letalis apex; vixdum ignea montem Torsit hiems, iamque Eoas einis induit urbes."

But in this, as in all the descriptive pieces, however striking and elaborate, of the period of the decline, are prominently visible the strained endeavour to be emphatic, and the continual dependence upon book reminiscence instead of first-hand observation. Valerius is no exception to the rule. Nor is the next author who presents himself any better in this respect, the voluptuary and poetaster C. SILIUS ITALICUS.

This laborious compiler and tasteless versifier was born 25 A.D., or according to some 24 A.D., and died by his own act seventy-six years later. He is known to us as a copyist of Virgil; to his contemporaries he was at least as well known as a clever orator and luxurious virtuoso. His early fondness for Virgil's poetry may be presumed from the dedication of Cornutus's treatise on that subject to him, but he soon deserted literature for public life, in which (68 A.D.) he attained the highest success by being nominated consul. He had been a personal friend of Vitellius and of Nero; but now, satisfied with his achievements, he settled down on his estates, and composed his poem on the Punic Wars in sixteen books. Most of the information we possess about him is gathered from the letter [9] in which Pliny narrates his death. We translate the most striking passages for the reader's benefit.

"I have just heard that Silius has closed his life in his Neapolitan villa by voluntary abstinence. The cause of his preferring to die was ill-health. He suffered from an incurable tumour, the trouble arising from which determined him with singular resolution to seek death as a relief. His whole life had been unvaryingly fortunate, except that he had lost the younger of his two sons. On the other hand, he had lived to see his elder and more promising son succeed in life and obtain the consulship. He had injured his reputation under Nero. It was believed he had acted as an informer. But afterwards, while enjoying Vitellius's friendship, he had conducted himself with courtesy and prudence. He had gained much credit by his proconsulship in Asia, and had since by an honourable leisure wiped out the blot which stained the activity of his former years. He ranked among the first men in the state, but he neither retained power nor excited envy. He was saluted, courted; he received levees often in his bed, always in his chamber, which was crowded with visitors, who came attracted by no considerations of his fortune. When not occupied with writing, he passed his days in learned discourse. His poems evince more diligence than talent: he now and then by reciting challenged men's opinions upon them. Latterly, owing to advancing years, he retired from Rome and remained in Campania, nor did even the accession of a new emperor draw him forth. To allow this inactivity was most liberal on the emperor's part, to have the courage to accept it was equally honourable to Silius. He was a virtuoso, and was even blamed for his propensities for collecting. He owned several country-houses in the same district, and was always so taken with each new house he purchased as to neglect the old for it. All of them were well stocked with books, statues, and busts of great men. These last he not only treasured but revered, above all, that of Virgil, whose birthday he kept more religiously than his own. He preferred celebrating it at Naples, where he visited the poet's tomb as if it had been a temple. Amid such complete tranquillity he passed his seventy-fifth year, not exactly weak in body, but delicate."

To this notice of Pliny's we might add several by Martial; but as these refer to the same facts, adding beside only fulsome praises of the wealthy and dignified litterateur, they need not be quoted here. Quintilian does not mention him. But his silence is no token of disrespect; it is merely an indication that Silius was still alive when the great critic wrote.

There is little that calls for remark in his long and tedious work. He is a poet only by memory. Timid and nerveless, he lacks alike the vigorous beauties of the earlier school, and the vigorous faults of the later. He pieces together in the straggling mosaic of his poem hemistichs from his contemporaries, fragments from Livy, words, thoughts, epithets, and rhythms from Virgil; and he elaborates the whole with a pre-Raphaelite fidelity to details which completely destroys whatever unity the subject suggested.

This subject is not in itself a bad one, but the treatment he applies to it is unreal and insipid in the highest degree. He cannot perceive, for instance, that the divine interventions which are admissible in the quarrel of Aeneas and Turnus are ludicrous when imported into the struggle between Scipio and Hannibal. And this inconsistency is the more glaring, since his extreme historical accuracy (an accuracy so strict as to make Niebuhr declare a knowledge of him indispensable to the student of the Punic Wars) gives to his chronicle a prosaic literalness from which nothing is more alien than the caprices of an imaginary pantheon. Who can help resenting the unreality, when at Saguntum Jupiter guides an arrow into Hannibal's body, which Juno immediately withdraws? [10] or when, at Cannae, Aeolus yields to the prayer of Juno and blinds the Romans by a whirlwind of dust? [11] These are two out of innumerable similar instances. Amid such incongruities it is no wonder if the heroes themselves lose all body and consistency, so that Scipio turns into a kind of Paladin, and Hannibal into a monster of cruelty, whom we should not be surprised to see devouring children. Silius in poetry represents, on a reduced scale, the same reactionary sentiments that in prose animated Quintilian. So far he is to be commended. But if we must choose a companion among the Flavian poets, let it be Statius with all his faults, rather than this correct, only because completely talentless, compiler.

To him let us now turn. With filial pride he attributes his eminence to the example and instruction of his father, P. PAPENIUS STATIUS, who was, if we may believe his son, a distinguished and extremely successful poet. [12] He was born either at Naples or at Selle; and the doubt hanging over this point neither the father nor the son had any desire to clear up; for did not the same ambiguity attach to the birthplace of Homer? At any rate he established himself at Naples as a young man, and opened a school for rhetoric and poetry, engaging in the quinquennial contests himself, and training his pupils to do the same. It is not certain that he ever settled at Rome; his modest ambition seems to have been content with provincial celebrity. What the subjects of his prize poetry were we have no means of ascertaining, but we know that he wrote a short epic on the wars between Vespasian and Vitellius and contemplated writing another on the eruption of Vesuvius. His more celebrated son, P. PAPINIUS STATIUS the younger, was born at Naples 61 A.D., and before his father's death had carried off the victory in the Neapolitan poetical games by a poem in honour of Ceres. [13] Shortly after this he returned to Rome, where it is probable he had been educated as a boy, and in his twenty-first year married a young widow named Claudia (whose former husband seems to have been a singer or harpist), [14] and their mutual attachment is a pleasing testimony to the poet's goodness of heart, a quality which the habitual exaggeration of his manner ineffectually tries to conceal.

Domitian had instituted a yearly poetical contest at the Quinquatria, in honour of Minerva, held on the Alban Mount. Statius was fortunate enough on three separate occasions to win the prize, his subject being in each case the praises of Domitian himself. [15] But at the great quinquennial Capitoline contest, in which apparently the subject was the praises of Jupiter, [16] Statius was not equally successful. [17] This defeat, which he bewails in more than one passage, was a disappointment he never quite overcame, though some critics have inferred from another passage [18] that on a subsequent occasion he came off victor; but this cannot be proved. [19]

Statius had something of the true poet in him. He had the love of nature and of those "cheap pleasures" of which Hume writes, the pleasures of flowers, birds, trees, fresh air, a country landscape, a blue sky. These could not be had at Rome for all the favours of the emperor. Statius pined for a simpler life. He wished also to provide for his step-daughter, whom he dearly loved, and whose engaging beauty while occupied in reciting her father's poems, or singing them to the music of the harp, he finely describes. Perhaps at Naples a husband could be found for her? So to Naples he went, and there in quiet retirement passed the short remainder of his days, finishing his opus magnum the Thebaid, and writing the fragment that remains of his still more ambitious Achilleid. The year of his death is not certain, but it may be placed with some probability in 98 A.D.

Statius was not merely a brilliant poet. He was a still more brilliant improvisator. Often he would pour forth to enthusiastic listeners, as Ovid had done before him,

"His profuse strains of unpremeditated art."

Improvisation had long been cultivated among the Greeks. We know from Cicero's oration on behalf of Archias that it was no rare accomplishment among the wits of that nation. And it was not unknown among the Romans, though with them also it was more commonly exercised in Greek than in Latin. The technicalities of versification had, since Ovid, ceased to involve any labour. Not an aspirant of any ambition but was familiar with every page of the Gradus ad Parnassum, and could lay it under contribution at a moment's notice. Hence to write fluent verses was no merit at all; to write epigrammatic verses was worth doing; but to extemporize a poem of from one to two hundred lines, of which every line should display a neat turn or a bon mot, this was the most deeply coveted gift of all; and it was the possession of this gift in its most seductive form that gave Statius unquestioned, though not unenvied, pre- eminence among the beaux esprits of his day. His Silvae, which are trifles, but very charming ones, were most of them written within twenty- four hours after their subjects had been suggested to him. Their elegant polish is undeniable; the worst feature about them is the base complaisance with which this versatile flatterer wrote to order, without asking any questions, whatever the eunuchs, pleasure-purveyors, or freedmen of the emperor desired. They are full of interest also as throwing light on the manners and fashions of the time and disclosing the frivolities which in the minds of all the members oL the court had quite put out of sight the serious objects of life. They contain many notices of the poet and his friends, and we learn that when they were composed he was at work on the Thebaid. He excuses these short jeux d'esprit by alleging the example of Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice and Virgil's Culex. "I hardly know," he says, "of one illustrious poet who has not prefaced his nobler triumphs of song by some prelude in a lighter strain." [20] The short prose introductions in which he describes the poems that compose each book are well worth reading. The first book is addressed to his friend ARRUNTIUS STELLA, who was, if we may believe Statius and Martial, himself no mean poet, and in his little Columba, an ode addressed to his mistress's dove, rivalled, if he did not surpass, the famous "sparrow-poem" of Catullus. He wrote also several other love poems, and perhaps essayed a heroic flight in celebrating the Sarmatian victories of Domitian. [21]

The Silvae were for the most part read or recited in public. We saw in a former chapter [22] that Asinius Pollio first introduced these readings. His object in doing so is uncertain. It may have been to solace himself for the loss of a political career, or it may have been a device for ascertaining the value of new works before granting them a place in his public library. The recitations thus served the purpose of the modern reviews. They affixed to each new work the critic's verdict, and assigned to it its place among the list of candidates for fame. No sooner was the practice introduced than it became popular. Horace already complains of it, and declares that he will not indulge it: [23]

"Non recito cuiquam nisi amicis, idque coactus, Non ubivis coramve quibuslibet."

He with greater wisdom read his poems to some single friend whose judgment and candour he could trust—some Quinctilius Varus, or Maecius Tarpa—and he advised his friends the Pisos to do the same; but his advice was little heeded. Even during his lifetime the vain thirst for applause tempted many an author to submit his compositions to the hasty judgment of a fashionable assembly, and (fond hope!) to promise himself an immortality proportioned to their compliments. Ovid's muse drew her fullest inspiration from the excitements of the hall, and the poet bitterly complains in exile that now this stimulus to effort is withdrawn he has lost the power and even the desire to write. [24] Nor was it only poetry that was thus criticised; grave historians read their works before publishing them, and it is related of Claudius that on hearing the thunders of applause which were bestowed on the recitations of Servilius Nonianus, he entered the building and seated himself uninvited among the enthusiastic listeners. Under Nero, the readings, which had hitherto been a custom, became a law, that is, were upheld by legal no less than social obligations. The same is true of Domitian's reign. This ill-educated prince wished to feign an interest in literature, the more so, since Nero, whom he imitated, had really been its eager votary. Accordingly, he patronised the readings of the principal poets, and above all, of Statius. This was the golden time of recitations, or ostentationes, as they now with sarcastic justice began to be called, and Statius was their chief hero. As Juvenal tells us, he made the whole city glad when he promised a day. [25] His recitations were often held at the houses of his great friends, men like Abascantius or Glabrio, adventurers of yesterday, who had come to Rome with "chalked feet," and now had been raised by Caesar to a height whence they looked with scorn upon the scattered relics of nobility. It is these men that Statius so adroitly flatters; it is to them that he looks for countenance, for patronage, for more substantial rewards; and yet so wretched is the recompense even of the highest popularity, that Statius would have to beg his bread if he did not find a better employer in the actor and manager, Paris, who pays him handsomely for the tragedies that at each successive exhaustion of his exchequer he is fain to write for the taste of a corrupt mob. [26] But at last Statius began to see the folly of all this. He grew tired of hiring himself out to amuse, of practising the affectation of a modesty, an inspiration, an emotion he did not feel, of hearing the false plaudits of rivals who he knew carped at his verses in his absence and libelled his character, of running hither and thither over Parnassus dragging his poor muse at the heels of some selfish freedman; he was man enough and poet enough to wish to write something that would live, and so he left Rome to con over his mythological erudition amid a less exciting environment, and woo the genius of poesy where its last great master had been laid to rest.

After Statius had left Rome, the popularity of the recitations gradually decreased. No poet of equal attractiveness was left to hold them. So the ennui and disgust, which had perhaps long been smothered, now burst forth. Many people refused to attend altogether. They sent their servants, parasites, or hired applauders, while they themselves strolled in the public squares or spent the hours in the bath, and only lounged into the room at the close of the performance. Their indifference at last rejected all disguise; absence became the rule. Even Trajan's assiduous attendance could hardly bring a scanty and listless concourse to the once crowded halls. Pliny the younger, who was a finished reciter, grievously complains of the incivility shown to deserving poets. Instead of the loud cries, the uneasy motions that had attested the excitement of the hearers, nothing is heard but yawns or shuffling of the feet; a dead silence prevails. Even Pliny's gay spirits and cheerful vanity were not proof against such a reception. The "little grumblings" (indignatiunculae), of which his letters are full, attest how sorely he felt the decline of a fashion in which he was so eminently fitted to excel. And if a wealthy noble patronised by the emperor thus complains, how intolerable must have been the disappointment to the poet whose bread depended on his verses, the poet depicted by Juvenal, to whom the patron graciously lends a house, ricketty and barred up, lying at a distance from town, and lays on him the ruinous expense of carriage for benches and stalls, which after all are only half-filled!

The frenzy of public readings, then, was over; but Statius had learned his style in their midst, and country retirement could not change it. The whole of his brilliant epic savours of the lecture room. The verbal conceits, the florid ornament, the sparkling but quite untranslatable epigrams which enliven every description and give point to every speech, need only be noted in passing; for no reader of a single book of the Thebaid can fail to mark them.

This poem, which is admitted by Merivale to be faultless in epic execution, and has been glorified by the admiration of Dante, occupied the author twelve years in the composing, [27] probably from 80 to 92 A.D. Its elaborate finish bears testimony to the labour expended on it. Had Statius been content with trifles such as are sketched in the Silvae he might have been to this day a favourite and widely-read poet. As it is, the minute beauties of his epic lie buried in such a wilderness of unattractive learning and second-hand mythological reminiscence, that few care to seek them out. His mastery over the epic machinery is complete; but he fails not only in the ardour of the bard, but in the vigour of the mere narrator. His action drags heavily through the first ten books, and then is summarily finished in the last two, the accession of Creon after Oedipus's exile, his prohibition to bury Polynices, the interference of Theseus, and the death of Creon being all dismissed in fifteen hundred lines.

The two most striking features in the poem are the descriptions of battles and the similes. The former are greatly superior to those of Lucan or Silius. They have not the hideous combination of horrors of the one, nor the shadowy unreality of the other. Though hatched in the closet and not on the battle-field, a defect they share with all poets from Virgil downwards, they have sufficient verisimilitude to interest, and not sufficient reality to shock us. The similes merit still higher praise. The genius of Latin poetry was fast tending towards the epigram, and these similes are strictly epigrammatic. The artificial brevity which suggests many different lines of reminiscence at the same time is exhibited with marked success. As the simile was so assiduously cultivated by the Latin epicists and forms a distinctive feature of their style, we shall give in the appendix to this chapter a comparative table of the more important similes of the three chief epic poets. At present we shall quote only two from the Thebaid, both admirable in their way, and each exemplifying one of Statius's prominent faults or virtues. The first compares an army following its general across a river to a herd of cattle following the leading bull: [28]

"Ac velut ignotum si quando armenta per amnem Pastor agit, stat triste pecus, procul altera tellus [29] Omnibus, et late medius timor: ast ubi ductor Taurus init fecitque vadum, tune mollior unda, Tunc faciles saltus, visaeque accedere ripae."

This is elegant in style but full of ambiguities, if not experiments, in language. The words in italics are an exaggerated imitation of a mode of expression to which Virgil is prone, i.e., a psychological indication of an effect made to stand for a description of the thing. Then as to the three forced expressions of the last two lines—to say nothing of fecit vadum, which may be a pastoral term, as we say made the ford, i.e. struck it—we have the epithet mollior, which, here again in caricature of Virgil, mixes feeling with description, used for facilior in the sense of "kinder," "more obliging" (for he can hardly mean that it feels softer); faciles saltus, either the "leap across seems easier," or perhaps "the woods on the other side look less frowning;" while to add to the hyperbole, "the bank appears to come near and meet them." Three subtle combinations are thus expended where Virgil would have used one simple one.

The next simile exemplifies the use of hyperbole at its happiest, an ornament, by the way, to which Statius is specially prone. It is a very short one. [30] It compares an infant to the babe Apollo crawling on the shore of Delos:

"Talis per litora reptans Improbus Ortygiae latus inclinabat Apollo."

This is delightful. The mischievous little god crawls near the edge of the island, and by his divine weight nearly overturns it! We should observe the gross materialism of idea which underlies this pretty picture. Not one of the Roman poets is free from this taint. To take a well-known instance from Virgil; when Aeneas gets into Charon's boat

"Gemuit sub pondere cymba Sutilis et multam accepit rimosa paludem." [31]

The effect of the "Ingens Aeneas" bursting Charon's crazy skiff is decidedly grotesque. Lucan has not failed to seize and exaggerate this peculiarity. To repeat the example we have already noticed in the first book, [32] when asking Nero which part of heaven he is selecting for his abode, he prays him not to choose one far removed from the centre, lest his vast weight should disturb the balance of the universe!

"Aetheris immensi partem si presseris unam Sentiet axis onus."

Statius, as we have seen, adds the one element that was wanting, namely the abstraction of the heroic altogether; nevertheless, in small effects of this kind, he must be pronounced superior to both Virgil and Lucan.

The Achilleis is a mere fragment, no doubt left as such owing to the author's early death. The design, of which it was the first instalment, was even more ambitious than that of the Thebaid. It aimed at nothing less than an exhaustive treatment of all the legends of which Achilles was the hero, excepting those which form the subject of the Iliad. Its style shows a slight advance on that of the earlier poem; it is equally long- winded, but less bombastic, and consequently somewhat more natural. In one or two passages Statius [33] promises Domitian an epic celebrating his deeds, but probably he never had any serious intention of fulfilling his word. Statius had a high opinion of his own merits, especially when he compared himself with the poet fraternity of his day; but his careful study of Homer and Virgil had shown him that there was a domain into which he could not enter, and so even while vaunting his claims to immortality, he is careful not to aspire to be ranked with the poet of the Aeneid: [34]

"Nec tu divinam Aeneida tenta: Sed longe sequere et vestigia semper adora."

VALERIUS MARTIALIS was born at Bilbilis, in Hispania Tarraconensis (March 1, 43 A.D.), and retained through life an affectionate admiration for the place of his birth, which he celebrates in numerous poems. [35] At twenty- two [36] years of age he came to Rome, Nero being then on the throne. He does not appear to have been known to that emperor, but rose into great favour with Titus, which was continued under Domitian, who conferred on him the Jus trium liberorum [37] and the tribunate, together with the rank of a Roman knight, [38] and a pension from the imperial treasury, [39] probably attached to the position of court poet. It is difficult to ascertain the truth as to his circumstances. The facts above mentioned, as well as his possession of a house in the city and a villa at Nomentum, [40] would point to an easy competence; on the other hand the poet's continual complaints of poverty [41] prove that he was either less wealthy than his titles suggest, or else that he was hard to satisfy. On the accession of Trajan he seems to have left Rome for Spain, it is said because the emperor refused to recognise his genius; but as he had been a prominent author for upwards of thirty years, it is likely that his character, not his talent, was what Trajan looked coldly on. A poet who had prostituted his pen in a way unexampled even among the needy and immoral pickers-up of chance crumbs that crowded the avenues of the palace, could hardly be acceptable to a prince of manly character. At the same time there is this excuse for Martial, that he did not belong to the old families of Rome. He and such as he owed everything to the emperor's bounty, and if the emperor desired flattery in return, it cost them little pains and still less loss of self-respect to give it. Politics had become entirely a system of palace intrigue. Only when the army intervened was any general interest awakened. The supremacy of the emperor's person was the one great fact, rapidly becoming a great inherited idea, which formed the point of union among the diverse non-political classes, and gave the poets their chief theme of inspiration. It mattered not to them whether their lord was good or bad. It is well-known that the people liked Domitian, and it was only by the firmness of the senate that he was prevented from being formally proclaimed as a god. Martial does not pretend to be above the level of conduct which he saw practised by emperor and people alike. Without strength of character, without independence of thought, both of which indeed were almost extinct at this epoch, his one object was to ingratiate himself with those who could fill his purse. Hence the indifference he shows to the vices of Nero. Juvenal, Tacitus, and Pliny use a very different language. But then they represented the old-fashioned ideas of Rome. Martial, indeed, alludes to Nero as a well- known type of crime: [42]

"Quid Nerone peius? Quid thermis melius Neronianis?"

but he has no real passion. The only thing he really hates him for is his having slain Lucan. [43]

Martial, then, is much on a level with the society in which he finds himself; the society, that is, of those very freedmen, favourites, actors, dancers, and needy bards, that Juvenal has made the objects of his satire. And therefore we cannot expect him to rise into lofty enthusiasm or pure views of conduct. His poems are a most valuable adjunct to those of Juvenal; for perhaps, if we did not possess Martial, we might fancy that the former's sardonic bitterness had over-coloured his picture. As it is, these two friends illustrate and confirm each other's statements.

Little as his conduct agrees with the respectability of a married man, Martial was married twice. His first wife was Cleopatra, [44] of whose morose temper he complains, [45] and from whom he was divorced [46] soon after obtaining the Jus trium liberorum. His second was Marcella, whom he married after his return to Spain. [47] Of her he speaks with respect and even admiration. [48] It is possible that his town house and country estate were part of his first wife's dowry, so that on his divorce they reverted to her family; this would account for the otherwise inexplicable poverty in which he so often declares himself to be plunged. While at Rome he had many patrons. Besides Domitian, he numbered Silius Italicus, Pliny, Stella the friend of Statius, Regulus the famous pleader, Parthenius, Crispinus, and Glabrio, among his influential friends. It is curious that he never mentions Statius. The most probable reason for his silence is the old one, given by Hesiod, but not yet obsolete:

kai kerameus keramei koteei kai aoidos aoido.

He and Statius were indisputably the chief poets of the day. One or other must hold the first place. We have no means of knowing how this quarrel, if quarrel it was, arose. Among Martial's other friends were Quintilian, Valerius Flaccus, and Juvenal. His intimacy with these men, two of whom at least were eminently respectable, lends some support to his own statement, advanced to palliate the impurity of his verses:

"Lasciva est nobis pagina: vita proba est."

The year of his death is not certain. But it must have occurred soon after 100 A.D. Pliny in his grand way gives an obituary notice of him in one of his letters, [49] which, interesting as all his letters are, we cannot do better than translate:

"I hear with regret that Valerius Martial is dead. He was a man of talent, acuteness, and spirit, with plenty of wit and gall, and as sincere as he was witty. I gave him a parting present when he left Rome, which was due both to our friendship and to some verses which he wrote in my praise. It was an ancestral custom of ours to enrich with honours or money those who had written the praises of individuals or cities, but among other noble and seemly customs this has now become obsolete. I suppose since we have ceased to do things worthy of laudation, we think it in bad taste to receive it."

Pliny then quotes the verses, [50] and proceeds—

"Was I not justified in parting on the most friendly terms with one who wrote so prettily of me, and am I not justified now in mourning his loss as that of an intimate friend? What he could he gave me; if he had had more he would have gladly given it. And yet what gift can be greater than glory, praise, and immortality? It is possible, indeed, as I think I hear you saying, that his poems may not last for ever. Nevertheless, he wrote them in the belief that they would."

Martial is the most finished master of the epigram, as we understand it. Epigram is with him condensed satire. The harmless plays on words, sudden surprises, and neat turns of expression, which had satisfied the Greek and earlier Latin epigrammatists, were by no means stimulating enough for the blase taste of Martial's day. The age cried for point, and with point Martial supplies it to the full extent of its demand. His pungency is sometimes wonderful; the whole flavour of many a sparkling little poem is pressed into one envenomed word, like the scorpion's tail whose last joint is a sting. The marvel is that with that biting pen of his the poet could find so many warm friends. But the truth is, he was far more than a mere sharp-shooter of wit. He had a genuine love of good fellowship, a warm if not a constant heart, and that happy power of graceful panegyric which was so specially Roman a gift. Juvenal, indeed, complains that the Greeks were hopelessly above his countryman in the art of praise. But this is not an opinion in which we can agree. Their fulsome adulation may indeed have been more acceptable to the vulgar objects of it than that of the Roman panegyrist, who, even while flattering, could not shake off the fetters of the great dialect in which he wrote; but the efforts in this department by Cicero, Ovid, Horace, Pliny, and Martial, mast be allowed to be master- achievements to which it would be hard to find an equal in the literature of any other nation.

Martial is one of the most difficult of Roman authors. Scarce once or twice does he relax his style sufficiently to let the reader read instead of spelling through his poems. When he does this he is elegant and pleasing. The epicedion on a little girl who died at the age of six, is a lovely gem that may almost bear comparison with Catullus; but then it is spoilt by the misplaced wit of the last few lines. [51] Few indeed are the poems of Martial that are natural throughout. His constant effort to be terse, to condense description into allusion, and allusion into indication, and to indicate as many allusions as possible by a single word, compels the reader to weigh each expression with scrupulous care lest he may lose some of the points with which every line is weighted; and yet even Martial is less perfect in this respect than Juvenal. But then the shortness of his pieces takes away that relief which a longer satire must have, not only for its author's sake, but for purposes of artistic success. He must have read Juvenal with care, and sometimes seems to give a decoction of his satires. [52] It is probable that we do not possess all Martial's poems. It is also possible that many of those we possess under his name are not by him. The list embraces one book of Spectacula, celebrating the shows in which emperor and people took such delight; twelve of Epigrams, edited separately, and partially revised for each edition; [53] two of Xenia and Apophoreta, written before the tenth book of Epigrams, and devoted to the flattery of Domitian. The obscenities which defile almost every book make it impossible to read Martial with any pleasure, but those who desire to make his acquaintance will find Book IV. by far the least objectionable in this respect, as well as otherwise more interesting.

At this time Rome teemed with poets; as Pliny in one of his letters tells us, people reckoned the year by the abundance of its poetic harvest. TURNUS seems to have been a satirist of some note; [54] among others he satirised the poisoner Locusta. SCAEVIUS MEMOR was a tragedian; [55] a Hecuba, a Troades, and perhaps a Hercules, are ascribed to him. VERGINIUS RUFUS wrote erotic poems, and an epigram of his is quoted by Pliny. [56] VESTRICIUS SPURINNA was a lyricist, and had been consul under Domitian; a fine account of him is given by Pliny. [57] The only Roman poetess of whom we possess any fragment, belongs to this epoch, the highborn lady SULPICIA. She is celebrated by Martial for her chaste love- elegies, [58] and for fidelity to her husband Calenus. We suspect, however, that Martial is a little satiric here. For the epithets bestowed by other writers on Sulpicia imply warmth, not to say wantonness of tone, though her muse seems to have been constant to its legitimate flame. We possess about seventy hexameters bearing the title Sulpiciae Satira, supposed to have been written after the banishment of all philosophers by Domitian (94 A.D.). It is a dialogue between the poetess and her muse: she excuses herself for essaying so slight a subject in epic metre, and implies that she is more at home in lighter rhythms. This may be believed when we find that she makes the i of iambus long! However, the poem is corrupt, and the readings in many parts uncertain. Teuffel regards it as a forgery of the fifteenth century, following Boot's opinion. It is full of harsh constructions [59] and misplaced epithets, but on the other hand contains some pretty lines. If it be genuine, its boldness is remarkable. Great numbers of other poets appear in the pages of Martial, Statius, and Pliny, but they need not be named. The fact that verse-writing was an innocuous way of spending one's leisure doubtless drove many to it. CODRUS, or Cordus, [60] was the author of an ambitious epic, the Theseid, composed on the scale, but without the wit, of the Thebaid. The stage, too, engaged many writers. Tragedy and comedy [61] were again reviving, though their patrons seem to have preferred recitation to acting; mimes still flourished, though they had taken the form of pantomime. We hear of celebrated actors of them in Juvenal, as Paris, Latinus, and Thymele.


On the Similes of Virgil, Lucan, and Statius.

The Roman epicists bestowed great elaboration on their similes, and as a rule imitated them from a certain limited number of Greek originals. In Virgil but a few are original, i.e., taken from things he had himself witnessed, or feelings he had known. Lucan is less imitative in form, and he first used with any frequency the simile founded on a recollection of some well-known passage of Greek literature or conception of Greek art. In this Statius follows him; the simile of the infant Apollo noticed in this chapter is a good instance.

We give a few examples of the treatment of a similar subject by the three poets. We first take the simile of a storm, described by Virgil in the first Aeneid, and alluded to by the other two poets (Lucan i. 493):

"Qualis cum turbidus auster Repulit e Libycis immensum syrtibus aequor Fractaque veliferi sonuerunt pondera mali, Desilit in fluctus deserta puppe magister Navitaque, et nondum sparsa compage carinae Naufragium sibi quisque facit."

Here we have no great elaboration, but a good point at the finish. Statius (Theb. i. 370) is more subtle but more commonplace:

"Ac velut hiberno deprensus navita ponto, Cui neque Temo piger, nec amico sidere monstrat Luna vias, medio caeli pelagique tumultu Stat rationis inops; iam iamque aut saxa maliguis Expectat submersa vadis, aut vertice acuto Spumantes scopulos erectae incurrere prorae."

The next simile is that of a shepherd robbing a nest of wild bees. It occurs in Virgil and Statius. Virgil's description is (Aen. xii. 587)—

"Inclusas ut cum latebroso in pumice pastor Vestigavit apes, fumoque implevit amaro; Illae intus trepidae rerum per cerea castra Discurrunt, magnisque acuunt stridoribus iras; Volvitur ater odor tectis; tum murmure caeco Intus saxe sonant: vaeuas it fumus ad auras."

That of Statius (Th. x. 574) presents some characteristic refinements on its original:

"Sic ubi pumiceo pastor rapturas ab antro Armatas erexit apes, fremit aspera nubes: Inque vicem sese stridere hortantur et omnes Hostis in ora volant; mox deficientibus alis Amplexae flavamque domum captivaque plangunt Mella, laboratasque premunt ad pectora ceras."

The smoke which is the agent of destruction is described by Virgil: obscurely hinted at in Statius by the single epithet "deficientibus."

The next example is the description of a landslip by the same two. Virg. Aen. xii. 682.

"Ac velati montis saxum de vertice praeceps Quum ruit avolsum vento, seu turbidus imber Proluit, aut annis solvit sublapsa vetustas, Fertur in abruptum vasto mons improbus actu, Exsultatque solo, silvas armenta virosque Involvens secum."

The copy is found Stat. Theb. vii. 744:

"Sic ubi nubiferum montis latus aut nova ventis Solvit hiems aut victa situ non pertulit aetas; Desilit horrendus campo timor, arma virosque Limite, non uno longaevaque robora secum Praecipitans, tandemque exhaustus turbine fesso Aut vallum cavat, aut medios intercipit amnes."

The additions are here either exaggerations, trivialities, or ingenious adaptations of other passages of Virgil.

The next is a thunderstorm from Virgil and Lucan, (Aen. xii. 451):

"Qualis ubi ad terras abrupto sidere nimbus It mare per medium; miseris, heu, praescia longe Horrescunt corda agricolis; dabit ille ruinas Arboribus stragemque satis, ruet omnia late; Antevolant somtumque ferunt ad litora venti."

The simile of Lucan, which describes one disastrous flash rather than a storm (Phars. i. 150) refers to Caesar:

"Qualiter expressum ventis per nubila fulmen Aetheris impulsi sonitu mundi que fragore. Emicuit, rupitque diem, populosque paventes Terruit, obliqua praestringens lumina flamma: In sua templa furit, nullaque exire vetante Materia, magnamque cadens, magnamque revertens Dat stragem late, sparsosque recolligitignes."

No comparison is more common in Latin poetry than that of a warrior to a bull. All the three poets have introduced this, some of them several times. The instances we select will be Virg. Aen. xii. 714:

"Ac velut ingenti Sila summove Taburno Cum duo conversis inimica in proelia tauri Frontibus incurrunt, pavidi cessere magistri, Stat pecus omne metu mutum mussantque iuvencae, Quis nemori imperitet, quem tota armenta sequantur."

Lucan's simile is borrowed largely from the Georgics. It is, however, a fine one (Phars. ii. 601):

"Pulsus ut armentis primo cerramine taurus Silvarum secreta petit, vacuosque per agros Exul in adversis explorat cornua truncis; Nec redit in pastus nisi quum cervice recepta Excussi placuere tori; mox reddita victor Quoslibet in saltus comitantibus agmina tauris Invito pastore trahit."

That of Statius is in a similar strain (Theb. xi. 251):

"Sic ubi regnator post exulis otia tauri Mugitum hostilem summa tulit aure iuvencus, Agnovitque minas, magna stat fervidus ira Ante gregem, spumisque animos ardentibus effert, Nunc pede torvus humum nunc cornibus aera lindens, Horret ager, trepidaeque expectant proelia valles."

How immeasurably does Virgil's description in its unambitious truth exceed these two fine but bombastic imitations!

These examples will suffice to show that each poet kept his predecessors in his eye, and tried to vie with them in drawing a similar picture. But the similes are not always taken from the common-place book. Virgil, who reserves nearly all his similes for the last six books, occasionally strikes an original key. Such are (or appear) the similes of the sedition quelled by an orator (i. 148), the top (vii. 378), the labyrinth (v, 588), the housewife (viii. 407), and the fall of the pier at Baiae (ix. 707); perhaps also of the swallow (xii. 473); mythological similes are common in him, but not so much, so as in Lucan and Statius. We have those of the Amazons (xi. 659), of Mars' shield in Thrace (xii. 331), condensed by Statius (Theb. vi. 665), of Orestes (iv. 471), copied by Lucan (Ph. vii. 777).

The lion, as may be supposed, furnishes many. We subjoin a further list which may be useful to the reader.

The Lion—Aen. xii. 4; x. 722; ix. 548(?). Phars. i. 206. Theb. ii. 675; iv. 494; v. 598; vii. 670; viii. 124; ix. 739, and perhaps v. 231.

The Serpent, dragon, &c.—Aen. xi, 751; v. 273. Theb. v. 599; xi. 310.

Mythological—Phars. ii. 715; iv. 549; vii. 144. Theb. ii. 81; iv. 140; xii. 224, 270.

The Sea—Aen. xi. 624; vii. 586 (?). Theb. i. 370; iii. 255; vi. 777; vii. 864.

The Winds—Aen. x. 856. Phars. i. 498. Theb. i. 194; iii. 432; v. 704.

The Boar—Aen. x. 707. Theb. viii. 533.

Trees—Aen. ix. 675. Phars. i. 136. Theb. viii. 545.

Birds—Aen. v. 213; xii. 473; xi. 721; vii. 699. Theb. ix. 858; xii. 15.

We may note detached similes like that of the light reflected in water, Aen. viii. 15, imitated in Theb. vi. 578; that of the horse from Homer, Aen. xi. 491, which Statius has not dared to imitate; and others not referable to any of the above groups may easily be found. It is clear that Virgil and Statius attached more importance to this ornament than Lucan. Their verbal elaboration was greater, and thus they both excel him. A careful study of all the similes in Latin poetry would bring to light some interesting facts of literary criticism. That descriptive power in which all the Romans excelled is nowhere more striking than in these short and pleasing cameos.



The death of Domitian was the end of tyranny in Rome. Under Nerva a new regime was inaugurated. Liberty of speech and action was allowed, and authors were not slow to profit by it. The forced repression of so many years had matured, not quenched, the talent of the greatest writers. Virtuous men had pondered in gloomy silence over the wickedness of the time, and they now gave to the world the condensed result of their bitter reflections. Amid the numerous talents of the period three have sent down to us a large portion of their works. These three are all writers of the highest mark, and two of them of commanding genius. For grace, urbanity, and polish, Pliny yields only to Cicero; for realistic intensity directed to a satiric purpose, Juvenal yields to no writer whatever; for piercing insight into the human heart and an imagination which casts its characters as in a white-hot furnace, Tacitus well deserves the name of Rome's greatest historian. Chronologically speaking, Pliny is posterior to the other two. But he is so good a type of this comparatively happy age that he may well come before us first. The other two, occupied with past regrets, reflect in their tone of mind an earlier time.

C. PLINIUS CAECILIUS SECUNDUS, the nephew of Pliny the elder, was born at Novocomum [1] 62 A.D. When he was eight years old his father died, and two years after his uncle adopted him. In the interim he was assigned to the care of his guardian, that Virginius Rufus of whom Tacitus deigned to be the panegyrist. He was brought early to Rome, and placed under Quintilian and other celebrated teachers, among whom was Nicetes of Smyrna, one of the foremost rhetoricians of the day. He served his first campaign in Syria, but seems to have given his time to philosophy more than soldiering. He was even more emphatically a man of peace than Cicero, and it is not easy to fancy him wielding the sword, though we can well picture him to ourselves resplendent in full dress uniform, well satisfied with his appearance, and trying his best to assume the martial air. While in Asia he spent much time with the old philosopher Euphrates, of whose daily life he has given a pleasing description in the tenth letter of his first book.

On his return he studied for the bar, and pleaded with success. He passed through the several offices of state, and prided himself not a little on the fact that he attained the consulate and pontificate at an earlier age than Cicero. Somewhat later he was elected to the college of augurs, an honour which prompts him to remind the world that Cicero had been augur too! In 98 A.D., when Trajan had been two years emperor, Pliny was raised for the second time to the consulate, and was admitted to some share of his sovereign's confidence. The points, it is true, on which he was consulted were not of the most important, but he was extremely pleased, and has recorded his pleasure in more than one of his charming letters. In 103 he was sent to fill the office of proconsul in Pontus and Bithynia; and while there, he kept up the interesting correspondence with Trajan, to which the tenth book of his letters is devoted.

Though eloquence was not what it had been, it still remained the highest career that an ambitious man could adopt. Even under the tyrants it had served as the keenest weapon of attack, the surest buckler of defence. The public accusation, which had once been the stepping-stone to fame, had changed its name, and become delation. And he who hoped to parry its blows must needs have been able to defend himself by the same means. Pliny was ahead of all his rivals in both departments of eloquence. He was the most telling pleader before the centumviral tribunal, and he was the boldest orator in the revived debates of the senate. His best forensic speech, his De Corona, as he loved to style it, was that on behalf of Accia Variola, a lady unjustly disinherited by her father, whom Pliny's eloquence reinstated in her rights. In the senate Pliny rose to even higher efforts. He rejoiced to plead the cause of injured provinces against the extortion of rapacious governors, who (as Juvenal tells us) pillaged the already exhausted wealth of their helpless victims. On more than one occasion Pliny's boldness was crowned with success. Caecilius Classicus, who had ground down the Baeticenses, was so powerfully impeached by him that, to avoid conviction, he sought a voluntary death, and what was better, the confiscated property was returned to its owners. The still worse criminal, Marius Priscus, who in exile "enjoyed the anger of the gods," [2] was compelled by Pliny and Tacitus to disgorge no small portion of his plunder. When carried away by his subject Pliny spoke with such vehemence as to endanger his delicate lungs, and he tells us with no small complacency that the emperor sent him a special message "to be careful of his health." But his greatest triumph was the accusation of Publicius Certus, a senator, and expectant of the consulship. The fathers, long used to servitude, could not understand the freedom with which Pliny attacked one of their own body, and at first they tried to chill him into silence. But he was not to be daunted. He compelled them to listen, and at last so roused them by his fervour that he gained his point. It is true that he risked neither life nor fortune by his boldness; but none the less does he deserve honour for having recalled the senate to a tardy sense of its position and responsibilities.

Roman eloquence was now split into two schools or factions, one of which favoured the ancient style, the other the modern. Pliny was the champion of reaction: Tacitus the chief representative of the modern tendency. Unfortunately, Pliny's best oratory has perished, but we can hardly doubt that its brilliant wit and courtly finish would have impressed us less than they did the ears of those who heard him. One specimen only of his oratorical talent remains, the panegyric addressed to Trajan. This was admitted to be in his happiest vein, and it is replete with point and elegance. The impression given on a first reading is, that it is full also of flattery. This, however, is not in reality the case. Allowing for a certain conventionality of tone, there is no flattery in it; that is, there is nothing that goes beyond truth. But Pliny has the unhappy talent of speaking truth in the accents of falsehood. Like Seneca, he strikes us in this speech as too clever for his audience. Still, with all its faults, his oratory must have made an epoch, and helped to arrest the decline for at least some years. It is on his letters that Pliny's fame now rests, and both in tone and style they are a monument that does him honour. They show him to have been a gentleman and a man of feeling, as well as a wit and courtier. They were deliberately written with a view to publication, and thus can never have the unique and surpassing interest that belongs to those of Cicero. But they throw so much light on the contemporary history, society, and literature, that no student of the age can afford to neglect them. They are arranged neither according to time nor subject, but on an aesthetic plan of their author's, after the fashion of a literary nosegay. As extracts from several have already been given, we need not enlarge on them here. Their language is extremely pure, and almost entirely free from that poetical colouring which is so conspicuous in contemporary and subsequent prose-writing.

The tenth book possesses a special interest, as containing the correspondence between Pliny while governor of Bithynia and the emperor Trajan, to whose judgment almost every question that arose, however insignificant, was referred. [3] As he says in his frank way: "Solemne est mihi, Domine, omnia de quibus dubito ad te referre." [4] The letter which opens with these words is the celebrated one on the subject of the Christians. Perhaps it may not be out of place to translate it, as a highly significant witness of the relations between the emperors and their confidential servants. It runs thus:—

"I had never attended at the trial of a Christian; hence I knew not what were the usual questions asked them, or what the punishments inflicted. I doubted also whether to make a distinction of ages, or to treat young and old alike; whether to allow space for recantation, or to refuse all pardon whatever to one who had been a Christian; whether, finally, to make the name penal, though no crime should be proved, or to reserve the penalty for the combination of both. Meanwhile, when any were reported to me as Christians, I followed this plan. I asked them whether they were Christians. If they said yes, I repeated the question twice, adding threats of punishment; if they persisted, I ordered punishment to be inflicted. For I felt sure that whatever it was they confessed, their inflexible obstinacy well deserved to be chastised. There were even some Roman citizens who showed this strange persistence; those I determined to send to Rome. As often happens in cases of interference, charges were now lodged more generally than before, and several forms of guilt came before me. An anonymous letter was sent, containing the names of many persons, who, however, denied that they were or had been Christians. As they invoked the gods and worshipped with wine and frankincense before your image, at the same time cursing Christ, I released them the more readily, as those who are really Christians cannot be got to do any of these things. Others, who were named to me, admitted that they were Christians, but immediately afterwards denied it; some said they had been so three years ago, others at still more distant dates, one or two as long ago as twenty years. All these worshipped your image and those of the gods, and abjured Christ. But they declared that all their guilt or error had amounted to was this: they met on certain mornings before daybreak, and sang one after another a hymn to Christ as God, at the same time binding themselves by an oath not to commit any crime, but to abstain from theft, robbery, adultery, perjury, or repudiation of trust; after this was done, the meeting broke up; they, however, came together again to eat their meal in common, being quite guiltless of any improper conduct. [5] But since my edict forbidding (as you ordered) all secret societies, they had given this practice up. However, I thought it necessary to apply the torture to some young women who were called ministrae, [6] in order, if possible, to find out the truth. But I could elicit nothing from them except evidence of some debased and immoderate superstition; so I deferred the trial, and determined to ask your advice. For the matter seemed important, especially since the number of those who run into danger increases daily. All ages, all ranks, and both sexes are among the accused, and the taint of the superstition is not confined to the towns; it has actually made its way into the villages. But I believe it possible to cheek and repress it. At all events it is certain that temples which were lately almost empty are now well attended, and sacred festivals long disused are being revived. Victims too are flowing in, whereas a few years ago such things could scarcely find a purchaser. From this I infer that vast numbers might be reformed if an opportunity of recantation were allowed them."

Trajan's reply, brief, clear, and to the point, as all his letters are, is as follows:—

"I entirely approve of your conduct with regard to those Christians of whom you had received information. We can never lay down a universal rule, as if circumstances were always the same. They are not to be searched for; but if they are reported and convicted, they must be punished. But if any denies his Christianity and proves his words by sacrificing to our divinity, even though his former conduct may have laid him under suspicion, he must be allowed the benefit of his recantation. No weight whatever should be attached to anonymous communications; they are no Roman way of dealing, and are altogether reprehensible."

Pliny died in 113. He shone in nearly every department of literature, and thought himself no inelegant poet. His vanity has led him to record some of his verses, but they only show that he had little or no talent in this direction. His long and prosperous life was marked by no reverse. Popular among his equals, splendid in his political successes, in his vast wealth, and his friendship wife, the emperor, Pliny is almost a perfect type of a refined pagan gentleman. In some ways he reminds us of Xenophon. He was in complete harmony with his age; he had neither the harassing thoughts of Seneca, nor the querulousness of his uncle, nor the settled gloom of Tacitus, to overcast his bright and happy disposition. Few works in all antiquity are more pleasing than his friendly correspondence. We learn from it the names of a large number of orators and other distinguished literary men, of whom, indeed, Rome was full. VOCONIUS ROMANUS, [7] SALVIUS LIBERALIS, [8] C. FANNIUS, [9] and CLAUDIUS POLLIO, [10] were among the most renowned. They are mentioned as possessing every gift that could contribute to the highest eloquence; but as Pliny's good nature leads him to praise all his friends indiscriminately, we cannot lay much stress on his opinion. In jurisprudence we meet with PRISCUS NERATIUS, JUVENTIUS CELSUS, and JAVOLENUS PRISCUS. The two former were men of mark, and obtained the consulate. The last was less distinguished, and had the misfortune to offend Pliny by an ill-timed jest. [11] Once, when Statius had given a reading, and had just left the hall, the audience asked Passienus Paulus, who had a manuscript ready, to take his place. Paulus was somewhat diffident, but finally consented, and began his poem with the words, "You bid me, Priscus...," on which Javolenus, who was sitting near, called out, "You mistake! I do not bid you!" The audience greeted this sally with a laugh, and so put an end to the unlucky Paulus's recitation. Pliny contemptuously remarks that it is doubtful whether Javolenus was quite sane, but admits that there are people imprudent enough to trust their business to him. [12] We may think a single jest is somewhat scanty evidence of dementia.

Grammar was in this reign actively pursued. FLAVIUS CAPER was the author of a treatise on orthography, and another "on doubtful words," both of which we possess. He seems to have been a learned man, and is often quoted by the grammarians of the fourth and fifth centuries. VELIUS LONGUS also wrote on orthography, and, as we learn from Gellius, a treatise De Usu Antiquae Lectionis. All the chief grammarians now exercised themselves on the interpretation of Virgil, who was fast rising into the position of an oracle in nearly every department of learning, an elevation which, in the time of Macrobius, he had completely attained. Of scientific writers we possess in part the works of three; that of HYGINUS on munitions, and another on boundaries (if indeed this last be his), which are based on good authorities; that of BALBUS On the Elementary Notions of Geometry; and perhaps that of SICULUS FLACCUS, De Condidonibus Agrorum, all of which are of importance towards a knowledge of Roman surveying. It is doubtful whether Flaccus lived under Trajan, but in any case he cannot be placed later than the beginning of Hadrian's reign.

The only poet of the time of Trajan who has reached us, but one of the greatest in Roman literature, is D. JUNIUS JUVENALIS (46-130? A.D.). He was born during the reign of Claudius, and thus spent the best years of his life under the regime of the worst emperors. His parentage is uncertain, but he is said to have been either the son or the adopted son of a rich freedman, and a passage in the third Satire [13] seems to point to Aquinum as his birth-place. We have unfortunately scarcely any knowledge of his life, a point to be the more regretted, as we might then have pronounced with confidence on his character, which in the Satires is completely veiled. An inscription placed by him in the temple of Ceres Helvina, at Aquinum (probably in the reign of Domitian), has been published by Mommsen. It contains one or two biographical notices, which show that he held positions of considerable importance. [14] We have also a memoir of him, attributed to Suetonius by some, but to Probus by Valla, which tells us that until middle life he practised declamation as an amateur, neither pleading at the bar nor opening a rhetorical school. We are informed also that under Domitian he wrote a satire on the pantomime Paris, which was so highly approved by his friends that he determined to give himself to poetry. He did not, however, publish until the reign of Trajan. It was in the time of Hadrian that some of his verses on an actor [15] were recited, probably, by the populace in a theatre, in consequence of which the poet, now eighty years of age, was exiled under the specious pretext of a military command, the emperor's favourite player having taken offence at the allusion. From a reference to Egypt in one of his later satires, [16] the scholiast came to the conclusion that this was the place of his exile. But it is more likely to have been Britain, though in this case the relegation would have taken place under Trajan. [17] He appears to have died soon after from disgust, though here the two accounts differ, one bringing him back to Rome, and making him survive until the time of Antoninus Pius. The obvious inference from all this is that we know very little about the matter. In default of external evidence we might turn to the Satires themselves, but here the most careful sifting can find nothing of importance. The great vigour of style, however, which is conspicuous in the seventh Satire makes it clear that it was not the work of the poet's old age. Hence the Caesar referred to cannot be Hadrian. He must, therefore, be some earlier emperor, and there can be little doubt it is Trajan. Under Trajan, then, we place the maturity of Juvenal's genius as it is displayed in the first ten Satires. The four following ones show a falling off in concentration and dramatic power, and are no doubt later productions, when years of good government had softened his asperity of mind. The fifteenth, sixteenth, and to a certain extent the twelfth, show unmistakable signs of senility. The fifteenth contains evidence of its date. The consulship of Juncus (127 A.D.) is mentioned as recent. [18] We may therefore safely place the Satire within the two following years. The sixteenth, which treats of the privileges of military service, a very promising subject, has often been thought spurious, but without sufficient reason. The poet speaks of himself as a civilian, appearing to have no goodwill towards the camp, and as Juvenal had been in the army, it is argued that he would scarcely have written so. But to this it may be replied that Juvenal chose the subject for its literary capabilities, not from any personal feeling. As an expert rhetorician, he could not fail to see the humorous side of the relations between militaire and civilian. The feebleness of the style, and certain differences from the diction usual with the author, are not sufficient to found an argument upon, and have besides been much exaggerated. They would apply equally, and even with greater force, to the fifteenth.

The words "ad mediam fere aetatem declamavit," as Martha has justly remarked, form the key to Juvenal's literary position. He is the very quintessence of a declaimer, but a declaimer of a most masculine sort. Boileau characterises him in two epigrammatic lines:

"Juvenal eleve dans les cris de l'ecole Poussa jusqu'a l'exces son mordant hyperbole."

Poet in the highest sense of the word he certainly is not. The love of beauty, which is the touchstone of the poetic soul, is absent from his works. He rather revels in depicting horror and ugliness. But the other qualification of the poet, viz. a mastery of words, [19] he possesses to a degree not surpassed by any Roman writer, and in intensity and terseness of language is perhaps superior to all. Not an epithet is wasted, not a synonym idle. As much is pressed into each verse as it can possibly be made to bear, so that fully to appreciate the Satires it is necessary to have a commentary on every line. Even now, after the immense erudition that has been expended on him, many passages remain obscure, not only in respect to allusions, but even in matters of language. [20] The tension of his style, which is never relaxed, [21] represents not only great effort, but long-matured and late-born thought. In the angry silence of forty years had been formed that fierce and almost brutal directness of description which paints, as has been well said, with a vividness truly horrible. In preaching virtue, he first frightens away modesty. There is scarce one of his poems that does not shock even where it rebukes. And three of them are so hideous in their wonderful power that it is impossible to read them with any pleasure, though one of these (the sixth) is perhaps the most vigorous piece of writing in the entire Latin language. For compressed power it may he compared to the first chorus of the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, but here the likeness ceases. While the Athenian, even among dreadful scenes, rises to notes of sweet and almost divine pathos, the Roman's dark picture is not relieved by one touch of the beautiful, or one reminiscence of the ideal.

The question naturally arises, What led Juvenal to write poetry after being so long content with declamation? He partly answers us in his first Satire, where he tells us that it is in revenge for the poetry that has been inflicted on himself:

"Semper ego auditor tantum nunquamne reponam?"

But it arises also from a higher motive—

"Facit indignatio versum Qualemcunque potest, quales ego vel Cluvienus."

These two qualities, vexation (vexatus toties, i. 2) and indignation, are the salient characteristics of Juvenal. How far the vexation was righteous, the indignation sincere, is a question hard to answer. There is no denying the power with which they are expressed. But to submit to this power is one thing, to sift its author's heart is another. After a long and careful study of Juvenal's poems, we confess to being able to make nothing of Juvenal himself. We cannot get even a glimpse of him. He never doffs the iron mask, the "rigidi censura cachinni;" he has so long hidden his face that he is afraid to see it himself or to let it be seen. Some have thought that in the eleventh and twelfth Satires they can find the man, and have been glad to figure him as genial, simple, and kind. But it is by no means certain that even these are not mere rhetorical exercises, modelled on the Horatian epistles, but themselves having no relation to any actual event. The fifteenth, again, represents a softer view of life, the thirteenth and fourteenth a higher faith in providence; in these, it has been thought, appears the true nature, which had allowed itself to lie hid among the denunciations of the earlier satires. But, in truth, the character of Juvenal must be one of the incognita of literature. It is a retaliation on Satire's part for the intimate knowledge she had allowed us to gain of Horace and Persius through their works. [22]

In manner Juvenal is the most original of poets; in matter he is the glorifier of common-place. His strength lies in his prejudices. He is not a moralist, but a Roman moralist; the vices he lashes are not lashed as vices simpliciter, but as vices that Roman ethics condemn. This one- sided patriotism is the key to all his ideas. In an age which had seen Seneca, Juvenal can revert to the patriotism of Cato. The burden of his complaints is given in the third Satire:

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