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A History of Roman Literature - From the Earliest Period to the Death of Marcus Aurelius
by Charles Thomas Cruttwell
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CHAPTER III.

THE INTRODUCTION OF GREEK LITERATURE—LIVIUS AND NAEVIUS (240-204 B.C.).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER IV.

ROMAN COMEDY—PLAUTUS TO TURPILIUS (254-103 B.C.).

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

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

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

At first, however, comedy was decidedly a favourite with the people, and for one tragic poet whose name has reached us there are at least five comedians. Of the three kinds of poetry cultivated in this early period, comedy, which, according to Quintilian [9] was the least successful, has been much the most fortunate. For whereas we have to form our opinion of Roman tragedy chiefly from the testimony of ancient authors, we can estimate the value of Roman comedy from the ample remains of its two greatest masters. The plays of Plautus are the most important for this purpose. Independently of their greater talent, they give a truer picture of Roman manners, and reflect more accurately the popular taste and level of culture. It is from them, therefore, that any general remarks on Roman comedy would naturally be illustrated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It must strike every reader of Plautus, as worthy of note, that he assumes a certain knowledge of the Greek tongue on the part of his audience. Not only are many (chiefly commercial) terms directly imported from the Greek, as dica, tarpessita, logi, sycophantia, agoranomus, but a large number of Greek adjectives and adverbs are used, which it is impossible to suppose formed part of the general speech—e.g. thalassicus, euscheme, dulice, dapsilis: Greek puns are introduced, as "opus est Chryso Chrysalo" in the Bacchides; and in the Persa we have the following hybrid title of a supposed Persian grandee, "Vaniloquidorus Virginisvendonides Nugipolyloquides Argentiexterebronides Tedigniloquides Nummorumexpalpouides Quodsemelarripides Nunquamposteareddides!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terence has suggested many modern subjects. The Eunuchus is reflected in the Bellamira of Sir Charles Sedley and Le Muet of Brueys; the Adelphi in Moliere's Ecole des Maris and Baron's L'Ecole des Peres; and the Phormio in Moliere's Les Fourberies de Scapin.

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

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



CHAPTER V.

ROMAN TRAGEDY (ENNIUS—ACCIUS, 239-94 B.C.).

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

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

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

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

"Nos sumus Romani qui fuvimus ante Rudini."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She then sees the vision—

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

This is noble poetry. Another passage from the Telamo is as follows:—

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

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

_ _ _ "Virgi nes ae quales vercor patris mei meum fac tum pudet."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

but sometimes a noble sentiment is simply and emphatically expressed—

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

He was a careful chooser of words, e.g.

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

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

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

and again—

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER VI.

EPIC POETRY. ENNIUS—FURIUS (200-100 B.C.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

"non enim rumores ponebat ante salutem."

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

"inimicitiam agitantes."

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

"Tuque pater Tiberine tuo cum ilumino sancto."

"Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem."

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

On the other hand he sometimes falls into pure prose;

"Cives Romani tum facti sunt Campani,"

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

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

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

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