Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates
From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson
Artistic Endowment of the Italians
Poetry is impassioned language, and its modulation is melody. While in this sense no people is without poetry and music, some nations have received a pre-eminent endowment of poetic gifts. The Italian nation, however, was not and is not one of these. The Italian is deficient in the passion of the heart, in the longing to idealize what is human and to confer humanity on what is lifeless, which form the very essence of poetic art.
His acuteness of perception and his graceful versatility enabled him to excel in irony and in the vein of tale-telling which we find in Horace and Boccaccio, in the humorous pleasantries of love and song which are presented in Catullus and in the good popular songs of Naples, above all in the lower comedy and in farce. Italian soil gave birth in ancient times to burlesque tragedy, and in modern times to mock-heroic poetry. In rhetoric and histrionic art especially no other nation equalled or equals the Italians.
But in the more perfect kinds of art they have hardly advanced beyond dexterity of execution, and no epoch of their literature has produced a true epos or a genuine drama. The very highest literary works that have been successfully produced in Italy, divine poems like Dante's Commedia, and historical treatises such as those of Sallust and Macchiavelli, of Tacitus and Colletta, are pervaded by a passion more rhetorical than spontaneous. Even in music, both in ancient and modern times, really creative talent has been far less conspicuous than the accomplishment which speedily assumes the character of virtuosoship, and enthrones in the room of genuine and genial art a hollow and heart-withering idol.
The field of the inward in art--so far as we may in the case of art distinguish an inward and an outward at all--is not that which has fallen to the Italian as his special province; the power of beauty, to have its full effect upon him, must be placed not ideally before his mind, but sensuously before his eyes. Accordingly he is thoroughly at home in architecture, painting, and sculpture; in these he was during the epoch of ancient culture the best disciple of the Greeks, and in modern times he has become the master of all nations.
Do you see any typos or other mistakes? Please let us know and correct them
Reference address : http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/rome/1-15-art.asp