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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
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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


I. The Period Anterior to the Abolition of the Monarchy

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

CHAPTER X - The Greeks in Italy - Maritime Supremacy of the Tuscans and Carthaginians


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It appears, however, to be quite impossible to fix the dates of this series of events with even approximate accuracy. The founding of the Achaean city of Sybaris in 33, and that of the Dorian city Tarentum in 46, are probably the most ancient dates in Italian history, the correctness, or at least approximation to correctness, of which may be looked upon as established.

But how far beyond that epoch the sending forth of the earlier Ionian colonies reached back, is quite as uncertain as is the age which gave birth to the poems of Hesiod or even of Homer. If Herodotus is correct in the period which he assigns to Homer, the Greeks were still unacquainted with Italy a century before the foundation of Rome.

The date thus assigned however, like all other statements respecting the Homeric age, is matter not of testimony, but of inference; and any one who carefully weighs the history of the Italian alphabets as well as the remarkable fact that the Italians had become acquainted with the Greek people before the name "Greeks" had emerged for the race, and the Italians borrowed their designation for the Greeks from the stock of the -Grai- or -Graeci- that early fell into abeyance in Greece,(1) will be inclined to carry back the earliest intercourse of the Italians with the Greeks to an age considerably mere remote.

1. Whether the name of Graeci was originally associated with the interior of Epirus and the region of Dodona, or pertained rather to the Aetolians who perhaps earlier reached the western sea, may be left an open question; it must at a remote period have belonged to a prominent stock or aggregate of stocks of Greece proper and have passed over from these to the nation as a whole. In the Eoai of Hesiod it appears as the older collective name for the nation, although it is manifest that it is intentionally thrust aside and subordinated to that of Hellenes. The latter does not occur in Homer, but, in addition to Hesiod, it is found in Archilochus about the year 50, and it may very well have come into use considerably earlier (Duncker, Gesch. d. Alt. iii. 18, 556). Already before this period, therefore, the Italians were so widely acquainted with the Greeks that that name, which early fell into abeyance in Greece, was retained by them as a collective name for the Greek nation, even when the latter itself adopted other modes of self-designation.

It was withal only natural that foreigners should have attained to an earlier and clearer consciousness of the fact that the Greek stocks belonged to one race than the latter themselves, and that hence the collective designation should have become more definitely fixed among the former than with the latter--not the less, that it was not taken directly from the well-known Greeks who dwelt the nearest to them. It is difficult to see how we can reconcile with this fact the statement that a century before the foundation of Rome Italy was still quite unknown to the Greeks of Asia Minor. We shall speak of the alphabet below; its history yields entirely similar results. It may perhaps be characterized as a rash step to reject the statement of Herodotus respecting the age of Homer on the strength of such considerations; but is there no rashness in following implicitly the guidance of tradition in questions of this kind?

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