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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


II. From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy

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 IX - Art and Science


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Page 6

The necessary effect of this was that dancing, music, and poetry, at least so far as they appeared on the public stage, fell into the hands of the lowest classes of the Roman burgesses, and especially into those of foreigners; and while at this period poetry still played altogether too insignificant a part to engage the attention of foreign artists, the statement on the other hand, that in Rome all the music, sacred and profane, was essentially Etruscan, and consequently the ancient Latin art of the flute, which was evidently at one time held in high esteem,(8) had been supplanted by foreign music, may be regarded as already applicable to this period.

8. Cf. I. XV. Melody

There is no mention of any poetical literature. Neither the masked plays nor the recitations of the stage can have had in the proper sense fixed texts; on the contrary, they were ordinarily improvised by the performers themselves as circumstances required. Of works composed at this period posterity could point to nothing but a sort of Roman "Works and Days"--counsels of a farmer to his son,(9) and the already-mentioned Pythagorean poems of Appius Claudius(10) the first commencement of Roman poetry after the Greek type. Nothing of the poems of this epoch has survived but one or two epitaphs in Saturnian measure.(11)

9. A fragment has been preserved: -Hiberno pulvere, verno luto, grandia farra Camille metes- We do not know by what right this was afterwards regarded as the oldest Roman poem (Macrob. Sat. v. 20; Festus, Ep. v. Flaminius, p. 93, M.; Serv. on Virg. Georg, i. 101; Plin. xvii. 2. 14).

10. Cf. II. VIII. Appius Claudius

11. Cf. II. VIII. Rome and the Romans of This Epoch

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