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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


III. From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States

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 XIV - Literature and Art


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Page 120

Prose afforded him a more favourable field, and accordingly he applied the whole varied power and energy peculiar to him to the creation of a prose literature in his native tongue. This effort was all the more Roman and all the more deserving of respect, that the public which he primarily addressed was the family circle, and that in such an effort he stood almost alone in his time. Thus arose his "Origines," his remarkable state-speeches, his treatises on special branches of science.

They are certainly pervaded by a national spirit, and turn on national subjects; but they are far from anti-Greek: in fact they originated essentially under Greek influence, although in a different sense from that in which the writings of the opposite party so originated. The idea and even the title of his chief work were borrowed from the Greek "foundation- histories" (--ktoeis--).

The same is true of his oratorical authorship; he ridiculed Isocrates, but he tried to learn from Thucydides and Demosthenes. His encyclopaedia is essentially the result of his study of Greek literature. Of all the undertakings of that active and patriotic man none was more fruitful of results and none more useful to his country than this literary activity, little esteemed in comparison as it probably was by himself.

He found numerous and worthy successors in oratorical and scientific authorship; and though his original historical treatise, which of its kind may be compared with the Greek logography, was not followed by any Herodotus or Thucydides, yet by and through him the principle was established that literary occupation in connection with the useful sciences as well as with history was not merely becoming but honourable in a Roman.

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