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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 123

On the other hand there appeared in genteel circles the first traces of the tastes subsequently displayed by the dilettante and the collector. They admired the magnificence of the Corinthian and Athenian temples, and regarded with contempt the old-fashioned terra- cotta figures on the roofs of those of Rome: even a man like Lucius Paullus, who shared the feelings of Cato rather than of Scipio, viewed and judged the Zeus of Phidias with the eye of a connoisseur. The custom of carrying off the treasures of art from the conquered Greek cities was first introduced on a large scale by Marcus Marcellus after the capture of Syracuse (542).

The practice met with severe reprobation from men of the old school of training, and the stern veteran Quintus Fabius Maximus, for instance, on the capture of Tarentum (545) gave orders that the statues in the temples should not be touched, but that the Tarentines should be allowed to retain their indignant gods. Yet the plundering of temples in this way became of more and more frequent occurrence. Titus Flamininus in particular (560) and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior (567), two leading champions of Roman Hellenism, as well as Lucius Paullus (587), were the means of filling the public buildings of Rome with the masterpieces of the Greek chisel.

Here too the Romans had a dawning consciousness of the truth that an interest in art as well as an interest in poetry formed an essential part of Greek culture or, in other words, of modern civilization; but, while the appropriation of Greek poetry was impossible without some sort of poetical activity, in the case of art the mere beholding and procuring of its productions seemed to suffice, and therefore, while a native literature was formed in an artificial way in Rome, no attempt even was made to develop a native art.

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