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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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The Greek language also was already generally diffused in Italy in the time of Hannibal. In the higher circles a knowledge of that language, which was the general medium of intercourse for ancient civilization, had long been a far from uncommon accomplishment; and now, when the change of Rome's position in the world had so enormously increased the intercourse with foreigners and the foreign traffic, such a knowledge was, if not necessary, yet presumably of very material importance to the merchant as well as the statesman.

By means of the Italian slaves and freedmen, a very large portion of whom were Greek or half-Greek by birth the Greek language and Greek knowledge to a certain extent reached even the lower ranks of the population, especially in the capital. The comedies of this period may convince us that even the humbler classes of the capital were familiar with a sort of Latin, which could no more be properly understood without a knowledge of Greek than the English of Sterne or the German of Wieland without a knowledge of French.(1)

1. A distinct set of Greek expressions, such as -stratioticus-, -machaera-, -nauclerus-, -trapezita-, -danista-, -drapeta-, - oenopolium-, -bolus-, -malacus-, -morus-, -graphicus-, -logus-, - apologus-, -techna-, -schema-, forms quite a special feature in the language of Plautus. Translations are seldom attached, and that only in the case of words not embraced in the circle of ideas to which those which we have cited belong; for instance, in the -Truculentus- --in a verse, however, that is perhaps a later addition (i. 1, 60) --we find the explanation: --phronesis-- -est sapientia-. Fragments of Greek also are common, as in the -Casina-, (iii. 6, 9):

--Pragmata moi parecheis-- -- -Dabo- --mega kakon--, -ut opinor-.

Greek puns likewise occur, as in the -Bacchides- (240):

-opus est chryso Chrysalo-.

Ennius in the same way takes for granted that the etymological meaning of Alexandros and Andromache is known to the spectators (Varro, de L. L. vii. 82). Most characteristic of all are the half-Greek formations, such as -ferritribax-, -plagipatida-, -pugilice-, or in the -Miles Gloriosus- (213):

-Fuge! euscheme hercle astitit sic dulice et comoedice!-

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