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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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In the dramatic world comedy greatly preponderated over tragedy; the spectators knit their brows, when instead of the expected comedy a tragedy began. Thus it happened that, while this period exhibits poets who devoted themselves specially to comedy, such as Plautus and Caecilius, it presents none who cultivated tragedy alone; and among the dramas of this epoch known to us by name there occur three comedies for one tragedy.

Of course the Roman comic poets, or rather translators, laid hands in the first instance on the pieces which had possession of the Greek stage at the time; and thus they found themselves exclusively(17) confined to the range of the newer Attic comedy, and chiefly to its best-known poets, Philemon of Soli in Cilicia (394?-492) and Menander of Athens (412-462).

17. The scanty use made of what is called the middle Attic comedy does not require notice in a historical point of view, since it was nothing but the Menandrian comedy in a less developed form. There is no trace of any employment of the older comedy. The Roman tragi-comedy--after the type of the -Amphitruo- of Plautus--was no doubt styled by the Roman literary historians -fabula Rhinthonica-; but the newer Attic comedians also composed such parodies, and it is difficult to see why the Ionians should have resorted for their translations to Rhinthon and the older writers rather than to those who were nearer to their own times.

This comedy came to be of so great importance as regards the development not only of Roman literature, but even of the nation at large, that even history has reason to pause and consider it.

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