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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 29

Features far worse are, the dreadful desolation of life in which the only oases are lovemaking and intoxication; the fearfully prosaic atmosphere, in which anything resembling enthusiasm is to be found only among the sharpers whose heads have been turned by their own swindling, and who prosecute the trade of cheating with some sort of zeal; and above all that immoral morality, with which the pieces of Menander in particular are garnished.

Vice is chastised, virtue is rewarded, and any peccadilloes are covered by conversion at or after marriage. There are pieces, such as the -Trinummus- of Plautus and several of Terence, in which all the characters down to the slaves possess some admixture of virtue; all swarm with honest men who allow deception on their behalf, with maidenly virtue wherever possible, with lovers equally favoured and making love in company; moral commonplaces and well-turned ethical maxims abound.

A finale of reconciliation such as that of the -Bacchides-, where the swindling sons and the swindled fathers by way of a good winding up all go to carouse together in the brothel, presents a corruption of morals thoroughly worthy of Kotzebue.

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