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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 39

The professional figures and those illustrative of character, which were sketched more broadly and farcically, bore the process of transference better than the polished figures of every-day life; but even of those delineations the Roman editor had to lay aside several--and these probably the very finest and most original, such as the Thais, the match-maker, the moon-conjuress, and the mendicant priest of Menander --and to keep chiefly to those foreign trades, with which the Greek luxury of the table, already very generally diffused in Rome, had made his audience familiar.

If the professional cook and the jester in the comedy of Plautus are delineated with so striking vividness and so much relish, the explanation lies in the fact, that Greek cooks had even at that time daily offered their services in the Roman market, and that Cato found it necessary even to instruct his steward not to keep a jester. In like manner the translator could make no use of a very large portion of the elegant Attic conversation in his originals. The Roman citizen or farmer stood in much the same relation to the refined revelry and debauchery of Athens, as the German of a provincial town to the mysteries of the Palais Royal.

A science of cookery, in the strict sense, never entered into his thoughts; the dinner-parties no doubt continued to be very numerous in the Roman imitation, but everywhere the plain Roman roast pork predominated over the variety of baked meats and the refined sauces and dishes of fish. Of the riddles and drinking songs, of the Greek rhetoric and philosophy, which played so great a part in the originals, we meet only a stray trace now and then in the Roman adaptation.

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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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