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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 45

Aesthetic Result

Such was the nature of the Roman comedy of the sixth century. The mode in which the Greek dramas were transferred to Rome furnishes a picture, historically invaluable, of the diversity in the culture of the two nations; but in an aesthetic and a moral point of view the original did not stand high, and the imitation stood still lower. The world of beggarly rabble, to whatever extent the Roman editors might take possession of it under the benefit of the inventory, presented in Rome a forlorn and strange aspect, shorn as it were of its delicate characteristics: comedy no longer rested on the basis of reality, but persons and incidents seemed capriciously or carelessly mingled as in a game of cards; in the original a picture from life, it became in the reproduction a caricature.

Under a management which could announce a Greek agon with flute-playing, choirs of dancers, tragedians, and athletes, and eventually convert it into a boxing-match;(27) and in presence of a public which, as later poets complain, ran away en masse from the play, if there were pugilists, or rope-dancers, or even gladiators to be seen; poets such as the Roman composers were--workers for hire and of inferior social position--were obliged even perhaps against their own better judgment and their own better taste to accommodate themselves more or less to the prevailing frivolity and rudeness.

27. Cf. III. XIII. Increase of Amusements

It was quite possible, nevertheless, that there might arise among them individuals of lively and vigorous talent, who were able at least to repress the foreign and factitious element in poetry, and, when they had found their fitting sphere, to produce pleasing and even important creations.

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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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