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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 53

Moral Result

If therefore the literary historian, while fully acknowledging the very respectable talents of the Roman comedians, cannot recognize in their mere stock of translations a product either artistically important or artistically pure, the judgment of history respecting its moral aspects must necessarily be far more severe.

The Greek comedy which formed its basis was morally so far a matter of indifference, as it was simply on the same level of corruption with its audience; but the Roman drama was, at this epoch when men were wavering between the old austerity and the new corruption, the academy at once of Hellenism and of vice.

This Attico-Roman comedy, with its prostitution of body and soul usurping the name of love--equally immoral in shamelessness and in sentimentality--with its offensive and unnatural generosity, with its uniform glorification of a life of debauchery, with its mixture of rustic coarseness and foreign refinement, was one continuous lesson of Romano-Greek demoralization, and was felt as such. A proof of this is preserved in the epilogue of the -Captivi- of Plautus:--
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