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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 55

The man knew his trade: if, therefore, the Roman burgesses gradually acquired a taste for these Greek comedies, we see at what a price it was bought. It is a reproach to the Roman government not that it did so little in behalf of this poetry, but that it tolerated it at all Vice no doubt is powerful even without a pulpit; but that is no excuse for erecting a pulpit to proclaim it.

To debar the Greek comedy from immediate contact with the persons and institutions of Rome, was a subterfuge rather than a serious means of defence. In fact, comedy would probably have been much less injurious morally, had they allowed it to have a more free course, so that the calling of the poet might have been ennobled and a Roman poetry in some measure independent might have been developed; for poetry is also a moral power, and, if it inflicts deep wounds, it can do much to heal them.

As it was, in this field also the government did too little and too much; the political neutrality and moral hypocrisy of its stage-police contributed their part to the fearfully rapid breaking up of the Roman nation.

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