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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 9

Rise of a Roman Literature

On these elements Roman literature was based; and its defective character was from the first and necessarily the result of such an origin. All real art has its root in individual freedom and a cheerful enjoyment of life, and the germs of such an art were not wanting in Italy; but, when Roman training substituted for freedom and joyousness the sense of belonging to the community and the consciousness of duty, art was stifled and, instead of growing, could not but pine away. The culminating point of Roman development was the period which had no literature.

It was not till Roman nationality began to give way and Hellenico-cosmopolite tendencies began to prevail, that literature made its appearance at Rome in their train. Accordingly from the beginning, and by stringent internal necessity, it took its stand on Greek ground and in broad antagonism to the distinctively Roman national spirit. Roman poetry above all had its immediate origin not from the inward impulse of the poets, but from the outward demands of the school, which needed Latin manuals, and of the stage, which needed Latin dramas.

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