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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


IV. The Revolution

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 XIII - Literature and Art


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Page 16

He acquiesced in or even favoured the report, that persons of quality aided him in composing with their counsel or even with their cooperation.(5)

5. In the prologue of the -Heauton Timorumenos- he puts the objection into the mouth of his censors:--

-Repente ad studium hunc se applicasse musicum Amicum ingenio fretum, haud natura sua-.

And in the later prologue (594) to the -Adelphi- he says--

-Nam quod isti dicunt malevoli, homines nobiles Eum adiutare, adsidueque una scribere; Quod illi maledictum vehemens esse existimant Eam laudem hic ducit maximam, quum illis placet Qui vobis universis et populo placent; Quorum opera in bello, in otio, in negotio, Suo quisque tempore usus est sine superbia-.

As early as the time of Cicero it was the general supposition that Laelius and Scipio Aemilianus were here meant: the scenes were designated which were alleged to proceed from them; stories were told of the journeys of the poor poet with his genteel patrons to their estates near Rome; and it was reckoned unpardonable that they should have done nothing at all for the improvement of his financial circumstances. But the power which creates legend is, as is well known, nowhere more potent than in the history of literature. It is clear, and even judicious Roman critics acknowledged, that these lines could not possibly apply to Scipio who was then twenty-five years of age, and to his friend Laelius who was not much older.

Others with at least more judgment thought of the poets of quality Quintus Labeo (consul in 571) and Marcus Popillius (consul in 581), and of the learned patron of art and mathematician, Lucius Sulpicius Gallus (consul in 588); but this too is evidently mere conjecture. That Terence was in close relations with the Scipionic house cannot, however, be doubted: it is a significant fact, that the first exhibition of the -Adelphi- and the second of the -Hecyra- took place at the funeral games of Lucius Paullus, which were provided by his sons Scipio and Fabius.

In reality he carried his point; even in literature the oligarchy prevailed, and the artistic comedy of the exclusives supplanted the comedy of the people: we find that about 620 the pieces of Plautus disappeared from the set of stock plays. This is the more significant, because after the early death of Terence no man of conspicuous talent at all further occupied this field. Respecting the comedies of Turpilius (651 at an advanced age) and other stop- gaps wholly or almost wholly forgotten, a connoisseur already at the close of this period gave it as his opinion, that the new comedies were even much worse than the bad new pennies.(6)

6. Cf. IV. XI. Token-Money

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