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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 9

Even in the selection and employment of models the contrast is apparent between him and that predecessor whom alone we can now compare with him. Plautus chooses his pieces from the whole range of the newer Attic comedy, and by no means disdains the livelier and more popular comedians, such as Philemon; Terence keeps almost exclusively to Menander, the most elegant, polished, and chaste of all the poets of the newer comedy. The method of working up several Greek pieces into one Latin is retained by Terence, because in fact from the state of the case it could not be avoided by the Roman editors; but it is handled with incomparably more skill and carefulness.

The Plautine dialogue beyond doubt departed very frequently from its models; Terence boasts of the verbal adherence of his imitations to the originals, by which however we are not to understand a verbal translation in our sense. The not unfrequently coarse, but always effective laying on of Roman local tints over the Greek ground-work, which Plautus was fond of, is completely and designedly banished from Terence; not an allusion puts one in mind of Rome, not a proverb, hardly a reminiscence;(2) even the Latin titles are replaced by Greek.

2. Perhaps the only exception is in the -Andria- (iv. 5) the answer to the question how matters go:--

"-Sic Ut quimus," aiunt, "quando ut volumus non licet-"

in allusion to the line of Caecilius, which is, indeed, also imitated from a Greek proverb:--

-Vivas ut possis, quando non quis ut velis-.

The comedy is the oldest of Terence's, and was exhibited by the theatrical authorities on the recommendation of Caecilius. The gentle expression of gratitude is characteristic.

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