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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


V. The Establishment of the Military Monarchy

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 VIII - The Joint Rule of Pompeius and Caesar


The Original Greek New Testament

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 46

Literature of the Opposition

It proved, however, yet a more difficult task to encounter the opposition in a field, to which it turned with the greater zeal the more it was dislodged from direct political action. This was literature. Even the judicial opposition was at the same time a literary one, and indeed pre-eminently so, for the orations were regularly published and served as political pamphlets. The arrows of poetry hit their mark still more rapidly and sharply. The lively youth of the high aristocracy, and still more energetically perhaps the cultivated middle class in the Italian country towns, waged the war of pamphlets and epigrams with zeal and success.

There fought side by side on this field the genteel senator's son Gaius Licinius Calvus (672-706) who was as much feared in the character of an orator and pamphleteer as of a versatile poet, and the municipals of Cremona and Verona Marcus Furius Bibaculus (652-691) and Quintus Valerius Catullus (667-c. 700) whose elegant and pungent epigrams flew swiftly like arrows through Italy and were sure to hit their mark. An oppositional tone prevails throughout the literature of these years. It is full of indignant sarcasm against the "great Caesar," "the unique general," against the affectionate father-in-law and son-in-law, who ruin the whole globe in order to give their dissolute favourites opportunity to parade the spoils of the long-haired Celts through the streets of Rome, to furnish royal banquets with the booty of the farthest isles of the west, and as rivals showering gold to supplant honest youths at home in the favour of their mistresses. There is in the poems of Catullus(9) and the other fragments of the literature of this period something of that fervour of personal and political hatred, of that republican agony overflowing in riotous humour or in stern despair, which are more prominently and powerfully apparent in Aristophanes and Demosthenes.

9. The collection handed down to us is full of references to the events of 699 and 700 and was doubtless published in the latter year; the most recent event, which it mentions, is the prosecution of Vatinius (Aug. 700). The statement of Hieronymus that Catullus died in 697-698 requires therefore to be altered only by a few years. From the circumstance that Vatinius "swears falsely by his consulship," it has been erroneously inferred that the collection did not appear till after the consulate of Vatinius (707); it only follows from it that Vatinius, when the collection appeared, might already reckon on becoming consul in a definite year, for which he had every reason as early as 700; for his name certainly stood on the list of candidates agreed on at Luca (Cicero, Ad. Att. iv. 8 b. 2).

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