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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 XII - Religion, Culture, Literature, and Art


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Page 13

The closer contact with the Greek culture of the present, the more decided influence of the talkative Athenian wisdom and of the rhetoric of Rhodes and Asia Minor, supplied to the Roman youth just the very elements that were most pernicious in Hellenism. The propagandist mission which Latium undertook among the Celts, Iberians, and Libyans--proud as the task was-- could not but have the like consequences for the Latin language as the Hellenizing of the east had had for the Greek. The fact that the Roman public of this period applauded the well arranged and rhythmically balanced periods of the orator, and any offence in language or metre cost the actor dear, doubtless shows that the insight into the mother tongue which was the reflection of scholastic training was becoming the common possession of an ever- widening circle.

But at the same time contemporaries capable of judging complain that the Greek culture in Italy about 690 was at a far lower level than it had been a generation before; that opportunities of hearing pure and good Latin were but rare, and these chiefly from the mouth of elderly cultivated ladies; that the tradition of genuine culture, the good old Latin mother wit, the Lucilian polish, the cultivated circle of readers of the Scipionic age were gradually disappearing. The circumstance that the term -urbanitas-, and the idea of a polished national culture which it expressed, arose during this period, proves, not that it was prevalent, but that it was on the wane, and that people were keenly alive to the absence of this -urbanitas- in the language and the habits of the Latinized barbarians or barbarized Latins. Where we still meet with the urbane tone of conversation, as in Varro's Satires and Cicero's Letters, it is an echo of the old fashion which was not yet so obsolete in Reate and Arpinum as in Rome.

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