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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 15

Language - The Vulgarism of Asia Minor

The development of the language during this period turned on the distinction between the classical Latin of cultivated society and the vulgar language of common life. The former itself was a product of the distinctively Italian culture; even in the Scipionic circle "pure Latin" had become the cue, and the mother tongue was spoken, no longer in entire naivete, but in conscious contradistinction to the language of the great multitude. This epoch opens with a remarkable reaction against the classicism which had hitherto exclusively prevailed in the higher language of conversation and accordingly also in literature--a reaction which had inwardly and outwardly a close connection with the reaction of a similar nature in the language of Greece.

Just about this time the rhetor and romance-writer Hegesias of Magnesia and the numerous rhetors and literati of Asia Minor who attached themselves to him began to rebel against the orthodox Atticism. They demanded full recognition for the language of life, without distinction, whether the word or the phrase originated in Attica or in Caria and Phrygia; they themselves spoke and wrote not for the taste of learned cliques, but for that of the great public. There could not be much objection to the principle; only, it is true, the result could not be better than was the public of Asia Minor of that day, which had totally lost the taste for chasteness and purity of production, and longed only after the showy and brilliant.

To say nothing of the spurious forms of art that sprang out of this tendency--especially the romance and the history assuming the form of romance--the very style of these Asiatics was, as may readily be conceived, abrupt and without modulation and finish, minced and effeminate, full of tinsel and bombast, thoroughly vulgar and affected; "any one who knows Hegesias," says Cicero, "knows what silliness is."

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