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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 18

Caesar, in the department of language also the greatest master of his time, expressed the fundamental idea of Roman classicism, when he enjoined that in speech and writing every foreign word should be avoided, as rocks are avoided by the mariner; the poetical and the obsolete word of the older literature was rejected as well as the rustic phrase or that borrowed from the language of common life, and more especially the Greek words and phrases which, as the letters of this period show, had to a very great extent found their way into conversational language. Nevertheless this scholastic and artificial classicism of the Ciceronian period stood to the Scipionic as repentance to innocence, or the French of the classicists under Napoleon to the model French of Moliere and Boileau; while the former classicism had sprung out of the full freshness of life, the latter as it were caught just in right time the last breath of a race perishing beyond recovery.

Such as it was, it rapidly diffused itself. With the leadership of the bar the dictatorship of language and taste passed from Hortensius to Cicero, and the varied and copious authorship of the latter gave to this classicism--what it had hitherto lacked--extensive prose texts. Thus Cicero became the creator of the modern classical Latin prose, and Roman classicism attached itself throughout and altogether to Cicero as a stylist; it was to the stylist Cicero, not to the author, still less to the statesman, that the panegyrics--extravagant yet not made up wholly of verbiage--applied, with which the most gifted representatives of classicism, such as Caesar and Catullus, loaded him.

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