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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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» Contents of this Chapter

Page 34

Dramatic Literature - Tragedy and Comedy Disappear

Nowhere was the prospect more lamentable than in dramatic literature. Tragedy and comedy had already before the present epoch become inwardly extinct in the Roman national literature. New pieces were no longer performed. That the public still in the Sullan age expected to see such, appears from the reproductions-- belonging to this epoch--of Plautine comedies with the titles and names of the persons altered, with reference to which the managers well added that it was better to see a good old piece than a bad new one.

From this the step was not great to that entire surrender of the stage to the dead poets, which we find in the Ciceronian age, and to which Alexandrinism made no opposition. Its productiveness in this department was worse than none. Real dramatic composition the Alexandrian literature never knew; nothing but the spurious drama, which was written primarily for reading and not for exhibition, could be introduced by it into Italy, and soon accordingly these dramatic iambics began to be quite as prevalent in Rome as in Alexandria, and the writing of tragedy in particular began to figure among the regular diseases of adolescence. We may form a pretty accurate idea of the quality of these productions from the fact that Quintus Cicero, in order homoeopathically to beguile the weariness of winter quarters in Gaul, composed four tragedies in sixteen days.

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