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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 38

Apt nicknames and short commonplaces which were easily retained and applied were welcome; but every piece of nonsense was of itself privileged; in this preposterous world Bacchus is applied to for water and the fountain-nymph for wine. Isolated examples even of the political allusions formerly so strictly prohibited in the Roman theatre are found in these mimes.(11)

11. In the "Descensus ad Inferos" of Laberius all sorts of people come forward, who have seen wonders and signs; to one there appeared a husband with two wives, whereupon a neighbour is of opinion that this is still worse than the vision, recently seen by a soothsayer in a dream, of six aediles. Caesar forsooth desired-- according to the talk of the time--to introduce polygamy in Rome (Suetonius, Caes. 82) and he nominated in reality six aediles instead of four. One sees from this that aberius understood how to exercise the fool's privilege and Caesar how to permit the fool's freedom.

As regards metrical form, these poets gave themselves, as they tell us, "but moderate trouble with the versification"; the language abounded, even in the pieces prepared for publication, with vulgar expressions and low newly-coined words. The mime was, it is plain, in substance nothing but the former farce; with this exception, that the character-masks and the standing scenery of Atella as well as the rustic impress are dropped, and in their room the life of the capital in its boundless liberty and licence is brought on the stage.

Most pieces of this sort were doubtless of a very fugitive nature and made no pretension to a place in literature; but the mimes of Laberius, full of pungent delineation of character and in point of language and metre exhibiting the hand of a master, maintained their ground in it; and even the historian must regret that we are no longer permitted to compare the drama of the republican death-struggle in Rome with its great Attic counterpart.

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