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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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» Contents of this Chapter

Page 55

Catullus, although dependent on the Alexandrian masters and standing in the midst of the fashionable and clique poetry of that age, was yet not merely a good scholar among many mediocre and bad ones, but himself as much superior to his masters as the burgess of a free Italian community was superior to the cosmopolitan Greek man of letters. Eminent creative vigour indeed and high poetic intentions we may not look for in him; he is a richly gifted and graceful but not a great poet, and his poems are, as he himself calls them, nothing but "pleasantries and trifles."

Yet when we find not merely his contemporaries electrified by these fugitive songs, but the art-critics of the Augustan age also characterizing him along with Lucretius as the most important poet of this epoch, his contemporaries as well as their successors were completely right. The Latin nation has produced no second poet in whom the artistic substance and the artistic form appear in so symmetrical perfection as in Catullus; and in this sense the collection of the poems of Catullus is certainly the most perfect which Latin poetry as a whole can show.

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