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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


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 56

Poems in Prose - Romances

Lastly, poetry in a prose form begins in this epoch. The law of genuine naive as well as conscious art, which had hitherto remained unchangeable--that the poetical subject-matter and the metrical setting should go together--gave way before the intermixture and disturbance of all kinds and forms of art, which is one of the most significant features of this period. As to romances indeed nothing farther is to be noticed, than that the most famous historian of this epoch, Sisenna, did not esteem himself too good to translate into Latin the much-read Milesian tales of Aristides--licentious fashionable novels of the most stupid sort.

Varro's Aesthetic Writings

A more original and more pleasing phenomenon in this debateable border-land between poetry and prose was the aesthetic writings of Varro, who was not merely the most important representative of Latin philologico-historical research, but one of the most fertile and most interesting authors in belles-lettres. Descended from a plebeian gens which had its home in the Sabine land but had belonged for the last two hundred years to the Roman senate, strictly reared in antique discipline and decorum,(21) and already at the beginning of this epoch a man of maturity, Marcus Terentius Varro of Reate (638-727) belonged in politics, as a matter of course, to the institutional party, and bore an honourable and energetic part in its doings and sufferings.

21. "For me when a boy," he somewhere says, "there sufficed a single rough coat and a single under-garment, shoes without stockings, a horse without a saddle; I had no daily warm bath, and but seldom a river-bath." On account of his personal valour he obtained in the Piratic war, where he commanded a division of the fleet, the naval crown.

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