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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 59

Varro's Philosophico-Historical Essays

For his grave dissertations, in which a moral maxim or other subject of general interest is handled, he disdained, in his framework to approximate to the Milesian tales, as Heraclides had done, and so to serve up to the reader even childish little stories like those of Abaris and of the maiden reawakened to life after being seven days dead. But seldom he borrowed the dress from the nobler myths of the Greeks, as in the essay "Orestes or concerning Madness"; history ordinarily afforded him a worthier frame for his subjects, more especially the contemporary history of his country, so that these essays became, as they were called -laudationes- of esteemed Romans, above all of the Coryphaei of the constitutional party.

Thus the dissertation "concerning Peace" was at the same time a memorial of Metellus Pius, the last in the brilliant series of successful generals of the senate; that "concerning the Worship of the Gods" was at the same time destined to preserve the memory of the highly-respected Optimate and Pontifex Gaius Curio; the essay "on Fate" was connected with Marius, that "on the Writing of History" with Sisenna the first historian of this epoch, that "on the Beginnings of the Roman Stage" with the princely giver of scenic spectacles Scaurus, that "on Numbers" with the highly-cultured Roman banker Atticus. The two philosophico-historical essays "Laelius or concerning Friendship," "Cato or concerning Old Age," which Cicero wrote probably after the model of those of Varro, may give us some approximate idea of Varro's half-didactic, half-narrative, treatment of these subjects.

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