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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 91

The connection with Greek philology consists in the imitation of its defects more than of its excellences; for instance, the basing of etymologies on mere similarity of sound both in Varro himself and in the other philologues of this epoch runs into pure guesswork and often into downright absurdity.(39)

39. Thus Varro derives -facere- from -facies-, because he who makes anything gives to it an appearance, -volpes-, the fox, after Stilo from -volare pedibus- as the flying-footed; Gaius Trebatius, a philosophical jurist of this age, derives -sacellum- from -sacra cella-, Figulus -frater- from -fere alter- and so forth. This practice, which appears not merely in isolated instances but as a main element of the philological literature of this age, presents a very great resemblance to the mode in which till recently comparative philology was prosecuted, before insight into the organism of language put a stop to the occupation of the empirics.

In its empiric confidence and copiousness as well as in its empiric inadequacy and want of method the Varronian vividly reminds us of the English national philology, and just like the latter, finds its centre in the study of the older drama. We have already observed that the monarchical literature developed the rules of language in contradistinction to this linguistic empiricism.(40)

40. Cf. V. XII. Grammatical Science

It is in a high degree significant that there stands at the head of the modern grammarians no less a man than Caesar himself, who in his treatise on Analogy (given forth between 696 and 704) first undertook to bring free language under the power of law.

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