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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 96

Dancing and Music

The importance of music and dancing increased in public as in domestic life. We have already set forth how theatrical music and the dancing-piece attained to an independent standing in the development of the stage at this period;(43) we may add that now in Rome itself representations were very frequently given by Greek musicians, dancers, and declaimers on the public stage-- such as were usual in Asia Minor and generally in the whole Greek and Hellenizing world.(44)

43. Cf. V. XII. Dramatic Spectacles

44. Such "Greek entertainments" were very frequent not merely in the Greek cities of Italy, especially in Naples (Cic. pro Arch. 5, 10; Plut. Brut. 21), but even now also in Rome (iv. 192; Cic. Ad Fam. vii. 1, 3; Ad Att. xvi. 5, 1; Sueton. Caes. 39; Plut. Brut. 21). When the well-known epitaph of Licinia Eucharis fourteen years of age, which probably belongs to the end of this period, makes this "girl well instructed and taught in all arts by the Muses themselves" shine as a dancer in the private exhibitions of noble houses and appear first in public on the Greek stage (-modo nobilium ludos decoravi choro, et Graeca in scaena prima populo apparui-), this doubtless can only mean that she was the first girl that appeared on the public Greek stage in Rome; as generally indeed it was not till this epoch that women began to come forward publicly in Rome (p. 469).

These "Greek entertainments" in Rome seem not to have been properly scenic, but rather to have belonged to the category of composite exhibitions--primarily musical and declamatory--such as were not of rare occurrence in subsequent times also in Greece (Welcker, Griech. Trag., p. 1277). This view is supported by the prominence of flute-playing in Polybius (xxx. 13) and of dancing in the account of Suetonius regarding the armed dances from Asia Minor performed at Caesar's games and in the epitaph of Eucharis; the description also of the -citharoedus- (Ad Her. iv. 47, 60; comp. Vitruv. v. 5, 7) must have been derived from such "Greek entertainments." The combinations of these representations in Rome with Greek athletic combats is significant (Polyb. l. c.; Liv. xxxix. 22).

Dramatic recitations were by no means excluded from these mixed entertainments, since among the players whom Lucius Anicius caused to appear in 587 in Rome, tragedians are expressly mentioned; there was however no exhibition of plays in the strict sense, but either whole dramas, or perhaps still more frequently pieces taken from them, were declaimed or sung to the flute by single artists. This must accordingly have been done also in Rome; but to all appearance for the Roman public the main matter in these Greek games was the music and dancing, and the text probably had little more significance for them than the texts of the Italian opera for the Londoners and Parisians of the present day. Those composite entertainments with their confused medley were far better suited for the Ionian public, and especially for exhibitions in private houses, than proper scenic performances in the Greek language; the view that the latter also took place in Rome cannot be refuted, but can as little be proved.

To these fell to be added the musicians and dancing-girls who exhibited their arts to order at table and elsewhere, and the special choirs of stringed and wind instruments and singers which were no longer rare in noble houses. But that even the world of quality itself played and sang with diligence, is shown by the very adoption of music into the cycle of the generally recognized subjects of instruction;(45) as to dancing, it was, to say nothing of women, made matter of reproach even against consulars that they exhibited themselves in dancing performances amidst a small circle.

45. Cf. V. XI. Sciences of General Culture at This Period

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