CHAPTER XLIII. ROMAN LITERATURE.
PLAUTUS, the comic poet, was one of the earliest of Roman writers. Born at Sarsina in Umbria, of free parentage, he at first worked on the stage at Rome, but lost his savings in speculation. Then for some time he worked in a treadmill, but finally gained a living by translating Greek comedies into Latin. Twenty of his plays have come down to us. They are lively, graphic, and full of fun, depicting a mixture of Greek and Roman life.
TERENCE was a native of Carthage. He was brought to Rome at an early age as a slave of the Senator Terentius, by whom he was educated and liberated. Six of his comedies are preserved. Like the plays of Plautus, they are free translations from the Greek, and of the same general character.
QUINTUS ENNIUS, a native of Rudiae, was taken to Rome by Cato the Younger. Here he supported himself by teaching Greek. His epic poem, the Annàles, relates the traditional Roman history, from the arrival of Aenéas to the poet's own day.
MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO, a native of Arpínum, ranks as the first prose writer in Roman literature. As an orator Cicero had a very happy natural talent. The extreme versatility of his mind, his lively imagination, his great sensitiveness, his inexhaustible richness of expression, which was never at a loss for a word or tone to suit any circumstances or mood, his felicitous memory, his splendid voice and impressive figure, all contributed to render him a powerful speaker. He himself left nothing undone to attain perfection. Not until he had spent a long time in laborious study and preparation did he make hisdébut as an orator; nor did he ever rest and think himself perfect, but, always working, made the most careful preparation for every case. Each success was to him only a step to another still higher achievement; and by continual meditation and study he kept himself fully equipped for his task. Hence he succeeded, as is universally admitted, in gaining a place beside Demosthenes, or at all events second only to him.
There are extant fifty-seven orations of Cicero, and fragments of twenty more. His famous Philippics against Antony caused his proscription by the Second Triumvirate, and his murder near his villa at Formiae, in December, 43.
His chief writings on rhetoric were De Oratore; Brutus de Claris Oratoribus; and Orator ad M. Brutum. Cicero was a lover of philosophy, and his writings on the subject were numerous. Those most read are De Senectute, De Amicitia, and De Officiis.
Eight hundred and sixty-four of Cicero's letters are extant, and they furnish an inexhaustible treasure of contemporaneous history.
Of CAESAR'S literary works the most important are his Commentarii, containing the history of the first seven years of the Gallic war, and the history of the civil strife down to the Alexandrine war. The account of his last year in Gaul was written probably by Aulus Hirtius; that of the Alexandrine, African, and Spanish wars, by some unknown hand. As an orator, Caesar ranks next to Cicero.
CORNELIUS NEPOS, a native of Northern Italy, was a friend of both Cicero and Atticus. He was a prolific writer, but only his De Viris Illustribus is preserved. It shows neither historical accuracy nor good style.
TITUS LUCRETIUS CARUS has left a didactic poem, De Rerum Natura. The tone of the work is sad, and in many places bitter.
GAIUS VALERIUS CATULLUS, of Veróna, is the greatest lyric poet of Roman literature. One hundred and sixteen of his poems are extant.
The great epic Roman poet was VIRGIL. His Aenéis, in twelve books, gives an account of the wanderings and adventures of Aenéas, and his struggles to found a city in Italy. The poem was not revised when Virgil died, and it was published contrary to his wishes.
Besides the Aenéis, Virgil wrote the Bucolica, ten Eclogues imitated and partially translated from the Greek poet Theocritus. The Georgica, a poem of four books on agriculture in its different branches, is considered his most finished work, and the most perfect production of Roman art-poetry. (See page 179.)
QUINTUS HORATIUS FLACCUS left four books of Odes, one of Epodes, two of Satires, two of Epistles, and the Ars Poetica. (See page 180.)
ALBIUS TIBULLUS, an elegiac poet, celebrated in exquisitely fine poems the beauty and cruelty of his mistresses.
SEXTUS PROPERTIUS, a native of Umbria, was also an elegiac poet, and wrote mostly on love.
OVID (43 B.C. - 18 A.D.)