Robert William Browne.

A history of Greek classical literature online

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of a mother's education. Even the prose of that celebrated
model of refinement and good taste, G. LsbHus, was harsh and

Besides the influence which the practical character of the
Roman mind exercised upon prose writing, it must not be for-
gotten that Roman literature was imitative: its end and object,
therefore, were not invention, but*" erudition; it depended for its
existence on learning, and was almost synonymous with it. This
principle gave a decidedly historical bias to the Roman intellect :
an historical taste pervades a great portion of the national litera-
ture. There is a manifest tendency to study subjects in an his-
torical point of view. It will be seen hereafter that it is not like
the Greek, original and inventive, but erudite and eclectic. The
historic principle is the great characteristic feature of the Roman
mind; consequently, in this branch of literature, the Romans
attained the highest reputation, and may fairly stand forth as
competitors with their Greek' instructors. Not that they evef
entirely equalled them ; for though they were practical, vigorous,
and just thinkers, they never attained that comprehensive and
philosophical spirit which distinguished the Greek historians.

The work of an historian was, in the earliest times, recognized
as not unworthy of a Roman. It was not like the other branches
of literature, in which the example was first set by slaves and
freedmen. Those who first devoted themselves to the pursuit
were also eminent in the public service of their country. Fabius
Pictor was of an illustrious patrician family. Cincius Alimentus,
Fulvius Nobilior, and others, were of free and honorable birth.
Such were Roman historians until the time of Sulla ; for L. Ota-
cilius Pilitus, who flourished at that period, was the first freed-
man who began to write history.^ *

Again, the science of jurisprudence formed an indispensable
part of statesmanship. It was a study which recommended itself
by its practical nature : it could not be stigmatized even by the
busiest as an idle and frivolous pursuit, whilst the constitutional
relation which subsisted between patron and client rendered the
knowledge of its principles, to a certain extent, absolutely neces-
sary. Protection from wrong was the greatest boon which the

■ See Nieb. Lect. Izzix. and Sohol. in Cio. OreU. li. p. 283.
> Saet. de Clar. Rhet. iii.

^ The fragments of the ancient Roman historians have been coUeoted by
Augnstns Kranse, and published at Berlin in 1833.

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strong could confer upon the weak, the learned on the unlearned.
It was, therefore, the most efficacious method of gaining grateful
and attached friends ; and by their support, the direct path was
opened to the highest political positions. It is not, therefore, to
be wondered at that, even when elegant literature was in its in-
fancy, so many names are found of men illustrious as jurists and

Practical statesmanship, in like manner, gave an early encou-
ragement to oratory. It is peculiarly the literature of active life.
The possession of eloquence rendered a man more efficient as a
soldier and as a citizen. Great as is the force of native, una-
dorned eloquence, vigorous common sense, honest truthfulness,
and indignant passion, nature would give way to art as taste
became more cultivated. Nor could the Romans long have the
finished models of Greek eloquence before their eyes, without
transferring to the forum or the senate-house somewhat of their
simple grandeur and majestic beautjr.

The first effijrts of. the Eoman historians were devoted to the
transfer of the records of poetry into prose, as their more appro -
uriate and popular vehicle. The national lays which tradition
jfed handed down were the storehouses which they ransacked
to furnish a supply of materials. As far as the records of au-
thentic history are concerned, they performed the functions of
simple annalists : they related events almost in the style of public
monuments, witHout any attempt at ornament, without picturesque
detail or political reflection. When Cicero <5ompares the style
of Fabius Pictor, Cato, and Piso, to that of the old Greek logo-
graphers,' Pherecydes, Hellanicus, and Acusilaus, the points of
resemblance which he instances are, that both neglected orna-
ment, were careful only that their statements should be intelli-
gible, and thought the chief excellence of a writer was brevity.
Probably the subject-matter of the Roman annalists was the more
valuable, whilst the Greeks had the advantage in liveliness and
skill. Some of the earliest historians wrote in Greek instead of
Latin. Even, in later times, such men as Sulla and LucuUus,
and also Cn. Aufidius, who flourished during the boyhood of
Cicero, wrote their memoirs in a foreign tongue. There was
some reason for this. The language in which the higher classes
received their education was Greek — the tutors, even the nurses,
were Greek, as well as the librarians, secretaries, and confidential
servants in most distinguished families. Such was the humaniz-
ing spirit of literature that these distinguished foreigners found

I De Orat. ii. 12.

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an asjlam in tbe households of noble Bomans, notwithstanding
the severity with which the law treated .prisoners of war. Fash-
ionable conversation, moreover, was interlarded with Greek
phrases, and, in some houses, Greek was habitually spoken. Even
so late as the times of Cicero,' Greek literature was read and
studied in almost every part of the civilized world, while the
works of Latin writers were only known within the circumscribed
limits of Italy.


The most ancient prose writer of Koman history was Q. Fabiua
Pictdr, the contemporary of Naevius. He belonged to that branch
of the noble house of the Fabii, which derived its distinguishing
appellation from the eminence of its founder as a painter. The
temple of Salus, which he painted, was dedicated B. c. '802, by
the dictator, C. Junius Bubulcus ; and this oldest kliown speci-
men of Roman fine art remained until t^he conflagration oi the
temple in the reign of Claudius. It must, therefore, have been
subjected to the criticisms of an age capable of forming a correct
judgment respecting its merita ; and it appears from the testimony
of antiquity to have possessed the two essentials of accurate
drawing and truthful coloring, and to have been free from the
fault of conventional treatment.* \

The Fabii were an intellectual family as well its a distinguished ,
one : perhaps the numerous records of their explqiW which exist
were, in some degree, owing to their learning. The grandson
of the eminent artist was Fabius Pictor t^e historian. Livy'
continually refers to him, and throughout his narrative of the
Hannibalian war, he profegses implicit confidence in him on the
grounds of his being a contemporary historian,^ 'ce^wa fern tempo-
fibus hujnsce belli) ; he is likewise the authority on whom the
greatest reliance was placed by Dion Cassius and Appian. Nor
did the accurate and faithful Polybius consider him otherwise
than trustworthy upon the whole, although *he accuses him of
partiality towards his countrymen.* Niebuhr* attributes to Fa-
bius Pictor the accurate knowledge of constitutional history dis-
played by Dion Cassius, and acknowledges how deeply we are
indebted to him for the information which we possess concerning
the changes which took place in the Roman constitution. It is
to his care that we owe the faithfulness of Dion, whilst Dionysius

' Pro Arch. x. « Dion, xvi.^ 6 ; Nieb. H. R. iii. 356.

> Lib. L 44, 45 ; ii. 40 ; viii. 30, &o. * Lib. xxii. 7. » Pol. i. 14.

• Lect. R. H. iiL xxvi.

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tod Livy too often lead us astray. It constitutes some justifica-
tion of his partiality as an historian, that Philinus of Agrigentum
bad also written a history of the first Punic war in a spirit hos-
tile to Korae, and that this provoked Pictor to a defence of his
country's honor. His work was written in Greek, and its prin-
cipal subject was a history of the first and second Punic wars,
especially that against Hannibal. It has been held by some, on
the authority of a passage in the " De Oratore" of Cicero,' that
he wrote in Latin as well as in Greek ; but Niebuhr believes
that Cicero is in error, and has confused him with a Latin an-
nalist, named F. Max. Servilianus. The period to which his
work extended is uncertain ; but the last event alluded to by
Livy, on his authority, is the battle of Trasymenus,* and the last
occasion on which he mentions his name is when he records his
return from an embassy to Delphi in the following year.^ The
earlier history of Kome was prefixed by way of introduction ;
for his object was not merely to assist in constructing the rising
edifice of Roman literature, but to spread the glory of his country
throughout that other great nation of antiquity, which now, for
tl^a first time, came in contact with a worthy rival. The ponti-
fital annals, the national ballads, the annals of his own house, so
rich in legendary tales of heroism, furnished him with ample
materials ; but he is also said to have drawn largely on the stores
of a Greek author, named Diodes, a native of Peparethus, who
had preceded him in the work of research and accumulation.


Contemporary with Fabius was the other annalist of the second
Punic war, L. Cincius Alimentus. He was praetor in Sicily* in
the ninth year of the war, and took a prominent part in it.* The
soldiers who fought at Cannae* were placed. at his disposal, his
period of command was prolonged, and after his return home he
was sent as Ugatus to the consul Crispinus, on the occasion of
the melancholy death of his colleague, Marcellus.' Some time
after this, he was taken prisoner by Hannibal.' Like Fabius,
he wrote his work in Greek, and prefixed to it a brief abstract of
early Roman history.® Livy speaks of him as a diligent anti-
quarian, and appeals to his authority to establish the Etruscan
origin of the custom of the dictator driving a nail into the temple
of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.'° As his accurate investigation of

' Lib. ii. 12. « Liv. xxU. 7. ' Lib. x^ii. ii. ; b. c. 216 ; a. u. c. 538.

« A. u. c. 544; B. c. 210. » Liv. xxvi. 23. « Ibid. 28.

' Ibid. xxYii. 29. « Ibid. xxi. 31. » Dionys. i. 6.

» Liv. vii. 3.

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original monuments gives a credibility to his early history, so
his being personally engaged in the war in a high position; ren-
ders him trustworthy in the later periods. It is also said that,
when he was a prisoner of war, Hannibal, who delighted in the
society of literary men, treated him with great kindness and
consideration, ana himself communicated to him the details of
his passage across the Alps into Italy.

To him, therefore, and to the opportunities which he enjoyed
of gaining information, we owe the credibility of this portion of
Livy's history* on a point on which authors were at variance,
namely, the number of Hannibal's forces at this time. Livy
appeals to the statement of Cincius as settling the question, and
says, Hannibal himself informed Cincius how many .troops he
had lost between the passage of the Ehone and his descent into

His accurate habit of mind must have made his annals a most
valuable work; and therefore it was most important that the
variation of his early chronology from that which is commonly
received should be explained and reconciled. This task Niebuhr
has satisfactorily accomplished. He supposes that Cincius took
cyclical years of ten months, which were used previous to the
reign of Tarquinius Priscus, in the place of common years of
twelve months. The time which had elapsed between the build-
ing of Rome and this epoch was, according to the pontifical
annals, 132 years. The error, therefore, due to this miscalculation
would be 132—^-^^^=22 years. If this be added to the com-
mon date of the buil Jing of Rome, B. c. 753=01. vii. 2, the result
is the date given by Cincius, namely 01. xii. 4.^


A few words may be devoted to C. Acilius Glabrio, the third
representative of the GraBCoRoman historic literature. Very
little is known respecting him. He was quaestor A. u. C. 551,
tribune A. u. c. 557, and subsequently attained senatorial rank;
for Gellius^ relates that when the three Athenian philosophers
visited Rome as ambassadors, Acilius introduced them to the
senate and acted as interpreter. His story was considered worthy
of translation by an author named Claudius, and to this transla-
tion reference is twice made by Livy.^ •

Valuable though the works of these annalists must have been

' See, on this subject, Lachmann de Font. Hist. Ti. Liv.

" See Dr. Smith's Diet, of Biogr. ». v.

» N. A. vii. 14. * Lib. xxv. 39; xxxv. 14. '

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as historical records, and as furnishing materials for more thought-
ful and philosophical minds, they are only such as could have
existed in the infancy of a national literature. They were a bare
compilation of facts, the mere scaffolding and framework of his-
tory; they were diversified by no critical remarks or political
reflections. The authors made no use of their facts, either to
deduce or to illustrate principles. With respect to style, they
were meagre, insipid, and jejune.


The versatility and variety of talent displayed by Cato claim
for him a place amongst orators, jurists, economists, and historians.
It is, however, amongst the latter, as representatives of the highest
branch of prose literature, that we .must speak of the author of
the "Origines." His life extends over a wide and important
period of literary history: everything was in a state of change —
morals, social habits, literary taste. Not only the influence of
Greek literature, but also that of the moral and metaphysical
creed of Greek philosophy, was beginning to be felt when Gate's
manly and powerful intellect was flourishing. When he filled
the second public office to which the Koman citizen aspired,
Nsevius was still living. He was censor when Plautus died ; and,
before his own life ended, the comedies of Terence had been
exhibited on the Eoman stage.

Three political events took place during his lifetime, which
must have exercised an important influence on the mental con-
dition of the Eoman people. When Macedonia, at the defeat
of Perseus,* was reduced to the condition of a Koman province,
nearly a thousand Achseans, amongst whom was the historian
Polybius, were sent to Bome, and detained in Italy as hostages
during nearly seventeen years. The thirteenth year from that
event witnessed the dawn of philosophy at Bome, for previously
to this epoch, the philosophical schools of Magna Grsecia appear
to have been unnoticed and disregarded. But now' Cameades
the academic, Critolaus the peripatetic, and Diogenes the stoic,'
came to Bome as ambassadors from Athens, and delivered philo-
sophical lectures, which attracted the attention of the leading
statesmen, whilst the doctrines which they taught excited univer-
sal alarm. The following year Crates arrived as ambassador from
Attains, King of Pergamus, and during his stay delighted the
literary society of the capital with commentaries on the Greek

' A. u. c. 586; B. 0. 168. « A. u. c. 699; b. c. 165,

* Cio. de Orat. ii. 37; Qaint. xii. 1.

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poets.' It is not surprising that one who lived through a period
during which Greek literature had such favorable opportunities
of being propagated by some of its most distinguishea professors,
suflSciently overcame his prejudices as to learn in his old age the
language of a people whom he both hated and despised.

M. Porcius Cato Censorius was born at Tusculum, B. c. 284.*
His family was of great antiquity, and numbered amongst its
members many who were distinguished for their courage in war
and their integritv in peace. His boyhood was passed in the
healthy pursuits of rural life, at a small Sabine farm belonging
to his father; and his mind, invigorated by .stem and hardy train-
ing, was early directed to the study as well as the practice of agri-
culture. To this rugged yet honest discipline may be traced the
features of his character as displayed in after life, his prejudices
as well as his virtues.

He became a soldier at a very early age, B. 0. 217, served in the
Hannibalian war, was under the command of Fabius Maximus
both in Campania and Tarentum, and did good service at the
decisive battle of the Metaurus. Between his campaigns he did
not seek to exhibit his laurels in the society of the capital, but,
like Curias Dentatus and Quintius Cincinnatus, employed himself
in the rural labors of his Sabine retirement.

■ His shrewd remarks and easy conversation, as well as the skill
with which he pleaded the cause of his clients before the rural
magistracy, soon made his abilities known, and his reputation
attracted the notice of one of his country neighbors, L. Valerius
Flaccus, who invited him to his town house at Eome. Owing to
the patronage of his Aoble friend and his own merits, his rise to
eminence as a pleader was rapid. He was a quaestor in B. c. 206,
»dile in B. c* 199, praator the following year, and in.B. o. 195 he
obtained the consulship, his patron Flaccus being now his col-
league. His province was Spain;' and, while stem and pitiless
towards his foes, he exhibited a noble example of self-denying
endurance in order to minister to the welfare of his army. At
the conclusion of his consulship, he served as legatus in Thrace
and Greece; and in B. o. 189 was sent on a civil mission to Ful-
vius Nobilior in ^tolia.

After experiencing one failure, he was elected censor in B. c.
184; and he had now an opportunity of making a return for the
obligations which his earliest patron had conferred upon him; for,
by his influence, Flaccus was appointed his colleague. This office
was, above all others, suited to his talents ; and to his remarkable

1 Saet. de Gram. m. 2. ' De Seneo. 4. ' Liy. zzziy.

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activity in the discharge of his duties, he owes his fame and his

He had now full scope for displaying his habits of business,
his talents for administration, his uncompromising resistance to
all luxury and extravagance, his fearlessness in the reformation
of abuses: and though he was severe, public opinion bore testi-
mony to his integritv, for he was rewarded with a statue and an
inscription. He haa now served his country in every capacity,
but still he gave himself no rest; advancing age did not weaken
his energies ; he was always ready as the champion of the op-
pressed, the advocate of virtuej the punisher of vice. He prose-
cuted the extortionate governors of his old province, Spain.* He
pleaded before the Senate the cause of the loyal Bhodians.

He caused the courteous dismissal of the three Greek philoso-
phers, because the arguments of Carneades made it difficult to
discern what was truth.* Although his prejudice against Greeks
prevented him sympathizing with the sorrows of the Achasan
exiles, he supported the vote for their restoration to their native
land. Neither his enemies nor his country would allow him
rest. In his eighty-sixth year, he had to defend himself against
a capital charge. In his eighty-ninth, he was sent to Africa as
one of the arbitrators between the Carthaginians and Massinissa,'
and in his ninetieth, the year in which he died,^ his last public
act was the prosecution of Galba for his perfidious treatment of
the conquered Lusitanians.'

Cato loved strife, and his long life was one continued combat
He never found a task too difficult, because difficulty called forth
all his energies, and his strong will and invincible perseverance
insured success. His inherent love of truth made him hate any-
thing conventional. As a politician, he considered rank value-
less, except it depended upon personal merit; and therefore he
was an unrelenting enemy of the aristocracy. As a moralist, he
indignantly rejected that false gloss q{ modern fashion which was
superseding the old plainness, and which was, in his opinion, the
foundation of his country's glory. In literature, he distrusted
and condemned everything Greek, because he confounded the

' B. c. 171. « Plin. H. N. yli. 31. » a. u. c. 605.

* Livj (xxxix. 40) and Niebuhr (Lect. Ixix.) state that Cato died at the age
of ninety ; Cicero (Brat. 15, 20, 23) and Pliny, at the age of eighty-five.

* Valerius Maximos relates the following anecdote of the respect in which
this virtuous Roman was held by his countrymen : At the FloraUa, the people
were accustomed to call for the exhibition of dances, accompanied with acts of
great indecency. Cato on one of these occasions happened to be present, and
the spectators were ashamed to make their usual demand until he had left the
theatre. Martial also alludes to this anecdote in one of his epigrams.

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sentiments of its noblest periods as a nation with those of the
degenerate Greeks with whom he came in contact. But, at
length, his candid and truthful disposition discovered and con-
fessed his error on this point, and his prejudices gave way before

Cato, with all his virtues, was a hard-hearted man.' He had
no amiability, no love, no affection ; he did not love right, for he
loved nothing; but he had a burniog indignation against wrong.
This was the mainspring of his conduct. He did not feel for the
oppressed, but he declared war against the oppressor. He never
could sympathize with living men. In his youth, all his admira-
tion was for the past generation. In his old age, his feeling was
that his life had been spent with the past, and he had nothing in
common with the present.

As is usually the case with those who live during a period of
transition, his feelings were so interested in that past by which
his character was formed, that he was incapable of discerning any
good whatever in change and progress. For this reason he
dreaded the invasion of refinement and civilization. Accustomed
to connect virtue and purity with the absence of temptations, he
was prepared to take an exaggerated view of the relation between
polish and effeminacy, between a taste for the beautiful and
luxury. - -

He was a bitter hater of those who opposed his prejudices.
His enmity to Carthage sprung much more from his antagonism
to Scipio, as the leader of the Greek or movement party, than
from fears for the safety of Eome. Scipio said, Let Carthage be;
therefore Cato's will was, let Carthage be destroyed. When his
hatred of injustice was aroused, as, for example, by the perfidy of
S. Sulpicius Galba towards the Lusitanians, he could support the
cause of foreigners against a fellow-countryman. His character
is full of apparent inconsistencies. Although he hated oppression,
he was cruel to his slaves; tyrannical and implacable, simply be-
cause he would not brook opposition to his will. His integrity
was incorruptible, and yet he was a grinding usurer ; frugal in
his habits, and notwithstanding his few wants, grasping and ava-
ricious; but it was his love of business that he was gratifying,
rather than a love of money. Trade was with him a combat in
which he would not allow an advantage to be gained by his ad-
versary. Virtue did not present itself to Cato in an amiable
form. He had but one idea of it — austerity; and, as his hatred
of wrong was not counterbalanced by a love of right, the intensity

" Hor. Od. ii. i.

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of his hatred was only kept in check by the practical good sense
and utilitarian views which occupy so prominent a place in the
Eoman character. Being himself reserved and undemonstrative,
he expected others to be so likewise, and thought it unbecoming
the dignity of a Roman to exhibit tenderness of feeling. On one
occasion we are told that he degraded a Soman knight for em-
bracing his wife in the presence of his daughter. His personal
appearance was not more prepossessing than his manners, as we
learn from the following severe epigram :' —

With his red hair, constant snarl, and gray ejes, Proserpine would not
receive Porcius, even after death, into Hades.

As, notwithstanding his defects, Cato was morally the greatest

Online LibraryRobert William BrowneA history of Greek classical literature → online text (page 13 of 49)