William Cranston Lawton.

Introduction to classical Latin literature online

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Antique bust in tlie Vatican.











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fq I. Traces of Early Latin Poetry and Prose . . 13

pj II. The Transition to Hellenism ..... 21

* III. Age of the Scipios and Cato 28

o IV. Ennius 32

"* V. Plautus 38

-• VI. Terence and his Friends 49

VII. Lost Works and Authors op the Republican Period 56

Chronological Tables 64




VIII. The Time and the Man 69

IX. Cicero as an Orator 73

X. The Ciceronian Correspondence 80

XI. The Rhetorical Works 85

XII. The Philosophical Essays, and Other Works . . 89


XIV. Sallust and Nepos 104

XV. Marcus Terentius Varro 109

XVI. Catullus and his Friends 114




XVII. Lucretius . .^ . 126

XVIII. The Decay of Drama 137

XIX. Retrospect and Prospect 141

Chronological Tables . . . . . . . .143



XX. Republic and Empire
XXI. Virgil.
XXII. LivY .

XXIII. Horace

XXIV. Ovid .
XXV. The Elegiac Poets

XXVI. The Aftermath

Chronological Tables






XXVII. The Early Empire 233

XXVIII. Seneca 239

XXIX. Contemporaries op Seneca 252

XXX. The Epic Poetry 200

XXXI. Martial and Juvenal 272

XXXIL Quintilian 281

XXXIII. The Plinies 287

XXXIV. Tacitus 295

Chronological Tables 307

Epilogue 310



Cicero .......... Frontispiece

Antique bust in the Vatican.

State Sacrifice at Rome

Antique relief in the Louvre.

Tomb of Scipio Barbatus, now in the Vatican

The Claudian Aqueduct

Monument of a Roman Vice-centurion .
From Baumeister.

Roman Warfare

Belief from the Trajan column.

General View of the Forum, with the Capitol

Julius Caesar ........

Antique bust in the Capitoline Museum.

Falls of the Anio at Tivoli, the Ancient Tibur .

Latin Text of the Testament of Augustus .
On the temple wall at Ancyra.

Virgil, Horace, and Varius at the House of M^cenas
By Ch. F. Jalabert.

Melpomene, Virgil, and Clio ......

Hadrumetum mosaic at Susa, Tunisia.

Georgics, IV., 118-124, and Illustration
From a Virgil manuscript in the Vatican.

.^NEiD, IV., 56-61, AND Illustration ....
From a Virgil manuscript in the Vatican.

Ancient Gate of the Citadel of Falerii
From a woodcut in Duruy's History of Kome.

Roman Ships ......•••

From the Trajan column.
















Augustus 226

Antique bust in the Capitoline Museum.

Nero's Living ToR«iiES 234

By Siemiradzki.

So-called Seneca ......... 244

Antique bronze bust from Herculaneum, now in Naples Museum.

Roman Soldiers Carrying the Golden Candlestick from

THE Temple at Jerusalem ....... 264

Relief on the Arch of Titus.

Interior View of the Coliseum ...... 273

Christian Martyrs in the Coliseum 294

By Gerome.

Marcus Aurelius 311

Equestrian statue on the Capitoline.

Hadrian 317

Antique bust in the Vatican.




The various types of civilized European man, which
even in their older homes are steadily assimilating and
approaching each other, are upon our own continent, and
especially in our own land, swiftly fusing into one. It is
peculiarly important for the American, therefore, to study
the various currents that meet in ourselves. Teuton,
Norman and Kelt, Slav, Latin and Greek, are all in vary-
ing degree our ancestors. Moreover, it is doubly interest-
ing gradually to realize that most of these races have
already had, for at least two thousand years, a common,
unified, and unbroken history. All play a part in the
large story of European life.

So far as literary monuments are concerned, we attempt
here to outline the second chapter of that long story.
Naturally, a most needful preparation is a perusal of the
first. In other words, Latin literature should be ap-
proached after a sympathetic acquaintance with the master-
pieces of the Greek imagination. Indeed, the influence of
Hellenes and Romans upon ourselves is largely one. Such
an adjective as Graeco-Roman has often a fitness of its own.
Yet the contrasts between the two chief peoples of an-
tiquity make a striking and tempting theme.

The Greek whom we really know, in early literature, is
the Eastward Ionian. Counting himself, even in his



Asian seats, an exile, he holds his home-ties lightly. He
wanders forth gladly for traffic, for adventure, to far-off
colonial settlements, or, especially if an artist, to the courts
of Greek tyrants and even of barbarian patrons. He is
awake to all impressions from the picturesque, varied, swift-
changing world about him. The contrast between his own
nature and that of other races strikes him forcibly. The
supreme mysteries of life and death, even, he faces with
wide-open eyes. Gods, dasmons, nymphs, he readily
shapes for himself, preferably in human form. Projecting
his own desires, loves, hates, into the infinite, the Greek
dreamer tells himself marvelous tales of divinities and
demigods. The myths of early Hellas are the delight of
childhood still.

The enjoyment of beauty, the power of expression,
awoke early. If the lonians learned, from the Phoenician
or elsewhere, their alphabet, the arts of trade, the way
across the stepping-stones of the ^gean to ever remoter
wandering, the yet bolder roving paths of the human
fancy, — they quickly bettered their teachings. So epic,
philosophic inquiry, lyric, prose chronicle, sprang up in
swift succession among the children of the myth -makers.

Of large statecraft there is little trace. Individualism
is excessive. The Asiatic cities, of kindred speech, re-
ligion, culture, lived out each its isolated and turbulent
life, to fall an early and easy prey to Oriental conquerors.
Of yet greater individual energy, and much creative pow-
er, with even less fitness for civic organism, we catch a
glimpse in the yEolic Greeks, especially on the lovely
island of Lesbos.

At Athens, in the century of Pericles, we find a larger
form of civic life, rushing to swift wreck, however, on the
reefs of selfish aggression, conquest, empire. Yet there
was time, barely time, for tragedy, most elaborate of
literary forms, to attain perfection. Comedy, political


history, oratory, philosophic speculation, found supreme
ex})ression in Aristophanes, Thukydides, Demosthenes,
Plato. The last is in spirit a great imaginative poet also.

Theocritos, and the Anthology, show us that the fresh
original imagination of early Hellas lived on far into the
decadent centuries. Indeed this creative power of the
Greek man is the supreme miracle of European history.
It is still to be seen in his sculpture and architecture no
less, while of his painting and music we have received
little more than a loving tradition. Of minor artists, such
as carvers of gems or decorators of vases, there seem to
have been legions, not merely in Periclean Athens, but in
many Greek lands and centuries.

The little Laconian garrison, encamped amid a host of
stubborn-hearted vanquished foes, of slaves with the spirit
of freemen, maintained itself wonderfully, but the wider
power and wealth thrust upon Sparta, as by accident, in
479 B.C. and again in 404 B.C., found her quite unfit to
use them. Her sluggish Dorian nature was excited, but
dazed by such widening vistas of duty, and she soon cowered
into her narrow shell again. The poets and other artists of
Lacouia had been, from the first, chiefly guests, of ^olic
or Ionian birth.

With all its unique genius, the Greek race failed to be-
come a dominant nation, or even an united free people.
It is not safe to attribute this lack chiefly to the peculiar
physical contour of their little peninsula, to the isolation
of each dale or hill-crest. The most peaceful and lasting
confederation in Europe unites the vales and peaks of
Switzerland. The lack of union among Greeks is at least
as marked in Ionia, or in Sicily. It was probably inherent
in the Hellenic nature. Politically they seem almost a
race of gifted children, who never accepted the restraints
of full manhood, the compromises of civic life.

In the ideal commonwealth there will be the utmost


individual freedom, the utmost encouragement of original
and creative genius, but all powers will be regarded as con-
secrated to the public service.

Rome grew up at the northernmost point of Latium,
pushed like a wedge into hostile territory, but strongly
protected by the Tiber, and uplifted upon the Palatine
and Capitoline. The names of Numa and Lars Porsena
are plainly monuments respectively of early Sabine and
Etruscan conquest, which must have left also permanent
elements in the population. Latian, however, the little
hill-city always remained.

Early Latium is a home of sturdy, unimaginative peas-
antry. Each man held firmly his ploughshare, or, if need
be, the pike, knowing little of music or song, nothing of
adventurous wandering, real or imagined. His gods were
but faint personifications of the most prosaic realities.
Janus presided over the changing year. Terminus over the
boundary-stone, Volutina is the fair goddess of corn-shucks.
Ancestors, like Picus and Faunus, may fitly be worshipped
at the family hearth as Lares, but few picturesque legends
grow up about the names. Each man's genius follows or
guides him through the sober phases of a monotonous life.

This absence of myth, of fancy, is the most striking trait
in the Roman nature. Their one poet who feels adequately
the reverent sympathy of a Wordsworth, or a Bryant, with
Nature, in her wilder and lonelier aspects, is a materialist
and an atheist. The one chronicler who has much of
Herodotos's grace as a story-teller has but a single type
of tale to tell. Heroic and stoical self-sacrifice for the
Fatherland is his constant theme.

Such a people will have to be taught not merely the
alphabet but the whole art of poetry : and they will hardly
surpass tlieir teachers. The concession that Virgil makes
for the plastic arts, for science, and even, too sweepingly.


for forensic oratory, might well have included his own
craft as well. He is thinking of Greeks, only, when he
cries :

Virgil's /Eneid, " Others will mould more deftly the breathing

VI., 847-53. bronze, I concede it,

Or from the marble block lead forth the face of the living :
Others excel in the pleading of causes : delineate better
Motions of heavenly bodies, and tell of the stars and their
Thou, oh Roman, remember to curb with thy empire the
These thine arts shall be, and of peace to impose the con-
Sparing those who submit, but crushing in battle the

This closing boast, also, is fully justified. While they
have much resemblance to the Spartans, the Romans differ
radically from them in this : When happy chance, and
their own unflagging discijjline, made them lords of La-
tinm, of Italy, of the Mediterranean world, they promptly
developed also the power and daring to hold firmly what
they had boldly won. We may disapprove their methods,
deplore their failure to create representative assemblies,
ridicule the attempt to govern the earth with the ma-
chinery of a town-meeting. The fact remains, that the
Romans accomplished this feat.

When the oligarchy of a few families decayed, the
dictators and emperors who succeeded them were Romans
still. The wealth wrung from scores of proud historic
races, now helpless provincials, was lavished on the im-
perial capital and its idle proletariat. Even the flexible
Greek language, with all the start given it by its unap-
proachable masterpieces, and later by Alexander's con-
quests, only maintained itself side by side with Latin.
When the political centre shifted eastward, it made room


for a religious primacy which remains in large measure to
the present hour.

Italy was indeed overrun by barbarians, and Eome itself
repeatedly sacked, in the fifth century a.d. Yet the By-
zantine empire, which in some fashion survived a thousand
years longer, was itself a Roman creation. Eome, then,
did at least build the bridge by which the salvage from
classical antiquity came across the age of Gothic conquest,
over the centuries of confusion and growing darkness, — to
the modern world.

Roman workers in every art had Greek masterpieces
constantly before them. Latin literature hardly begins
until the decadent Alexandrian age of Hellas was far ad-
vanced. Conscious study of style, direct imitation of
Hellenic models, even slavish translation, came first of all.
The Greek myths are coolly borrowed entire, and assigned
to Roman gods, whose attributes suggested a resemblance.
The wanderings of Heracles, Odysseus, ^neas, are ex-
tended into Italy. Even important gods, like Apollo,
Pluto, Proserpine, and others, are adopted, name and
myths alike, from the Hellenic pantheon.

Under all these conditions, the most surprising fact is,
that much of the peculiar Roman nature does nevertheless
come to expression in the classical Latin literature. The
steadfast patriotism of Romans, their gravity, a certain
Stoical reticence as to purely subjective emotion, informs
the work even of those authors who are most clearly in-
spired by the Greek muse.

Latin literature as a whole displays talent rather than
genius, good taste oftener than creative force. It bears to
the Greek somewhat the relation which the age of Anne
holds to the century of Shakespeare and Spenser. Above
all, the best authors and works are, as a rule, those most
fully imbued with the Greek spirit, often, as in the


supreme example of Virgil, those most frankly imitative,
in plot and in detail, of Greek models.

Here we may discover a certain analogy to our own con-
ditions. America was so dominated by the language and
literature of England, that we remained timidly provincial
in this field long after political independence was won.
The sturdiest spirits of our folk, from Franklin to Lincoln,
have been much more absorbed in action than in literary
art. A master of expression may yet arise among us, to
be, like Dante or Goethe, the largest figure of the national
life : but he certainly has not yet appeared and been

Meantime, it may be especially instructive for many men
and women, in an age when poetry seems forceless and the
imagination enfeebled, to discover, if we can, how the
Eoman attained to taste, to skill, to adequate self-utter-
ance, hampered, or guided, by models too familiar and too
mighty to be ignored.

Even a Cicero or a Horace is not ashamed to speak of
letters as an avocation for leisure hours, or as a pastime
too trivial for the greatest of men. Though not true of
these two Eomans, it is indeed true of their people, that
their contributions to the art of government, civic organi-
zation, law, even their road-building and engineering gen-
erally, suiEce to lift them to a proud pre-eminence, quite
apart from their record in the fine arts. Indeed, we must
always remember, that but for the mighty ark which
Caesar and Augustus shaped, the precious records of Greek
life might themselves never have come down to us, but
might have vanished utterly when the destructive hordes
of our ancestry swept again and again over the fair lands
of Southern Europe. Our hearty admiration for the great
Julius, and the race whom he typifies, should color every
line in which we record, as here, but one side, perhaps a
lesser phase, of their great gift to af tertime.



We indicate here the needful equipment of one shelf in a very
modest school or departmental library, for constant use with such a
book as this. Some encyclopaedic works like the " Britannica," the
Smith " Dictionary of Antiquities," etc., may surely be taken for
granted. Among the larger histories of early Rome, available in
English, Ihne's is perhaps even more helpful to the young student than
Mommsen's masterpiece, since it gives the traditional account, with
some fulness, before attacking it with the destructive weapons of modern
scholarship. Of single-volume school histories the best packed is prob-
ably Shuckburgh's, but it stops at Actium. The large page of Kiepert's
Classical Atlas makes it available, almost like a wall-map, for a whole

The teacher's desk needs at least one large history of Latin litera-
ture. The completest references to the sources, with frequent brief
quotations also, are in Teuffel, which is translated with fair accuracy
by Warr. Much more readable, in German, is Ribbeck's " Geschichte
der Romischen Dichtung," or, in French, Fatin's " fitudes sur laPoesie
Latine." Mommsen's occasional chapters on literature are illuminat-
ing. Sellar's "Roman Poets" was left incomplete, but nearly covers
the Augustan age as well as the Repuijlic. It is judicious, scholarly,
somewhat soporific. The large work of G. A. Simcox is wilful, but
will l)e found stimulating, quite copious, and often doubly useful for
its references.

Above all, the classical authors tliemselves should be available, in
faithful literary versions, indicating clearly the lines or sections of the
Latin or Greek works, for those who do not read the original with
«ase. Such a book as Shuckburgh's "• Polybios," or Clough's "Plu-
tarch," will always have a hundred readers for one who can even con-
sult the original text on a doubtful detail. Another Greek work, the
history of early Rome by Dionysios the Halicarnassian, ought to be
accessible, for though writing in Rome, and in Livy's time, he is curi-
ously independent of him.

For Livy we have the Bohn Library version. Extremely useful,
also, is the complete prose translation of Virgil's works by Conington,
published in one inexpensive volume by Lee. Other translations will
be mentioned under the several authors.

For those who read Latin we earnestly recommend the use also of
text editions of other than school authors,, Aulus Gellius and
Macrobius, in the Teubner series. The sixth volume of Biihrens's


" Poetae Latini Minores," in the same series, contains all the non-
dramatic fragments of Naevius, Ennius, Lucilius, and many others.
A complete Livy tills but five Teubncr volumes, the fragments of the
lost historians, including the Annales Maximi, Cato, etc., only one.
Special students will of course require Ribbeck's " Fragmenta Tragi-
corum " and " Comicorum," and the various volumes of the Iwan
Miiller " Handbuch." Peter's Chronological Tables is a most excel-
lent German work.

f c:



(TO 100 B.C.)


The Romans nndonbtedly received their alphabet from
the neighboriug Greek city, Cumse. This Campaiiian
colony, though Enbamn Chalkis was its true metropolis,
took its name from Asiatic Kyme, which regarded itself
as the special heir of the Trojan legend and stock. The
influence of Cnmae is often seen in the early legends, notably
in the tale of the Sybilline books, which were probably a
collection of Greek oracles. The strange later adoption of
a Trojan fugitive, ^neas, as the ancestor of Romulus, may
have in part the same explanation.

Writing was in use very early. Polybios, a judicious
and scholarly Greek, saw at Rome in the second century
before Christ, and translates, the archaic text of a treaty
509 B.C. with Carthage, ascribed to the first year of

Poiyb., m., 23. the Republic. Cicero, Livy, and Dionysios,
^^s.'^sl^ ' believed they had seen the original texts of
Livy, iv., 7, 20; yarious treaties, on ox-hides, columns, or

vii 3.

Diony'sios, iv., tcmplc-wall, dating from the fifth century

26, 58. before Christ, or even from Servius Tullius's

and Tarquin's day. As to the extreme antiquity of these

memorials they were probably deceived. Our few inscrip-

ions dating back to the fifth century before Christ are in

uistic form which an Augustan scholar could not

» • ■''■ "^ Q ftd y and would hardly have recognized as Latin at all.

The first large mass of writing which we can date with
certainty is the great code, known as the Laws of the


^^^^ions di


Twelve Tables, composed and promulgated by Appins
Claudius and the other decemvirs, in 451-450 B.C. This
,, ,,, ^ code was long used as a first reader in
schools, and its influence in moulding and
fixing the prose style has been compared to that of Luther's
Bible. The fragments cited by later authors cannot be
safely restored to the original forms, but should be care-
fully studied as records of social conditions. Though Livy
especially emphasizes the previous visit of an embassy in
Athens, the Latian local color is strong, and we clearly
have in the main a simple record of previous usage or
*' common law."

''A beam built into a house or vine-trellis you mustn't
pull out of its socket " : — i.e., even if it be your property,
and stolen. Here we get at once a clear sketch of a rural
and thrifty folk. " Women shall not scratch their cheeks,
nor make lamentation at a funeral," is truly Eoman Stoi-
cism. The provisions for seizing a debtor, exhibiting him
for redemption on three market-days, then cutting him
up, seem cold-blooded indeed, despite the assurance that
the creditors, in fact, always sold him whole, and divided
up only the proceeds. The protection against him " who
sings a bad song " might assure us that this grim folk had
already songs, and some discrimination as to musical ren-
dition ; but the allusion is said to be merely to spells or
incantations, sometimes even to libel, for which our In-
dians have a similar idiom : " A little bird sang in my ear."
Perhaps we should not translate carmen as *'song" at
all. It may mean also ''formula, aphorism, any phrase
in fixt form." The forbidding of all rites for a ma n^
*' slain by Jove's thunderbolt" shows an abject i'eve|^HM|
ence very remote from the too familiar treatment of gods^^H
in the Homeric poems. The traitor, first scourged, then
**hung on a tree of evil omen," reminds ns effectively
which virtue Rome set highest of all. A terrible and


famous example had been set by Brutus, whose own
sous had conspired to restore the Tarquins. A father
,, ,, might thrice over sell his child. But a

Ulvy, II., 4-5; J 1 , T • , •! •

Virgil, /Eneid, son, once detected in striking a parent,
vi.. 817-23. ^^g „ devoted to the gods of the family " :
whether immolated, or in some fashion outlawed or en-
slaved, may be debated.

The question whether there was any truly national
poetry antedating the Greek influences has been interest-
ingly discussed by Macaulay. His own spirited rhymes,
at any rate, are merely free paraphrases from Livy, a
genial creative author well-read in Herodotos, and we are
quite without direct evidence of any such purely Roman
idylls. Cicero, it is true, says regretfully, "Would that
Cicero, Brutus, thosc songs Were extant, which Cato says, in
75- his Origines, used to be sung in praise of

tation", i'.!''"'; iHustrious licroes, at feasts, by the several
'^•' ^- banqueters, many centuries before his (Cato's)

own time." It is but a doubly hearsay statement, for even
Cato's age had no such songs preserved : else Cicero, who
had the Origiiies before him, would have cited them.
Apud Auium Indeed it is Cato again who remarks, per-
aeiiium, xi., haps more accurately : "The poetic art was
*' ^' nowise in honor. If anyone was interested

in it, or devoted himself to feasts, he was called a
' vagabond."

The poet is actually nameless tn early Rome. The very

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Online LibraryWilliam Cranston LawtonIntroduction to classical Latin literature → online text (page 1 of 23)