The History of Rome (Volumes 1-5) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 3,061 pages of information about The History of Rome (Volumes 1-5).
necessity attendant on the far from scrupulous efforts of the missionaries of Hellenism; and they are, in a historical and even aesthetic point of view, outweighed in some measure by the zeal of faith equally inseparable from propagandism.  We may form a different opinion from Ennius as to the value of his new gospel; but, if in the case of faith it does not matter so much what, as how, men believe, we cannot refuse recognition and admiration to the Roman poets of the sixth century.  A fresh and strong sense of the power of the Hellenic world-literature, a sacred longing to transplant the marvellous tree to the foreign land, pervaded the whole poetry of the sixth century, and coincided in a peculiar manner with the thoroughly elevated spirit of that great age.  The later refined Hellenism looked down on the poetical performances of this period with some degree of contempt; it should rather perhaps have looked up to the poets, who with all their imperfection yet stood in a more intimate relation to Greek poetry, and approached nearer to genuine poetical art, than their more cultivated successors.  In the bold emulation, in the sounding rhythms, even in the mighty professional pride of the poets of this age there is, more than in any other epoch of Roman literature, an imposing grandeur; and even those who are under no illusion as to the weak points of this poetry may apply to it the proud language, already quoted, in which Ennius celebrates its praise: 

-Enni poeta, salve, qui mortalibus Versus propinas flammeos medullitus.-

National Opposition

As the Hellenico-Roman literature of this period was essentially marked by a dominant tendency, so was also its antithesis, the contemporary national authorship.  While the former aimed at neither more nor less than the annihilation of Latin nationality by the creation of a poetry Latin in language but Hellenic in form and spirit, the best and purest part of the Latin nation was driven to reject and place under the ban of outlawry the literature of Hellenism along with Hellenism itself.  The Romans in the time of Cato stood opposed to Greek literature, very much as in the time of the Caesars they stood opposed to Christianity; freedmen and foreigners formed the main body of the poetical, as they afterwards formed the main body of the Christian, community; the nobility of the nation and above all the government saw in poetry as in Christianity an absolutely hostile power; Plautus and Ennius were ranked with the rabble by the Roman aristocracy for reasons nearly the same as those for which the apostles and bishops were put to death by the Roman government.  In this field too it was Cato, of course, who took the lead as the vigorous champion of his native country against the foreigners.  The Greek literati and physicians were in his view the most dangerous scum of the radically corrupt Greek people,(72) and the Roman “ballad-singers” are treated by him with ineffable contempt.(73) He and those who

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The History of Rome (Volumes 1-5) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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