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Latin Literature

The last class of dramatic poets whom we shall mention in the first period are the writers of Atellanae. These entertainments originated at the little town of Atella, now St Arpino, between Capua and Naples in the Oscan territory, and were at first composed in the Oscan dialect. Their earliest cultivation at Rome seems to date not long after 360 B.C., in which year the Etruscan histriones were first imported into Rome.

The Augustan Age in its strictest sense does not begin until after the battle of Actium, when Augustus, having overthrown his competitor, found himself in undisputed possession of the Roman world (31 B.C.).

On the Similes of Virgil, Lucan, and Statius.

There are nations among whom the imagination is so predominant that they seem incapable of regarding things as they are. The literature of such nations will always be cast in a poetical mould, even when it takes the outward form of prose. Of this class India is a conspicuous example. In the opposite category stand those nations which, lacking imaginative power, supply its place by the rich colouring of rhetoric, but whose poetry, judged by the highest standard, does not rise above the sphere of prose. Modern France is perhaps the best example of this.

PUBLIUS VIRGILIUS, or more correctly, VERGILIUS [1] MARO, was born in the village or district [2] of Andes, near Mantua, sixteen years after the birth of Catullus, of whom he was a compatriot as well as an admirer. [3] As the citizenship was not conferred on Gallia Transpadana, of which Mantua was a chief town, until 49 B.C., when Virgil was nearly twenty-one years old, he had no claim by birth to the name of Roman. And yet so intense is the patriotism which animates his poems, that no other Roman writer, patrician or plebeian, surpasses or even equals it in depth of feeling.

The death of Domitian was the end of tyranny in Rome. Under Nerva a new regime was inaugurated. Liberty of speech and action was allowed, and authors were not slow to profit by it. The forced repression of so many years had matured, not quenched, the talent of the greatest writers. Virtuous men had pondered in gloomy silence over the wickedness of the time, and they now gave to the world the condensed result of their bitter reflections. Amid the numerous talents of the period three have sent down to us a large portion of their works.

On the Annales Pontificum. (Chiefly from Les Annales des Pontifes, Le Clerc.)

Note I.—Imitations of Virgil in Propertius, Ovid, and Manilius.

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