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Latin Literature

We now enter on a new and in some respects a very interesting era. From the influence exerted on the last period by the family of Seneca, we might call it the epoch of Spanish Latinity; from the similar influence now exerted by the African school, we might call the present the epoch of African Latinity. Its chief characteristic is ill-digested erudition. Various circumstances combined to make a certain amount of knowledge general, and the growing cosmopolitan sentiment excited a strong interest in every kind of exotic learning. With increased diffusion depth was necessarily sacrificed.

As the spiritual life of a people is reflected in their poetry, so their living voice is heard in their oratory. Oratory is the child of freedom. Under the despotisms of the East it could have no existence; under every despotism it withers. The more truly free a nation is, the greater will its oratory be. In no country was there a grander field for the growth of oratorical genius than in Rome. The two countries that approach nearest to it in this respect are beyond doubt Athens and England.

If Virgil is the most representative, Horace is the most original poet of Rome. This great and varied genius, whose exquisite taste and deep knowledge of the world have made him the chosen companion of many a great soldier and statesman, suggesting as he does reflections neither too ideal nor too exclusively literary for men of affairs, was born at or near Venusia, on the borders of Lucania and Apulia, December 8, 65 B.C. [1] His father was a freedman of the Horatia gens, [2] but set free before the poet's birth.

During the second century after Christ we have the remarkable spectacle of the renaissance of Greek literature. The eloquence which had so long been silent now was heard again in Dio Chrysostom, the delicate artillery of Attic wit was revived by Lucian, the dignity of sublime thought was upheld by Arrian and Marcus Aurelius. It should be remarked that the Greeks had never quite discontinued the art of eloquence.

Great literary activity of all kinds was, after the third Punic war, liable to continual interruption from political struggles or revolutions. But between each two periods of disturbance there was generally an interval in which philosophy, law, and rhetoric were carefully studied. As, however, no work of this period has come down to us except the treatise to Herennius, our notice of it will be proportionately general and brief. We shall touch on the principal studies in order. First in time as in importance comes Law, the earliest great representative of which is P.

The short artificial elegy of Callimachus and Philetas had, as we have seen, found an imitator in Catullus. But that poet, when he addressed to Lesbia the language of true passion, wrote for the most part in lyric verse. The Augustan age furnishes a series of brilliant poets who united the artificial elegiac with the expression of real feeling; and one of them, Ovid, has by his exquisite formal polish raised the Latin elegiac couplet to a popularity unparalleled in imitative literature.


The present work is designed mainly for Students at our Universities and Public Schools, and for such as are preparing for the Indian Civil Service or other advanced Examinations. The author hopes, however, that it may also be acceptable to some of those who, without being professed scholars, are yet interested in the grand literature of Rome, or who wish to refresh their memory on a subject that perhaps engrossed their early attention, but which the many calls of advancing life have made it difficult to pursue.

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