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Latin Literature

The question, Who were the earliest inhabitants of Italy? is one that cannot certainly be answered. That some lower race, analogous to those displaced in other parts of Europe [1] by the Celts and Teutons, existed in Italy at a remote period is indeed highly probable; but it has not been clearly demonstrated.

NOTE I.—The Menippean Satires of Varro.

The reader will find all the information on this subject in Riese's edition of the Menippean Satires, Leipsic, 1865. We append a few fragments showing their style, language, and metrical treatment.

(1) From the ammon metreis.

  “Quem secuntur eum rutundis velitis leves parmis 
  Ante signani quadratis multisignibus tecti.”

Examples of the corrupted dialect of the fifth and following centuries. [20]

1. An epitaph of the fifth century.

  “Hic requiescit in pace domna 
                     domina

  Bonusa quix ann. xxxxxx et Domo 
         quae vixit Domino

Marcus Tullius Cicero, [1] the greatest name in Roman literature, was born on his father's estate near Arpinum, 3d Jan. 106 B.C. Arpinum had received the citizenship some time before, but his family though old and of equestrian position had never held any office in Rome. Cicero was therefore a novus homo, a parvenu, as we should say, and this made the struggle for honours which occupied the greater part of his career, both unusual and arduous.

Mommsen has truly remarked that the culminating point of Roman development was the period which had no literature. Had the Roman people continued to move in the same lines as they did before coming in contact with the works of Greek genius, it is possible that they might have long remained without a literature. Or if they had wrought one out for themselves, it would no doubt have been very different from that which has come down to us. As it is, Roman literature forms a feature in human history quite without a parallel.

3. OTHER PROSE WRITERS.

We have dwelt fully on Seneca because he is of all the Claudian writers the one best fitted to appear as a type of the time. There were, however, several others of more or less note who deserve a short notice. There is the historian DOMITIUS CORBULO, [1] who wrote under Caligula (39 A.D.) a history of his campaigns in Asia, and to whom Pliny refers as an authority on topographical and ethnographical questions. He was executed by Nero (67 A.D.) and his wealth confiscated to the crown.

It is not easy for us to realise the effect produced on the Romans by their first acquaintance with Greek civilisation. The debt incurred by English theology, philosophy, and music, to Germany, offers but a faint parallel.

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