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- The Romans borrowed their forms and models of literary work from the Greeks.

- But gradually the Roman authors implanted their own beliefs and character into their works.

- The first literary form to reach significant development among the Romans was drama.

- Roman drama, patterned after the New Comedy of the Hellenistic Era, was light, entertaining, often humorous, and sometimes satirical.

Roman Dramatists

- The most noted Roman dramatists were Plautus (184 BC.) and Terence (159 BC.).

- Plautus' plays were filled with slap-stick energy and farcical situations needed to keep the attention of a Roman audience.

- Terence wrote for a more cultured age and was therefore more contemplative than Plautus.

- The father upset with the actions of the younger generation, is still found in modern drama.

- (Image) the father is rushing out of his mansion with a stick as his son has just come home from a party, accompanied by a girl playing the flute and his slave half supporting him, half hiding behind him.

- The greatest work of Roman literature was Virgil's (19 BC.)

- Aeneid. This is an epic poem telling of the wanderings of the mythical Aeneas, a refugee from Troy who eventually settled in Italy and founded the Latin civilization. He wrote the poem to celebrate the greatness of Rome and the Emperor Augustus.

- (Image) Virgil is shown reading a section of the Aeneid, while the muses of Epic and Tragedy listen.


- The greatest writer of Lyric poetry was Horace.

- His works include Satires, Odes, Letters and the Art of Poetry.

- The beautiful Odes were written in diverse moods, and on various themes: love, wine, the good life, courage, simple pleasures, and the shortness of life.

- His poetry could be passionate and polite, cynical and romantic, sensuous and sophisticated.

- Another Roman poet who enjoyed a wide audience was Ovid (17 AD.).

- Ovid wrote worldly love poetry that reflected the customs of the smart metropolitan society of his day.

- He was also an excellent story teller.


- Another highly developed literary form in Rome was the writing of history.

- Livy, Tacitus, and Suetonius were among the best of the Roman historians.

- They wrote to inspire and instruct future generations of Romans and to spread the idea that the mission of Rome was to lead less fortunate people to culture and civilization.

- Livy's "History of Rome" was written to glorify ancient Rome and the heroes of the Punic wars were to serve as models for a younger generation of Romans.

- Suetonius in his book "The Twelve Caesars" wrote informative and interesting biographies of the first emperors of Rome and laid the foundation for all succeeding biographical writing.

- Tacitus was probably the greatest of the Roman historians.

- His major work was the History of Rome from Tiberius to Domitian.

- The theme running throughout his work is that man can survive all types of evils and degregations and rise to heights of heroism.

- The history of Tacitus is the earliest account available of this period of history.


- The Romans also enjoyed reading political satires.

- Juvenal and Petronius were the best writers of satire produced in the Roman world.

- In his work called "Satires", Juvenal describes the weaknesses of contemporary society, using such targets as aggressive women, the military, and the influence of Greeks in Roman life.

- Petronius, in the "Satyricon", describes Roman society at the time of Nero and gives an excellent portrayal of a completely amoral pleasure-seeking society.

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