People - Ancient Greece: Livius Andronicus
Ancient Greco-Roman dramatist and epic poet of the
Old Latin period.
Livius Andronicus in Wikipedia
Lucius Livius Andronicus (c. 280/260 BC – c. 200 BC), not to be confused with the later historian Livy, was a Greco-Roman dramatist and epic poet of the Old Latin period. He began as an educator in the service of a noble family at Rome by translating Greek works into Latin, including Homer’s Odyssey. They were meant at first as educational devices in the school he founded. When it came to drama he began staging plays, both tragedies and comedies, which were the first Roman dramatic works. The comedy, based on Greek New Comedy, came to be called comoedia palliata, "the Greek comedy," by the Romans. Suetonius later coined the term "half-Greek" of Livius and Ennius (referring to their genre, not their ethnic backgrounds). The genre was imitated by the next dramatists to follow in Andronicus' footsteps and on that account he is regarded as the father of Roman drama and of Latin literature in general; that is, he was the first man of letters to write in Latin. Varro, Cicero, and Horace, all men of letters during the subsequent Classical Latin period, considered Livius Andronicus to have been the originator of Latin literature. He is the earliest Roman poet whose name is known.
In ancient sources, Livius Andronicus is either given that name or is simply called Livius. Andronicus is the Latinization of a Greek name, which was held by a number of Greek historical figures of the period. It is generally considered that Andronicus came from his Greek name and that Livius, a name originally local to Latium, was the gentilicium, the family name, of his patron (patronus). His career at Rome was launched from servitude and he became a freedman (libertus) by the grace of his master, one of the Livia gens. The praenomen Lucius is given by Aulus Gellius and Cassiodorus.
Livius’ dates are based mainly on Cicero and Livy. Cicero says, "This Livius exhibited his first performance at Rome in the Consulship of M. Tuditanus, and C. Clodius the son of Caecus, the year before Ennius was born, ...."; that is, in 240 BC. Cicero goes on to relate the point of view of Accius, that Livius was captured from Tarentum in 209 BC, and produced a play in 197 BC. Cicero disagrees with this view on the grounds that it would make Livius younger than Plautus and Naevius, though he was supposed to have been the first to produce a play. Livy says, "The pontiffs also decreed that three bands of maidens, each consisting of nine, should go through the city singing a hymn. This hymn [the parthenion) was composed by the poet, Livius ...." This action was taken to expiate the gods after a series of evil portents in the consulship of "C. Claudius Nero for the first time, M. Livius for the second;" that is, in 207 BC. Only the dates of 240 and 207 BC seem exempt from controversy.
Jerome has some additional detail that tends to support the capture at Tarentum and enslavement. His entry for the year of Abraham 1829, the second year of the 148th Olympiad (186/185 BC), of his Chronicon, reads
"Titus Livius tragoediarum scriptor clarus habetur, qui ob ingenii meritorum a Livio Salinatore, cujus liberos erudiebat, libertate donatus est."
"Titus Livius, author of tragedies, is held to be outstanding. He was given liberty by Livius Salinator, whose children he was educating, by merit of his intelligence."
Jerome is the only author to name him Titus. The passage is ambiguous concerning the events actually happening in Olympiad 148; he could have been being given liberty or simply have been being honored, having been liberated long ago. Livius Salinator might be Gaius Livius Salinator, his father Marcus Livius Salinator, or his grandfather Marcus. If Jerome means that the liberation took place in 186, then he seems to be following Accius' view, which might have been presented in the missing portions of Suetonius' de Poetis and read by Jerome. The passage is not conclusive about anything. However, the mixed name of Livius and his being associated with Salinator suggests that he was captured at the first fall of Tarentum in 272 BC, sold to the first Marcus Livius Salinator, tutored the second and was set free to have an independent career when the task was complete.
Livius made a translation of the Odyssey, Odusia, for his classes in Saturnian verse. All that survives is parts of 46 scattered lines from 17 books of the Greek 24-book epic. In some lines, he translates literally, though in others more freely. His translation of the Odyssey had a great historical importance. Before then, the Mesopotamians and Egyptians had translated judicial and religious texts, but no one had yet translated a literary work written in a foreign language until the Roman empire. Livius’ translation made this fundamental Greek text accessible to Romans, and advanced literary culture in Latin. This project was one of the first examples of translation as artistic process. The work was to be enjoyed on its own, and Livius strove to preserve the artistic quality of original. Since there was no tradition of epic in Italy before him, Livius must have faced enormous problems. For example, he used archaizing forms to make his language more solemn and intense. His innovations will be important in history of Latin poetry.
In the fragments we have, it is clear that Livius had a desire to remain faithful to the original and to be clear, while having to alter untranslatable phrases and ideas. For example, the phrase "equal to the gods," which would have been unacceptable to Romans, was changed to "summus adprimus," "greatest and of first rank." Also, early Roman poetry made use of pathos, expressive force, and dramatic tension, so Livius interprets Homer with a mind to these ideas as well. In general, Livius did not make arbitrary change to the text; rather, he attempted to remain faithful to Homer and to the Latin language 
Livius’ first play, according to Cicero, was staged in 240 BC. Livy tells us that Livius was the first to create a fabula with a plot. One story says that after straining his voice, Livius, who was also an actor, was the first to leave the singing to singers and limited the actors to dialogue.
His dramatic works were written in the iambic senarius and trochaic septenarius. They included both lyric passages (cantica) and dialogue (diverbia). His dramatic works had large element of solos for chief actor, often himself. It is not known whether he had a chorus. These dramatic works of Livius Andronicus were consistent with Greek requirements of drama and probably had Greek models, and we have no more than 60 fragments, as quoted in other authors.
The titles of his tragedies we know are Achilles, Aegisthus, Aiax Mastigophorus (Ajax with the Whip), Andromeda, Antiopa, Danae, Equus Troianus, Hermiona, and Tereus.
Two titles of his comedies are certain, Gladiolus and Ludius, though the third, Virgo, is probably corrupt. They were all composed on the model of Greek New Comedy, adapting stories from the Greek. The Romans called this sort of adaptation of comedy by Livius and his immediate successors fabulae palliatae, or comoedia palliata, named from the pallium, or short cloak, worn by the actors. Of Andronicus' palliata we have 6 fragments of 1 verse each and 1 title, Gladiolus, (Little Saber).
According to Livy, Livius also composed a hymn for a chorus of 27 girls, a parthenion or girls’ song, in honor of Juno to be performed in public as part of religious ceremonies in 207 BC. Because of the success of this hymn, Livius received public honors when his professional organization, the collegium scribarum histrionumque was installed in the Temple of Minerva on the Aventine. Actors and writers would gather here and offer gifts.
Livius in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Andronīcus. An early writer who is regarded as the founder of Roman epic and dramatic poetry. He was by birth a Greek of Southern Italy, and was brought as a slave to Rome, after the conquest of Tarentum in B.C. 272, while still a young man. His master, a Livius (perhaps Livius Salinator), whose name he bears, gave him his liberty, and he became an instructor in the Greek and Latin languages. This employment probably gave occasion for his translation of the Odyssey into Saturnian verse, which, in spite of its imperfections, remained a school-book in Rome for centuries. The first verse runs as follows:
“Virum mihi, Camena, insece versutum.”
In B.C. 240 he brought upon the Roman stage the first drama composed after a Greek model, and with such success that thenceforward dramatic poetry was well established in Rome. According to ancient custom he appeared as an actor in his own pieces. His dramatic compositions, tragedies, and comedies were faithful but undoubtedly imperfect translations of Greek originals. He attempted lyric poetry also, for he was commissioned by the State to write a march in honour of Iuno Regina. Scanty remains of his works are all that have come down to us; and these are collected by Ribbeck in his Scaenicae Romanorum Poesis Fragmenta (Leipzig, 1873), and Bährens, Frag. Poetarum Romanorum, pp. 37-43 (Leipzig, 1886). See, also, Wordsworth's Fragments and Specimens of Early Latin (Oxford, 1874).
If you notice a broken link or any error PLEASE report it by clicking HERE
© 1995-2017 Bible History Online