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gods. The first history of Rome was written at Rome in Greek, by Fabius Pictor, about 200 B. C.; and it was probably in opposition to this work, and to those of Lucius Cincius Alimentus, and Publius Scipio, that Cato wrote his own history of Rome in Latin. The example of the higher classes was eagerly followed by the lowest. The plays of Plautus are the best proof; for the affectation of using Greek words is as evident in some of his characters as the foolish display of French in the German writers of the eighteenth century. There was both loss and gain in the inheritance which Rome received from Greece ; but what would Rome have been without her Greek masters ? The very fathers of Roman literature were Greeks, private teachers, men who made a living by translating school-books and plays.
Livius Andronicus, sent as prisoner of war from Tarentum (272 B. c.), estab
lished himself at Rome as professor of Greek. His , translation of the Odyssey into Latin verse, which
marks the beginning of Roman literature, was evidently written by him for the use of his private classes. His style, though clumsy and wooden in the extreme, was looked upon as a model of perfection by the rising poets of the capital. Nævius and Plautus were his cotemporaries and immediate successors. All the plays of Plautus were translations and adaptations of Greek originals; and Plautus was not even allowed to transfer the scene from Greece to Rome. The Roman public wanted to see Greek life and Greek depravity ; it would have stoned the poet who had ventured to bring on the stage a Roman patrician or a Roman matron. Greek tragedies, also, were
1 Mommsen, i. 902.
translated into Latin. Ennius, the cotemporary of Nævius and Plautus, though somewhat younger (239 -169), was the first to translate Euripides. Ennius, like Andronicus, was an Italian Greek, who settled at Rome as a teacher of languages and translator of Greek. He was patronized by the liberal party, by Publius Scipio, Titus Flaminius, and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior.1 He became a Roman citizen. But Ennius was more than a poet, more than a teacher of languages. He has been called a neologian, and to a certain extent he deserved that name. Two works written in the most hostile spirit against the religion of Greece, and against the very existence of the Greek gods, were translated by him into Latin. One was the philosophy of Epicharmus (470 B. C., in Megara), who taught that Zeus was nothing but the air, and other gods but names of the powers of nature; the other the work of Euhemerus, of Messene (300 B. c.), who proved, in the form of a novel, that the Greek gods had never existed, and that those who were believed in as gods had been men. These two works were not translated without a purpose ; and though themselves shallow in the extreme, they proved destructive to the still shallower systems of Roman theology. Greek became synonymous with infidel ; and Ennius would hardly have escaped the punishment inflicted on Nævius for his political satires, had he not enjoyed the patronage and esteem of the most influential statesmen at Rome. Even Cato, the stubborn enemy of Greek philosophy and rhetoric, was a friend of the dangerous Ennius; and such was the growing influence of Greek at Rome, that Cato him
1 Mommsen, i. 892. 2 Ibid. i. 843, 194.
3 Ibid. i. 911.
self had to learn it in his old age, in order to teach his boy what he considered, if not useful, at least harmless in Greek literature. It has been the custom to laugh at Cato for his dogged opposition to everything Greek; but there was much truth in his denunciations. We have heard much of young Bengál — young Hindus who read Byron and Voltaire, play at billiards, drive tandems, laugh at their priests, patronize missionaries, and believe nothing. The description which Cato gives of the young idlers at Rome reminds us very much of young Bengál.
When Rome took the torch of knowledge from the dying hands of Greece, that torch was not burning with its brightest light. Plato and Aristotle had been succeeded by Chrysippus and Carneades; Euripides and Menander had taken the place of Æschylus and Sophocles. In becoming the guardian of the Promethean spark first lighted in Greece, and intended hereafter to illuminate not only Italy, but every country of Europe, Rome lost inuch of that native virtue to which she owed her greatness. Roman frugality and gravity, Roman citizenship and patriotism, Roman purity and piety, were driven away by Greek luxury and levity, Greek intriguing and self-seeking, Greek vice and infidelity. Restrictions and anathemas were of no avail; and Greek ideas were never so attractive as when they had been reprobated by Cato and his friends. Every new generation became more and more impregnated with Greek. In 1311 we hear of a consul (Publius Crassus) who, like another Mezzofanti, was able to converse in the various dialects of Greek. Sulla allowed foreign ambassadors to speak Greek
1 Mommsen, ii. 407.
before the Roman senate.1 The Stoic philosopher Panætius 2 lived in the house of the Scipios, which was for a long time the rendezvous of all the literary celebrities at Rome. Here the Greek historian Polybius, and the philosopher Cleitomachus, Lucilius the satirist, Terence the African poet (196–159), and the improvisatore Archias (102 B. c.), were welcome guests. In this select circle the master-works of Greek literature were read and criticised; the problems of Greek philosophy were discussed; and the highest interests of human life became the subject of thoughtful conversation. Though no poet of original genius arose from this society, it exercised a most powerful influence on the progress of Roman literature. It formed a tribunal of good taste; and much of the correctness, simplicity, and manliness of the classical Latin is due to that “ Cosmopolitan Club,” which met under the hospitable roof of the Scipios.
The religious life of Roman society at the close of the Punic wars was more Greek than Roman. All who had learnt to think seriously on religious questions were either Stoics or followers of Epicurus; or they embraced the doctrines of the New Academy, denying the possibility of any knowledge of the Infinite, and putting opinion in the place of truth.4
Though the doctrines of Epicurus and the New Academy were always considered dangerous and heretical, the philosophy of the Stoics was tolerated, and a kind of compromise effected between philosophy and religion. There was a state-philosophy as well as a state
1 Mommsen, ji. 410. 2 Ibid. ii. 408. 3 Ibid. ii. 437, note; ii. 430.
4 Zeno died 263; Epicurus died 270; Arcesilaus died 241; Carneades died 129.
religion. The Roman priesthood, though they had succeeded, in 161, in getting all Greek rhetors and philosophers expelled from Rome, perceived that a compromise was necessary. It was openly avowed that in the enlightened classes philosophy must take the place of religion, but that a belief in miracles and oracles was necessary for keeping the large masses in order. Even Cato, the leader of the orthodox, national, and conservative party, expressed his surprise that a haruspex, when meeting a colleague, did not burst out laughing. Men like Scipio Æmilianus and Lælius professed to believe in the popular gods; but with them Jupiter was the soul of the universe, the statues of the gods mere works of art. Their gods, as the people complained, had neither body, parts, nor passions. Peace, however, was preserved between the Stoic philosopher and the orthodox priest. Both parties professed to believe in the same gods, but they claimed the liberty to believe in them in their own way.
I have dwelt at some length on the changes in the intellectual atmosphere of Rome at the end of the Punic wars, and I have endeavored to show how completely it was impregnated with Greek ideas in order to explain, what otherwise would seem almost inexplicable, the zeal and earnestness with which the study of Greek grammar was taken up at Rome, not only by a few scholars and philosophers, but by the leading statesmen of the time. To our minds, discussions on nouns and verbs, on cases and gender, on regular and irregular, conjugation, retain always something of the tedious character which these subjects 1 Mommsen, ii. 417, 418.
3 Ibid. ï. 415, 417.
2 Ibid. i. 845.