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Form: Quintus
The founder of the Hellenized type of Latin poetry. He was born 239 B.C. at Rudiae in Calabria, and was by descent a Graecised Messapian. He was probably educated at Tarentum, and served with the Romans in the Second Punic War in Sardinia, whence Cato took him to Rome in 204 B.C. His poetical talent here came to his aid, not in a pecuniary way (for he was in slender circumstances to the end of his life), but as an introduction to the favour of the great men. Among these must be mentioned the Scipios, and Fulvius Nobilior, who took him in his retinue to the Aetolian war in B.C. 189,and whose son procured him the citizenship five years later (184). A gouty affection did not prevent him from continuing his literary work to an advanced age.He was in his sixty-seventh year when he finished his Annales, and he put a tragedy on the stage shortly before his death. He died in 170 B.C., in his seventieth year, It was said that the Scipios placed his image in their family vault. Ennius wrote poetry with success in a great number of styles. But in his own opinion, as well as in that of his fellowcitizens, his greatest work was his Annales in eighteen books. This was a chronological narrative of Roman history in verse. Like Naevius' Bellum Poenicum, it began with the destruction of Troy, and came down to the poet's own times. In this poem Ennius created for the Romans their first national epic, the fame of which was only eclipsed by Vergil. But he did more. By the introduction of the Greek hexameter Ennius did much to further the future development of Latin poetry. His predecessor, Naevius, had continued to write in the native Saturnian metre, which was hardly capable of artistic development. But the practice of writing in the strict dactylic measure enabled the Latin poets to assimilate the other metrical forms presented by Greek literature. Of the Annals we possess, relatively speaking, only a small number of fragments. Some of these can only be distinguished from prose by their metrical form; others are very fine, both in form and ideas. Ennius showed considerable capacity, too, as a writer of tragedies. His dramas, which were very numerous, were composed after Greek models, especially the tragedies of Euripides. More than twenty of these Euripidean plays are known to us by their titles and surviving fragments. He also wrote proetextoe, or tragedies on Roman subjects, as, for instance, the Ambracia, representing the siege and conquest of this city by his patron Fulvius Nobilior. His comedies were neither so numerous nor so important as his tragedies. Besides these he wrote several books of saturoe, or collections of poems of various contents and in various metres. Several of his adaptations or translations of Greek originals were probably included in these: as, for instance, the Hedyphagetica, a gastronomic work after Archestratus of Gela; Epicharmus, a didactic poem on the "Nature of Things"; Euhemerus, a rationalistic interpretation of the popular fables about the gods; Proecepta or Protrepticus, containing moral doctrines; and others of the same kind. There was a poem entitled Scipio, written in honour of the elder Africanus. Whether this was a satura or a drama is uncertain. The memory of Ennius long survived the fall of the Republic. Even after literary taste had taken quite a different direction, he was revered as the father of Latin poetry, and especially as having done much to enrich the Latin language.
Type: Standard
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