Literature Around the World: Rome

The Roman Republic, followed by the Roman Empire, both created literature that focused on celebratory events in society, avoiding tragedies and hardships.

The Roman’s produced literature that followed the Greek style, from classical themes to aspects of their language. They were highly educated, being able to read and speak Greek and Latin, they worked on developing a style of literature of their own.

, a writer for Ancient History Encyclopedia, highlighted the aspects of Roman literature that enhanced society and broke away from those influenced by Greek literature.

“The Roman Empire and its predecessor the Roman Republic produced an abundance of celebrated literature; poetry, comedies, dramas, histories, and philosophical tracts; the Romans avoided tragedies” said Watson.

Roman literature began to appear when comic playwrights were performing during city festivals. Plautus, Terence and Ennius, wrote hundreds of plays that were performed throughout the years but sadly a majority of them were lost.

Plautus wrote more than 130 plays but only 20 of them survived.

“He did not begin to write anything until middle age, adapting Greek comedies into Latin” Wasson said. “He used the usual jokes, puns, and songs (duets and arias) which quenched the Roman desire for slapstick.”

Another famous Roman playwright, was Publius Terentius, more commonly known as Terence. He arrived in Rome as a slave from North Africa, gaining his freedom and an education. Through his studies he became increasingly sophisticated, losing the interest of those in lower classes because they felt it was “cannibalizing” Greek plays.

The last great playwright of Roman literature was Ennius, otherwise known as the father of Latin poetry. He was born in Calabria Italy, serving on the army and living a life dedicated to Rome. His poetry had passion, urbanity and the awareness of life impermanence. He expressed the greatness Latin poetry had while still using Greek forms.

The greatest of all Roman poets though, was Gaius Valerius Catullus, someone who reacted differently to the changes in Roman society, expressing his thoughts through lyric poems.

All great poets thought were inspired by long lost lovers. Each one had a flare for romance and the knowledge of heartbreak to create stunningly moving pieces.

With the introduction of Christianity though, a new type of literature formed. Many poets were writing about Christian mortality creating a never ending talk of religious tales.

“From its infancy, Roman literature borrowed heavily from the Greeks. However, they were able to shake the shackles and create a vibrant literature of their own; poetry, prose, and history” Wasson said. “The Roman authors influenced countless others in the decades and centuries that followed – Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, and many more.”

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