Roman literature rose to its highest excellence under Augustus, declined
rapidly under his successors, and was finally lost with the
fall of the Western empire. The content of this article provides
interesting history, facts and information about Roman Literature and Roman Authors
ROMAN LITERATURE FROM BC240 -
Roman Literature - Drama
Drama was the start of
Roman Literature and encompassed Comedies and Tragedies. The
most famous writers of this type of Roman literature were as
M. LIVIUS ANDRONICUS who wrote both
tragedies and comedies. He may be regarded as the first
Roman poet. His works were read in schools in the time of
CN. NAEVIUS, the second Roman poet who wrote drama and an
epic poem on the First Punic War, in which he introduced the
celebrated legends connected with the foundation of Rome.
This poem was extensively copied both by Ennius and Virgil.
Q. ENNIUS, however, may be regarded as the real founder of
Roman literature. His most important work was an epic poem,
entitled the "Annals of Rome," in 18 books.
T. MACCIUS PLAUTUS - The comedies of Plautus enjoyed
unrivaled popularity among the Romans, and continued to be
represented down to the time of Diocletian.
P. TERENTIUS AFER, usually called TERENCE. His chief patrons
were Laelius and the younger Scipio, both of whom treated
him as an equal, and are said even to have assisted him in
the composition of his plays.
The two most distinguished writers of Mimes were DEC.
LABERIUS, a knight, and P. SYRUS, a freedman
Roman Literature - Satire
The Fescennine Songs were
the origin of the Satire, the only important species of
literature not derived from the Greeks, and altogether
peculiar to Italy.
T. LUCRETIUS CARUS whose work is deemed to be the greatest
of didactic poems.
VALERIUS CATULLUS His poems are on a variety of topics, and
composed in different styles and metres. Some are lyrical,
others elegies, others epigrams; while the Nuptials of
Peleus and Thetis is an heroic poem.
P. VIRGILIUS (more properly VERGILIUS
aka VIRGIL) MARO Virgil wrote the aeneid or adventures of
aeneas after the fall of Troy which is an epic formed on the
model of the Homeric poems. It was founded upon an old Roman
tradition that aeneas and his Trojans settled in Italy, and
were the founders of the Roman name.
Q. HORATIUS FLACCUS, usually called HORACE. Famous for The
Odes of Horace, the Satires of Horace and The Epistles of
Horace are the most original form of Roman verse.
ALBIUS TIBULLUS. His Elegies, which
are exquisite small poems, celebrate the beauty and cruelty
of his mistresses.
P. OVIDIUS NASO, usually culled OVID. Besides his amatory
poems, Ovid wrote the Metamorphoses in 15 books, which
consist of such legends or fables as involved a
transformation, from the Creation to the time of Julius
Caesar, the Fasti iand the Elegies. Ovid undoubtedly
possessed a great poetical genius.
Roman Literature - Prose,
The earliest prose works of
the Romans were Annals, containing an account of the
principal events in Roman history, arranged under their
Q. FABIUS PICTOR and L. CINCIUS
ALIMENTUS, both of whom served in the Second Punic War, and
drew up an account of it, but they wrote in the Greek
CATO. The first prose writer in the
Latin language, of whom any considerable fragments have been
preserved, is the celebrated Censor, M. Porcius Cato who
wrote an important historical work entitled Origines.
CICERO. Cicero, in
his work entitled Brutus, has given a long list of
distinguished Orators, he also wrote several
treatises on Rhetoric, of which the most perfect is a
systematic treatise on the art of Oratory (De Oratore), in
three books. He also wrote works on Philosophy and his
famous Epistles and letters.
M. TERENTIUS VARRO. Varro was the most learned of Roman
scholars, but he was likewise the most voluminous of Roman
authors composing no less than 490 books including De Re
Rustica, a work on Agriculture and De Lingua Latina, a
C. JULIUS CAESAR, the great Dictator, was also distinguished
as an author, and wrote several works, of which the
Commentaries alone have come down to us. They relate the
history of the Gallic War and the history of the Civil War to the
commencement of the Alexandrine.
C. SALLUSTIUS CRISPUS. He wrote the Catilina, the history of
the suppression of Catiline's conspiracy, and the Jugurtha,
the history of the war against Jugurtha. Sallust made
Thucydides his model, and took great pains with his style.
CORNELIUS NEPOS was the author of Lives of Distinguished
Commanders (Vitae Excellentium Imperatorum).
TITUS LIVIUS, usually called LIVY. Livy's "History of Rome"
extended from the foundation of the city to the death of
Drusus, B.C. 9, and was comprised in 142 books.
ROMAN LITERATURE UNDER THE EMPIRE.
Lucanus wrote the Pharsalia, an
epic, of which he finished only ten books: it relates the
wars between Caesar and Pompey.
C. Silius Italicus. His poem, the Punica, is an account of
the second Punic War in verse, and is chiefly valuable to
the historical student.
P. Papinius Statius. He wrote the Thebais, in twelve parts; the Achilleis, in
two books; the Sylvae, a collection of poems; a tragedy, and
Claudius Claudianus. His chief works were, 1. Raptus
Proserpinae, an unfinished poem in three parts; 2.
Gigantomachia, another unfinished work; 3. De Bello
Gildonico, of which we possess only the first book; and, 4.
De Bello Getico, in which the poet sings the victory of
Stilicho over Alaric at Pollentia.
Decimus Junius Juvenalis who wrote sixteen Satires of
M. Valerius Martialis, the chief of the epigrammatists. His
poems are about fifteen hundred in number, divided into
Paterculus, an excellent historian and his Historicae
Romanae is an abridgment of the history of the world.
Tacitus. His account of the Germans was a
silent satire upon the corrupt condition of the Roman state.
The Historiarum Libri is a famous history of Rome
Quintus Curtius Rufus wrote, in ten books, an account of the exploits
of Alexander the Great.
Tranquillus. Suetonius wrote the lives of the twelve
Caesars, ending with Domitian.
L. Annaeus Florus, who perhaps lived under Trajan, wrote an
epitome of Roman history.
Philosophy, since the time of Cicero, had become a favorite
study with the Romans, although they produced no remarkable
philosopher. Seneca, the most eminent of them, was the son
of M. Annaeus Seneca, the rhetorician. His various essays and other writings
The elder Pliny, Plinius Secundus Major, another famous
philosopher. Pliny passed his whole life in study and wrote
the Historia Naturalis reviews various races of man, of animals, trees, flowers,
minerals, the contents of the sea and land, of the arts and
sciences; and shows that the author possessed an
intellect of almost unequaled activity. His nephew, the
younger Pliny is remembered for his