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Latin Literature in History

Greek literature was one of the numerous Greek accomplishments from which Romans drew immense influence. The Romans picked up first on the Greek embrace of rhetoric, which became an educational standard, given that a mans rhetoric, his ability to push the buttons of the subject audience by way of speeches, supplemented the mans rise to political power. But as rhetoric began to diminish from Roman daily life following Romes imperialization, identical persuasive technique began to show itself in Roman literature.

But Greek themes were just a backbone in Roman literature, and as time, progressed, Rome established a unique literary style, which, alongside Greek Literature, had a profound influence on the future History of Europe. One important early innovator is Quintus Ennius. Called the father of Latin poetry, he wrote a number of comedies in Latin as well. In addition, Ennius adapted Greek dramas to the Roman stage, and published a historical epic on Rome from its beginnings to the present (=around 200 BC).

His most notable successors, Pacuvius and Accius, would write tragedies that built on previously used Greek themes, but individualized them enough to call the works their own. More is understood of early Roman comedy than of its drama, due to the amount of its existing copies. Two playwrights in particular dominated early Roman comedy, and those are Plautus and Terence. While Plautus thrived on a rough, slapstick, rowdy, crowd oriented style, Terences comedy was more refined and domestic.

It was Terences works that most immediately affected the comedic posterity, forming a basis for much humor found in French and British plays of the 1600s and for some modern humor as well. The writings of Cicero are the most crucial pieces of documentation of that period (80BC-43BC) available. They take the form of letters, rhetoric volumes, orations, and philosophy. They provide not only a vivid account of the life of the ruling class, but his invaluable volumes of oratory and philosophy were the backbone of Mediaeval moral philosophy, also a major influence on the speeches of European leaders.

The period of his writing is rightfully referred to as the Age of Cicero. Numerous others contributing literature popularized Ciceros age as well. The general Julius Caesar and Historian Sallust made important contributions to the circle. Caesar with detailed accounts of the Gallic and civil wars, and Sallust writing history as well, noted for brilliant descriptions of people and their motives. A new kind of writing called lyric poetry also sprung to life in this period.

The rule of the emperor Augustus marked the beginning of a new more comfortable, more peaceful era for the people known as the Pax Romana. This bright new lifestyle also brightened their way of viewing life, and is evident in much of the periods flowering literature. Augustus also actively encouraged writers, and they loved him and the peace he had secured. Virgil, one of the great champions of poetry at that time, was pleased by many of the simple things in life, as shown in his observant and beautiful descriptions of country life.

But his ultimate achievement was his epic poem The Aeneid, a final draft telling of the legend of Romes ancestor Aeneas, which also interwove Romulus into the tale, crediting both myths. The poem is a characterization of the celebration of Romes prosperity and glory. Although its full completion was interrupted by Virgils untimely death; some critics regard it as the greatest work of Latin literature in existence. It was kept in Roman temples and when opened to a random page the verse viewed was interpreted as a prophecy.

In the Middle Ages, people interpreted the book as a prophecy of the coming of Jesus, and thought Virgil to be a prophet. His writings influenced loads of renaissance writers and were viewed as the literary ideal in the 15-1600s. A friend of Virgil, Horace, was rooted in poetry, expressing love, beauty, friendship, and satire at times. Like Virgils, his writings expressed great satisfaction with the condition of life in the Pax Romana. His writings also set a standard for writing at that time, and Virgil became Romes chief poet following Virgils death.

Last, the love poetry and retellings of Roman Mythology from Ovid served as a huge influence on renaissance writers and painters, and was its prime source for Mythology. Writers continued to write following Augustuss death, amongst those was Seneca, a stoic philosopher. He wrote dialogues and letters about morality and generosity, published works examining natural phenomena such as earthquakes, and wrote tragedies, which helped to popularize tragic drama in Europe later on. Several Epic poems were written; Tacitus presented a darker history of Rome, and Suetonius published biographies of 12 Roman rulers.

The last creative flow in Ancient Latin literature came in the early 200s, with Marcelinus writing history, Symmachus in oratory, and Ausonius and Rutilius writing masterful poetry. With the fall of the Roman Empire, much of the great works slipped away from the public interest, and underwent 2 major revivals. First, under Charlemagne during the Carolinian Renaissance, and second during the Renaissance. In the Carolinian Renaissance, Charlemagne urged on Classical education and the mass recopying of the ancient Roman texts by monastery monks, founding schools and libraries as well.

This revival disintegrated shortly after his death, but his preservation and education of the classical text could be one reason we understand what we do about the Romans and their way of thinking. At a certain point in the Italian renaissance, an interest in the classical artifacts grew, which grew into mass preservation of the ancient manuscripts. Soon, a great revival of the classical teachings took place that became known as Humanism. Humanists observed themselves, their interests, capabilities, achievements, and the world around them very closely.

But they were careful not to allow their philosophical beliefs to cut across their religion, and would interweave the moral aspects of the ancient texts with the religious aspects of Christianity, making for a unique balance. The laying of a foundation for future history is a massive task for literature to achieve, and it seems almost inappropriate to credit the Roman writings with that. No empires came to rise attributed to the teachings; no empires fell attributed to the teachings. Along the course of European History, the Roman teachings seem to have been symbolic of education, worldliness, wisdom, and literary standards.

So much wisdom can be drawn from the texts that one cannot be fully rounded scholar without having brushed paths with the great ancient Latin writings. The texts provide an insight to themes not too distant from our lives. We can love the poetry and its imagery as in our own society; we can be swayed by a momentous political speech as they were by rhetoric. Perhaps the educated military and political leaders of the past drew on strategies and concepts presented in Romes historical accounts. Maybe philosophies have shaped in some way or form the way human beings interact and think.

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