Famous Roman writers

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Famous Roman writers

Postby Q. C. Locatus Barbatus on Sun May 25, 2003 6:02 pm

Salvete,

Some people say that Latin writers almost only were describing battles and emperors. I will prove these people wrong.

My first example:
Publius Vergilius Maro

Vergilius was born on the 15th of October 70BC in a small village near Mantua. He spent his childhood years in the country, while in Rome a certain Pompeius was rising. Both parents of Vergilius died early; and he inhereted his weak health from them.

Vergilius went to secondary school in Cremona and Mediolanum. On his 15th birthday (15th of October 55BC) he receives his toga virilis, on the same day tha Lucretius commited suicide. A strong symbol, because Vergilius was always looked upon as the successor of Lucretius.

As most young man, Vergilius then goes to Rome. Instead of becoming advocate or politician he quickly develops a strong interest for philosophy (epicureanism) and poetics. While he was writing his first poems the civil war (49BC) breaks out.

In 44 BC (after the famous ides of March and the murder of Caesar) Vergilius retreats to the village where he was born. In 42BC, under the rule of Antonius, Lepidus and Octavianus (the later Augustus), Rome starts claiming land in the country to give it to its war veterans. Vergilius' land is also claimed and he goes to Rome to defend himself. He manages to keep his lands.

In the same year Asinius Pollio, his friend and 'Maecenas', encourages him for writing his first grand essay: the Bucolica, ten poems (Eclogae). The publishing of this work in 38BC is Vergilius' breakthrough.

Soon C. Cilnius Maecenas notices the new talent and grants him a home in Rome (how poetic :wink:, a new Vergilius is born ) and a 'ranch' in Napoli. From this moment Vergilius his thoughts were free to go to poems only.

From 37 to 28BC Vergilius writes his second grand essay: the Georgica, a poem about the life in the country. The emperor Augustus is impressed and orders an even greater work: a national epos that could be compared to the Ilias of Homerus.

Vergilius spends ten years writing the Aeneis. When he travels to Greece to check some details in his epos, Vergilius becomes ill. He immediately turns around and reaches Italy and soon dies in Brindisum. The aeneis is published post-mortem (and against his will) by friends. His remains are cremated and burried in Napoli. The epitaph says:
Mantua me genuit, Calabri rapuere, tenet nunc
Parthenope; cecini pascua, rura, duces.

"I was born out of Mantua, Calabria took my life, Parthenope owns me now; wolds, fields and leaders I have song about."
HE was born in Mantua and died in Brindisum (Calabria) and Burried in Napoli (=Parthenope). His most important essays, the Bucolica, the Georgica and the Aeneis were about the life of a sheep-herder (pascua), the life on the country (rura) and the adventures of Aeneis (duces).

Valete,


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Last edited by Q. C. Locatus Barbatus on Tue May 27, 2003 7:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sun May 25, 2003 7:19 pm

Locate, something does not make sense in what you say. Brindisium is in Apulia, on the east coast, while Calabria is the western coast of Italy south of Campania. I think his Calabri rapuere may mean "Calabria captured my heart" not that it took his life.

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Sun May 25, 2003 7:54 pm

Salvete,

I have always looked upon Vergilius as a man with a lot of talent but a poor choice of subjects. Of course in Antiquity a teaching poem was not uncommon (cf. Hesiodos) but I wonder if Vergilius' readers were really interested in farming. By the way, most farmers couldn't even read so what was the use in that? And neither the Bucolica nor the Aeneis can be said to be very original. That is not to say they are bad works... I just think it was quite a waste of Vergilius' talent.

Also Locate, there are other Roman writers who don't write about war (only) - Vergilius by the way does write about war in the Aeneis! - such as Catullus (one of my personal favourites 8)) or Suetonius (who mentions wars but doesn't go in on them). On the other hand it is true that many Roman writers wrote about war, most likely because they liked to write history (especially patriottic history). And their history was quite bloody. It can't be ignored, can it? ;)

Valete!
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Mon May 26, 2003 6:23 am

Salvete

Gnæus Dionysius Draco wrote: but I wonder if Vergilius' readers were really interested in farming. By the way, most farmers couldn't even read so what was the use in that?


That depends on what you mean by farmer. By Vergil's time most of the Italian countryside was depopulated due to the landifunda system of farming. There is mention of Etruria being so depopulated by the time of Tiberius Gracchus, and I have seen some studies made in Apulia and southern Latium that indicated the same had happened in those parts before the end of the Republic. So Roman farmers were more like the families that own the agribusiness in California today, with some relatives still living on the farm while owners might be living in Rome most of the time. Small farmers were practically gone except at some colonies. The Romans do not really found colonies outside Italy before Augustus (there were attempts but none had succeeded). The large estate owners would be among the literate. They would almost have to be by Virgil's time.

So the bucolic poetry was a kind of nostalgia for a bygone era, or perhaps an ideal innocence. The same as it would be today. Like the Romantic era in the 19th century looking back to more simpler times (so they thought), before industrialization. Tibullus wrote of his childhood on a farm in nostalgic terms And BTW I was disappointed that you did not mention Tibullus. His tone is different from Virgil. I think Virgil wrote more of an idyllic world, where Tibullus was truly nostalgic for an earlier period, one still within living memory.

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Mon May 26, 2003 2:21 pm

Salve Piscine,

I forgot (unless you meant Locatus here, of course :)) Tibullus actually because in Latin classes his poetry is rarely taught for more than one or two classes. He is mentioned but usually not studied in great detail. I don't know about college though.

Vale bene,
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Postby Q. C. Locatus Barbatus on Mon May 26, 2003 6:46 pm

You're right, draco (and I wonder how long it took you to find out in what province brinisum really is); and indeed there are some more writers that didn't mainly write about battles; thus I said: "my first example". More to come...
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Horatius

Postby Q. C. Locatus Barbatus on Tue May 27, 2003 8:32 pm

As been asked for :wink: , here is my second example:

Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Quintus Horatius Flaccus was born on the 8th of december 65BC in Venusia, a Roman colony in Apulia. His father was a set free slave. When Horatius was ten years old he moved with his father to Rome where he got the best education possible. In 45BC he went to the academia in Athens.

Short after him Cassius and Brutus arrived in Rome too. They were welcomed as liberators. Soon they raised an army to attack Octavianus and Antonius. Horatius became a tribunus miltum in their army. He participated in the battle of Philippi in 42BC. The way that Horatius' battle ended is not very clear:"relicta non bene parmula" ("after I left my little shield in a not so great manner") as he said himself also:".Philippis versa acies retro"). Every young Roman who had fought on the side of Brutus and Cassius was afterwards granted amnesty, also Horatius. When he got back to Rome he bought himself the office of scriba praetorius.

Soon Horatius was introduced to Maecenas by Vergilus and Varius Rufus. When Maecenas granted him a 'ranch' in the Sabinian mountains, Horatius was finally financially (the alliterations, people, the alliterations! :wink: ) independent and able to devote his life to writing. He already had written some poems in Greek, but as Horatius said himself: "writing poems in greek is like carrying trees to a forest" (Sat. I 10, 31-35).

He wrote Epods, Satires, Odes, a carmen saeculare and a Ars poetica. His close friends were Vergilius, Varius Rufus, Maecenas and Octavianus/Augustus. He was a welcome high-society guest. He was small, corpulent and lost his hair quickly, but still was a real cassanova. He died on the 27th of November 8BC. Some say that he commited suicide after the death of his close friend Maecenas, but who will ever confirm this?


Vale,

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