Quintus Ennius

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(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)


Quintus Ennius (KWIHN-tuhs EHN-ee-uhs) was born in Rudiae of Calabria, an Italian town permeated with Greek culture. His birthplace was near the Latin colony of Brundisium and the Greek city of Tarentum, and he himself attests his multilingual proficiency. Brought to Rome in 204 b.c.e. by Cato the Censor, he spent at least his early years in the city in teaching and elucidating Greek literature as well as in writing. There is testimony that he was on friendly terms with a number of prominent Roman citizens, and he was granted citizenship in 184 b.c.e. through Marcus Fulvius Nobilior. Ennius wrote an epic on the history of Rome, Annales (first century b.c.e.; Annals, 1935), as well as tragedy and comedy and works in various other genres, including satire and philosophy. In tragedy, the titles and fragments indicate that he modeled his adaptations more on Euripides than on the other Greek dramatists.


Ennius represents the final victory of Greek literature in Rome. He abandoned the attempts to keep alive the native Saturnian meter and instead employed the Greek hexameter for his epic, upon which his fame principally rested and which was the national epic of Rome until Vergil wrote his Aeneid (c. 29-19 b.c.e.; English translation, 1553). His works survive only in fragments.

Further Reading:

Beare, W. The Roman Stage: A Short History of Latin Drama in the Time of the Republic. 3d ed. London: Methuen, 1965. This is a scholarly history of the development of Roman drama with chapters on playwrights and the various genres of dramatic poetry. It discusses Ennius as successor of Livius Andronicus and Naevius and considers the mechanics of drama production as well.

Duff, J. Wight, and A. M. Duff. A Literary History of Rome in the Silver Age: From Tiberius to Hadrian . 3d ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979. Chapter 3 discusses at some length Livius Andronicus, Naevius, and Ennius, and chapter 5 considers...

(The entire section is 467 words.)