Ancient Rome Literature

Roman literature began around the 3rd century BC and reached its "Golden Age" during the rule of Augustus and the early part of the Roman Empire. The Romans wrote poetry and history, letters and formal speeches.

Latin was the main language used for writing. Greek was also popular because it was used by many people in the eastern portion of the Roman empire.

Important documents were written on papyrus scrolls or on parchment made from animal skin). The Romans wrote with a metal pin dipped in ink. For day-to-day writing they used a wax tablet or thin pieces of wood.

The three most famous Roman poets:

  • Virgil wrote the epic poem The Aeneid, which tells the story of a Trojan hero named Aeneas. It incorporates many historic events of Rome.
  • Horace wrote a collection of lyric poems called The Odes. He also wrote satires and epistles.
  • Ovid wrote the epic Metamorphoses, which tells the history of the world from creation to when Julius Caesar was made a god. Ovid was also famous for writing love poems.

The art of rhetoric (the ability to speak in public and persuade others) was considered an important skill. Many Roman statesmen wrote down their ideas and speeches, which had a major impact on the use of the Latin language and Roman literature. The most famous was Cicero who wrote letters, speeches, and works on philosophy. He was eventually killed for speaking out against Mark Antony.

Many writers recorded the history of Rome, including Livy, who wrote 142 volumes of history covering events from the founding of Rome up to the reign of Augustus. Another important historian is Pliny the Elder.

After conquering the Greeks, the Romans became interested in philosophy. The most popular school of philosophy was stoicism, which teaches that the universe is ordered and rational. According to stoicism, everyone, regardless of wealth and position, should always try to do their best. Famous Roman philosophers include Seneca, Cicero, and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

The Romans kept written records, which helped them keep their large empire so organized. They recorded age, marriages, and military service and records of wills, legal trials, and all the laws and decrees made by the government.

Historians believe that the philosophical writings of Cicero influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Source: Ancient Rome Literature
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