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Although under these circumstances it is extremely difficult to form any accurate judgment with regard to his absolute merits as a poet, we are at least certain that his success was triumphant. For a long series of years his strains were read aloud to applauding multitudes, both in the metropolis and in the provinces; and a class of men arose who, in imitation of the Homeristae, devoted themselves exclusively to the study and recitation of his works, receiving the appellation of Ennianistae. In the time of Cicero he was still considered the prince of Roman song (En-nium summum Epicum poetam—de Opt, G. O. 1. Suinmus poeta noster-—pro Balb. 22) ; Virgil was not ashamed to.borrow many of his thoughts, and not a few of his expressions ; and even the splendour of the Augustan age failed to throw him into the shade. And well did he merit the gratitude of his adopted countrymen ; for not only did he lay the basis of their literature, but actually 'constructed their language. He found the Latin tongue a rough, meagre, uncultivated dialect, made up of ill-cemented fragments, gathered at random from a number of different sources, subject to no rules which might secure its stability, and destitute of any regular system of versification. He softened its asperities, he enlarged its vocabulary, he regulated its grammatical combinations, he amalgamated into one harmonious whole its various conflicting elements, and he introduced the heroic hexameter, and various other metres, long carefully elaborated by Grecian skill. Even in the disjointed and mutilated remains which have been transmitted to us, we observe a vigour of imagination, a national boldness of tone, and an energy of expression which amply justify the praises so liberally launched on his genius by the ancients ; and although we are perhaps at first repelled by the coarseness, clumsiness, and antique fashion of the garb in which his high thoughts are invested, we cannot but feel that what was afterwards gained in smoothness and refinement is a poor compensation for the loss of that freshness and strength which breathe the hearty spirit of the brave old days of Roman simplicity and freedom. The criticism of Ovid, " Ennius ingenio maximus arte rudis," is fair, and happily worded; but the fine simile .of Quintilian, " Ennium sicut sacros vetustate lucos adoremus, in quibus grandia et antiqua robora, jam non tantam habent speciem, quantam religionem," more fully embodies our sentiments.
We subjoin a catalogue of the works of Ennius, in so far as their titles can be ascertained.
I. Annaliwm Libri xvm. The most important of aH his ""productions was a history of Rome in dactylic hexameters, commencing with the loves of Mars and Rhea, and reaching down to his own times. The subject was selected with great judgment. The picturesque fables, romantic legends, and chivalrous exploits with which it abounded, afforded full scope for the exercises of his poetical powers ; he was enabled to testify gratitude towards his personal friends, and to propitiate the nobles as a body, by extolling their own lofty deeds and the glories of their sires; and perhaps no theme could have been chosen so well calculated to awaken the enthusiasm of all ranks among a proud, warlike, and as yet unlettered people. His fancy was cramped by none of those fetters imposed by a series of well ascertained
facts; he was left to work his will upon the rude ballads of the vulgar, the wild traditions of the old patrician clans, and the meagre chronicles of the priests. Niebuhr conjectures that the beautiful history of the kings in Livy may have been taken from Ennius. No great space, however, was allotted to the earlier records, for the contest with Hannibal, which was -evidently described with great minuteness, commenced with the seventh book, the first Punic war being passed over altogether, as we are told by Cicero. (Brut. 19.)
II. Fabulae. The fame of Ennius as a dramatist, was little inferior to his reputation as an epic bard. His pieces, which were very numerous, appear to have been all translations or adaptations from the Greek, the metres of the originals being in most cases closely imitated. Fragments have been preserved of the following tragedies : Achilles, Achilles (Aristarchi), Ajaoc, Alemaeon, Alexander, Andro^ macha, Andromeda, Antiope, Athamas, Cresphontes, Dulorestes, Erectheus, Eumenides, Hectoris Lytra, Hecuba, Iliona (doubtful), Iphigenia, Medea, Medus, Melanippa or Melanippus, Nemea, Neopt-olemzts, Phoenix, Telamon, Telephus, Thyestes; and of the following comedies, belonging to the class of pattiatae: Ambrada, Cupiuncula (perhaps Car prunculus), Celestis (name very doubtful), Pancra-tiastes,.8. Pancratiastae.
For full information as to the sources from whence these were derived, consult the editions of Hesselius and Bothe, together with the dissertations of Osann referred to at the end of this article.
III. Satirae. In four (Porphyr. ad Hor. Sat. i. 10), or according to others (Donat. ad Terent. Phorm. ii. 2. 25) in six books, of which less than twenty-five scattered lines are extant, but from these it is evident that the Satirae were composed in a great variety of metres, and from this circumstance, in all probability, received their appellation.
IV. Sdpio. A panegyric upon the public career of his friend and patron, Africanus. The measure adopted seems to have been the trochaic tetrameter catalectic, although a line quoted, possibly by mistake, in Macrobius (Sat. vi. 4) is a dactylic hexameter. The five verses and a half which we possess of this piece do not enable us to decide whether Valerius Maximus was entitled to term it (viii. 14) rude etimpolitum praeconium. (Suidas, s. v.*Evwos; Schol. vet. ad Hor. Sat. ii. 1. 16.) Some scholars have supposed that the Scipio was in reality a drama belonging to the class of the praetextatae.
V. Asotus. Varro and Festus when examining into the meaning of certain uncommon words, quote from " Ennius in Asoto," or as Scaliger, very erroneously, insists " in Sotadico." The subject and nature of this piece are totally unknown. Many believe it to have been a comedy.
VI. Epicharmus. From a few remnants, amounting altogether to little more than twenty lines, we gather that this must have been a philosophical didactic poem in which the nature of the gods, the human mind and its phaenomena, the physical structure of the universe and various kindred topics, were discussed. From the title we conclude, that it was translated or imitated from Epicharmus the comic poet, who was a disciple of Pythagoras and is known to have written De Rerum Natura.