The Roman Stage: A Short History of Latin Drama in the Time of the Republic

By W. Beare | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV ACCIUS

L. ACCIUS is said to have been born in 170 B.C. Jerome's date agrees well enough with Accius' own statement that he was fifty years younger than Pacuvius. There are independent records showing that the Accii were connected with Pisaurum, in Umbria. Jerome tells us that the poet's parents were ex-slaves; whether this is true or not, there is evidence that the poet enjoyed the friendship of some of the highest men in Rome. During his long career he occupied himself with grammatical, theatrical and literary studies ( Cicero, as a young man, discussed literature with him) and above all with tragedy; his career was brilliant, and he was in old age the leading figure in the collegium poetarum. The stories about Accius bring before us a man of great energy and self-confidence; in his character and industry, as well as in his style, there was a daemonic force. He appears to have been a hasty worker; in his studies on literary history he was capable of gross mistakes, and even those who most admired his tragedies thought them inferior in learning and care to those of Pacuvius. We have the titles of over forty tragedies: Achilles, Aegisthus, Agamemnonidae, Alcestis, Alcimeo, Alphesiboea, Amphitruo, Andromeda, Antenoridae, Antigone, Armorum Iudicium, Astyanax, Athamas, Atreus, Bacchae, Chrysippus, Clutemestra, Deiphobus, Diomedes, Epigoni, Epinausimache, Erigona, Eriphyla, Eurysaces, Hecuba, Hellenes, Medea, Melanippus, Meleager, Minos or Minotaurus, Myrmidones, Neoptolemus, Nyctegresia, Oenomaus, Pelopidae, Persidae, Philocteta, Phinidae, Phoenissae, Prometheus, Stasiastae or Tropaeum Liberi, Telephus, Tereus, Thebais, Troades) and two praetextae ( Aeneadae or Decius, Brutus), with about seven hundred lines. The range of titles shows that he explored every field of tragedy -- the Trojan, Theban and Pelopid cycles; originals of the fifth century as well as later Greek tragedy, and independent compositions

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