Roman Poetry, from the Republic to the Silver Age

Roman Poetry, from the Republic to the Silver Age

Roman Poetry, from the Republic to the Silver Age

Roman Poetry, from the Republic to the Silver Age

Synopsis

Thebest of classical Latin poetry in a vital English verse translation described by early readers as "superb." Ms. Wender, who is a published creative writer as well as a classicist, has done much with her unflinching translations to restorethe powerwielded by the originalpoems. She has increased the usefulness and accessibility of her collection by providing a lively introduction to each of the nine poets she presents in translation. When little is known about the poet himself, she places him within a coterie of contemporaries who are better known. The poets and works presented are: Catullus,Songs;Lucretius, Selections from DeRerum Natura;Virgil,Eclogues2and 4 and selections from the Georgics; Horace, Satire1, 9("The Bore") and selected Odes;Propertius,Elegies;Tibullus,Elegy1, 1; Ovid,Amoresand "Echo and Narcissus" from Metamorphoses; Martial,Epigrams;and Juvenal, Satire ("The City of Rome").

Excerpt

There are many ways of dividing up classics professors (should you ever by chance feel impelled to do so); there are the historians and the literary critics (to say nothing of the philosophers, archaeologists, linguists, epigraphists, prosopographers), the teachers and the writers, those who love Achilles and those who loathe Achilles, the young and the old, the unemployed and the tenured, and so forth. But one of the sharpest divisions among them is that between Hellenists and Latinists, or students of Greece versus those of Rome. Hellenists, it is said, are Democrats; Latinists vote Republican. Hellenists have longer hair; Latinists wear three-piece suits. Hellenists are enthusiastic about Big Ideas; Latinists grow warm over fine points of style. Hellenists are perpetual adolescents; Latinists were born middle-aged. The clever reader no doubt gets the idea.

Does this division tell us anything about differences between the ancient Greeks and Romans? Are these professors anything like the subjects they choose to study? Yes, in a general and oversimplified way, they are. The Greeks had great genius, vitality, originality, ingenuity, and subtlety, but they often messed things up terribly. They invented tragedy, comedy, history, democracy, and philosophy (all more or less in the same century, too--the fifth B.C.), but it took the Romans to develop a really workable sewer system and central heating.

The Romans were also very good at business, and at the administration of large and complicated groups, like armies and nations. They hit on the idea of putting snow in their drinks, to keep their wine chilled. They worried about body odor a good deal, bathed frequently, and wore perfume. Their ideals were "masculine," and they were more self-consciously manly than the "soft" Greeks, but they fell in love with women, often behaved like perfect asses about them, and actually let some of them share their lives. They believed passionately in what they called gravitas (seriousness, dignity)--and produced first-rate silly farces. They were prudish about sex, nudity, and bodily functions--and wrote better pornography and viler . . .

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