Aspects of Social Behavior in Ancient Rome

Aspects of Social Behavior in Ancient Rome

Aspects of Social Behavior in Ancient Rome

Aspects of Social Behavior in Ancient Rome

Excerpt

The student of Greek sociology has at his disposal -- besides the standard histories -- the incomparable picture of early civilization in Homer's epics, the realistic comedies of Aristophanes and Menander with their penetrating interpretation of contemporary Greek life, a large number of pleas delivered in private lawsuits, and much informative occasional literature that survived because of the long life of the Eastern empire. The Latinist fares less well. From the early days of Rome we have only a few pages of legal fragments. Epic poets of a later day -- from whom Livy drew his conceptions of early civilization -- attempted to restore the outlines of primitive Rome, but the legends with which they worked had already taken on much sophistication before they were recorded. The hundreds of plays that truly reflected actual life at Rome have all been lost; the only plays that survive are the Plautine and Terentian paraphrases of Greek plays. The speeches of Cicero that remain deal largely with political matters. Indeed a very small fragment of republican literature -- perhaps not over a twentieth part -- survived the fall of Rome: the monks of the Middle Ages who sifted out what they needed possessed rather narrow interests. The great source-book of the student of Roman society is, of course, the collection of some 900 of Cicero's letters, about one fourth of the . . .

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