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

By W. Beare | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
THE LITERARY ATELLANA

L. POMPONIUS of Bononia, described by Velleius as the founder of the Atellana, is said by Jerome to have been active in 89 B.C. Novius, who is mentioned with equal respect, is quoted by Cicero in the De Oratore, the dramatic date of which is 91 B.C. Evidently these two leading writers of Atellanae were thought of as contemporaries. At the beginning of the first century farce seems to gain at the expense of higher forms of drama; from now on we hear of no writer who made a living out of the writing of tragedy or comedy for the stage. From Pomponius we have seventy titles, with fragments amounting to nearly two hundred lines or parts of lines; from Novius we have forty-four titles with over a hundred lines of fragments. To distinguish between the styles of these two writers would seem impossible, so meagre is our information.

The large number of surviving titles supports our other evidence that the pieces themselves were comparatively short; a pair of titles like "Hog(g) Sick" and "Hog(g) Well" suggests, indeed, that these two pieces were meant to be performed on the same occasion. The most obvious Atellane feature of the titles and fragments is the frequent reference to the stock characters. Maccus appears to be the most popular figure; we have such titles as "Maccus the Soldier", "Maccus the Innkeeper", "Maccus the Maid", "Maccus the Exile", "The Twin Macci"; apparently "Maccus" alone was a title which could attract a crowd, as both Pomponius and Novius wrote plays with this title. We have also as titles "Bucco the Gladiator", "Bucco adopted", "Pappus the Farmer", "The Bride of Pappus", "Pappus Defeated at the Poll" (a title which attracted both authors), and "The Two Dossenni". Bucco, Pappus and Dossennus are also mentioned in the fragments, and a fragment of Pomponius' Pictores appears to mention Manducus (spelt Manduco) though perhaps only as an equiva-

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