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Quintus Ennius (/ˈkwɪntəs ˈɛniəs/; c. 239 BC – c. 169 BC) was a writer during the period of the Roman Republic, and is often considered the father of Roman poetry. He was of Calabrian descent.[1] Although only fragments of his works survive, his influence in Latin literature was significant, particularly in his use of Greek literary models.


Ennius was born at Rudiae, an old Italian (predominantly Oscan)[2] town historically founded by the Messapians. Here Oscan, Greek, and Latin languages were in contact with one another; according to Aulus Gellius 17.17.1, Ennius referred to this heritage by saying he had "three hearts" (Quintus Ennius tria corda habere sese dicebat, quod loqui Graece et Osce et Latine sciret).

Ennius continued the nascent literary tradition by writing praetextae, tragedies, and palliatae, as well as his most famous work, a historic epic called the Annales. Other minor works include the Epicharmus, the Euhemerus, the Hedyphagetica, and Saturae.

The Epicharmus presented an account of the gods and the physical operations of the universe. In it, the poet dreamed he had been transported after death to some place of heavenly enlightenment.

The Euhemerus presented a theological doctrine of a vastly different type in a mock-simple prose style modelled on the Greek of Euhemerus of Messene and several other theological writers. According to this doctrine, the gods of Olympus were not supernatural powers still actively intervening in the affairs of men, but great generals, statesmen and inventors of olden times commemorated after death in extraordinary ways.

The Hedyphagetica took much of its substance from the gastronomical epic of Archestratus of Gela. The eleven extant hexameters have prosodical features avoided in the more serious Annales.

The remains of six books of Saturae show a considerable variety of metres. There are signs that Ennius varied the metre sometimes even within a composition. A frequent theme was the social life of Ennius himself and his upper-class Roman friends and their intellectual conversation.

The Annales was an epic poem in fifteen books, later expanded to eighteen, covering Roman history from the fall of Troy in 1184 BC down to the censorship of Cato the Elder in 184 BC. It was the first Latin poem to adopt the dactylic hexameter metre used in Greek epic and didactic poetry,[3] leading it to become the standard metre for these genres in Latin poetry. The Annals became a school text for Roman schoolchildren, eventually supplanted by Virgil's Aeneid. About 600 lines survive. A copy of the work is among the Latin rolls of the Herculaneum library.

Ennius was said to have considered himself a reincarnation of Homer.[4]


"The strength of Rome is founded on her ancient customs as much as on the strength of her sons."

"The victor is not victorious if the vanquished does not consider himself so"

"The idle mind knows not what it wants."

"Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur." - (quoted by Cicero, Laelius 17.64) Translation: "A sure friend is seen in an unsure matter"

"Good deeds, if badly placed, become bad deeds." - quoted by Cicero in "On Duties (part 2)"

"Philosophari sibi necesse esse, sed paucis." / "To think philosophically is good, but in little doses" - Quoted by Cicero in "Tusculanes", book II, part 1.

"Nulla sancta societas / Nec fides regni est"

"No sacred fellowship / Nor faith (where) kingship is" - quoted by Cicero in "On Duties (part 1)"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, William (1854), "Rhudiae", Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, London 
    "That author is repeatedly termed a Calabrian (Her. Carm. 4.8; Ovid. A. A. 3.409; Sil. Ital. l. c.; Acron, ad Hor. l. c.)"
  2. ^ Young Sellar, William, The Roman Poets of the Republic, Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-108-02982-7, p. 64: an old Italian town (the epithet "vetustae" is applied to it by Silius) which had been partially Hellenised, but still retained its native traditions and the use of the Oscan language
  3. ^ "FJCL Latin Literature Study Guide". Florida Junior Classical League. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Michael Grant, in a footnote to "On the Good Life" by Cicero, Penguin Books, 1971.


  • Quinto Ennio. Le opere minori, Vol. I. Praecepta, Protrepticus, Saturae, Scipio, Sota. Ed., tr., comm. Alessandro Russo. Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2007 (Testi e studi di cultura classic, 40).

Further reading[edit]

  • Brooks, Robert A. (1981). Ennius and Roman tragedy. New York.: Arno Press. ISBN 0-405-14030-4. 
  • Ennius, Quintus (1967). Jocelyn, H D, ed. The tragedies of Ennius. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Evans, R.L.S. (1999). "Ennius". In Briggs, Ward. Ancient Roman Writers. Dictionary of Literary Biography 211. 
  • Fitzgerald, William; Gowers, Emily, eds. (2007). Ennius perennis : the Annals and beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society. ISBN 978-0-906014-30-1. 
  • Goldberg, Sander M. (1995). Epic in Republican Rome. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509372-0. 
  • Jocelyn, H D (1972). "The Poems of Quintus Ennius", in H. Temporini (ed.) ANRW I.2, 987–1026
  • Skutsch, Otto (1985). The Annals of Q. Ennius. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-814448-2. 
  • Skutsch, Otto (1968). Studia Enniana. Athlone Press: London. 
  • Warmington, E.H. (1956). Remains of Old Latin. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ennius — Please support Wikipedia.
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1 news items

Pacific Sun
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 09:18:45 -0700

For Mr. Williams, it would seem the epitaph of the Roman writer Quintus Ennius (239 B.C.E to 169 B.C. E.) would be appropriate: "Honor me not with tears; inter me without weeping. Why? Alive I fly through the mouths of men." We all still speak of Robin ...

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