Classics Textbook Notes
3 Main Languages:
-The domination of one dialect over another is usually due to external rather than linguistic features.
-In the case of Latin, Roman military expansion caused it to become the common language of the Italian
peninsula, the western Mediterranean, and the Balkans.
Liber: The inner part of the bark of a tree which even more ancient Italians had used as a writing surface, meant
to the Romans anything that was written.
-The equivalent of our book was volume (volume), meaning “roll”.
-Library also comes from liber.
-The most striking feature of Latin is its use of inflections, that is the changes in the form of a word to indicate,
for example, gender, number, case, person, degree, voice, mood or tense.
-When “I” becomes before a vowel, it has the effect of an English “y”.
-Rhyming in pairs are known as heroic couplets. (John Dryden (1631-1700) and Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
-Another Greek metre, the hendecasyllable is widely used and has 11 syllables.
Quintus Ennius (239-169 bc)
-Regarded as the father of Latin poetry.
-“Chaucer of Roman Literature”
-He served in Sardinia in the second Punic War.
-He lived frugally, writing and earning a living by teaching the sons of the nobility, with whom he was on good
-Granted Roman citizenship in 184 BC.
-His main work was a massive verse history of Rome up to his own day (omitting the first Punic War), in 18
Plautus and Terence:
-The first comic dramas that the Romans saw were based on the Greek “new comedies”.
-Titus Maccus Plautus (254-184 BC) had 21 plays attributed to him by Terentius Varro have survived.
-His work retains a raw freshness.
-He surmounted the problem of playing consecutive scenes, without any breaks between them, in front of a
standard backdrop, usually a street with the entrances to two houses.
-Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” is based on Plautus’ “The Brothers Menaechmus”.
Publius Terentius Afer (185-159 BC) was brought to Rome as a slave, possible from Africa.
-He took the name of his owner, Terentius Lucanus, who educated hm and gave him his freedom.
-Submitted his first play, “The Girl from Andros” to the curule aediles.
-The referred him to Caecilius Statius, the most popular playwright of the day.
-The play was first performed in 166 BC, and Terrence wrote five more before he died in a shipwreck,
or of disease.
-He was good at employing the double plot, especially to illustrate different characters’ responses to a situation.
-One of the followers of Epicureanism in Italy.
-The story was that he was poisoned by an aphrodisiac, went mad, wrote poetry in his lucid spells, and
committed suicide at the age of 44.
-That he was actually mad is unlikely.
-“De Rerum Natura” (The Nature of Things) comprises the first 6 books of his works.
-He anticipated the kind of dilemma the modern biologist has with regard to Christianity.
-He invested Venus with an overall creative power in nature. *Wasn’t so much philosophical work as scientific treatise.
Lyric Poetry: Catullus and Horace:
-Lyric Poetry has come to mean that in which the composer presents his or her personal thoughts and feelings.
-Gaius Valerius Catullus was born in Verona, and became one of the wave of ‘new poets’ who reacted against
-We have just 116 poems by him, that range from 2-408 lines.
-There are parallels between Catullus’ affair with Lesbia and Shakespeare’s with his “dark lady” of the sonnets,
and especially between Catullus’ denunciation of his mistress as a whore, and Shakespeare’s of his as “the bay
where all men ride”.
-Catullus often wrote in the passions of the moment.
-His successor, Quintus Horatius Flaccus was much different, in that he had the leisure and time to marshal his
thoughts into lines which usually displayed more grace and artifice than those of Catullus. (But displayed less
-He was born in Venusia
-He got caught up in the Civil War, unfortunately on the wrong side, as a legionary commanderin the army of
-He was pardoned for this lapse in loyalty.
-Lived out his existence as a bachelor.
-His poetry comprises his 17 Epodes, and 103 Odes in 4 books.
-His works have a variety of political and satirical themes, with a few love poems.
-Horace’s odes are regarded ashis finest works.
-The Aeneid, the epic of the empire of Rome and or Roman nationalism, for its poetry and poetic sensibility is
arguably the most influential poem in any language (it is unfinished).
-Publius Vergilius or Virgilius Maro published his first major work, a series of bucolic episodes (Ecologues)
loosely based on a similar composition of the Hellenistic pastoral poet Theocritus.
-Octavian was emperor in all but title and name. He felt that an epic poem about his own achievements
would be a suitable accompaniment to his eminence.
-Virgil accepted the assignment on his own terms.
-He died 11 years after accepting the assignment, by which time he had composed 10,000 lines.
-He always wrote in hexameters.
-The Aeneid is unfinished in that it awaited final revision and polishing.
-The story is complete and ended on a dramatic cimlax.
-It is a deliberate continuation of Homer’s Iliad, to stress the connection between Rome and the heroes of Troy,
with strong echoes of the wanderings of Odysseus which are described in the Odyssey.
-Virgil became a prophet of Christianity.
Elegiac Poetry: Propertius and Ovid
Sextus Propertius was born near Assisi in Umbria.
-His mother sent him to Rome to be educated for the law.
-He published his first book of elegies in about 26 BC.
-He wrote 3 more books before his early death from an unknown cause.
-Most of his poems describe his love for Cynthia, who in real life was called Hostia and appears to have been a
freedwoman and a courtesan.
Publius Ovidius Naso was banished by Augustus for life at the height of his powers.
-He abandoned politics for poetry in about 16 BC when he married again.
-He wrote Amores (love poems) and Ars Amatoria (The art of love)
-They were controversial because the appeared to condone adultery.
-Ovid used elegiac couplets to amuse the reader.
-He had 15 books of Metamorphoses (Transformations), and his most lasting and influential work is written in
Epigram and Satire: Martial and Juvenal
-An epigram is a Greek term meaning, “inscription”, often in verse, on a tombstone or accompanying an offering.
-It came to stand for almost any occasional short poem.
-Marcus Valerius Martialis was a Spaniard from Bibilis, and came to Rome in AD 64.
-He scraped a living by writingverses for anybody and any occasion.
-One of Martial’s friends as Decimus Jumius Juvenalis, who was the most graphic of the Roman satirists.
-Last of the classical poets of Rome. -Juvenal was exiled for a while to Egypt during the reign of Domitian, for writing or saying something offensive
to the emperor.
-Not offensive enough to be executed for it.
-His fourth satire is a ridiculous account of Domitian summoning a council of state to deliberate upon what
should be done with a prize turbot.
-It is more pointed in the light of a report in 1986, of a sturgeon caught in British territorial waters.
-It was sold to a restaurateur, who remembered, just in time, an ancient law whereby all sturgeons
belonged to the crown.
-As a formality, he offered the fish to Her Majesty the Queen.
The Novel: Petronius and Apuleius
-The romance in prose was a literary form used by the Greeks in the second century AD.
-Hovering between prose fiction and satire in its senses both of “medley” and “ridicule” is the Satyricon of Gaius
Petronius (AD. 66) known as Petronius Arbiter.
-Satyricon is a kind of bisexual odyssey of two men and their boy round the towns of southern Italy.
-Petronius, according to Tacitus, bled himself slowly to death, while conversing, eating and even sleeping, having
committed to paper a “list of Nero’s most perverted acts”.
-Lucius Apuleius was born in about AD 125 at Madaura in north Africa.
-His novel Metamorphoses, better known as The Golden Ass, is a tale of the supernatural, told in the first person,
of how Lucius tries to dabble in magic.
-Lucius is given the wrong ointment by the serving-maid who is also his bed-mate and is turned into an
-Apuleius became a priest of Osiris and Isis, and was also a devotee of Aesculapius, god of medicine.
Historians: Caesar, Livy, Tacitus, and Suetonius:
-The original Roman records was inscribed on white tablets and displayed to public view.
-Earliest surviving account of contemporary events is the seven books of Julius Caesar’s own record of his
campaigns in Gaul, De Bello Gallico.
-Other than it being bias, it is a distinguished general’s account of his actions in war.
-Written in a clear, no-nonsense style.
-Titus Livius full history of Rome from Aeneas to 9 BC comprised 142 books, of which we have 35.
-He concentrated on narrative and character, and paid attention to the composition of the speeches he
put into the mouths of his protagonists.
-Cornelius Tacitus was a senator, consul in AD 97, and governor of the province of Asia in AD 112.
-We have just a few books, known respectively as the Histories and the Annals.
-He was a witty writer as well as an incisive literary stylist.
-He was an upholder of the ancient virtues of his nation.
-Just over 4 books of the Histories survive, describing the years AD 69-70.
-Ammianus Marcellinus wrote a continuation of the histories of Tacitus in 31 books, of which we have 18,
covering just the years AD 353-78.
-Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus became a director of the imperial libraries and then chief of Hadrian’s personal
-His series of biographies of the Caesars survived in tact.
-He was, with Plutarch, the originator of the modern biography.
Philosophy and Science: Seneca and Pliny the Elder:
-Lucius Annaeus Seneca: his pretentions to being a philosopher are questionable.
-He condoned various dynastic murders, was banished for eight years under suspicion of having an
affair with one of Caligula’s sisters, and on his return, while undoubtedly but temporarily curbing the
worst excesses of his pupil Nero, grew rich with the process.
-He comes across as a moral philosopher whose aim was to live correctly through the exercise of reason.
-Naturales Questiones (scientific Investigations) is an examination of the natural phenomena.
-Apocolocyntosis (pumpkinification) is a wicked skit on the dead Claudius.
-Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder):
-Saw military service through several postings, during which he began a twenty-book history of the
-Wrote a further 30 books of Roman history and the 37 books of his Natural History. (Covers many
-He drew his material from written sources. (always carried a notebook) Letter Writers: Cicero and Pliny the Younger
Cicero: Four collections of his letters, edited shortly after his death in 43 BC, are of great interest.
1) To his Brother Quintus
2) To His Friends
3) To Brutus
4) To Atticus
Gaius Plinius Caecillius Secundus (Pliny the younger) wrote a tragedy in Greek verse when he was 13.
-He became a distinguished orator, public servant, and philanthropist.
-He had honorary status as a “three-child parent” which benefited him with exemption from taxes. Roman Holidays and the Games
-In the reign of Claudius, 159 days in the year were designated public holidays, on 93 of which, shows were
offered at public expense.
-In the middle of the 5 century AD, there were 200 holidays a year, 175 of which public games were held.
-2 Kinds of Games:
1) Ludi Scaenici (Theatrical Events)
2) Ludi Circenses
-Ludi Circenses took place in the custom-built circuses, or race tracks and amphitheaters.
-Roman’s had a passion for chariot-racing.
-There was heavy on-course and off-course betting.
-Drivers were slaved, but they were also professional sportsmen who could earn vast sums from
-Race was usually 7 laps of the track.
-In the reign of Augustus there was usually 10-12 races in a day.
-After the time of Caligula, there were around 24/day.
-Ludi Circenses of the amphitheaters gave Romans the bad press that their thirst for blood-letting has earned
-The most usual contest was between a moderately protected and helmeted s wordsman and a
retiarius, armed only with s net and trident.
-It was each man for himself, and any who appeared less than enthusiastic were prodded into activity
with red-hot irons, while other attendants stood by to drag off the corpses.
-Gladiators were slaves, or condemned criminals, or prisoners of war (al of whom were regarded as
-A third and most spectacular form of combat, which involved flooding the arena or transferrinf the show to a
suitable stretch of water was the naumachia, or sea-fight.
-The idea seems to have originated with Julius Caesar.
-The biggest ever was staged by Claudius in AD 52.
-In AD 27, a jerry-built amphitheater at Fidenae collapsed, throwing 50,000 spectators to the ground and
burying them in debris. Roman History: AD 68-235
Tiberius Claudius Nero (Caesar Augustus):
-Born on 16 of November 42 BC.
-Asked for leave of absence from Rome and was granted it. Retired to Rhodes.
-Reasons for voluntary exile seemed to be the behaviour of his wife Julia.
-By the time he returned in AD 2, she had been banished by her father for adultery.
Tiberius was summoned back by his elderly mother, Livia, who wanted a share in ruling the country.
-Because he had probably always been happiest when away from Rome, he simply upped and departed to his
holiday mansion on the isle of Capri, never to return to the city.
-He left administration in the hands of Lucius Aelius Sejanus.
-Lucius was conspiring against Tiberius while removing people in his own path.
-Tiberius could still exercise power from a distance, and sent a letter to the senate expressing his suspicions of
-Lucius was executed and his corpse dragged through the streets then thrown into the Tiber.
-Tacitus was born about 25 years after these events, was one of the Roman historians who suggested that
Tiberius’ retirement home was what might be termed a palace of sexual varieties.
-Whether Tiberius, who was then 78, died naturally or was murdered is uncertain.
-By the time he died the field had been reduced to two:
1) Grandson Tiberius Gemellus
2) Great Nephew Gaius Caesar (nicknamed Caligula – Bootsie)
*Tiberius named them joint heirs.
Gaius Caesar (Augustus) Germanicus: Became emperor in AD 37.
-Assasinated on 24 of January AD 41.
-Naevius Cordus Sutorius Macro (former chief of fire service in Rome), had met Caligula in Capri, and they got on
-He proposed Caligula’s name to the senate as emperor and there was not objection.
-Suffectus: Means deputy or substitute.
-Julius Caesar instituted the procedure whereby an elected consul was invited or required to stand down during
his term of office in favour of a suffect consul.
-Since childhood, he suffered from epilepsy, known in Roman times are “parliamentary disease”.
-It affected his mental state, and he became totally irrational.
-He made an altar built to himself, and proposed that a statue of himself be erected in the Temple in
Jerusalem, and worshipped there.
-He introduced heavy taxation to help balance his personal expenditure.
-He was assassinated by members of his imperial guard. (Emperor for less that 4 years.)
Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero (Caesar Augustus) Germanicus:
-Became emperor in AD 41.
-After the assassination of Caligula, members of the imperial guard came across his uncle Claudius cowering
behind a curtain.
-They saw him as a useful hostage, so instead of killing him, they pushed him into a littler and carried
him off to their camp.
-He was made an offer: To be the imperial guards’ nominee as emperor.
-The senate confirmed the choice of the imperial guard.
-Claudius was then 50.
-He was a scholar, being the author of historical works in both Latin and Greek.
-He was absent-minded, hesitant, muddled, determined and cruel.
-He was intuitive and wise, but dominated by his wife and personal staff of freedom.
*His choice of women was disastrous.
-It was a thoroughly sound if not glittering reign, which lasted almost 14 years.
-He revived the office of censor, and took on the job himself.
-His first successful full-scale invasion of Britain, was after a reconnaissance by the expedition’s leader, Aulus
-Rome could no longer pretend that Britain did not exist.
-Claudius was in Britain just 16 days when he invaded.
-He was married 4 times. Nero:
Nero Claudius Caesar (Augustus) Germanicus:
-Became emperor in AD 54.
-He was 16 when his mother secured for him the office of emperor.
-The only other possible contender, Claudius’ son Britannicus, was removed (Probably by poison)
-During the early years of his reign, Nero was kept in hand by his tutor, the distinguished philosopher and writer
Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
-Nero had a lack of self-control, and inherent lust, which was probably the turning point.
-He took his mistress, Poppaea.
-She was the wife of his partner in frequent debaucheries, Marcus Salvius Otho. (5 years his senior, and
was dispatched in AD 58 to be governor of Lusitania).
-Nero’s mother Agrippa did not like his choices, so Nero had a series of attempts on her life.
-3 by poison
-One by engineering
-One where the ceiling above her bed was supposed to collapse on her in her sleep
-He had a collapsible boat constructed for her to ride in
-Finally she was clubbed and stabbed to death in AD 59.
-Seneca retired after AD 62, whereupon Nero became totally subject to corrupt and evil advisers, indulging to
the exclusion of everything else his passions for sport, music, parties (where his guests performed bizarre sexual
acts), and murder.
-He divorced Octavia in AD 62, and had her executed.
-He married Poppaea, and killed her too by kicking her to death.
-People who Nero suspected or disliked were sent a note ordering them to commit suicide.
-In AD 64, a fire had ravaged Rome for 6 days on end.
-This was the occasion on which Nero is said to have “fiddled while Rome Burned”.
-Some said he was singing from a tower overlooking the conflagration.
-He used a vast tract of ground razed by the fire between the Palatine and Esquiline hills on which to build
Domus Aurea, his golden palace. (A vast luxury complex specially designed for his amusements)
-Nero looked around for scapegoats and found them in the latest sect, Christianity.
-He rounded them up and had them torn to death by dogs, or crucified as a public spectacle.
-In AD 68, one of the governors in Gaul, Gaius Julius Vindex, himself Gallic born, withdrew his oath of allegiance
to the emperor.
-The senate, relieved someone would take personal responsibility, not only declared Nero a public
enemy, but sentenced him to death by flogging.
-Nero thought of flight, but instead killed himself with the help of his secretary.
Servius Sulpicious Galba (Caesar Augustus):
-Became emperor in AD 68.
-Galba was in his early 60s when Nero called him out of retirement to become governor of Spain.
-His accession was notable on 2 counts:
1) It marked the end of what is known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty
2) He assumed the title of Caesar when Nero’s death was reported to him.
-It proved that it was feasible for en emperor to emerge from, and be appointed, outside Rome itself.
-Galba tried to stem the threat of civil war by naming a young man of noble rebulican birth, Marcus Piso
Licinianus, as joint ruler and his successor.
-Turned out to be a disastrous choice, and the appointment offended Otho (Former husband of Nero’s
Poppaea), now back in Rome after his 10 year sting in Lusitania.
-Otho bribed the imperial guard to support his cause.
-They swore their allegiance, marched into the city, and hacked Galba and Piso to death.
*This act precipitated the Yearof the Four Emperors.
Marcus Salvius Otho (Caesar Augustus):
-Became emperor on 15 of January AD 69.
-Committed suicide on 14 of April AD 69.
-Seems that he performed creditably as governor of the province of Lusitania, to which Nero had sent him
presumably to get him out of the way.
-As emperor, his most immediate task was to overcome the threat of the other nominee, Vitellius.
-This meant civil war. -Armies of upper and lower Germany advanced into Northern Italy, by different routes across the alps.
-Otho was outflanked, his army surrendered and he committed suicide after being emperor for just 3
Aulus Vitellius (Augustus Germanicus):
-Became emperor in AD 69.
-Assassinated on 24 of December AD 69.
-He was a man of some learning and little military skill or experience.
-He was appointed by Galba.
-Refused the title of Caesar.
-He made a pronouncement about worship on a day which was traditionally regarded as unlucky.
-Even before this, the forces in the eastern Mediterranean had sworn their allegiance to Titus Flavius
Vaspasianus, military commander at Judaea.
-The Legions of the Danube, who had originally supported Ortho, did likewise.
-They both marched into Italy without waiting for support.
-They defeated the imperial army neat Cremona, and then made a dash for Rome.
-Vitellius was hunted down, driven out into the streets with his hands tied behind his back, and tortured to
Titus Flavius (Caesar) Vaspasianus (Augustus):
-Became emperor in AD 69.
-He was almost 61 when he arrived back in Rome in Oct. AD 70, but was still fit and active and had two sons
(Titus and Domitian).
-He did with undoubted, if misguided, skill and panache, took Jerusalem in Sept. AD 70.
-On Titus’ return to Rome in AD 71, Vespasian formally made him his associate in government, granting him too
the title of Caesar, and appointing him commander of the imperial guard.
-He was a professional soldierwho was a legionary commander.
-He had served with considerable distinction during the first assault by Aulus Plautius in Britain.
-He had been responsible for taking the Isle of Wright.
-This success led to Vespasian’s appointment as consul suffectus in AD 51.
-Later he was appointed as governor of Africa, before being sent to Judaea by Nero.
-He had neither the time nor liking for an extravagant life, and was a brilliant and tireless administrator.
*he had a gift of picking the right man for the job.
-In AD 74, he had recognized the potential of Gnaeus Julius Agricola. (Appointed him governor of Britain)
-in AD 71, he instituted the first salaried public professorship, when he appointed Quintilian to a chair of
literature and rhetoric.
-He also extended Latin rights to all native communities in Spain, thus hastening its Romanization.
-He died of natural causes, jokingly, and with great dignity.
Titus Flavius Sabinus (Caesar) Vespasianus (Augustus):
-Became associate emperor in AD 71, emperor in AD 79.
-He lived long enough to demonstrate that he had, obviously thanks to the guidance of his father, some talent for
-The massive Arch of Titus, celebrated his triumph over the Jews.
-It still stands in Rome, as well as much of the Colosseum.
-Construction on the Colosseum began in AD 72, and finished in AD 80, the year before Titus’ death.
-It was the first amphitheater built entirely of stone.
-In August AD 79, the volcanic Mount Vesuvius erupted.
-Some suggested it was divine retribution on Titus for his destruction of Jerusalem.
-Though he had been emperor for only a few weeks, he immediately announced a state of emergency.
-He set up a relief fund for the homeless, to which was diverted the property of any victims who died
-He offered practical assistance in rehousing survivors and appointed a team of commissioners to
administer the disaster area.
-While he was in Judaea, he had a passionate affair with the Jewish princess Berenice, daughter of King Herod
-He brought her back with him to Rome. (She was 12 yrs his senior)
*The pressure of public opinion in Rome, mixed with anti-Semitism forced Titus to send her home. -Titus was 40 when he died suddenly.
-Some suspected that it was the work of his younger brother, Domitian.
Titus Flavius (Caesar) Domitanius (Augustus):
-Became emperor in AD 81.
-He was a thoroughly nasty person, but a reasonably effective ruler.
-Vespasian and then Titus kept him away from playing any part in the administration prior to him
-The public offices that he did hold were largely honorary, and this no doubt soured him.
-He preferred to be referred to and known as “our master” or “our God”
-The expenditure could at last be projected.
-Existing dependent kingdoms became provinces of the empire.
-Rome itself and its aristocracy took further strides towards cosmopolitanism.
-With a refreshing pedantry, he insisted on spectators at public events/games be properly dressed in togas.
-He was particularly rigorous in exacting from the Jews the tax per head which was statutory throughout the
-Many Christians were tracked down and made to pay up.
-He was often unsure in handling measures which required initiative.
-He was popular with the army as he raised their pay.
-First emperor to do so since Augustus.
-Under Domitian, widespread execution returned.
-He used vague charges of maiestas (treason), to justify all manners of persecutions and killings.
-Domitian’s ultimate murder was not political.
-It was engineered by his wife, Domitia, whom he had exiled but was later reconciled with.
-He was stabbed by a steward.
-It was the end of the Flavian dynasty.
-The senate was at last in a position to make its own choice of rule.
-Its members nominated a respected lawyer, Marcus Cocceius Nerva, consul in AD 71 and 90 to take
over the government. The Role of Women:
-Our ancestors, in their wisdom, considered that all women, because of their innate weakness, should be under
the control of guardians.
-Guardians could be their father, husband, mal relative, or someone appointed by the will of the father
or husband, or by an official of the state.
-Only exceptions up to the time of Augustus were the 6 vestal virgins.
-Customary for marriages to be arranged.
-Several ways of celebrating marriage:
-Simplest was the consent of both parties without rites or ceremony
1) Cohabiting for a year without the woman being absent for more than a total of three nights (usus)
2) By symbolic form of purchase, in the presence of a holder of a pair of scales and five witnesses
3) Full ritual (confarreatio), in the presence of the pontifex maximus. Form of religious service with