Gnaeus Naevius

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Gnaeus Naevius (* around 265 BC in Campania , † around 201 BC in Utica , North Africa) was a Roman playwright and epic poet .


Naevius mentioned in his history his participation in the First Punic War . 235 BC He experienced his first dramatic performance. Because of his attacks on the Roman nobility , especially on the Meteller , who in his opinion undeservedly held the highest state offices, he is said to have been thrown into prison by Quintus Caecilius Metellus (consul 206 BC), but was soon released by the tribunes . However, Harold B. Mattingly considers Naevius' polemic against the Meteller and their revenge (imprisonment, exile) to be a legend.

Naevius died in Utica (North Africa). Perhaps he was living here in exile, driven from Rome by the Metellern (so Hieronymus ). His date of death is already disputed in antiquity; it is probably the year 201 BC mentioned by Hieronymus. Chr.


Naevius wrote the comedies Agitatoria (the racing comedy), Carbonaria (the coal comedy ), Corollaria (the wreath comedy), Tunicularia (the shirt comedy) and about 25 other titles based on the Greek pattern. The Tarentilla ( Die kleine Tarentinerin, Das Mädchen aus Tarent ) is the only comedy that can be reconstructed on a larger scale. A total of 100 verses have been preserved.

Only 50 verses have survived from the tragedies Aesiona , Danae , Equus Troianus , Hector proficiscens , Iphigenia , Andromacha and Lykurgos (fights the opponents of the Dionysus cult ).

With the Praetextae Romulus and Clastidium were 195 BC. For the first time tragedies in the Greek style with national-Roman material performed in public: the Roman founding legend and the victory over the Gaul chief Virdumar in 222 BC. BC Roman heroes appeared in the toga praetexta .

Naevius wrote the epic Bellum Punicum in the meter of the Saturnian . It was originally undivided; according to the classification of the grammarian Octavius ​​Lampadio (2nd century BC) it comprised seven books with approx. 4000 to 5000 verses, of which approx. 60 fragments have been preserved. Naevius wrote it as an older man. It describes the First Punic War (264 to 241 BC). After the depiction of the first years of the war, the Roman myth is inserted from the exodus of the Aeneades from Troy to the founding of Rome (books 1 and 2). The subject of the third book is the founding of Rome, the last books deal with other war events.

Sources / role models

The subjects of the comedies come from the Greek New Comedy, which dates from around 320 BC. Was founded by Menandros . The comedy has Roman coloring, alludes to the contemporary. The tragedies materially go back to Aeschylus (525 / 4–456 / 5 BC) and Euripides (approx. 480–406 BC); the degree of his freedom in processing these models can no longer be recognized because of the poor tradition. Even with the first public performance, he came into serious competition with Livius Andronicus . With his epic, Naevius is in the Hellenistic tradition ( Apollonios of Rhodes ). Timaeus of Tauromenion (approx. 356–260 BC) is the source for the founding legends, for the course of the war of Philinos of Akragas (3rd century BC), on which Quintus Fabius Pictor and Polybios also rely. Naevius can also fall back on Livius Andronicus. After all, Roman reports and our own memories have been incorporated into the presentation.


By the grammarians Marcus Terentius Varro (1st century BC), Quintus Remmius Palaemon (1st century AD) and the archaists Marcus Cornelius Fronto and Aulus Gellius (2nd century AD) are many details of the Comedies still known. The Middle Ages only knew Naevius as a comedy poet. Numerous fragments of the Bellum Poenicum can be found in the Virgil Commentary by the grammarian Valerius Probus (end of the 1st century AD), in Aelius Donatus and Marcellus Nonius (4th century), in Servius (around 400), in Macrobius (5th century ) and Theodorus Priscianus (around 500). The humanists collected the fragments of the naevius. Naevius then became the focus of research among the Romantics.

Continue to work

In his comedies, Plautus mainly used the powerful, vivid language of Naevius as a model. After Ennius 'abundance of language, Virgil finds his way back to the simple language of Naevius, in his Aeneid he goes back to Naevius' tragedy Equus Troianus , but above all he reverses the conception of Bellum Punicum by playing his Aeneid in mythical times and that Historical prophecies can be made, while in the work of Naevius the myth serves as the background for the Roman sense of mission. In his brief overview of the greats of early Roman poetry still alive in his time, Horace names Naevius only as an epicist; the Bellum Punicum was therefore the work of Naevius that had the longest lasting effect.


Naevius established the independent Roman historical epic in the formal language created by Livius Andronicus as well as the national Roman tragedy (praetexta) from his own contemporary historical experience . By treating materials from Roman history, he gave expression to the Romans' national feeling for the first time. It is possible that Naevius wants to justify the primordial enmity between Rome and Carthage mythically when he describes the spurned love of the Trojan Aeneas , son of Venus , for the Phoenician queen Dido (fragment 20).

"The rapid oblivion to which the Livian comedies (ie those of Livius Andronicus) fell, in contrast to those of Naevius, suggests that it was only Naevius that fully developed the powers of Roman comedy."

The actor singing ( canticum ) , which Livius Andronicus already used, is used by Naevius in his tragic dialogue parts, but also in the comedies, which clearly differs from the form of the originals.

Even contemporaries must have seen him as an important personality. The grave inscription handed down by Gellius says that after the death of Naevius in Rome one stopped speaking in Latin. Cicero compares the art of Naevius with that of the sculptor Myron (5th century BC).

Text output

  • R. u. H. Stephanus: Fragmenta poetarum veterum Latinorum, quorum opera non exstant . Genevae 1564, p. 214 ff.
  • EV Marmorale: Naevius poeta. Introd. bibliogr., testo die frammenti e com-mento . 3rd edition, Florence, 1953
  • EH Warmington (ed.): Remains of Old Latin . 5th edition, London, 1961, p. 46 ff.
  • W. Strzelecki (ed.): Cn. Naevii Belli Punici Carminis quae supersunt . Leipzig 1964


Web links


  1. ^ Harold B. Mattingly: Naevius and the Metelli . In: Historia . Volume 9, 1960, pp. 414-439.
  2. Marcus Tullius Cicero , Cato 50.
  3. Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 1,24,2: inmortales mortales si foret fas flere, / flerent divae Camenae Naevium poetam. / itaque postquam est Orcho traditus thesauro, / obliti sunt Romae loquier lingua Latina .
  4. ^ Cicero, Brutus 75.