Latin literature

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The literature of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire was largely written in Latin (from around 200 onwards, Greek also played an important role). The periods of Latin literature are traditionally divided into Golden Latinity , which roughly covers the period from the beginning of the 1st century BC. Until the middle of the 1st century AD, and the Silver Latinity , which includes the later Classical period. After the end of the 2nd century, late Latin literature finally follows , the epoch of which extends to the end of late antiquity around AD 600 and the development of the Romance languages .

Early Latin literature

Early Latin literature (approx. 240–90 BC) was already heavily dependent on Greek models, but it also showed striking peculiarities. Most of the literary production of this period is lost, however. Only the comedy poets Plautus and Terenz have survived from the poetry of such large coherent texts that they could be described as complete works, and in the prose mostly non-fiction such as De agri cultura by Cato. Its origines were the first historical work in Latin. Prior to that, Quintus Fabius Pictor and Aulus Postumius Albinus had written historical works about Rome in Greek to justify the influence and sudden power of Rome in the known world.


Livius Andronicus


Cato Censorius : u. a. De Agri Cultura , Origines (lost)

Golden latinity

The so-called Golden Latinity (approx. 90 BC to 14 AD) falls during a period of bloody civil wars when the Roman Republic fell and was replaced by a monarchy under Augustus . At that time, works were created that reflected the examination of Greek culture and literature even more than before and were already regarded as classic by contemporaries. Significant works were created in almost all genres. In the prose, the work of Cicero deserves to be mentioned, whose speeches on the one hand shaped the style and latinism per se for centuries, but on the other hand led to the standstill and extinction of the Latin language. After Quintilian and later Petrarch , Cicero became the measure of all things in Latin prose and the model for the Latin taught at the school. Virgil is his poetic counterpart.



Typical of the ancient epic is the hexameter and its proverbial length, which includes at least two ancient books .

Virgil : Aeneid (Roman counterpart to Homer's Iliad and Odyssey), Georgica (teaching poses about rural life), Bucolica (teaching poses about pastoral life)
Lucretius : De Rerum Natura (doctrinal pos in the tradition of Hesiod's theogony)
Ovid : Metamorphoses (competitive epic to Virgil's Aeneid), Ars amatoria (ironic teaching pos about love for hetairians )
Catullus : Carmen 64 (so-called Epyllion , minor poem in the Callimache tradition)


For them, the lyric meter (like the Sapphic or Alkean stanza ) is typical. It differs from other poetic genres in that the number of syllables is fixed.

Horace : Odes , Carmen saeculare and epodes (Not all meter measures have a fixed number of syllables in Horace; dactylically constructed verses can usually become anapaestic and thus lose syllables.)
Catullus : Carmina 1-60


Horace : satires , epistula (also art letter )
Varro : satires (lost)


This summarizes the poetry, the subject of which is entwined with pastoral life and which is usually written in dactylic meter.

Virgil : Eclogues

Elegian or representative of the love elegance

The shape of the elegiac distich is typical for this. In most cases a loved one is sung about.

Catullus : Carmina 1–60 (including a few elegiac lesbian poems as a model for the Roman elegance of love )
Gallus : Elegies of love to Lycoris (lost)
Ovid : Amores , Heroides
Sulpicia the Elder


They are also mostly written in the elegiac distich , but in the minority of cases exceed four verses.

Catullus : Carmina 69-116



Talking: u. a. In Catilinam , In Verrem , Pro Milone , Pro Roscio Comodeo , Pro Sexto Roscio
Philosophical writings: u. a. De re publica , De Officiis , "De natura deorum"
Letters: ad Familiares , ad Brutum , ad Quintum Fratrem , ad Atticum
State theoretical writings: De re publica
Rhetorical writings: De oratore , Orator

Historian, war correspondent and biographer

Nepos : u. a. De Viris Illustribus
Caesar : De Bello Gallico (eighth book probably written by the officer Hirtius ), De bello civili
Sallust : De Coniuratione Catilinae , Bellum Iugurthinum
Livy : From Urbe Condita

Non-fiction and specialist literature

Hyginus : De astronomia
Varro : u. a. De Lingua Latina (Linguistics), De Re Rustica (Agriculture)
Vitruvius : De Architectura

Silver latinity

The Latin poetry of the early and high imperial period broke away from the Greek models in many cases (although these were still of importance) and now arose rather in confrontation with the works of golden latinism, which were already perceived as classic . This phase also produced a number of extremely important texts, Seneca being particularly noteworthy. His style was not as strongly imitated as the Ciceros, but the move away from the artfully constructed syntactic period towards the more concise sentence was a major cut and a defining factor in the further course of linguistic development. Seneca was the most popular writer in his own day and was devoured by the youth. Later, his chopped up style was again discarded. The post-classical period can be divided into three major sub-periods: 1. The time of Seneca , 2. Mannerism and Classicism , 3. Archaism



Lucan : De Bello Civili
Silius Italicus : Punica
Valerius Flaccus : Argonautica
Statius : Thebais , Achilles
Marcus Manilius : Astronomicon (teaching pos)




Seneca the Younger : u. a. Medea , Oedipus , Hercules Oetaeus


Aulus Persius Flaccus




Calpurnius Siculus


Philosophical writings

Seneca the Younger : u. a. Epistulae Morales , Dialogi (e.g. De Vita Beata , De Brevitate Vitae, De Ira) , De Beneficiis (German "about benevolence")
Mark Aurel : Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν (German "self-contemplation"; the work is written in Greek)

Art letter

Pliny the Younger

Novel (in satirical tradition)

Seneca the Younger : Apocolocyntosis
Petronius : Satyricon
Apuleius : Metamorphoses


Seneca the Elder : Controversiae , Suasoriae (both patterns for disputes)
Quintilian : Institutio Oratoria , Declamationes

Antiquarian colored fonts

Aulus Gellius : Noctes Atticae


Velleius Paterculus : Historiae Romanae
Valerius Maximus : Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium (German "memorable deeds and words")
Curtius Rufus : Historiae Alexandri Magni
Tacitus : u. a. Historiae , Gemania , Annales
Suetonius : De Vita Caesarum , De Poetis

Specialist literature

Pomponius Mela : De Chorographia (geography)
Celsus : Artes (medicine)
Scribonius Largus Compositiones (Medicine)
Columella : De Re Rustica (Agriculture)
Masurius Sabinus : Ius Civile
Pliny the Elder : Naturalis Historia (History of Science)
Frontinus : u. a. De Aquaeductu Urbis Romae (German "Over the water pipes of Rome"; architecture)
Hyginus Mythographus : De Astronomia (Astronomy)
Apicius : De Re Coquinaria (German "About Cooking")
Cornelius Labeo : Fasti , De diis animalibus , De oraculo Apollinis Clarii (Roman religion)

The first representatives of Christian Latin literature

2nd century

Justin the Martyr
Irenaeus of Lyon
Scilitan Martyrs

3rd century

Minucius Felix
Cyprian of Carthage
Victorinus von Pettau

Late Latin Literature (The Pagan and Christian Latin Literature of Late Antiquity)

Older research still judged that Latin literature of late antiquity (around 300 to 600 AD) reflected a general decline everywhere. Today this is seen in a more differentiated manner. Up to the threshold of the Middle Ages, some works were predominantly or completely committed to older, pagan forms and materials (e.g. those of Claudian ); in addition, however, there were more and more contributions from Christian authors. The Latin historiography witnessed Ammianus Marcellinus 400 a final climax (he tried to Tacitus to tie) and created another in the 6th century Gorippus one last major epic, which at Virgil oriented Iohannis .

In the late late antiquity, however, the majority of ancient Latin literature was lost ( book losses in late antiquity ). The narrow holdings of ancient writings by medieval authors are often considered to be similar to our present-day holdings.

4th century

Arnobius the Elder
Marius Victorinus
Pervigilium Veneris
Aelius Donatus
Aurelius Victor
Ammianus Marcellinus
Paulinus of Nola
Ambrose of Milan
Quintus Aurelius Symmachus
Flavius ​​Vegetius Renatus
Hilary of Poitiers
Optatus by Mileve
Eusebius of Caesarea
Filastrius of Brescia
Publilius Optatianus Porfyrius
Theodorus Priscianus
Rufinus of Aquileia
Nonius Marcellus
Firmicus Maternus

5th century

Historia Augusta
Sulpicius Severus
Augustine of Hippo
Rutilius Claudius Namatianus
Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius
Martianus Capella
Leo the Great
Sidonius Apollinaris
Arnobius the Younger
Nicetas of Remesiana
Blossius Aemilius Dracontius
Gennadius of Marseilles
Johannes Cassianus
Flavius ​​Merobaudes
Salvianus of Marseilles
Prosper Tiro of Aquitaine
Caelius Aurelianus
Cassius Felix
Maximus of Turin

6th century

Benedict of Nursia
Alcimus Ecdicius Avitus
Ennodius of Pavia
Fulgentius of Ruspe
Venantius Fortunatus
Gregory of Tours

The Middle Latin Literature (The Latin Literature of the Middle Ages)

6th century

Martinus Bracarensis
Gregory of Tours
Gregory the Great
Venantius Fortunatus
Columban of Luxeuil
Leander of Seville

7th century

Isidore of Seville : Etymologiae
Hisperica Famina
Braulio of Saragossa
Eugenius III. from Toledo
Ildefons of Toledo
Julian of Toledo
Adomnan of Iona
Visio Baronti
Aldhelm from Sherborne

8th century

Beda Venerabilis
Paul Deacon
Arbeo from Freising
Peter of Pisa
Paulinus of Aquileia

9th century

Theodulf of Orléans
Rabanus Maurus
Hilduin of Saint-Denis
Frechulf of Lisieux
Radbert from Corbie
Lupus from Ferrières
Walahfrid Strabo
Florus of Lyon
Rudolf of Fulda
Gottschalk from Orbais
Ratramnus of Corbie
Hinkmar from Reims
Sedulius Scottus
Heiric from Auxerre
John Scotus Eriugena
Notker Balbulus
Remigius of Auxerre
Tutilo from St. Gallen

10th century

Navigatio Sancti Brendani
Odo from Cluny
Flodoard from Reims
Liutprand of Cremona
Widukind by Corvey
Tanner of Aurillac
Abbo of Fleury
Froumund from Tegernsee

11th century

Fulbert of Chartres
Berno von Reichenau
Ekkehard IV.
Petrus Damiani
Berengar of Tours
Hermann von Reichenau
Ecbasis captivi
Lanfrank from Bec
Lambert von Hersfeld
Carmina Cantabrigiensia
Guido of Arezzo
Humbert from Silva Candida
Anselm of Canterbury
Sigebert from Gembloux
Marbod from Rennes
Balderich of Dol

12th Century

Hildebert of Lavardin
Sextus Amarcius
Peter Abelardus
William of Malmesbury
Suger from Saint-Denis
William of Conches
Bernhard of Clairvaux
Hugo Primate of Orléans
Petrus Lombardus
Hugo of St. Victor
Nivardus of Ghent
Vitalis from Blois
Hildegard von Bingen
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Herrad von Landsberg
Joseph of Exeter
Bernardus Silvestris
William of Blois
Adam of St. Victor
Otto von Freising
John of Salisbury
Helmold von Bosau
Alanus from Insulis
Matthew of Vendôme
Bernhard of Cluny
Joachim of Floris
Peter of Blois
Petrus Riga
Nigellus from Longchamps
Walter of Châtillon
Walter Map
Galfredus de Vino Salvo

13th Century

Saxo Grammaticus
Alexander Neckam
Michael Scotus
Gervasius of Tilbury
Jacob of Vitry
Robert Grosseteste
Caesarius von Heisterbach
Francis of Assisi
William of Auvergne
Alexander of Hales
Thomas von Celano : Dies Irae
Vincent de Beauvais
Carmina Burana
Vagant seal
John de Garlandia
Albertus Magnus
Roger Bacon
Wilhelm von Moerbeke
Bonaventure of Bagnoregio
Thomas Aquinas
Johannes Peckham
Jacobus de Voragine
Hugo von Trimberg
Siger of Brabant
Raimundus Lullus
Jacopone da Todi
Dietrich von Freiberg
Peter of Abano
Gertrud von Helfta
John Duns Scotus

14th Century

Engelbert of Admont
Bernard Gui
Dante Alighieri
Albertino Mussato
Walter Burleigh
Marsilius of Padua
William of Ockham
Francesco Petrarch
Giovanni Boccaccio
Nicholas of Oresme

15th century

Nikolaus von Kues

Renaissance and Neo-Latin

Most authors wrote as well in their national languages ​​as they did in Latin, but each left a Latin work of significant quantity and quality.

14th Century

Dante Alighieri
Francesco Petrarch
Giovanni Boccaccio
Coluccio Salutati

15th century

Poggio Bracciolini
Thomas von Kempen
Nikolaus von Kues
Leon Battista Alberti
Lorenzo Valla
Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini
Marsilio Ficino
Rudolf Agricola
Girolamo Savonarola
Angelo Poliziano
Johannes Reuchlin
Konrad Celtis
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

16th Century

Konrad Peutinger
Erasmus from Rotterdam
Nicolaus Copernicus
Thomas More
Philipp Melanchthon
Petrus Lotichius Secundus
Jan Kochanowski

17th century

Francis Bacon
John Barclay
Galileo Galilei
Jakob Bidermann
Johannes Kepler
Hugo Grotius
Thomas Hobbes
René Descartes
John Milton
Blaise Pascal
Baruch Spinoza
Isaac Newton
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

18th century

Giambattista Vico
Carl von Linné

19th century

Carl Friedrich Gauss

20th century

Hermann Weller
Walter Berger

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Manfred Fuhrmann: History of Roman Literature. 2005, p. 133ff.
  2. cf. Quintilian Institutio Oratoria 10.1,105 f.
  3. cf. Quintilian Institutio Oratoria 10.1.85 f.
  4. Tacitus Annales 13.2
  5. cf. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 10,1,125 f.
  6. Manfred Fuhrmann: History of Roman Literature. Stuttgart 2005.