Quintus Ennius

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Figure of the young Quintus Ennius sitting next to Dante ( Raphael , Parnassus, Stanza della Segnatura (Vatican)) 1510/1511

Quintus Ennius (* 239 BC in Rudiae ( Apulia ); † 169 BC ) was a writer of the Roman Republic , who is often referred to as the father of Roman poetry. Although only fragments of his works survived, his influence - especially as a mediator of Greek literature - on Latin literature is considerable: he preferred - in contrast to Naevius' Saturnians - the dactylic hexameter , which he made common in the Latin epic.


Ennius grew up speaking at least three languages ​​( Latin , Greek and Oskisch ). In the Second Punic War he served as a mercenary in a Calabrian auxiliary force. In Sardinia he met Cato the Elder , who persuaded him to do so in 204 BC. To go to Rome . Here he probably worked as a tutor and got in touch with the Greek-friendly circles of the Roman nobility, including Scipio Africanus and the consul Marcus Fulvius Nobilior , who took him on his campaign to Aetolia as a "court poet" . These influential patrons provided him in 184 BC. Chr. The Roman citizenship .

The writer Suetonius writes about Ennius' death: "The poet Ennius died of a limb disease at the age of 70 and was buried in the Scipios tomb , before the first milestone outside the city." Tradition has it that there were three statues on the tomb should. One of them is said to have portrayed the poet Quintus Ennius. During an excavation in 1934, a marble head of a statue was found, but it was stolen shortly after it was found. Today only one photograph is known.


Ennius' tragedies are free adaptations of the Greek originals, including by Euripides . His more famous works are Epicharmus , Euhemerus , Hedyphagetica , Saturae and the Annales .

The Epicharmus presents a list of the gods and the physical processes in the universe. In it the poet dreams that after his death he was brought to a place of heavenly enlightenment.

The Euhemerus presents a completely different theological doctrine into seemingly simple prose after the Greeks Euhemerus of Messene and several other religious writers. According to this doctrine, the gods of Olympus were not supernatural forces who actively intervene in human affairs, but great generals, statesmen and inventors of ancient times, who are remembered in extraordinary ways after their death.

The Hedyphagetica took much of their substance from the gourmet epic of Archestratos of Gela , a work shared with the Epicureans . The eleven preserved hexameters have prosodic features (that is, accent, pitch, pressure) that are avoided in the more serious Annales .

The fragments of the six books of the Saturae show a considerable variety of meters: there are indications that Ennius sometimes changed the meter even within a composition. A frequent topic was the social life of Ennius and his aristocratic friends and their intellectual conversation.

The Annales , his main work in 18 books, is an epic poem that tells Roman history from the fall of Troy to the reign of Cato the Elder as censor in 184 BC. Covers. They were a standard text for Roman school children before they were eventually supplanted by Virgil's Aeneid .

Since then the interest of the Romans in the work of Ennius has diminished, whereby the church fathers quoted Ennius more often, so that one must assume that the work was still common in late antiquity. Today it is only available in fragments, i.e. in quotations from ancient authors.



Overview representations

  • Michael von Albrecht : History of Roman literature from Andronicus to Boethius and its continued effect . Volume 1. 3rd, improved and expanded edition. De Gruyter, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-11-026525-5 , pp. 111-126.
  • Werner Suerbaum : Q. Ennius. In: Werner Suerbaum (Ed.): The archaic literature. From the beginnings to Sulla's death (= Handbook of Ancient Latin Literature , Volume 1). CH Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-48134-5 , pp. 119-142.


  • Robert Angus Brooks: Ennius and Roman Tragedy . Ayer Company, Salem, New Hampshire 1981.
  • Herbert Prinzen: Ennius in the judgment of antiquity . Metzler, Stuttgart [a. a.] 1998.
  • Jackie Elliot: Ennius and the Architecture of the Annales . Univ. Press., Cambridge 2013.


  • Werner Suerbaum: Ennius in the research of the 20th century. An annotated bibliography for 1900–1999 with systematic references together with a brief description of Q. Ennius (239–169 BC) . Olms, Hildesheim 2003.

Web links

Wikisource: Quintus Ennius  - Sources and full texts (Latin)
Wikisource: Quintus Ennius  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. In Hieronymus, Chronicle p. 25 Reiff .: Ennius poeta septuagenario maior articulario morbo periit sepultusque est in Scipionis monumento intra primum from urbe milliarium.
  2. 38, 56: Romae extra portam Capenam in Scipionum monumento tres statuae sunt, quarum duae P. et. L. Scipionum dicuntur esse, tertiae poetae Q. Enni.