. . . then the young began to imitate [the Etruscan ludiones], exchanging humorous remarks with one aother in rough verse forms; and their movements were not uncoordinated with the vocal line. And so the amusement was adopted, and frequent use kept it alive. The native professional actors were called histriones ( from ister, the Tuscan word for 'player' ); they no longer (as before) alternately threw off rude lines hastily improvised, like the Fescennine verses, but performed medleys [ saturae ], in complete metrical schemes, to melodies which were now written out to go with the tibicen, and with appropriate gesticulation. Livius [Andronicus] was the first, some years later, to abandon saturae and compose a play with a plot . . . .
. . . We also challenge the supremacy of the Greeks in elegy. Of our elegiac poets Tibullus seems to me to be the most terse and elegant. There are, however, some who prefer Propertius. Ovid is more sportive than either, while Gallus is more severe.
Satire, on the other hand, is all our own. The first of our poets to win renown in this connection was Lucilius, some of whose devotees are so enthusiastic that they do not hesitate to prefer him not merely to all other satirists, but even to all other poets. I disagree with them as I do with Horace, who holds that Lucilius' verse has a "muddy flow, and that there is always something in him that might well be dispensed with." For his learning is as remarkable as his freedom of speech, and it is this latter quality that gives so sharp an edge and such abundance of wit to his satire. Horace is far terser and purer in style, and must be awarded the first place, unless my judgment is led astray by my affection for his work.
. . . the farmers of old, a sturdy folk with simple wealth, when, after harvesting the grain, they sought relief at holiday time for the body as well as for the soul, which bore its toils in hope of the end, together with slaves and faithful wife, partners of their labors, used to propitiate Earth with swine, Silvanus with milk, and, with flowers and wine, the Genius who is ever mindful of the shortness of life. Through this custom came into use the Fescennine license, which in alternate lines of verse poured forth rustic taunts; and the freedom, welcomed each returning year, was innocently gay, until jest grew cruel and turned into open frenzy and stalked amid the homes of honest people, fearless in its threatening. Stung to the quick were they who were bitten by a tooth that drew blood; and even those untouched felt concern for the common cause, and at last a law was carried with a penalty, forbidding the portrayal of anyone in an abusive manner. Men changed their tune, and terror of the cudgel [ fustis ] led them back to goodly and gracious forms of speech.
Si quis occentavisset sive carmen condidisset quod infamiam faceret flagitiumve alteri . . . . [res capite XII Tabulae sanxissent].
If a person had sung or composed against another person a song such as was causing slander or insult to another [it was a capital crime, according to the XII Tables].
Cautum est ut fustibus feriretur qui publice invehebatur.
It was laid down that, if anyone was found to be uttering in public a slander, he should be clubbed to death.
Fato Metelli Romae fiunt consules.
It is fate (or 'sheer luck') that the Metelli become consuls at Rome.
The Metelli are said to have replied:
Dabunt malum Metelli Naevio poetae.
The Metelli will get even with Naevius the Poet.
Eupolis and Cratinus and Aristophanes, true poets, and the other good men to whom Old Comedy belongs, if there was anyone deserving to be drawn as a rogue or a thief, as a rake or a cut-throat, or as scandalous in any other way, set their marks [ notabant ] upon him with great freedom. It is on these men whom Lucilius hangs entirely; these he has followed, changing only meter and rhythm. Witty he was, and of keen-scented nostrils, but harsh in framing his verse . . . . (39) First I will take my own name from the list of such as I would allow to be called poets. For you would not call it enough to round off a verse, nor would you count anyone a poet who writes, as I do, lines more akin to prose. If one has ingenium, if one has a mens divinior atque os, then give him the name of poet . . . . (56) Take from the verses which I am now writing, or which Lucilius wrote in former days, their regular beat and rhythm; change the word order, putting the first last and vice versa; and it would not be like breaking up [ Ennius ]:
. . . postquam Discordia taetrawhere you would find the evidence of a poet, even if broken up [and rearranged] . . . . (103) If in my words I am a bit too free, perhaps a bit too jocular, perhaps you will indulgently pardon me. it is a habit the best of fathers taught me.
Belli ferratos postis portasque refregit
[ in J. P. Sullivan (ed.), Satire (Bloomington, Indiana: University of Indiana Press 1963)]
Book I of the Sermones marks a crucial stage in the development of Roman satire and of Horatian poetry. After studying Lucilius' very successful satires, Horace decided on a thorough renovation. . . . He set about to reform the style of satire, its tone, manner, and material. In opposition to Lucilius' libertas he introduced Socratic sapientia. Such Socratic understanding demanded complete disciplining of vocabulary, exact choice of words, a delicate touch in word order, and improvement of the meter . . . . Yet the style did not exist by and for itself. Horace fully integrated it with his material, so that it is quite impossible to say that the contents followed on the style; the two go hand in hand. Thus the intellectual style enables Horace to create his intellectual satirist, a modest and genial teacher (doctor), who shuns the cruder methods of Lucilius' playful and superficial satirist (lusor) . . . .
John Paul Adams, CSUN