Ennius, Quintus

Ennius, Quintus kwĭnˈtəs ĕnˈēəs [key], 239–169? b.c., Latin poet, regarded by the Romans as the father of Latin poetry, b. Calabria. His birthplace was the meeting point of three civilizations—Oscan, Greek, and Latin—and Ennius learned to speak the languages of these cultures. He served in Sardinia under Cato the Elder, who took him to Rome. Ennius lived there most of his life, teaching and writing. In 184 b.c. he was made a Roman citizen. His ambition was to be a Latin Homer, and his innovations proved important in the development of Latin poetry. He introduced the Latin quantitative hexameter and the elegiac couplet, smoothed the roughness of Latin diction, and gave to Latin poetry a definitive artistic base. A successful tragedian, he also wrote comedies, satires, and epigrams. Fragments amounting to some 400 lines survive from his tragedies, and about 600 lines remain from his masterpiece, the epic Annales, a literary history of Rome. Vergil, Lucretius, and Ovid borrowed freely from Ennius.

See H. D. Jocelyn, The Tragedies of Ennius (1967); R. A. Brooks, Ennius and Roman Tragedy (1981); O. Skutsch, The Annals of Quintus Ennius (1985).

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