Quintus Ennius (/ /; c. 239 – c. 169 BC) was a writer during the period of the Roman Republic, and is often considered the father of Roman poetry. He was an Oscan (a linguistic group of peoples who lived in parts of central and southern Italy) from Calabria (the ancient name for the Salento, the peninsula which forms southern Apulia). Although only fragments of his works survive, his influence in Latin literature was significant, particularly in his use of Greek literary models.
Ennius was born at Rudiae, a predominantly Oscan town historically founded by the Messapians. Here Oscan, Greek, and Latin languages were in contact with one another; according to Aulus Gellius 17.17.1, Ennius referred to this heritage by saying he had "three hearts," Greek, Oscan and Latin (Quintus Ennius tria corda habere sese dicebat, quod loqui Graece et Osce et Latine sciret).
Ennius continued the nascent literary tradition by writing praetextae, tragedies, and palliatae, as well as his most famous work, a historic epic called the Annales. Other minor works include the Epicharmus, the Euhemerus, the Hedyphagetica, and Saturae.
The Euhemerus presented a theological doctrine of a vastly different type in a mock-simple prose style modelled on the Greek of Euhemerus of Messene and several other theological writers. According to this doctrine, the gods of Olympus were not supernatural powers still actively intervening in the affairs of men, but great generals, statesmen and inventors of olden times commemorated after death in extraordinary ways.
The remains of six books of Saturae show a considerable variety of metres. There are signs that Ennius varied the metre sometimes even within a composition. A frequent theme was the social life of Ennius himself and his upper-class Roman friends and their intellectual conversation.
The Annales was an epic poem in fifteen books, later expanded to eighteen, covering Roman history from the fall of Troy in 1184 BC down to the censorship of Cato the Elder in 184 BC. It was the first Latin poem to adopt the dactylic hexameter metre used in Greek epic and didactic poetry, leading it to become the standard metre for these genres in Latin poetry. The Annals became a school text for Roman schoolchildren, eventually supplanted by Virgil's Aeneid. About 600 lines survive. A copy of the work is among the Latin rolls of the Herculaneum library.
Ennius was said to have considered himself a reincarnation of Homer. Early in the poem Homer appears to the narrator, claiming that Ennius now has Homer's soul, which has also once been a peacock (frr. 4-14 Warmington, scholia to Perseus 6.9-11).
- Fragment from the lost tragedy Iphigenia:
- Quod est ante pedes nemo spectat, caeli scrutantur plagas.
- "No one regards what is before his feet; everyone gazes at the stars."
- As quoted by Cicero in De Natura Deorum 1.97:
- Simia quam similis turpissima bestia nobis!
- "The ape, vilest of beasts, how like to us!"
- As quoted by Cicero in De Officiis 1.52:
- Homo, qui erranti comiter monstrat viam,
- Quasi lumen de suo lumine accendat, facit.
- Nihilo minus ipsi lucet, cum illi accenderit.
- "The man who kindly shows the way to one who is lost,
Does as if he lights another's lamp from his own;
No less shines his, when he the other's has lit."
More quotations at: Wikiquote: Ennius
- Smith, William (1854), "Rhudiae", Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, London: "That author is repeatedly termed a Calabrian (Her. Carm. 4.8; Ovid. A. A. 3.409; Sil. Ital. l. c.; Acron, ad Hor. l. c.)"
- Young Sellar, William, The Roman Poets of the Republic, Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-108-02982-7, p. 64: an old Italian town (the epithet "vetustae" is applied to it by Silius) which had been partially Hellenised, but still retained its native traditions and the use of the Oscan language
- "FJCL Latin Literature Study Guide" (PDF). Florida Junior Classical League. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- Michael Grant, in a footnote to "On the Good Life" by Cicero, Penguin Books, 1971.
- Quinto Ennio. Le opere minori, Vol. I. Praecepta, Protrepticus, Saturae, Scipio, Sota. Ed., tr., comm. Alessandro Russo. Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2007 (Testi e studi di cultura classic, 40).
- Brooks, Robert A. (1981). Ennius and Roman tragedy. New York.: Arno Press. ISBN 0-405-14030-4.
- Ennius, Quintus (1967). Jocelyn, H D, ed. The tragedies of Ennius. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Evans, R.L.S. (1999). "Ennius". In Briggs, Ward. Ancient Roman Writers. Dictionary of Literary Biography. 211.
- Fitzgerald, William; Gowers, Emily, eds. (2007). Ennius perennis : the Annals and beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society. ISBN 978-0-906014-30-1.
- Goldberg, Sander M. (1995). Epic in Republican Rome. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509372-0.
- Jocelyn, H D (1972). "The Poems of Quintus Ennius", in H. Temporini (ed.) ANRW I.2, 987–1026
- Skutsch, Otto (1985). The Annals of Q. Ennius. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-814448-2.
- Skutsch, Otto (1968). Studia Enniana. Athlone Press: London.
- Warmington, E.H. (1956). Remains of Old Latin. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
- Quotations related to Ennius at Wikiquote
- Latin Wikisource has original text related to this article: Ennius
- Media related to Ennius at Wikimedia Commons
- Fragments of Ennius' Annals at The Latin Library; text from Wordsworth (1874), line numbering from Warmington (1935)
- Ennius' Annales: text and translation of all fragments at attalus.org; adapted from Warmington (1935)
- Ennius: translation of selected fragments at elfinspell.com; from Specimens of the Poets and Poetry of Greece and Rome by Various Translators (1847)
- Remains of old latin. Vol. 1: Aennius and Caecilius, E. H. Warmington (a cura di), Cambridge-London, 1935, pagg. 1-465.