Latin literature I Posted by on Feb 28, 2012 in Latin Language, Roman culture

Literature is one of the great achievements of the classical world, and it still survives with great vigor. Giving the written word an aesthetic value is something that had happened before, but not with the intensity and importance that it acquired during classical antiquity.

A crucial aspect of the character of the Roman world was the literary creation. In Rome literature played a key role, without which we could not understand antiquity. In fact the literature, as we understand it today, is something truly classic. Western literature is the heir of classical literature in general, but usually through the Latin literature.

Making a brief tour through History it would be difficult to understand the Middle Ages without the classical tradition and the habit of translation and copying the classics. That would be the first step for the new languages ‚Äč‚Äčthat emerged in Europe.
Renaissance’s Humanism is a review of the classical authors. It would not be easy to understand authors as Machiavelli without the influence of Livy, Lucretius and Cicero, nor understand Garcilaso de la Vega without the influence of Virgil. Later Shakespeare would be decisively influenced by Latin authors like Seneca.
Later great authors as Moliere were based largely on the works of playwrights such as Plautus and Terence.To quote some of the authors with more weight of the twentieth century in western literature, M. Yourcenar with her Memoirs of Hadrian, James Joyce with his Ulysses or the poetry of Constantino Kavafis with poems like Ithaca, whose titles clearly show the influence of classical antiquity in their works. In Spain we can cite the Phaedra of Unamuno, the poetry of Cernuda and many more. But this influence is not limited to being a source of inspiration providing themes and content, is much deeper and reaches almost all procedural and substantive aspects of Western literature. 

Latin literature and its evolution

The first literary works were oral and were often framed in religious ceremonies. Thus emerged the genres of epic, lyric, drama, historiography, rhetoric, and so on. After the adoption of writing and political development of the city of Rome to these oral manifestations begin to add the Greek letters that penetrated from the Magna Grecia in the world of the Romans. the Roman wisemen of the first republican period were surrounded by Greek sages also who taught them the Greek literary tradition.


  • Archaic period: From the beginning of the literature until 100 BC.
  • Classic Period: From 100 BC. until the death of Augustus, 14 AD.
  • Post-classical Period: Since the death of Augustus to year 200 AD.
  • Late Period: From 200 AD. until the end of the Latin, which is usually placed around the year 600. During this period, especially from the 4th century, we distinguish the Christian literature of other Latin literary work.
  • The Middle Ages: from 600 to the end of the Middle Ages. This period is often not included in the study of Latin literature.
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