Ancient Roman Literature

Ancient Roman literature began sometime around 240 B.C. when a Roman audience witnessed a Latin version of a Greek play that involved adaptor Livius Andronicus who was brought to Rome as a prisoner of war during 272 B.C.

Several historians believe that Andronicus was also responsible for translating Homer’s Greek epic known as the Odyssey into a grizzled type of Latin verse referred to as the Saturnian.

The Roman Republic and its successor the Roman Empire came up with an abundance of celebrated literature which ranged from histories, poetry, and dramas to philosophical tracts, comedies, and comics.

Renowned historian Nigel Rodgers believes that Roman Literature owes a debt to the Greek more specifically to Athens, citing that Roman authors such as Catullus, Seneca, Virgil, and Cicero drew inspiration from the Greeks which developed a wide range of political and philosophical concepts.

Epic Poem

The first Latin poet to write on a Roman tune was Gnaeus Naevius who produced an epic poem about the first Punic wars during 200 B.C.

Naevius who fought during the initial Punic battle also created dramas that were based on Roman myths and history as well as plays that were replicas of Greek originals.

Other popular poets which followed the footsteps of Naevius was Quintus Ennius who was responsible for writing the Annals which is a historical epic portraying Roman history from the establishment of Rome to his own time.

Besides that, Ennius likewise adopted a Greek dactylic known as the hexameter which later became the standard verse format for Roman epics.


Similar to Naevius, Ennius was also most famous for his tragic dramas wherein he utilized episodes from Greek history instead of concentrating too much on the Roman past.

Subsequently, he inspired the likes of Lucius Accius and Marcus Pacuvius to write Latin versions of tragic Greek plays.

Facts about Ancient Roman Literature

  • Among the most popular works of poetry produced during the Golden Age of Roman Literature includes the epic poem entitled as the Aeneid. The poem primarily details the life of a Trojan warrior known as Aeneas and involves a variety of iconic actions in the rich history of Rome.
  • Another epic poet of the Roman Literature was Horace who is widely recognized for his lyric poems known as the Odes. Horace was also known for his other works such as the Epistles and Satires as well.
  • Roman Literature also showcases a wide range of historians who documented the origins of Rome. Among the most well-known Roman historians was Livy who was responsible for writing 142 chapters of history that documented everything starting from the formation of Ancient Rome up to the authority of Augustus.
  • Roman dictator Julius Caesar wrote a number of historical works which included the De Bello Gallico which is a story about his military crusades in Gaul.
  • The most common philosophical belief of Ancient Romans was stoicism. Stoicism educated Romans that the world was rational and well-ordered. It added that regardless of someone’s position and wealth, everyone should repeatedly seek for excellence in their respective fields.
  • Ovid was the last great poet of the Golden Age. He was most famous for his work known as the Metamorphoses and his love poems. Metamorphoses tell the story of the world from the beginning to the moment when Julius Caesar was recognized as a Roman God.
  • While Latin was the main language used in Roman Literature, Greek was also most common in other parts of Rome most especially in the eastern division of the Empire.
  • A huge part of Roman literature was influenced and inspired by Greek Literature.


What did You Learn?

  • Who is Cicero?
    Cicero is a Latin poet which was known to write letters, works on philosophy, and speeches. His ideas later got him killed when opposed the beliefs of Mark Antony.
  • When was the Golden Age of Roman Literature?
    Roman literature reached its Golden Age from the period 81 B.C. and 17 A.D. with the emergence of talented poets such as Cicero, Ovid, Virgil, and Horace.
  • How did the Golden Age of Roman Literature end?
    The Golden Age started with the first known speech by Cicero and ended following the death of Ovid.
  • What did the Romans write on?
    Ancient Roman Literature was predominantly written on parchment and papyrus scrolls.