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Ennius, Quintus (239–169 B.C.) poet, playwright. Encyclopedia of World Writers, Beginnings To 20th Century

Considered the first of the great Latin poets, Quintus
Ennius is often referred to as the father of
Roman poetry.His writings were the first examples
of EPIC and tragic poetry to be written in the Latin
language, and his influence touched almost every
Latin writer who came after him.
Ennius was born in the town of Rudiae, southern
Italy, in a region where Greek and Latin culture
came together. His education provided a healthy
mixture of Greek and Roman influences. While
serving in the Roman army during the Second
Punic War, his poetry was discovered by the Roman
politician Cato the Elder, who brought Ennius to
live in Rome. After settling down in the capital, Ennius
pursued his literary ambitions by writing poetry
and plays, both tragic and comic. Although he
supplemented his income by working as a teacher
and translator, and despite his numerous connections
with noble Romans, he lived in poverty.
Unfortunately, only fragments of Ennius’s
works survive. It is known that he wrote at least 20
plays, many in honor of mythological heroes such
as Ajax and Achilles. He also wrote a poem in
honor of Scipio Africanus, the great Roman hero
of the Second Punic War.He is most remembered,
however, for the Annals, a history of Rome in the
form of an epic poem. It covers the entire history
of Rome from its legendary foundation by Romulus
to the defeat of Hannibal, but only 550 lines of
the epic survive today. Its popularity during Ennius’s
time may have been due as much to its patriotic
vision of Rome’s destiny as to Ennius’s metrical
use of language, specifically the hexameter,
and other poetic devices and forms that he borrowed
from Greek literature.
Ennius set the standard of Latin literature for
many years. His work combines Greek and Latin
influences, which has greatly affected Latin literature
throughout its existence. The work of many of
the great Roman writers of later centuries, particularly
VIRGIL and LUCRETIUS, would be profoundly
shaped by Ennius’s earlier writings.
English Versions of Works by
Quintus Ennius
Annals of Quintus Ennius. Edited by Otto Skutch.Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1985.
The Tragedies of Ennius: The Fragments. Edited by H.
D. Jocelyn. London: Cambridge University Press,
1967.
A Work about Quintus Ennius
Conte, Gian Biagio. “Ennius” in Latin Literature: A
History. Translated by Joseph B. Solodow. Baltimore,
Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999,
75–84.

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