(/ˈkwɪntəs ˈɛniəs/; c. 239 – c. 169 BC) was a
writer and poet who lived during the Roman Republic. He is often
considered the father of Roman poetry. He was born in Rudiae,
formerly a small town located near modern
in the heel of Italy
(ancient Calabria, today Salento), and could speak Oscan as well as
and Greek. Although only fragments of his works survive, his
was significant, particularly in his use
of Greek literary models.
3 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
Very little is reliably known about the life of Ennius. His
contemporaries hardly mentioned him and much that is related about him
could have been embroidered from references to himself in his now
fragmentary writings. Some lines of the Annales, as well as ancient
testimonies, for example, suggest that
Ennius opened his epic with a
recollection of a dream in which the ancient epic-writer Homer
informed him that his spirit had been reborn into Ennius. It is
true that the doctrine of the transmigration of souls once flourished
in the areas of Italy settled by Greeks, but the statement might have
been no more than a literary flourish.
Ennius seems to have been given
to making large claims, as in the report by Maurus
that he claimed descent from Messapus, the legendary king of his
native district. The partly Hellenised city of Rudiae, his place of
birth, was certainly in the area settled by the Messapians. And this,
he used to say, according to Aulus Gellius, had endowed him with a
triple linguistic and cultural heritage, fancifully described as
"three hearts… Greek, Oscan and Latin”.
The public career of
Ennius first really emerges in middle life, when
he was serving in the army with the rank of centurion during the
Second Punic War. While in
Sardinia in the year 204 BC, he is said to
have attracted the attention of
Cato the Elder
Cato the Elder and was taken by him to
Rome. There he taught Greek and adapted Greek plays for a livelihood,
and by his poetical compositions gained the friendship of some of the
greatest men in
Rome whose achievements he praised. Amongst these were
Scipio Africanus and Fulvius Nobilior, whom he accompanied on his
Aetolian campaign (189). Afterwards he made the capture of Ambracia,
at which he was present, the subject of a play and of an episode in
the Annales. It was through the influence of Nobilior's son Quintus
Ennius subsequently obtained Roman citizenship. But he himself
lived plainly and simply in the literary quarter on the Aventine Hill
with the poet Caecilius Statius, a fellow adapter of Greek plays.
At about the age of 70
Ennius died, immediately after producing his
tragedy Thyestes. In the last book of his epic poem, in which he seems
to have given various details of his personal history, he mentioned
that he was in his 67th year at the date of its composition. He
compared himself, in contemplation of the close of the great work of
his life, to a gallant horse which, after having often won the prize
at the Olympic Games, obtained his rest when weary with age. A similar
feeling of pride at the completion of a great career is expressed in
the memorial lines which he composed to be placed under his bust after
death: “Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with
mourning; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of
Ennius continued the nascent literary tradition by writing plays in
Greek and Roman style (praetextae and palliatae), as well as his most
famous work, a historic epic in hexameters called the Annales. Other
minor works include the Epicharmus, the Euhemerus, the Hedyphagetica,
The Epicharmus presented an account of the gods and the physical
operations of the universe. In it, the poet dreamed he had been
transported after death to some place of heavenly enlightenment.
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
The Hedyphagetica took much of its substance from the gastronomical
Archestratus of Gela. The eleven extant hexameters have
prosodical features avoided in the more serious Annales.
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
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
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
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
^ Smith, William (1852), "Rudiae", A Smaller Classical Dictionary,
London : "
Rudiae is celebrated as the birthplace of Ennius"
^ E. Badian, “
Ennius and his Friends” in Ennius, Fondation Hardt,
Geneva 1972, pp.149-99
^ Aicher, Peter (Summer 1989). "Ennius' Dream of Homer". The American
Journal of Philology. 110 (2): 227–232. JSTOR 295173.
^ Commentary on the Aeneid, vii. 691
^ Noctes Atticae 17.17.1
^ Most of this section is drawn from the 1911 edition of the
Latin Literature Study Guide" (PDF). Florida Junior Classical
League. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
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 classica, 40).
Warmington, E. H. (1935).
Ennius (Q. Ennius). Remains of Old Latin.
Edited by Eric Herbert Warmington. Vol. 2:
Ennius and Caecilius.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Library resources about
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Aicher, P. (1989). Ennius' Dream of Homer. The American Journal of
Philology, 110(2), 227-232.
Bettini, M. (1979). Studi e note su Ennio. Pisa: Giardini.
Brooks, R. A. (1981).
Ennius and Roman Tragedy. New York: Arno Press.
Elliott, J. (2009). Ennius' 'Cunctator' and the History of a Gerund in
the Roman Historiographical Tradition. The Classical Quarterly, 59(2),
Elliott, J. (2010). "
Ennius as Universal Historian: The Case of the
Annales." Historiae Mundi: Studies in Universal History. Ed. Peter
Liddel and Andrew Fear. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 148–161.
Evans, R.L.S. (1999). "Ennius". In Briggs, Ward. Ancient Roman
Writers. Dictionary of Literary Biography. 211.
Fisher, J. (2014). The 'Annals' of Quintus
Ennius and the Italic
Tradition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Fitzgerald, W., and Emily Gowers, eds. (2007).
Ennius Perennis. The
Annals and Beyond. Proceedings of the Cambridge Philolological
Society, Supplementary Volume 31. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Goldberg, S. M. (1995). Epic in Republican Rome. New York: Oxford
University Press. ISBN 0-19-509372-0.
Goldberg, S. (1989). Poetry, Politics, and Ennius. Transactions of the
American Philological Association 119: 247–261.
Goldschmidt, N. (2012). Absent Presence: Pater
Ennius in Renaissance
Europe, Classical Receptions Journal, 4(1), 1–19.
Goldschmidt, N. (2013). Shaggy Crowns: Ennius' Annales and Virgil's
Aeneid. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jocelyn, H. D.
Ennius (Q. Ennius). (1967). The Tragedies of Ennius:
The Fragments. Edited by Henry David Jocelyn. Cambridge: Cambridge
Jocelyn, H. D. (1972). The Poems of Quintus Ennius. Aufstieg und
Niedergang der Römischen Welt 1.2. Edited by Hildegard Temporini,
Morgan, L. (2014). A Metrical Scandal in Ennius. The Classical
Quarterly, 64(1), 152–159. Cambridge University Press.
Sciarrino, E. (2006). The Introduction of Epic in Rome: Cultural
Thefts and Social Contests. Arethusa 39: 449–469.
Skutsch, O. (1968). Studia Enniana. London: Athlone.
Ennius (Q. Ennius). (1985). The Annals of Q. Ennius.
Quotations related to
Ennius at Wikiquote
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
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
Remains of old latin. Vol. 1: Aennius and Caecilius, E. H. Warmington
(a cura di), Cambridge-London, 1935, pagg. 1-465.
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