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The history of Roman literature begins around the 3rd century BC. It reached its "Golden Age" during the rule of Augustus and the early part of the Roman Empire. The Romans wrote a lot of poetry and history. They also wrote letters and made a lot of formal speeches.
What language did they use?
Latin was the main language used for writing during AncientRome. Greek was also a popular language because it was used by so many people in the eastern portion of the Roman empire.
What did the Romans write on?
Important documents were written on papyrus scrolls (made from the papyrus plant in Egypt) or on parchment (pages made from animal skin). They wrote with a metal pin that they dipped in ink. For more temporary day-to-day writing they used a wax tablet or thin pieces of wood.
The Poet Virgil by Unknown
Perhaps the most famous type of Roman literature is poetry. The three most famous Roman poets are Virgil, Horace, and Ovid.
Virgil (70 BC to 19 BC) - Virgil is known for writing the epic poem the Aeneid. The Aeneid tells the story of a Trojan hero named Aeneas. It incorporates many historic events in the history of Rome.
Horace (65 BC 8 BC) - Horace is known for a collection of lyric poems called the Odes. Other works of Horace include Satires and Epistles.
Ovid (43 BC to 17 AD) - Ovid's most famous work was the epic Metamorphoses. It tells the history of the world from creation to when Julius Caesar was made a god. Ovid was also famous for writing love poems.
Speeches and Rhetoric
The art of rhetoric (the ability to speak in public and persuade others) was considered an important skill in AncientRome. Many Roman statesmen wrote down their ideas and speeches. The writings of some of these men had a major impact on the use of the Latin language and Roman literature. The most famous of these men was Cicero who wrote letters, speeches, and works on philosophy. Cicero's ideas eventually got him killed when he spoke out against Mark Antony.
Roman literature also includes many writers who recorded the history of Rome. The most famous Roman historian was Livy. Livy wrote 142 volumes of history that covered events from the founding of Rome up to the reign of Augustus. Other important historians include Pliny the Elder, Sallust, Tacitus, and Quintus Fabius Pictor.
After conquering the Greeks, the Romans became interested in philosophy. The most popular school of philosophy with the Romans was stoicism. Stoicism taught that the universe was very ordered and rational. It said that everyone, regardless of their wealth and position, should always try to do their best. These ideas appealed to the Romans. Famous Roman philosophers include Seneca, Cicero, and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
The Romans are famous for keeping lots of written records. It was how they kept their large empire so organized. They had records on every Roman citizen including things like age, marriages, and military service. They also kept written records of wills, legal trials, and all the laws and decrees made by the government.
Interesting Facts About the Literature of AncientRome
Julius Caesar wrote some historical works including the De Bello Gallico, which told the story of his military campaigns of Gaul.
Much of Roman literature was influenced and inspired by Greek literature.
It is said that the philosophical writings of Cicero influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States.
One of the most important Roman writings on stoic philosophy, Meditations, was written by Emperor Marcus Aurelius.