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Livius Andronicus, Lucius


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A freedman of the Livii, commonly held to be the first to compose poems of the Greek type in Latin. He produced a comedy and a tragedy at the Ludi Romani of 240 bc and wrote the text of a hymn to Juno sung by 27 young women at a moment of crisis in 207. Ancient biographers presented him as a half‐Greek from Tarentum who provided grammatical instruction in both Greek and Latin for the children of Livius Salinator (consul 207) and other aristocrats, and who played roles in the stage plays he composed. His prestige persuaded the Roman authorities to permit actors and stage‐poets to assemble for religious purposes in the Aventine temple of Minerva.

Twenty‐one fragments of his translation of Homer's Odyssey in Saturnian verses are unambiguously transmitted. Livius ignored the 24‐book division introduced at Alexandria. He seems to have kept fairly close to the general wording of the Homeric text but gave both the gods and the heroes (e.g. Odysseus = Ulixes) local names and took account of the differences between Roman and Greek notions of story‐telling. Conceptions shocking to Roman ears were toned down (e.g. Patroclus, ‘counsellor equal to the gods’, became ‘first‐rate leading man’). Undignified reactions to external events were replaced (e.g. ‘Odysseus' knees were loosened’ became ‘Ulysses' heart froze’).

Cicero thought little of either the Odyssey translation or the plays. An eminent schoolmaster of the middle of the 1st cent. bc, Orbilius, nevertheless beat the former into the heads of his charges.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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