Gnaeus Naevius

(c. 270—201 bc)

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Stage poet of Campanian birth (see campania). He saw military service in the last years of the First Punic War. His theatrical career began in 235 and was over by 204. Many stories were told of the insulting remarks he made about men of the nobility from the stage or in other contexts.

Titles of 32 plays on themes of the Attic ‘New’ Comedy (see comedy (greek), new) are transmitted. Acc. to Terence, Naevius was one of those who set a precedent for treating an Attic model with some liberty. He put both dialogues and monologues into musically accompanied metres of the type used by his contemporary Plautus. On occasion he made his Greek characters allude to features of Italian life. Six titles suggest tragedies of the Attic type. Naevius also composed original tragedies.

Only one of the plays survived into the 1st‐cent. bc stage repertoire. A narrative poem in Saturnian verses concerning the First Punic War lasted longer. Naevius claimed inspiration by the Camenae and used a metrical and verbal style hard now to distinguish from that of Livius Andronicus' translation of Homer's Odyssey. Despite strong criticism by Ennius, Naevius' poem continued to find readers in the 1st cent. bc.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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