Llewelyn Morgan

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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The fundamental effect of metre on language is to organise and regulate it; and language so structured automatically rises in status, gaining a heightened, even ritualistic character purely by virtue of the artificial patterns it is obliged to obey. What precisely is ‘measured’ by ‘metre’ varies. It may be the number of syllables, or the number of accentual stresses; it may be a combination of the two. Accentual stress had a role to play in Roman poetry, and there was also an element of syllable counting, seemingly inherited from the syllabic metres of the Indo-Europeans, the ancient common source of Greek, Roman, Indian, and other metrical systems. No other Roman poetry had quite so combative a relationship with its own metre as satire, but it could still be argued that Rome was never entirely at ease with its Greek metres. Metre is absolutely central to Horace's characterisation of Pindar and of himself.

Keywords: Rome; metre; syllables; Roman poetry; language; accentual stress; satire; Horace; Pindar

Article.  7392 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Poetry ; Classical Literature

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