Robert A. Kaster

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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Most examples of what we consider Roman scholarship could no more claim ‘literary’ status than their modern counterparts: ‘sub-literary’ or (more neutrally) ‘non-literary’ is the label most aptly applied to both. This article deals with scholarship that comprises writings meant to preserve or elucidate Roman cultural memory in non-narrative, non-mimetic form, with a commitment to the truth. In sketching the origins of Roman grammatica – the scholarly study, and teaching, of language and literature – the biographer Suetonius famously delivers some hard-and-fast judgements. These judgements are neither wholly reliable (especially where the direct influence of Crates is concerned) nor entirely fair; in particular, they rather understate the skill and literary sophistication that both Livius Andronicus and Ennius brought to their own work. On the other hand, most of the men whose lives Suetonius recounts as teachers and scholars passed through slavery, a fact that significantly distinguishes the figures we meet at Rome from their counterparts in Greek culture.

Keywords: Roman scholarship; cultural memory; grammatica; language; literature; Suetonius; Livius Andronicus; Ennius; Rome; culture

Article.  6078 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical History

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