Beyond Greek: The Beginnings of Latin Literature

Author: Denis Feeney
Publisher: Harvard University Press, 2016 (available January)

B_1_Feeney_Beyond_GreekVirgil, Ovid, Cicero, Horace and other authors of ancient Rome are so firmly established in the Western canon today that the birth of Latin literature seems inevitable. Yet, as Denis Feeney, the Giger Professor of Latin and professor of classics, boldly argues, the beginnings of Latin literature were anything but inevitable. The cultural flourishing that in time produced the Aeneid, the Metamorphoses, and other Latin classics was one of the strangest events in history.

Beyond Greek traces the emergence of Latin literature from 240 to 140 B.C., beginning with Roman stage productions of plays that represented the first translations of Greek literary texts into another language. From a modern perspective, translating foreign-language literature into the vernacular seems perfectly normal. But in an ancient Mediterranean world made up of many multilingual societies with no equivalent to the text-based literature of the Greeks, literary translation was unusual if not unprecedented. Feeney shows how it allowed the Romans to systematically take over Greek forms of tragedy, comedy and epic, making them their own and giving birth to what has become known as Latin literature.

All text and images courtesy of the publisher.

Download PDF