NAEVIUS

This article was originally published in A Short History of the Drama. Martha Fletcher Bellinger. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1927. p. 80.

ONE of the earliest of the Latin dramatists was Naevius, an Italian though probably not a Roman citizen. He made translations from the Greek, both of tragedy and comedy. At least two of his plays, however, were built upon historical events connected with Rome. Plays of this sort, with the theme taken from Roman history but composed in Greek form, were called praetextae or togatae, in distinction to the palliatae, which were Greek plots translated or freely adapted into Latin. Naevius considered himself, probably with some justice, a champion of the native modes of thought. His works continued to be popular for centuries after his death; but his voice was almost the only one lifted up on support of the native style and subjects. If, at that time, there had risen other poets bold enough to throw off the fast tightening bonds of Greek influence, perhaps Rome would have had a drama expressive of her own life. However, no such poet appeared.

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