Skip to main content
Select Source:

Quintus Ennius

Quintus Ennius

Quintus Ennius (239-169 B.C.) was a Roman poet. Called the father of Latin poetry, he is most famous for his "Annales," a narrative poem relating the history of Rome.

Ennius was born at Rudiae in Calabria. He knew three languages or had, as he said, "three hearts": Oscan, his native tongue; Greek, in which he was educated, possibly at Tarentum; and Latin, which he learned as a centurion in the Roman army. While stationed at Sardinia during the Second Punic War, he met Cato the Elder, whom he taught Greek. Cato took him to Rome in 204 B.C.

At Rome, Ennius lived frugally on the Aventine. He supported himself at first by teaching Greek, then turned to adapting Greek tragedies and some comedies for the Roman stage, and he wrote poetry as well. He was a friend of prominent Romans of that time, especially Scipio Africanus and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior and his son Quintus, who gained for him Roman citizenship. Ennius knew the comic poet Caecilius Statius, and Pacuvius, the Roman dramatist, was his nephew.

Ennius was a very versatile poet although, according to Ovid, he possessed more genius than art. The remains of Ennius's works are fragmentary. Of the Annales, the most important part, some 600 lines or about one-fiftieth of the whole, remains. Some fragments are as long as 20 lines.

Naevius had written a historical epic before Ennius, but the special claim to greatness of his Annales is its meter, the hexameter. Henceforth, much of the greatest Latin poetry would use this meter. The poet's hexameters seem crude and clumsy beside Virgil's, often being heavily spondaic, ignoring caesuras and elisions, and carrying alliteration and assonance to extremes. Nevertheless, they can at times rise to a rugged and powerful dignity.

Euripides was a favorite model for Ennius in his adaptations of Greek tragedy. Of the 22 titles of plays known to be his, 3 are from extant tragedies of Euripides. Fragments of his tragedies number about 400 lines.

As a writer of comedy, Ennius was evidently less successful, for only two titles are known. Lesser works include Satires (Latin satura, medley), a work in varying meters on different topics, including criticism of morals and politics, and the first work of its kind; Epigrams; Hedyphagetica, or The Art of Dining; Epicharmus, a didactic poem on nature; and Euhemerus, a rationalization of Greek mythology.

Ennius's contribution to Roman culture was twofold. First, by adapting Greek tragedies he made Greek ideas current at Rome; and second, he had a direct influence on subsequent writers.

Ennius was of a convivial nature if Horace, who said he always composed in his cups, and Jerome, who said he died of gout, can be believed. He was writing until his death, and his version of the play Thyestes was produced the year he died.

Further Reading

A standard reference work on Ennius is The Tragedies of Ennius: The Fragments, edited by H. D. Jocelyn (1967), a comprehensive volume with a Latin text, full explanatory introduction, and extensive interpretative commentary. For more information on Ennius and his place in Latin literature see H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Latin Literature (1936; 3d ed. with a new bibliography, 1961), and Moses Hadas, A History of Latin Literature (1952). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Quintus Ennius." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Quintus Ennius." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/quintus-ennius

"Quintus Ennius." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved February 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/quintus-ennius

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ennius, Quintus

Quintus Ennius (kwĬn´təs ĕn´ēəs), 239–169? BC, Latin poet, regarded by the Romans as the father of Latin poetry, b. Calabria. His birthplace was the meeting point of three civilizations—Oscan, Greek, and Latin—and Ennius learned to speak the languages of these cultures. He served in Sardinia under Cato the Elder, who took him to Rome. Ennius lived there most of his life, teaching and writing. In 184 BC he was made a Roman citizen. His ambition was to be a Latin Homer, and his innovations proved important in the development of Latin poetry. He introduced the Latin quantitative hexameter and the elegiac couplet, smoothed the roughness of Latin diction, and gave to Latin poetry a definitive artistic base. A successful tragedian, he also wrote comedies, satires, and epigrams. Fragments amounting to some 400 lines survive from his tragedies, and about 600 lines remain from his masterpiece, the epic Annales, a literary history of Rome. Vergil, Lucretius, and Ovid borrowed freely from Ennius.

See H. D. Jocelyn, The Tragedies of Ennius (1967); R. A. Brooks, Ennius and Roman Tragedy (1981); O. Skutsch, The Annals of Quintus Ennius (1985).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ennius, Quintus." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ennius, Quintus." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ennius-quintus

"Ennius, Quintus." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved February 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ennius-quintus

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Ennius, Quintus

Ennius, Quintus (c.239–c.169 bc) Roman poet, sometimes known as the father of Latin poetry. He is best known for his epic history of Rome, Annales.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ennius, Quintus." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ennius, Quintus." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ennius-quintus

"Ennius, Quintus." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ennius-quintus

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.