Skip to content

Latin Literature in translation


The Loeb Classical Timeline

Virgil (Publius Virgilius Maro): 70BC-19BC

Origins (Wm Smith text)

Introductory — approaching The Aeneid

Etruscans to Livius Andronicus and Old Latin lit

Preview of Aeneid: Introduction to Virgil, The Aeneid (John Cox)

Reading/lecture: Vergil’s Aeneid: A Homeric Dichotomy? (David Dysert)

Reading/lecture: Homeric Poetics and the Aeneid (C Dozier)

Reading/lecture: The Nature of the Aeneid (D. Mendelsohn)

The Aeneid (Dryden) full text  (Fitzgerald trans)

The Latin Epic

Reading: Hall: The Reception of Ancient Greek

Literature and Western Identity

Principal etext: The Aeneid (Fitzgerald trans).

Background to the Aeneid:

By now, nothing in this video should be new to you:

TBA: Reading the Aeneid.

Read to Aeneid, Book 7.

Style and structure of the Aeneid, with useful links.

TBA: Aeneid 1-6

Notes: Prophecies in the Aeneid

TBA Aeneid 1-6

TBA: Aeneid 7-12

TBA: Aeneid summary

The Didache (etext)

After reading the Aeneid:

Principal etext: The Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius (Seaton)

Argonautica: synopsis and commentary

Virgil: Georgics

“Myth and Poetry in Lucretius” (Monica Gale; excerpt)

“War and Peace in Lucretius and the Georgics” (Monica Gale; full text)

Virgil on De Rerum Natura (M. Gale, excerpt)

Aeneid and “remytholigization” (Cambridge Classics)

A.N Wilson on Latin translations of Virgil (Telegraph)

Livy and history as literature: History of Rome (etext of Ab Urbe Condita; written between 27-9 BC).


Introduction: Ovid and His Influence (Rand)

Ehoiai or Catalogue of Women (See in Wikipedia; also related critical comment in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

The influence on Ovid of Hesiod, the most important archaic Greek poet after Homer, has been underestimated. Yet…a profound engagement with Hesiod’s themes is central to Ovid’s poetic world. As a poet who praised women instead of men and opted for stylistic delicacy instead of epic grandeur, Hesiod is always contrasted with Homer. Ovid revives this epic rivalry by setting the Hesiodic character of his Metamorphoses against the Homeric character of Virgil’s Aeneid. (Notes to Ovid and Hesiod: The Metamorphosis of the Catalogue of Women, by I. Ziogas [CUP])

Hesiod’s ‘Catalogue‘ (etext)

Further background: ‘The subject of my dissertation [Hesiod in Ovid] is Ovid’s intertextual engagement with the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (aka the Ehoiai). I examine the Hesiodic character of Ovid’s work, focusing mainly on the Metamorphoses and Heroides 16-17. The Metamorphoses begins with Chaos and moves on to the loves of the gods, reiterating the transition from the Theogony to the Catalogue. Divine passions for beautiful maidens constitute a recurring motif in the Metamorphoses, establishing the importance of the erotic element in Ovid’s hexameter poem and referring to the main topic of the Ehoiai (fr. 1.1-5 M-W). The first five books of Ovid’s epic follow the descendants of the river-god Inachus, beginning with Jupiter’s rape of Io and reaching forward to Perseus, and the stemma of the Inachids features prominently in the Hesiodic Catalogue (fr. 122-59 M-W). As a whole, the Metamorphoses delineates the genealogies of the major Greek tribes (Inachids, Thebans, Athenians), and includes the Trojans, the only non-Greek genealogies of the Catalogue, which were dealt with in the last part of Hesiod’s work. Ovid’s foray into the Hesiodic corpus gives us a new perspective to interpreting his aemulatio of Vergil. While the Aeneid marks Vergil’s literary ascent- within the Homeric epics- from the Odyssey to the Iliad, the Metamorphoses draws a trajectory from the Theogony to the Catalogue of Women. Ovid’s hexameter poem is the response to Vergil’s Aeneid, and the Metamorphoses pits Vergil’s Homeric epic against the Hesiodic character of Ovid’s work. Thus, the ancient competition between Homer and Hesiod is revived and recast for a Roman readership. By employing the interpretive tools of intertextuality, narratology, as well as genre and gender theory, I read a number of episodes from Ovid’s corpus against the backdrop of Hesiod’s Ehoiai. It is my contention that the Hesiodic character of Ovid’s work invites the readers to trace and interpret intertextual references to the Catalogue. Although the main focus of this study is Ovid, I also examine what Ovid’s use of Hesiod can tell us about the Catalogue. Focusing mainly on the intergeneric discourse between Hesiodic and Homeric epic, I reassess the use of epic diction in the Catalogue and the juxtaposition between the male-oriented arena of Homeric epic and the female-oriented program of the Ehoiai.’ — I. Ziogas

Metamorphoses Text (Dryden)

Amores text selections

Introductory comments:

Further (J. Bate):

Reading: An introduction to the poetry of Catullus (Poetry Foundation)

Reading: Plautus to Terence to Cicero (Sanderson Beck)


Remains of Old Latin (Warmington text)




  • Annals (Church and Brodribb, via MIT)
  • Histories (Church and Brodribb, via MIT)
  • The University of Chicago hosts a less-error-prone version of Tacitus here (Annals and Histories with a robust intro).

Studium assignment for February 2019 (Tacitus):

Read Book One. Be attentive to the first 12 paragraphs and the speech by Galba — of the Histories (the MIT page has errors). Pay especially close attention to the rhetorical devices employed and Tacitus’ skill in character-building, scene -setting and tone/voice. You should also listen to Book 1 of the Histories on Librivox:
Look for examples of irony, parallel construction, and other narrative inventions.

Video: Prof Rhiannon Ash (Fellow and Tutor in Classics, Merton College Oxford) on Tacitus’s historical method:

Lucretius: De Rerum Natura (Leonard trans). Pedagogical literature.


Lucretius: Background (Santayana)

Lucretius: Background (Stanford)

Lucretius: Background (Minyard)


Background: Cicero’s Religious Beliefs. (Hooper via JSTOR pdf)

Background:  Allusions to Monotheism and Henotheism in Book II, Nature of the Gods (Gamlath, .pdf)                                      

Letters to Atticus (vol 1)

First speech against Cataline (Cataline Conspiracy)

Res publica (portions; “Commonwealth”); treatises

Stoicism (Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the Younger):

Animated survey (M Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus):

Stoicism: study guide (Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius)

Text: Hazlitt, The Wisdom of the Stoics (pdf with excerpts from Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius)

Background: Seneca (New Yorker; pdf)

Background: On Letters from a Stoic (Medium introductory essay)

The Stoic philosophy was founded by Zeno, a Phoenician (c. 320 – c. 250 B.C.), but nothing by him has come down to us except a few fragmentary quotations. He was followed by Cleanthes, then by Chrysippus, and still later by Panaetius and Posidonus. But though Chrysippus, for example, is said to have written 705 books, practically nothing is extant by any of these philosophers except in second-hand accounts. Only three of the ancient Stoics, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, survive in complete books…There has been much dispute among critics as to which of the three great Stoics was the best writer; but most present-day readers will be content to relish their variety. Seneca has the most copius vocabulary, is the richest in aphorisms, writes the most finished prose, and appeals by his strong and consistent common sense. Epictetus (as transcribed by Arrian) is the wittiest and most humorous, but also the most harshly uncompromising, and while he always keeps his reader awake, he also tends to put him off by his apparent coldness. Marcus lacks some of the gifts of either of his predecessors, but writes with a nobility and sincerity that has few equals in the whole realm of literature. (Hazlitt, intro)

Medea (Miller trans)

Oedipus (Miller trans)

Apocolocyntosis (attributed; Rouse trans)

Of a Happy Life and other works (l’Estrange trans)


Background: Epictetus – A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life (AA Long; pdf; the intro,  if for background only)

The Enchiridion (Higginson trans); The Enchiridion (Carter trans)

Discourses (text here; animation below):

Marcus Aurelius: Meditations (Chrystal; etext)

Intro to Augustine: ‘Augustine took the worst of St Paul and Calvin took the worst of St Augustine.’ (Harry Williams)

Background: Augustine’s Debt to Stoicism in The Confessions. (Byers pdf). Excerpt:

Augustine’s debt to Stoic psychological and ethical theory was considerable, even when he sought to improve upon the Stoics’ account of the human condition. This is clear from the Confessions, where he employs concepts of self-affiliation, self-perception, sociability, maturation and ethical reasoning that he found in his Stoic sources. While thus believing that the Stoics’ basic account of humans as rational social animals was sound, Augustine thought that their failure to see that we are born dysfunctional was naive (De civ. D. 19.4), and consequently he developed his own account of natural human goodness marred by inherited woundedness. But he articulated this in terms of the psychological framework he found in his Stoic sources. Accordingly he exploited Stoic psychology to move beyond the mythical Manichean explanation for the disorders that he noticed within himself and in society (Conf. 5.10.18), replacing that with an account of self-awareness and impulse skewed by psychosomatic damage. It is in his philosophical autobiography [Confessions] that Augustine most thoroughly articulated this revised Stoic anthropology, using it to understand his youthful self-perceptions, desires, successes and failures.

In De civitate dei 19.4 Augustine ‘enters’ into Stoic virtue theory and criticises it from its own postulates, illustrating the striking implausibility of Stoic orthodoxy when lived out in concreto and the absurd, but logical, conclusions to which one is necessarily carried by Stoic ethics. Through this deconstruction, Augustine clears a space to propose his own virtue ethic. Augustine maintains that a Stoic virtue ethic fails to deliver on its promised eudaimonistic ends because it lacks a robust eschatological vision. For Augustine, the Christian faith offers a more viable virtue ethic. See Perception, Sensibility, and Moral Motivation in Augustine (a review of Byers).

Course text: St Augustine: Confessions (Pusey trans).

Paul Freedman (Yale) on the Confessions:


Introduction to St Augustine’s Confessions (Jas O’Donnell-Georgetown)

Cicero, Augustine, and the Philosophical Roots of the Cassiciacum Dialogues (Michael Foley, Sorbonne)

Oberst: The Aeneid in the Confessions (pdf)

Bennett: The Conversion of Vergil (pdf)

 Stern-Gillet: Consciousness and Introspection in Plotinus and Augustine  (pdf)

Note: ‘A very powerful case has been made out for the influence of the Platonism of Plotinus upon Saint Augustine. From the Manichaean simple solution of the problem of evil Augustine was delivered by reading the Neo-Platonists and especially Plotinus. It was Plotinus who convinced him that God was a spirit, not a luminous body, and he always remained grateful for this deliverance from the crude fantasies of the Manichaeans. In the two years before his conversion when he was receiving a deeper penetration into Christianity through the sermons of St. Ambrose, he came to know of Plotinus in a very few treatises of the Enneads (certainly 1/6 “On the Beautiful” and quite probably V/1 “On the Three Chief Hypostases”) in the Latin translation of Marius Victorinus. St. Ambrose made a determined effort to apply the principles of Plotinus’ philosophy to the clarification of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as against the Arians. The results of such an attempt might not be theologically satisfying but they are interesting. This impact of the mind of Plotinus upon the mind of Augustine was a decisive one because Augustine found a very great area of agreement between the teaching of Plotinus and that of the Scriptures as expounded by St. Ambrose, above all the Gospel of St. John.’ (Wasner: “The Trinitarian Theology of Augustine and His Debt to Plotinus”, Harvard Theological Review.)

AF Holmes (Wheaton) on Augustine and Neoplatonism:

W. R. Inge: The Permanent Influence of Neoplatonism upon Christianity



Background: Boethius and music. From De Institutione Musica:

‘Now sight is present in all mortals. But whether we see by images coming to the eye or by rays sent out from the eye to the object seen, this problem is in doubt to the learned, although the common man is not conscious of doubt. Again if someone sees a triangle or square, he can easily identify it by sight. But what is the essence of a triangle or a square? This he must team from a mathematician.

‘The same thing can be said of the other senses, especially concerning aural perception. For the sense of hearing can apprehend sounds in such a way that it not only judges them and recognizes their differences, but it very often takes pleasure in them if they are in the form of sweet and well-ordered modes, whereas it finds displeasure if the sounds heard are unordered and incoherent. Thus it follows that, since there are four mathematical disciplines, the others are concerned with the investigation of truth, whereas music is related not only to speculation but to morality as well. For nothing is more consistent with human nature than to be soothed by sweet modes and disturbed by their opposites. And this affective quality of music is not peculiar to certain professions or ages, but it is common to all professions; and infants, youths and old people as well are so naturally attuned to the musical modes by a certain spontaneous affection that there is no age at all that is not delighted by sweet song. Thus we can begin to understand that apt doctrine of Plato which holds that the soul of the universe is united by a musical concord (Plato Timaeus 37 A). For when we compare that which is coherently and harmoniously joined together in sound-that is, that which gives us pleasure-so we come to recognize that we ourselves are united according to this same principle of similarity. For similarity is pleasing, whereas dissimilarity is unpleasant and contrary.

‘From this same principle radical changes in one’s character also occur. A lascivious mind takes pleasure in the more lascivious modes or is often softened and moved upon hearing them. On the other hand, a more violent mind finds pleasure in the more exciting modes or will become excited when it hears them. This is the reason that the musical modes were named after certain peoples, such as the “Lydian” mode, and the ‘Thrygian” mode; for the modes are named after the people that find pleasure in them. A people will find pleasure in a mode resembling its own character, and thus a sensitive people cannot be united by or find pleasure in a severe mode, nor a severe people in a sensitive mode. But, as has been said, similarity causes love and pleasure. Thus Plato held that we should be extremely cautious in this matter, lest some change in music of good moral character should occur. He also said that there is no greater ruin for the morals of a community than the gradual perversion of a prudent and modest music. For the minds of those hearing the perverted music immediately submit to it, little by little depart from their character, and retain no vestige of justice or honesty. This will occur if either the lascivious modes bring something immodest into the minds of the people or if the more violent modes implant something warlike and savage.

‘For there is no greater path whereby instruction comes to the mind than through the ear…’

Consolation of Philosophy (etext) (H.R. James, trans)

From the Proem (in James): Anicus Manlius Severinus Boethius lived in the last quarter of the fifth century A.D., and the first quarter of the sixth. He was growing to manhood, when Theodoric, the famous Ostrogoth, crossed the Alps and made himself master of Italy. Boethius belonged to an ancient family, which boasted a connection with the legendary glories of the Republic, and was still among the foremost in wealth and dignity in the days of Rome’s abasement. His parents dying early, he was brought up by Symmachus, whom the age agreed to regard as of almost saintly character, and afterwards became his son-in-law. His varied gifts, aided by an excellent education, won for him the reputation of the most accomplished man of his time. He was orator, poet, musician, philosopher. It is his peculiar distinction to have handed on to the Middle Ages the tradition of Greek philosophy by his Latin translations of the works of Aristotle. Called early to a public career, the highest honours of the State came to him unsought. He was sole Consul in 510 A.D., and was ultimately raised by Theodoric to the dignity of Magister Officiorum, or head of the whole civil administration. He was no less happy in his domestic life, in the virtues of his wife, Rusticiana, and the fair promise of his two sons, Symmachus and Boethius; happy also in the society of a refined circle of friends. Noble, wealthy, accomplished, universally esteemed for his virtues, high in the favour of the Gothic King, he appeared to all men a signal example of the union of merit and good fortune. His felicity seemed to culminate in the year 522 A.D., when, by special and extraordinary favour, his two sons, young as they were for so exalted an honour, were created joint Consuls and rode to the senate-houseattended by a throng of senators, and the acclamations of the multitude. Boethius himself, amid the general applause, delivered the public speech in the King’s honour usual on such occasions. Within a year he was a solitary prisoner at Pavia, stripped of honours, wealth, and friends, with death hanging over him, and a terror worse than death, in the fear lest those dearest to him should be involved in the worst results of his downfall. It is in this situation that the opening of the ‘Consolation of Philosophy’ brings Boethius before us. He represents himself as seated in his prison distraught with grief, indignant at the injustice of his misfortunes, and seeking relief for his melancholy in writing verses descriptive of his condition. Suddenly there appears to him the Divine figure of Philosophy, in the guise of a woman of superhuman dignity and beauty, who by a succession of discourses convinces him of the vanity of regret for the lost gifts of fortune, raises his mind once more to the contemplation of the true good, and makes clear to him the mystery of the world’s moral government.

Boethius and Aquinas (McInerny; etext)

From the preface: That Boethius,  “the last of the Romans and the first of the Scholastics,” should have influenced Thomas Aquinas has nothing distinctive about it: the same can be said of the vast majority of medieval masters. But there is more in the case of Thomas. It is the rare theologian who does not invoke Boethius’s definition of person and eternity, thereby exhibiting acquaintance, however secondhand, with the Consolation of Philosophy and the theological tractates. Thomas’s affinity with Boethius is manifold. For one thing, unlike other theologians, he commented [see] on works of Aristotle, among them On Interpretation, in the course of which he cites Boethius’s comments, often to take exception to them. Nonetheless, his own massive effort in commenting on Aristotle owes much to techniques Boethius had passed on to the Latin West. More important, Thomas commented on two of Boethius’s theological tractates, De trinitate (incomplete) and De hebdomadibus.

Literature of Late Antiquity & Early Medieval period.–>


Assessment :

Mini-exams, 2,000 word Term paper and 2-hour written examination.

The Loeb Classical Timeline

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *