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date: 02 February 2023

metre, Latinlocked

metre, Latinlocked

  • Jonathan G. F. Powell


The history of Latin versification falls into three broad stages.(a) The so-called *Saturnian was apparently a native Latin verse-form without a Greek equivalent, used in the earliest recorded Latin epic poetry (see *Livius Andronicus and *Naevius) and in inscriptions (esp. funerary). It went out of use in the 2nd cent. bc. Certain early religious or magical formulae (carmina, lit. ‘songs’: see *carmen) appear to be in related verse-forms; an example is the Arval hymn (see *Carmen arvale).(b) In the ‘classical’ period of Latin literature, verse was composed in quantitative metres identifiable with existing Greek metres (see *metre, Greek). The adoption, with minor modifications, of Greek metrical practices was possible only because of pre-existing similarities in the phonological structure of the two languages (see section 2 below); for one major difference, see section 3 below.There were in fact two distinct transferences of Greek metre into Latin: first, the importation of dramatic metres, which apparently started with Livius Andronicus in 240 bc; these metres are found in the surviving comedies of *Plautus and *Terence and in the fragments of Republican drama (see *comedy, Latin; *tragedy, Latin; section 4 below).


  • Latin Literature

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