Published: March 28, 2022

The Past in Fragments: Ennius’ Annals, Cato’s Origins, and the history of Rome

Professor Jackie Elliott

Wednesday, April 20, 7:00 p.m.
Hale Science Building Room 230

Free and Open to Public
Download Poster

Ennius's annals poster


The early Roman poet Ennius (239 – 169 BCE) and his contemporary, the statesman and censor Cato (234 – 149 BCE), each wrote groundbreaking accounts of the Roman past: Ennius by adapting the Greek hexameter— the meter in which Lucretius’ On the Constitution of the Universe, Vergil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and much else was subsequently to be written—and fitting to it an account of Roman history from its beginnings to his own present day. Cato’s narrative of the Roman past, the Origines (“Origins”), was the first prose history of Rome to be written in the Latin language. Each of these works had a profound influence on how Romans thought about the past in relation to their contemporary identity and on how that past was subsequently imagined in the genres of epic and historiography. Today, however, they each survive only in fragments: that is, as quotations or vaguer references relayed by later ancient authors, whose own dates stretch from the first century BCE to the ninth CE and even later. This talk describes some of the challenges and rewards of getting to grips with early Roman fragmentary material. 

Jackie ElliotJackie Elliott (Ph.D. Columbia 2005) studies the history of Roman literature from its inception, specializing in the epic and historiographical traditions of republican Rome. Her first monograph, Ennius and the Architecture of the Annales (Cambridge, 2013) retraces what we think we know of Rome’s first and massively influential but now fragmentary hexametric epic to its ancient sources. This study was reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement (4 June, 2014) and won several awards, including the Society for Classical Studies’ Goodwin Award. She is also the author of Early Latin Poetry (Leiden, 2022), an introduction to the fragmentary record of Roman poetry from its origins through roughly the first hundred and twenty years of its existence. She has received fellowships from the Humboldt Foundation, the American Academy at Rome, the Loeb Foundation, and has contributed articles to the Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, the Classical Quarterly, Histos, and the American Journal of Philology. Currently, she is working on a project on Cato’s Origines informed by exploration of the work’s early reception and transmission history; a commentary on the Annales with a literary bias and a focus on the text's ancient reception in later works of literature; and a project on the transmission and early reception of Lucilius.