Cato the Censor and the Beginnings of Latin Prose

From Poetic Translation to Elite Transcription

Enrica Sciarrino


Literary Criticism/Ancient & Classical
239 pp. 6x9

$35.95 paper 978-0-8142-5684-8
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The author recommends the following links:

Opere di Marco Porcio Catone censore

The Annals of Quintus Ennius, edited by Otto Skutsch

The Fragmentary Latin Poets, Revised Edition, edited with commentary by Edward Courtney


“This book has a broader vision than most studies of early Roman literature. The very fact of combining prose and poetry in the same book—and that means not only between two covers, but in the frame of a coherent methodology and critical argument—is a breakthrough.” —Alessandro Barchiesi, professor of Latin, University of Siena at Arezzo, and Gesue and Helen Spogli Professor of Italian Studies, Stanford University

In the past decade, classical scholarship has been polarized by questions concerning the establishment of a literary tradition in Latin in the late third century BCE. On one side of the divide, there are those scholars who insist on the primacy of literature as a hermeneutical category and who, consequently, maintain a focus on poetic texts and their relationship with Hellenistic precedents. On the other side are those who prefer to rely on a pool of Latin terms as pointers to larger sociohistorical dynamics, and who see the emergence of Latin literature as one expression of these dynamics. Through a methodologically innovative exploration of the interlacing of genre and form with practice, Enrica Sciarrino bridges the gap between these two scholarly camps and develops new areas of inquiry by rescuing from the margins of scholarship the earliest remnants of Latin prose associated with Cato the Censor—a “new man” and one of the most influential politicians of his day. By systematically analyzing poetic and prose texts in relation to one another and to diverse authorial subjectivities, Cato the Censor and the Beginnings of Latin Prose: From Poetic Translation to Elite Transcription offers an entirely new perspective on the formation of Latin literature, challenges current assumptions about Roman cultural hierarchies, and sheds light on the social value attributed to different types of writing practices in mid-Republican Rome.

Enrica Sciarrino is senior lecturer in Classics at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.