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Naevius, Gnaeus

A Roman epic and dramatic poet. He was probably born in Campania, about B.C. 270; served in the Roman army during the First Punic War; and, settling after this at Rome, brought out his first play in 235, soon after the first appearance of Livius Andronicus. Owing to the recklessness with which he attacked the Roman nobles, especially the Metelli, he was thrown into prison, and though liberated by the tribunes of the people (Gell. iii. 3), was afterwards banished from Rome. He died in exile at Utica about the year 199. See the epitaph in Gellius (i. 24).

His poetical account of the First Punic War (Bellum Punicum), written when an old man in the Saturnian verse, made him the creator of the Roman national epic. (See Epos.) This work originally formed one continuous whole, but in a later age was divided into seven books by the scholar Octavius Lampadio (Suet. Gram. 2). The fragments preserved give the impression of its having been little more than a chronicle in verse. Even in its plan, it bears a close resemblance to the prose chronicles of the Roman annalists; for here, as there, the real subject of the poem was preceded by an account of the early history of Rome, dating from the flight of Aeneas from Troy. Naevius also made an important departure in the province of dramatic poetry by creating a national drama. Besides imitations of Greek tragedies, of which seven alone are known by name and by extant fragments, it was he who first attempted to adapt the materials of Roman history to the dramatic form handed down by the Greeks. Thus, in the Romulus or Lupus, he treated of the youth of Romulus and Remus; and, in the play Clastidium, of a contemporary historical event. From the number of titles of his comedies still preserved (thirty-three), and from the verdict of antiquity, we may infer that his forte lay in that species of composition; and he appears to have been no mere translator of his Greek originals, but to have handled them with considerable freedom. It was in his comedies especially that he introduced his attacks on men and events of the day. The fragments of Naevius will be found in Ribbeck's Poeseos Scenicae Fragmenta. See De Moor, Cn. Névius (Tournai, 1877); and Mommsen's Hist. of Rome, ii. pp. 519, 538, 540 (American ed.).

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