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Sallust was the first recognized classic amongst Roman historians, avidly read, admired and abused, immensely influential on many diverse writers, and cited more often than any Latin prose author, Cicero alone excepted. Oratory at Rome reached its maturity a generation or more before history. That simple fact largely explains why Cicero's remarks about history are prejudiced and condescending. Sallust may more fairly be criticized, in his Catiline at least, for die disproportionate bulk of introductory matter in a comparatively short composition. Ancient critics recorded the most distinctive features of his style: archaism, brevity, abruptness, and novelty. The brevity which Sallust pursued and often attained made a great impression on Roman readers, to judge by the numerous references to it. Sallust's outspokenness and self-will commanded the attention of contemporaries and posterity. He puts over his personality, real or assumed, very forcefully: witness the violent opening words of the lugurtha.
Phaedrus stands apart from the main stream of Augustan and post-Augustan poetry. Phaedrus' language is generally plain and commonplace, occasionally coarse. He admits colloquial and prosaic terms avoided by most of the poets. Like Publilius, he can point a memorable phrase. The eclogues of Calpurnius originate perhaps from a single literary coterie, centred upon the patron represented as Meliboeus in Calp 1 and 4. Enthusiasm about a new golden age, evinced both by Calpurnius and the Einsiedeln poet, links these writers together and accords with other evidence for the optimism and sense of revival which seem to have marked Nero's accession to power. Calpurnius is overshadowed by Theocritus and Virgil, who provided his main inspiration. Calpurnius' book of eclogues has an intentionally patterned structure: the first, central, and concluding poems relate to the real world around him, while the others stand, ostensibly apart from their present circumstances.
For sparkle and malicious with few works of Latin literature can match the only complete Menippean satire which has survived, a skit upon the life and death of Claudius Caesar ascribed in manuscripts which transmit it to Seneca. Transition from prose to verse, a distinctive feature of the Menippean genre, is aptly and amusingly contrived. In general frivolity prevails, but the praise of Nero can be taken seriously and, of course, many of the charges against Claudius, made by Augustus and elsewhere, are in themselves grave enough. Petronius' Satyrica, commonly known as Satyricon, raise abundant problems for literary historians and critics alike. Petronius presents the adventures of a hero, or anti-hero, Encolpius, a conventionally educated young man, without money or morals, and his catamite, Giton, handsome and unscrupulous. Both in incident and character Petronius' novel is highly realistic, indeed startlingly so, if compared with sentimental romances.
Columella's Res rustica, 'Agriculture', the fullest treatment of the subject in Latin literature, is a product of wide reading and long personal experience. Pliny is one of the prodigies of Latin literature, boundlessly energetic and catastrophically indiscriminate, wide-ranging and narrow-minded, a pedant who wanted to be a popularizer, a sceptic infected by traditional sentiment, and an aspirant to style who could hardly frame a coherent sentence. The Natural history, dedicated in an unwieldy and effusive preface to the heir apparent Titus, comprises list of contents in relation to medicine, and mineralogy. Frontinus' two surviving works, De aquis and Strategemata, have somewhat limited pretensions to be literature. The De aquisis exactly what it claims to be, a systematic account of the water-supply of Rome. Frontinus asserts that this Strategemata too is practical: the information he has arranged and classified will be of use to generals.
Quintilian, the leading rhetor, 'teacher of rhetoric', of the Flavian period, fostered and, in his own writing, represented a reaction in literary taste against the innovations of Seneca, Lucan, and their contemporaries. In the long technical sections of Books 3-9 Quintilian attempts mainly to evaluate existing theories rather than to propound new ones: he is flexible and undogmatic. Cicero is his principal model, but he is no thoughtless imitator. Quintilian exercised vast influence on critics and teachers of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries: he seemed to offer precepts they could accept and ideals they could try to realize. Fronto is a rhetorician, confirmed by an introduction to his projected history of Lucius' Parthian campaigns: he apparently intended to work up Lucius' own notes. The principal interest of the correspondence lies in language and style. Aulus Gellius retails numerous fascinating details of Greek and Roman life, language, and thought, suitably predigested.
Several major historians, including Aufidius, Servilius, and Pliny, flourished in the century between Livy and Tacitus. Of the historical writing of this period only two representatives survive, Curtius and Velleius. Velleius is much indebted to Livy and Sallust, more to the former, though he sets great store by brevity. Curtius writes volubly, almost precipitately, as if embarrassed by a surplus of material, but he is never in real difficulties. Tacitus never became a classic or school-book in antiquity, for he arrived too late to enter a limited repertoire. As a traditionalist in an age of declining standards he was averse from outline history and scandalous biography, and his brevity defied the tribe of excerptors and abbreviators. In the Agricola, his earliest work, Tacitus amalgamates biography and historical monograph. Tacitus' historical style is a masterful and strange creation, difficult to characterize.