Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2008
THE SCOPE AND CONTENTS OF THE ‘ANNALES’
Ennius went further than Naevius in Hellenizing the form of Latin epic, shaping it in books which were to have aesthetic unity and casting it in Homer's hexameter. (The Bellum Pænicum was divided into seven books not by its author Naevius but by Octavius Lampadio, a contemporary of Accius, whose sense of decorum on this point was learnt from Hellenistic poets in general and Ennius in particular (Suet. Gramm. 2).) The scale of the books was between about 1,000 and 1,700 lines each; the fragments amount to barely half such a book, and represent less than a twentieth of a poem which in its final form had eighteen books. Most fragments are assigned to their books, and grammarians and others allude to the contents of some: hence, and also because the subject matter was historical, narrated chronologically (though at very varying pace), attempts at reconstruction are saved from utter futility. Ennius appears to have organized his poem as five triads of books, each covering a coherent period of Rome's story. These fifteen books spanned almost or exactly one thousand years in the contemporary reckoning (1184/3 B.C. – 187/184 B.C.), and this may be relevant to the architecture of the poem; see pp. 63–4. A sixth triad, which circulated separately, was added by Ennius in the last years of his life (d. 169 B.C.).
The first triad covered the mythical era from the fall of Troy to the end of the regal period. As is usual with fragmentary authors, the first book is the best represented. It began with an invocation of the Muses.