Denis C. Feeney
- Princeton University
The Romans exploded from being a substantial city of central Italy in 320 BCE to controlling the Mediterranean world 150 years later. In the process they equipped themselves with a literature in the vernacular and with a web of connections to the dominant Hellenic civilization through the links of mythology and historiography. Scholars tend to regard the process as inevitable, yet everything about this transformation was unpredictable and unprecedented. The very act of translation which kick-started Roman literature is far stranger than normally allowed, since translation of texts as opposed to interpreting of spoken language was vanishingly rare in the ancient Mediterranean. The Romans’ aim was to become equal partners in what was accepted then as world civilization.