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Quintus Ennius (239 - 169 B.C.E), literary figure of the Roman Republic, regarded as the father of Roman poetry. Born in Calabria, he served under Cato the Elder in Sardinia, who then took him to Rome. In 184 BC he was freed from slavery and made a Roman citizen. His ambition was to be a Latin Homer, and his innovations proved important in the development of Latin poetry. He introduced the Latin quantitative hexameter and the elegaic couplet, smoothed the Latin diction, and gave to Latin poetry a definite base. Ennius wrote in many genres - poetry, prose, and drama - unlike most of his colleagues in early Latin literature. He adapted 19 plays from Greek. His life's work survives only in fragments: around 400 lines remain from his tragedies, and about 600 lines remain from his masterpiece, the epic "Annales", which was a literary history of Rome. Virgil, Lucretuis, and Ovid borrowed freely from Ennius.

Ennius' more famous works include: the "Epicharmus", the "Euhemerus", the "Hedyphagetica", and "Saturae".

The "Epicharmus" presented an account of the gods and the physical operations of the universe. In it, the poet dreamed he had been transported after death to some place of heavenly enlightenment.

The "Euhemerus" presented a theological doctrine of a vastly different type in a mock-simple prose modeled on the Greek of Euhemerus of Messene and several other theological writers. According to this doctrine, the gods of Olympius were not supernatural powers still actively intervening in the affairs of men, but great generals, statesmen. and inventors of olden times commemorated after death in extraordinary ways.

The "Hedyphagetica" took much of its substance from the gastronomical epic of Archestratus of Gela, a work commonly with Epicureanism. The eleven extant hexameters have prosodical features avoided in the more serious "Annales".

The remains of six books of "Saturae" show a considerable variety of metres. There are signs that Ennius varied the metre sometimes even within a composition. A frequent theme was the social life of Ennius himself and his upper-class Roman friends and their intellectual conversation.

"The idle mind knows not what it wants." - Ennius

See: H. D. Jocelyn, The Tragedies of Ennius (1967); R. A. Brooks, Ennius and Roman Tragedy (1981); O. Skutsch, The Annals of Quintus Ennius (1985).