First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Naevius (Nevius), the comic poet, in the second year of the reign of Ptolemy, called Epiphanes, died at Utica (as Eusebius writes). He was expelled from Rome by a faction of nobles, particularly Metellus. He ranked third among the poets whose poems dealt with certain plebeian persons in a sweet and lovely way, as Vulcatius in his book On Poets states. Of renown in this class of poetry, Caecilius (Cecilius) was the first, Plautus as second easily surpasses the rest, Naevius third, Licinius fourth, Atilius fifth, Terence (Terencius) sixth, Turpilius seventh, Trabea eighth, Luscius (Lucrecius) ninth, and Ennius (Aennius) tenth.

Naevius, (Cn.) was an ancient Roman poet, of whose life few particulars have been recorded. He was probably a native of Campania, and was born somewhere between 274 and 264 BCE. He appears to have come to Rome early, and he produced his first play in 235. He was attached to the plebeian party; and, with the license of the old Attic comedy, he made the stage a vehicle for his attacks upon the aristocracy. He attacked Scipio and Metelli; but he was indicted by Q. Metellus and thrown into prison. While in prison he composed two plays, Hariolus and Leon, in which he recanted his previous imputations, and thereby obtained his release through the tribunes of the people. His repentance, however, did not last long, and he was soon compelled to expiate a new offense by exile. He retired to Utica; and it was here, probably, that he wrote his poem on the first Punic war; and here it is certain that he died, either in 204 or 202. He was both an epic and a dramatic poet. Of his epic poem on the first Punic war a few fragments remain. It was written in the old Saturnian metre; for Ennius, who introduced the hexameter among the Romans, was not brought to Rome till after the banishment of Naevius. The poem appears to have opened with Aeneas's flight from Troy, his visit to Carthage and amour with Dido, together with other legends connected with the early history of both Carthage and of Rome. It was extensively copied by Ennius and Virgil. Virgil took many passages from it, particularly the description of the storm in the first Aeneid, the speech with which Aeneas consuls his companions, and the address of Venus to Jupiter. He wrote both tragedies and comedies, most of which were taken from the Greek. Even in the Augustan age, Naevius was still a favorite with the admirers of the genuine old school of Roman poetry. Aulus Gellius, a Latin grammarian, has preserved some lines of Vulcatius Sedigitus, in which the Roman writers of comedy are arranged in order of merit—Caecilius, Plautus, Naevius, Licinius, Atilius, Terence, Turpilius, Trabea, Luscius, and lastly, added, causa antiquitatis, Ennius (except that the chronicler—or typesetter—forgot to include the word causa in the last phrase dealing with Ennius). This is the same group of ten that the chronicler follows in his text on Naevius.
In fact, he follows it almost literally, as the text from Gellius's Noctae Atticae (‘Attic Nights') 15.24 which follows makes clear:

Sedigitus in libro, quem scripsit de poetis, quid de his sentiat, qui comoeodias fecerunt, et quem praestare ex omnibus ceteris putet ac deinceps, quo quemque in loco et honore ponat, his versibus suis demonstrat:

multos incertos certare hanc rem vidimus,
palmam poetae comico cui deferant.
eum meo iudicio errorem dissolvam tibi,
ut, contra si quis sentiat, nihil sentiat.
Caecilio palmam Statio do comico.
Plautus secundus facile exsuperat ceteros.
dein Naevius, qui fervet, pretio in tertiost.
si erit, quod quarto detur, dabitur Licinio.
post insequi Licinium facio Atilium.
in sexto consequetur hos Terentius,
Turpilius septimum, Trabea octavum optinet,
nono loco esse facile facio Luscium.
decimum addo causa antiquitatis Ennium.

Sedigitus, in the book which he wrote On Poets, shows in the following verses of his what he thought of those who wrote comedies, which one he thinks surpasses all the rest, and then what rank and honour he gives to each of them:

This question many doubtfully dispute,
Which comic poet they'd award the palm.
This doubt my judgment shall for you resolve;
If any differ from me, senseless he.
First place I give Caecilius Statius.
Plautus holds second rank without a peer;
Then Naevius third, for passion and for fire.
If fourth there be, be he Licinius
I place Atilius next, after Licinius.
These let Terentius follow, sixth in rank.
Turpilius seventh, Trabea eighth place holds.
Ninth palm I gladly give to Luscius,
To Ennius tenth, as bard of long ago.

(J. C. Rolfe, The Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, Vol. III; Loeb Classical Library, 1928; pp. 113, 115)

Plautus, the comic poet, was a father of the Latin tongue; and (as the same Eusebius writes) was from the Umbrian city of Arpina, others say Sarsina, and died at Rome. From his speech (as Varro said in the aphorism of Aelus Stilo [Epistolonis][The word epistolonis is meaningless. The chronicler means Aelus Stilo (see next note), whose name in the genitive case would be Aeli Stilonis.]), the Muses would have spoken, if they had wished to speak in Latin.[This citation (modified by the chronicler) of Varro (who is himself quoting Aelus Stilo) is found in Quintilian's 10.1.99 (Licet Varro Musas, Aeli Stilonis sententia, Plautino dicat sermone locuturas fuisse si Latine loqui vellent).] He flourished in the theater in the fifteenth year after the beginning of the second Punic War; and although he translated into Latin stories taken from many Greek comic writers, yet in a statement of Horace (Oracii), Plautus is said to hasten to the model of the Sicilian Epicharmus.[Horace, 2.1.58 (Plautus ad exemplar Siculi properare Epicharmi). Epicharmus (c. 540-c. 450 BCE) was a Greek playwright and philosopher. His comedies, which now exist only in very small fragments, are perhaps the earliest ever composed.] This one, as Varro and many others have handed down to memory, when he had lost all the he had earned in jobs connected with the stage in business ventures, he came back to Rome a poor man. And to earn a livelihood had hired himself out to a baker, to turn a mill, of the kind that is called a "push-mill." And there, whenever he was free from his work, he occupied himself with writing fables for sale. He died around the 145th Olympiad. And he ordered that upon his grave there should be written an inscription, as Varro says in his On Poets: Since Plautus was taken by death comedy mourns, the stage is deserted; then laughter, mockery, and play, and countless rhythmns all simultaneously at the same time[The verse is typically Plautine in its use of wordplay and repetition, but the citation in the ‘one-ups' Plautus with its inclusion of an extra simul in the last verse.] weep together.

Plautus is the most celebrated comic poet of Rome. He was a native of Sarsina, a small village in Umbria. The date of his birth is placed at about 254 BCE. Probably all that we know of him is more fiction that fact. That said, tradition relates that he probably came to Rome at an early age, since he displayed such perfect knowledge of the Latin language, and an acquaintance with Greek literature, which he could hardly have acquired in a provincial town. When he arrived at Rome he was in needy circumstances and was first employed in the service of the actors. With the money he had saved in this inferior station he left Rome and set up in business; but his speculations failed. He returned to Rome and entered the service of a baker, who employed him in turning a hand mill. While in this occupation he wrote three plays, the sale of which to the managers of the public games enabled him to quit his day job and begin his literary career. He was then probably 30 years of age, and he commenced writing comedies a few years before the outbreak of the second Punic War. He continued his literary occupation for about 40 years, and died in 184, at the age of 70. During the long period that he had possession of the stage, he was always a great favorite of the people, and he expressed a bold consciousness of his own powers in the epitaph (in dactylic hexameters) which Varro in the first book of his On Poets (cited in Gellius, Noctes Atticae 1.21.3) says he wrote for his tomb (and, with the exception of a few misspellings and the inclusion of an additional word—a second simul in the third verse—Schedel cites this very epigram as the wonderfully apt conclusion to his paragraph on Plautus):

Plautus wrote many comedies, and in the last century of the Republic 130 plays bore his name. Most of these were not, however, considered genuine by the Roman critics. Several works were written upon the subject, and of these the most celebrated was a treatise by Varro, who limited the undoubted comedies of Plautus to 21. At present we possess only 20 comedies of Plautus. His comedies enjoyed popularity among the Romans, and continued to be presented down to the time of Diocletian. Though he founded his plays on Greek models, characters in them act, speak, and joke like Romans, and the Greek core of his plays is often buried so deeply under his wild imagination as to be all but invisible.

Ennius, a comic poet, was born at Tarentum, and was called Quintus Ennius; and (as Eusebius states) he flourished at this time. He was brought to Rome by Cato the quaestor.[Quaestors were originally appointed by the consuls to investigate criminal acts and determine if the consul needed to take public action. Quaestors eventually took on additional responsibilities, such as supervising the treasury (what they are best known for). Like consuls, praetors, and prefects they were of the magistrate class (i.e., high-level government administrators). Quaestors were the lowest level of this class and, though initially were appointed by the consuls, were later elected by the people.] He lived on the Aventine hill content with a lifestyle of little expense and with the services of a single maidservant. He was always persuading (people) that souls are immortal; and, therefore, at the end of his life he said, O citizens, look upon the image of old Ennius, who depicted the greatest deeds of your fathers. Let no one honor me with tears or make lamentation at my funeral. Why? I fly alive on the tongues of men. This same poet in praising modesty said that it is the beginning of vice when one goes naked amongst one's fellow citizens. This one, when he had written the best and most elegant comedies, died when he was older than seventy of a disease of the limbs in the 153rd Olympiad, and he was buried in the grave of Scipio on the Appian Way.[Ennius, the Roman poet, was born at Rudiae, in Calabria, c. 239 BCE. He was a Greek by birth, but a subject of Rome, and served in the Roman army. In 204 Cato, who was then quaestor, found Ennius in Sardinia, and brought him to Rome. When far advanced in life he obtained the rights of a Roman citizen. He dwelt in a humble house on the Aventine, and maintained himself by acting as a preceptor to the youths of the Roman nobles. He lived on terms of closest intimacy with Scipio Africanus. He died in 169 at the age of 80, and was buried in the sepulcher of the Scipios. Ennius was regarded by the Romans as the father of their poetry. Only a few, very interesting fragments of his works remain. Although he wrote in several genres (including comedy), his greatest work was the , an epic poem in fifteen books (later expanded to eighteen), covering Roman history from the fall of Troy in 1184 BCE down to the censorship of Cato the Elder in 184 BCE. It was the first Latin poem to employ the dactylic hexameter metre used in Greek epic and didactic instead of native Italic metres (such as Saturnian verse). It quickly became a standard text for Roman schoolchildren, only supplanted by Virgil's one and a half centuries later. About 600 lines survive.]

Scipio Africanus, son of the other Scipio, was the most distinguished of all the Romans. At the age of 24 years, after two Scipios had been slain by Hasdrubal, the senate of Rome sent him to Spain. He was a student of Panaetius. He excelled all others in courage. When he learned that through fear of Hannibal the Roman senate was about to give up Italy, he turned the tide by drawing his sword, and saying that he alone wished to be the protector of his fatherland. He had flowing hair and was of manly disposition and bearing. As Eutropius states, he took seventy cities in Spain; and as he well managed this affair, he was elected consul against the Carthaginians. He proceeded to that place and subjugated the ruler of the Africans, together with Syphax (Stiphace), the king of Numidia. Not long afterwards he engaged Hannibal and defeated his forces, so that 20,000 were slain on Hannibal's side, and as many were taken prisoner in a single day; and Hannibal escaped with but a few of his men. With peace having been secured on land and sea, he proceeded to Sicily. Finally he arrived at Rome, entering in a very glorious triumph. He earned the right to be called Africanus. And thus ended the second Punic War which had endured for 18 years. He spoke against Cato because he did not wish that Carthage, a rival to Roman rule, be destroyed, lest the Romans should act decadently. His aphorisms were very famous. For he used to say that he was never less idle than when he was idle, and never more alone than when he was alone. And although a great father to his country, he was accused by those who envied him, was driven from his ungrateful fatherland, living in exile in the country in Liturnum. He died of an illness at the 52nd year of his life.

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major, born in 234 BCE, was one of Rome's greatest men, and at an early age he acquired the confidence and admiration of his countrymen. He never engaged in any public or private business without first going to the Capitol to commune with the gods. At the battle of the Ticinus (218) he saved the life of his father; fought at Cannae (216) and was one of the few Roman officers who survived that fatal day.

In 210, after the death of his father and uncle in Spain, the Romans decided to increase their army there, and to place it under the command of a proconsul. Scipio, then barely 24, offered himself as a candidate and was chosen to take the command. His success in Spain was striking and rapid. Upon returning to Rome in 206, he was elected consul for the following year. He desired to cross to Africa and end the contest at the gates of Carthage, but was opposed by the oldest members of the senate. All he was able to obtain was the province of Sicily, with permission to cross to Africa. The senate having failed to vote him an army, he enlisted volunteers, invaded Africa, and defeated the Carthaginians and their ally Syphax with great slaughter. The long struggle was finally ended when on October 19, 202, near the city of Zama, Scipio gained a decisive and brilliant victory over Hannibal. He returned to Rome in triumph, was received with universal enthusiasm, and surnamed Africanus.

In 190 Africanus served as legate under his brother Incius in the war against Antiochus the Great. Shortly after his return he and his brother were accused of having received bribes to let that monarch off too leniently, and of having appropriated part of the money paid by Antiochus to the Roman state. L. Scipio accordingly prepared his accounts, but as he was in the act of delivering them up, the proud conqueror of Hannibal indignantly snatched them out of his hands, and tore them to bits before the senate. This produced an unfavorable impression, and when his brother was brought to trial in the same year, he was declared guilty and imprisoned until he should pay a heavy fine.

The contest would probably have been attended with fatal results had not Tiberius Gracchus, father of the celebrated tribune, and then tribune himself, had not prudence to release Lucius from the sentence. But the successful issue of the prosecution emboldened his enemies to bring Africanus himself to trial before the people. When the trial came on Africanus proudly reminded the people that this was the anniversary of Zama, and called upon them to follow him to the Capitol, in order there to return thanks to the immortal gods and to pray that they would grant the Roman state other citizens like himself. Crowds followed him, and having thus set all the laws at defiance, Scipio immediately left Rome and retired to his country estate at Liternum. He never returned, but passed his remaining days in the cultivation of his estate.