Latin Literature - the writings of the ancient Romans answers questions

Roman Literature

The Roman Empire lasted for more than a thousand years, so there was plenty of time to produce a lot of writing. Latin, an Indo-European language, was written in an alphabet derived from the Greek alphabet, with some letters changed: the Latin or Roman alphabet is essentially the one Americans use today. English-speakers have added the letters J and U and W.

Most of what was written during those thousand years has been lost, but a fair amount still survives and we can read it today. We like to think that the best writing has survived, but certainly some very good works have been lost, while some of what survives is not very good. Nearly all of the Latin literature that we still have today survives because it was copied over and over by hand by different people through hundreds of years. That is, almost none of the actual books that people read at that time survive: papyrus and parchment just don't last that well. The words survive, but in later copies of later copies. For some books, many copies survive; for other books, only one.


Ammianus Marcellinus


Pliny the Younger







Bibliography and further reading about Roman literature:

Ancient Rome home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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