The Influences of Hellenism on Roman Culture
had long been exposed to Greek influences, at first indirectly through the Etruscans
, and later through contact with the Greek cities in the south of Italy
. But it was with the Roman conquest of the Greek world that Hellenization made its impact on Rome
. As the historials Livy and Polybius
both noted, the Roman sack of Syracuse
in 212 BC during the Second Punic War marked the beginning of the Romans' admiration of Greek art. Thereafter, culminating with the sack of Corinth
in 146 BC, countless works of Greek art
were taken to Rome.
By the mid-first century BC, the taste for interior decoration had become widespread, and the Hellenistic influence can be seen at the suburban villa of P. Fannius Sinistor at Boscoreale. As Roman taste became more sophisticated and the sources of Greek art were gradually exhausted, Greek artists began working for Roman patrons. Although many earlier pieces were copied, a new Greco-Roman style of sculpture developed.
The contents of several great Hellenistic libraries came to Roman, and Greek influence on the development of Latin literature was immense. The Greek epic poem, the Oddysey, was translated into Latin, which was now used for poems and plays based on Greek works. Comedies in the style of the Greek comic playwright Menanader were written in Latin by Terence and Platus. The first Roman histories were written in Greek, but after Ennius's historical epic about Rome, Latin became the language for Roman historians.
Cato the Elder, who wrote a history of Rome entitled Origines, as well as a work on agriculture, was critical of the influence of Hellenism on young men who aped Greek manners, had affairs with boys and courtesans, and gave extravagent banquets. Nevertheless, he recognized the value of certain Greek literary forms and was one of the first to use Greek techniques of oratory. Finally, it was the spread of Greek methods of education that made the deepest impression on Roman life.