Latin poetry is the poetry of Ancient Rome. They started by adapting Greek models. The verse comedies of Plautus are the earliest surviving examples of Latin literature. They were probably composed around 205–184 BC.

There was a play written by a Greek slave, Livius Andronicus, at Rome in 240 BC. Livius translated Greek comedy for Roman audiences. He used metres that were those of Greek drama, but modified to the needs of Latin.

His successors, Plautus and Terence, continued this process.[1] The traditional metre of Greek epic poetry, the dactylic hexameter, was introduced into Latin literature by Ennius (239–169 BC). Ennius provided a model for the later 'classical' poets such as Virgil and Ovid.[2] Horace (who was a contemporary of Virgil) wrote verses in dactylic hexameter. They were in a conversational style, as if writing a letter. Virgil's hexameters are regarded as "the supreme metrical system of Latin literature".[3]


  1. R.H.Martin, Terence: Adelphoe, Cambridge University Press (1976), pages 1 and 32
  2. P.G.McBrown, 'The First Roman Literature' in The Oxford History of the Classical World, J.Boardman, J.Griffin and O.Murray (eds), Oxford University Press (1995) page 450–52
  3. Richard F. Thomas, Virgil: Georgics Vol. I, Cambridge University Press (1988), page 28