Roman writer and poet (c. 239 – c. 169 BC)

Quintus Ennius (239 B.C. – 169 B.C.) was a writer during the period of the Roman Republic, and is often considered the father of Roman poetry. Although only fragments of his works survive, his influence in Latin literature was significant.

The ape, vilest of beasts, how like to us!


  • Homo qui erranti comiter monstrat viam,
    Quasi lumen de suo lumine accendat facit;
    Nihilo minus ipsi lucet, cum illi accenderit.
    • Who kindly sets a wand'rer on his way
      Does e'en as if he lit another's lamp by his:
      No less shines his, when he his friend's hath lit.
      • As quoted by Cicero in De Officiis, Book I, Chapter XVI - translation by Walter Miller
  • Nemo me lacrumis decoret neque funera fletu
    faxit. Cur? volito vivos per ora virum.
    • Let no one pay me honor with tears, nor celebrate my funeral rites with weeping. Why? I fly, living, through the mouths of men.
      • As quoted by Cicero in Tusculanae Disputationes, Book I, chapter XV, section 34
  • Quo vobis mentes, rectae quae stare solebant
    Antehac, dementis sese flexere viai?
    • Your minds that once did stand erect and strong,
      What madness swerves them from their wonted course?
      • As quoted by Cicero in De Senectute, Chapter VI (Loeb translation)
  • Quem metuunt oderunt; quem quisque odit, perisse expetit.
    • Whom they fear, they hate. And whom one hates, one hopes to see him dead.
      • As quoted by Cicero in De Officiis, Book II, Chapter 23
  • Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur.
    • A sure friend is known in unsure times.
      • As quoted by Cicero in De Amicitia, Chapter XVII
  • Núlla sancta societas
    Néc fides regni ést.
    • There is no fellowship inviolate,
      no faith is kept, when kingship is concerned.
      • As quoted by Cicero in De Officiis Book I, Chapter VIII - translation by Walter Miller
    • Variant translation: To kingship belongs neither sacred fellowship nor faith.
  • Sicut fortis equus, spatio qui saepe supremo
    Vicit Olympia, nunc senio confectus quiescit.
    • As a strong horse that has often won on the last lap at Olympia is now resting, tired out by old age.
      • As quoted by Cicero in De Senectute, Chapter V (tr. K. Volk)
  • Simia quam similis turpissima bestia nobis!
    • The ape, vilest of beasts, how like to us!
      • As quoted by Cicero in De Natura Deorum, Book I, Chapter XXXV
      • Variant translation: How like us is that ugly brute, the ape!
  • Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem.
    Noenum rumores ponebat ante salutem;
    Ergo plusque magisque viri nunc gloria claret.
    • One man, by delaying, restored the state to us.
      He valued safety more than mob's applause;
      Hence now his glory more resplendent grows.
  • Qui vincit non est victor nisi victus fatetur.
    • He who has conquered is not conqueror
      Unless the conquered one confesses it.
  • Moribus antiquis res stat Romana virisque.
    • The Roman state survives by its ancient customs and its manhood.
      • Annals, Book V
  • Omnes mortales sese laudarier optant.
    • All mortals desire themselves to be praised.
  • Dictum factumque facit frux.
    • No sooner said than done—so acts your man of worth.
  • Pandite sultis genas et corde relinquite somnum.
    • Open your eyelids, will you all, and let your brains leave sleep behind.
      • As quoted by Festus, in De verborum significatione (Loeb translation)
  • Terram corpus quae dederit, ipsam
    capere neque dispendi facere hilum.
    • And earth who herself bestowed the body takes it back and wastes not a whit.
      • As quoted by Varro in De Lingua Latina, Book V
  • Nec pol homo quisquam faciet inpune animatus
    hoc nec tu; nam mi calido dabis sanguine poenas.
    • Neither you nor any man alive shall do this unpunished: no, you shall give recompense to me with your life-blood.
      • As quoted by Macrobius in Saturnalia; Book VI, Chapter I
      • Compare: Tu tamen interea calido mihi sanguine poenas persolves amborum, Virgil, Aeneid, Book IX, line 422
  • Quem nemo ferro potuit superare nec auro.
    • Whom none could overcome with iron or gold.
      • As quoted by Cicero in De Re Publica, Book III, Chapter IV
      • Note: Iron is a metonym for sword/warfare, and gold for money/bribery.
  • Qua Galli furtim noctu summa arcis adorti
    moenia concubia vigilesque repente cruentant.
    • where the Gauls stealthily, at the time of night when sleep falls on men, attacked the high citadel and of a sudden stained with blood walls and watchers.
      • As quoted by Macrobius in Saturnalia, Book I, Chapter IV (tr. J. Elliott)
  • Nec cauponantes bellum sed belligerantes;
    Ferro non auro vitam cernamus utrique.
    • Not chaffering war but waging war, not with gold but with iron—thus let us of both sides make trial for our lives
      • As quoted by Cicero in De Officiis, Book I, Chapter XII
  • Fortibus est fortuna viris data.
    • Fortune is given to brave men.
      • As quoted by Macrobius in Saturnalia, Book VI, Chapter I



Iphigenia a lost tragedy of Ennius, surviving in fragments only

  • Quod est ante pedes nemo spectat, caeli scrutantur plagas.
    • No one regards what is before his feet; we all gaze at the stars.
      • As quoted by Cicero in De Divinatione, Book II, Chapter XIII
  • Otioso in otio animus nescit quid velit.
    • The idle mind knows not what it wants.
      • As quoted by Aulus Gellius in Noctes Atticae (Attic Nights), Book XIX, Chapter X
  • Incerte errat animus; praeterpropter vitam vivitur.
    • The mind wanders unsure, except in that life is lived.
      • As quoted by Aulus Gellius in Noctes Atticae (Attic Nights), Book XIX, Chapter X

Quotes about Ennius

  • Ennius was the father of Roman poetry, because he first introduced into Latin the Greek manner and in particular the hexameter metre.
    • Cyril Bailey, Titi Lucreti Cari De Rerum Natura Libri Sex: Commentary (1947), Books I-III, p. 619
  • Ennius ingenio maximus, arte rudis.
    • Ennius, greatest in genius, crude in art.
      • Ovid, Tristia, Book II, line 424
  • To later Romans Ennius was the personification of the spirit of early Rome; by them he was called "The Father of Roman Poetry." We must remember how truly Greek he was in his point of view. He set the example for later Latin poetry by writing the first epic of Rome in Greek hexameter verses instead of in the old Saturnian verse. He made popular the doctrines of Euhemerus, and he was in general a champion of free thought and rationalism.
    • Ruth Martin Brown, A study of the Scipionic circle (1934), p. 26
  • Ennius qui primus ameno
    Detulit ex Helicone perenni fronde coronam.
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