Quintns Emius, the father of Roman literature, born at Rudiaj, a village of Calabria, about 239 B. C, died in 169. He claimed descent from a mythical hero, the first settler in his country; and after he had learned the Pythagorean doctrine of transmigration, he boasted that the soul of Homer dwelt in him. Nothing is known of his life till the close of the second Punic war, when he appears as a soldier in the Roman army, and a friend of the elder Cato, by whom he was taken to Rome. There he taught Greek and Latin, but seems to have held no marked position till in 189 he made the AEtolian campaign under Fulvius Nobilior, gained the esteem of the elder Scipio, and received the rights of Roman citizenship. From this time his learning and the charm of his conversation attracted to his little dwelling on Mount Aventinus the most enlightened citizens. His contemporaries marvelled at his learning, which in thoroughness and extent was surpassed by few of the later Romans. Though a master of Greek literature, he gave a thoroughly national character to his own works. The principal of these, entitled Annates, was a poem in 18 books on Roman history, which he treated consecutively from Romulus and Remus to his own times, describing later events with greater fulness.
This poem was popularly admired, and was the chief foundation of his fame. Though it appears to have existed in the 13th century, nothing but fragments of it gathered from the ancient writers now remains. These are sufficient to show that Ennius devoted great attention to his language, and contributed much toward harmonizing and perfecting the yet rough and uncultivated Latin dialect. He also wrote tragedies and comedies, and adapted the masterpieces of AEschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides to the Roman stage. Among his numerous short pieces, his epigrams, three of which, extending collectively to ten lines, have been preserved, were especially famous. The best collection of the fragments of Ennius is by Hesselius (4to, Amsterdam, 1707).