Some of old Latin poetry was written in Saturnian metre. I am under the impression that use and proper understanding of this poetic form were lost by the classical era, and we do not have a full understanding of how it works. This is in sharp contrast with many other metres — like hexameter — whose current understanding is rather complete. Wikipedia gives two different ways to parse the metre — quantitative and accentual. Many of the details are disputed. But is there anything we know for sure or essentially all scholars agree on? I assume there is not much in this category, but I do hope there is something.

This is related to the question about comparing original Latin and Greek metres, but less ambiguous.

1 Answer 1


I fear you will not find any scholarly consensus about Saturnian metre. Have you seen this review of a book by Angelo Mercado published a few years ago? - http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2013/2013-07-30.html Only time will show whether his theory, which is of an accentual basis for the metre, will become generally accepted. The review touches on alternative quantitative theories.

  • I feared this might be the case. A proposed new solution from five years ago is hardly consensus. I had not heard of that book before. It may end up being commonly accepted, but, as you write, only time will tell.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 19:59
  • The solution is not new, only Mercado's scholarship to support and develop it. James Howarth, fifty years ago described the earliest surviving 'Latin' poetry as accentual and trochaic, and compared it to the English nursery rhyme "Sing a song of sixpence."
    – Hugh
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 2:57

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