Early Roman poet. Born 239 BCE, died 169 BCE.
Ennius was born in Southern Italy, but served in the Roman Army, and came to Rome in 204 BCE, together with Cato the Elder. In Rome, he taught Greek and mingled with the upper levels of society, befriending Scipio the Elder.
He wrote poems in various genres, as well as tragedies (some original, some adaptations of Greek works). Most famous is historical epic, Annales, the first Roman hexameter poem, clearly inspired by Homer. In 18 volumes, Annales dealt with the history of Rome from Aeneas' arrival to Ennius' own time.
Ennius had a great influence on later Roman literature and poetry. Until Vergil wrote the Aeneid, around 20 BCE, Ennius' Annales was the accepted national epic of the Romans. His poems were devotedly studied in the Roman schools, and Cicero admired and quoted from them. Poets such as Catullus, Ovid, and Horace deliberately distanced themselves from Ennius' style, which they considered ponderous and old-fashioned.
Today, Ennius' works are only preserved in fragments.