But Cicero's epithet "luculente scripsit" is sufficient to show that he highly appreciated the poet's powers; and the popularity which he obtained in his life-time and for centuries after his death, attests his capacity of seizing the national modes of thought. He had a high opinion of himself; he held himself to be the champion of the old Italian school as opposed to the Graecising innovators.

Half demolished, half choked with sand, the city of Dido, the city of Hannibal, the city of Cyprian all had vanished alike, and nothing remained erect but a Moorish fortress, built up with fragments of the huge stones of the old Phoenicians, intermixed with the friezes and sculptures of Graecising Rome, and the whole fabric in the graceful Saracenic taste; while completing the strange mixture of periods, another of those mournful French banners drooped from the battlements, and around it spread the white tents of the armies of France and the Two Sicilies, like it with trailing banners; an orphaned plague-stricken host in a ruined city.

This imitation of the Greek was not accomplished easily and without force: the Graecising was carried even to the length of a clumsy intermixture of the two languages. Gradually only was the poetical style smoothed and softened, and in Catullus we still perceive the last traces of its early harshness, which, however, are not without a certain rugged charm.

On the one hand, it expanded into the literary dialect under the hands of the Graecising aristocracy; on the other, it ran its course as a popular idiom, little affected by the higher culture for several centuries until, after the decay of classical Latin, it reappears in the fifth century, strikingly reminding us in many points of the earliest infancy of the language.