A syllable may be either long or short. If long, then it is either long by nature or by position:
Note the following special points:
When a final vowel or a vowel followed by m occurs at the end of one word, and another vowel or a vowel preceded by h occurs at the beginning of the next word, the first vowel (or vowel + m combination) is regularly elided – which means that either the syllable itself is not pronounced at all, or so lightly that it does not count for metrical purposes. This is called elision and it happens quite a bit in epic. On rare occasions the first vowel is not elided and both syllables retain their natural lengths. This is called hiatus. Most poets usually try to avoid it, but it is sometimes used for special effect.
Sometimes you will find a short syllable treated as long or a long syllable treated as short for no real reason other than because it has to be. Lengthened short syllables are most likely to occur at the beginning of a metrical foot or before a significant metrical pause.
A hexameter verse consists of six metrical feet, each of which contains either a long syllable followed by two short syllables (a dactyl) or two long syllables (a spondee). The basic pattern is
Note that the last (sixth) foot in the line can almost always be treated as a spondee, and the last syllable is in the line usually counts as long for metrical purposes, regardless of its natural length. Sometimes this final syllable is naturally short and this foot can be considered a trochee (long-short). The fifth (next-to-last) foot is usually a dactyl, although a spondee can be used for special effect.
(70 - 19 BCE) Commonly known as Rome's greatest poet, Vergil wrote three works, the Eclogues, Georgics, and the Aeneid, Rome's national epic, all in hexameter.
(43 BCE - 17/18 CE) Publius Ovidius Naso is most famous for his mythological epic, the Metamorphoses. "My mind compels me to speak of forms changed into new bodies."
(99 - 55 BCE) A poet and philosopher, Lucretius wrote De Rerum Natura in order to transmit the ideas of Epicurean philosophy to the Roman elite.
(65 - 8 BCE) Horace was Rome's greatest lyric poet. He was in the circle of Maecenas, a friend of Vergil, and a follower of Epicurean philosophy.
The poetry part of the AP syllabus consists of 844 lines from Vergil's Aeneid, Books 1, 2, 4, and 6.
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