Greek influence from Magna Graecia affected the Romans long before they conquered Greece itself. In the arts, the Romans found much of their inspiration in Greek models. In literature, the Greeks supplied the forms and often much of the spirit. In science and engineering, the Romans accomplished more than the Greeks, as they did in law and government.
The Greece the Romans gradually conquered was not the Greece of Homer or Pericles, but the Greece of the decades after the death of Alexander. Literature, much of it produced in Alexandria, was more artificial, more charming and graceful, often trivial, less concerned with the central themes of human existence.
The surviving Alexandrian epic, Apollonius Rhodius’s Argonautica, which tells of the adventures of the mythical hero Jason on his way to find the magic golden fleece, was a scholar’s effort to be Homeric long after the heroic age was over. When the Romans first began to imitate the Greeks, the greatest Greek works, though deeply respected, were no longer being written.