We learn from Suetonius that, like Ennius after him, he obtained his living by teaching Greek and Latin; and it was probably as a school-book, rather than as a work of literary pretension, that his translation of the Odyssey into Latin Saturnian verse was executed.
In his translation he discarded the native Saturnian metre, and adopted the iambic, trochaic and cretic metres, to which Latin more easily adapted itself than either to the hexameter or to the lyrical measures of a later time.
Probably his latest composition was the epitaph already referred to, written like the epic in Saturnian verse "Immortales mortales si foret fas Here, Flerent divae Camenae Naevium poetam; Itaque postquam est Orci traditus thesauro Obliti sunt Romai loquier lingua Latina."
The few remaining fragments produce the impression of vivid and rapid narrative, to which the flow of the native Saturnian verse, in contradistinction to the weighty and complex structure of the hexameter, was naturally adapted.
But it was rather in the chants and litanies of the ancient religion, such as those of the Salii and the Fratres Arvales, and the dirges for the dead (neniae), and in certain extemporaneous effusions, that some germs of a native poetry might have been detected; and finally in the use of Saturnian verse, a metre of pure native origin, which by its rapid and lively movement gave expression to the vivacity and quick apprehension of the Italian race.
Still more important service was rendered by him in his long Saturnian poem on the first Punic war, in which he not only told the story of contemporary events but gave shape to the legend of the settlement of Aeneas in Latium, - the theme ultimately adopted for the great national epic of Rome.
The old chant of the Salii, called axamenta, was written in the old Saturnian metre, in language so archaic that even the priests themselves could hardly understand it.
His investigation of the Saturnian system was crowned by the Royal Astronomical Society of London in 1903.
Ennius prided himself especially on being the first to form the strong speech of Latium into the mould of the Homeric hexameter in place of the old Saturnian metre.