Episode 50: Our Brutal Age

The Roman poet Horace (65-8 BCE), a contemporary of Augustus, endured wars, regime changes, and became a literary spokesman for the new principate.

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Horace and the Beginning of Augustan Age Literature

Hello, and welcome to Literature and History. Episode 50: Our Brutal Age. This is the first of two shows that will focus on the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, who lived from 65-8 BCE, a writer known to us today as Horace. Horace’s diverse body of works went into circulation between about 35 and 13 BCE.1 During these decades, the dead Julius Caesar’s shrewd grand-nephew Octavian fought his rival Mark Antony, defeated the famous general, and gradually assumed sole control over the battered Roman Republic. By the time Horace passed away in 8 BCE, Octavian had taken the title of Augustus, reorganized the military and its command structure, altered the population and membership rules of the senate, cut new roads through the Italian peninsula and bankrolled countless new public building and infrastructure projects, changed the way that provinces were governed and taxes were collected there, passed new laws related to marriage, adultery, child bearing, the freeing of slaves and conferral of citizenship, massively expanded Rome’s geographical footprint, and overall effected so many changes in the Roman world that the years of his reign – 27 BCE – 14 CE – are in hindsight called the Augustan Age.2


The Augustus of Prima Porta. At Augustus’ feet is his distant relative Cupid, and at the center of his breastplate, an illustration of the standards lost to the Parthians being returned.

The Augustan Age will dominate the next dozen or so programs of our podcast. Horace, Virgil, Ovid, and the poets Propertius and Tibullus all worked during the reign of Rome’s first emperor. Their lives were not only affected by the ways in which Augustus refashioned the Roman state. They also had direct financial ties to the emperor himself, often receiving sponsorship for writing works that subtly or overtly endorsed the new Augustan regime and its most powerful agents – Augustus, his right hand man, the general Agrippa, and his left hand man, the cultural patron and administrator Maecenas.

Patronage was nothing new in Roman literary history. Before state sponsored literacy, mechanical reproduction of texts, and the spread of copyright laws, a poet either found a patron, or went hungry. What changed during the Augustan Age was that an unprecedented amount of wealth became aggregated in the hands of one person, and that from the Battle of Philippi in 42 BCE down to his death in 14 BCE – for a staggering period of over fifty years – this person was more powerful than anyone else in Rome. Prior to Augustus, consulships and praetorships, terms of provincial governorships, and a ceaseless grind of electioneering all abetted continual change in the personnel who occupied Rome’s highest offices. Because of the short terms of their incumbencies, Roman politicians were constantly vulnerable to the jabs and barbs of a Cicero or a Catullus – moreover there was a crowd of orators and poets schooled in defamation and persuasion and satire who could sway elections, court cases and the passage of laws. This culture of free speech was part of what made Republican Rome operate. In the Republic, particularly before Marius and Sulla, a poet could attach himself to a patron and that patron’s interests without fear of angering some autocrat entrenched at the center of the state’s power. But following Marius, and then Sulla, then Julius Caesar, and finally Augustus, Rome weathered a procession of overlords whose proscriptions and political murders increasingly discouraged the freedom of literary expression. Earlier Roman literature – poetry in the age of Catullus, and his predecessor in satire Lucilius, was often a free for all in which even the most powerful officeholders were exposed to savage, scatological mockery. By the time Horace came of age, however, a more cautious, politically conscientious literature began to emerge.

One of the great questions of Augustan Age literary history is the extent to which Augustus and his agents exerted control of literature before and during his term as emperor. In other words, were poets like Horace and Virgil free to pen whatever works they liked, and, due to their talents and reputations, enjoy imperial subsidies? Or, on the contrary, were their works carefully policed and censored, and could they face a cancellation of payments, or worse, imprisonment and death, if their poems criticized the new regime? Or was it something in between – did the Augustan Age poets enjoy a relative freedom of expression but stand to gain more through writings that extolled Augustus and his lieutenants? We will explore these questions extensively in this and upcoming episodes on the period, but we’ll of course do a lot more than that.

Whatever combination of oppression and incentives Horace and his contemporaries faced from the Augustan regime, the literature that they produced is fantastically beautiful. Horace’s odes, with their solemn grace and dignity, are among the most popular and well circulated poems in world history. Ovid’s glittering Metamorphoses was perhaps the single most important influence on Renaissance and baroque art. The love poetry of Propertius and Tibullus sanded down the rough edges of Catullus and took the literature of passion and courtship to new heights. And of course, Virgil, who would have been a major author even without the Aeneid, wrote the most famous work of Latin literature – an epic that begins with a great series of adventures, like the Odyssey, ends with a cataclysmic war, like the Iliad, and folds in a dark and doomed romance, like Jason and the Argonauts. When we look at the full span of Augustan literature that’s come down to us, we see the emperor’s imprint often, from the epistles of Horace, to key episodes in the Aeneid, all the way down to letters that Ovid wrote while in exile toward the end of his life on the coast of modern day Romania. And while it’s silly to read Augustan literature as some cohesive program of state propaganda, I think you do need to know some of the overall history that Virgil’s and Ovid’s generations lived through in order to understand their writings in context. So to start our journey into the most influential phase of Roman literature, let’s begin in the year 63 BCE – the year of Cicero’s consulship, and the year of Augustus’ birth. [music]

Horace and the Aftermath of Caesar’s Assassination

Horace, who was born in December of 65 BCE, came of age at a time when the Roman Republic was entering nuclear meltdown. Around the time of Horace’s second birthday – in December of 63, Cicero was consul and he uncovered the second Catilinarian conspiracy. As this drama unfolded – as Julius Caesar, and Cato the Younger, and the firebrand Clodius Pulcher, and Cicero himself debated what to do with the guilty conspirators – nearby, Julius Caesar’s niece Atia was holding her two month old son, a patrician newborn of no particular distinction who would eventually remain the last man standing in the three decade long bloodbath that was about to unfold. Augustus, born Gaius Octavius, was about two years younger than Horace. In 63 BCE, no one on the planet would have wagered that little Gaius Octavius would ascend to an unchallenged rulership, nor that two year old Horace would eventually become his poet laureate, and even less that Virgil, who was in that year a seven-year-old tyke poking around the far off countryside of Cisalpine Gaul, would write one of Earth’s great epics under the sponsorship of the Augustan regime. When these three were little boys, the eyes of the Roman world were on the first triumvirate – on Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.

This triumvirate formed when Horace was six. A year later, Caesar was embroiled in the conquest of Gaul. Five years afterward, in 53 BCE, Caesar had chopped his way through most of modern day France and Belgium. Crassus, in search of his own military legacy, went to fight the Parthians on the border of modern day Turkey and Syria and was killed in the spring of 53. In 50 BCE, when Horace was 15 and Octavius just 13, Caesar wrapped up his campaigns in the north, and early the next year, to the rage and consternation of the Senate, crossed the Rubicon with his battle-hardened army, setting off a civil war. Eighteen months later, in August of 48, the main phase of the civil war ended with Pompey’s defeat at the Battle of Pharsalus in central Greece.

Vincenzo Camuccini - La morte di Cesare horace background

Vicenzo Camuccini’s The Death of Caesar, 1804-5. In the months after his adopted father’s assassination, Octavian had to be extremely crafty about how he adopted the legacy of his benefactor.

By the time Octavius turned 17, his great uncle Julius Caesar had become the most powerful man in Rome. Personal connections to the dictator must have given Octavius a sense of power and entitlement even as a teenager, and after the shock of Caesar’s assassination in March of 44 BCE, Roman power brokers received a second shock when Caesar’s will announced the adoption of young Octavius as his son and the conferral of three quarters of Caesar’s immense fortune to the young man. From being a respectable blue blood, Octavian at age 19 found himself in possession of more money and political cachet than anyone else in the Roman world.

He also found himself facing sudden and contradictory imperatives. On one hand, his adopted father and benefactor, adored by the Roman public, had been killed. On the other, Octavian was too smart to fall into the trap of appearing as an aspiring dynast and stepping into the openly hubristic shoes of his murdered father. Caesar had overstepped, and Octavian knew it. Nothing if not prudent and calculating, Octavian would later favor the motto festina lente, often translated as “make haste slowly,” or “slow and steady wins the race.”3 Yet as the summer and autumn of 43 BCE wore on, the future emperor was not given a great deal of time to plan and act.

Octavian began his political career in the limelight with some very circumspect decisions. Julius Caesar had stipulated in his will that the commoners of Rome received 300 sesterces each, and 19-year-old Octavian made it happen. Octavian put on games celebrating Caesar’s victories in the north, which served the dual purposes of glorifying his adopted father and pushing popular opinion further and further against those who had murdered him. As 44 BCE lengthened, Octavian forged an unlikely alliance with the Senators still in Rome, who understood the extent of the young man’s wealth and the significance of his popular reputation, but must have at the same time felt leery about his relationship to the murdered dictator.

To be clear here, since we’re about to discuss how Horace was himself was involved in the civil war, let’s talk about the factions that existed in 44. One of these factions was led by Mark Antony. Antony had been the sole surviving consul upon Caesar’s death, and as the spring of 44 led into summer and autumn, Antony assumed the position of Caesar’s posthumous champion, fomenting popular support against Caesar’s assassins and incurring the opposition of the senate. It was at this point that Cicero, seeing the extent to which Antony was unapologetically staking out a position as another demagogue general, famously wrote that “The tyranny lives on, only the tyrant is dead!”4

Against this would-be tyrant, by the winter of 44-43, stood a formidable but motley collective. There were, first of all, the assassins of Caesar who’d been chased out of Rome by Antony’s rabble rousing, chief among them Brutus and Cassius. There were many old guard Republican senators, among them Cicero, who may not have had a hand in killing Julius Caesar but nonetheless wanted the Republic preserved at all cost. These old guard senators found young Octavian a risky, but potentially very useful ally. Octavian, the adopted son of Caesar, had popular currency with the Roman man on the street, but was also young, militarily inexperienced, and incredibly rich. Provided that Caesar’s adopted son was with them, the Roman senate could go after Mark Antony.

Considering the foresight and political instinct that Octavian showed later in his career, he must have understood that many in the senate regarded him as merely the lesser of two evils. Whatever he believed about his precarious political position, he was given command of a large military force, supported by both of that year’s consuls. Up in Cisalpine Gaul, or northern Italy, Mark Antony had laid siege to a Republican army. And Octavian, in two separate battles in mid April of 43, defeated Antony’s forces and lifted the siege, saving the life of a general named Decimus [DESS-ih-muhs] Brutus, not to be confused with the more famous Marcus Junius [JUNE-ee-uhs] Brutus. What happened at the beginning of that summer changed Octavian’s allegiances.

The general whose life Octavian had saved, Decimus Brutus, had been instrumental in the plot to assassinate Caesar. Saving the life of one of his adopted father’s killers must have tested Octavian’s feelings of loyalty to the senate, and this loyalty was tested further not long afterward. During the battles against Antony in April of 43 BCE, the two consuls accompanying Octavian had been killed. This left Octavian in sole control of a large branch of the republican army, and meant that Octavian was the highest ranking survivor of the campaign to defend republican interests in the north. Octavian, we can expect, thought that he would get some sort of reward or recognition for this achievement. Instead, the senate lavished honors on Decimus Brutus for the victories against Mark Antony. Perhaps anticipating a triumph and all the rewards of a victorious Roman military man, Octavian found that all of these would go to a general whom he had rescued, and who had murdered his adopted father and benefactor. Octavian did not ignore the slight.

Not to be passed over for one of his adopted father’s assassins, Octavian refused to return to Rome with his forces. He demanded a consulship for the year of 42. And, perhaps thinking of Mark Antony in a different light – after all, Antony had remained loyal to Caesar through and through – Octavian demanded that Antony be removed from the senate’s list of public enemies. When this request was denied, Octavian led his army south, intent on receiving his consulship and chastening the senate for ignoring him and his requests. And in August of 43, seeing Octavian on their doorstep with eight legions, the senate and other pro-republicans, having little to muster against him, decreed that Octavian would be a consul in 42, at the shockingly young age of twenty.

Then, in October of 43, a pivotal meeting took place between Octavian, Mark Antony, and military man Lepidus, whose loyalties, like Antony’s, had been toward the Caesar. These three formed the Second Triumvirate. One of their immediate actions was the creation of a proscription list, a list which, according to different sources, included at least a hundred senators and perhaps as many as three hundred, along with 2,000 equestrians, or lower aristocrats. These were men the triumvirs wanted dead either for their political alliances, or wealth, or both. The most famous victim of the purge was Cicero, murdered and chopped to pieces in the early winter of 43, his severed hands and head in retrospect symbolizing the end of the culture free speech which had so long been a part of the Roman republic.

What I’ve told you so far about the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination is pretty basic Roman military and political history. And this is the part of the story where we need to bring in the poet Horace. While Horace eventually ascended to the stature of a well regarded poet who enjoyed good relations with the emperor and his staff, in the late 40s, he was a college aged student from a small town in south central Italy. When we discuss the civil wars that ended the republic, I think we often have images of swords and shields, the bloodstained toga of Caesar and the lost standards of Crassus, cunning conspiracies and seditious alliances. Studying the outset of young Horace’s career, however, encourages us to remember that while a tiny handful of ambitious people were vying for supreme power, the median citizen was just trying to keep his head down, survive any battles in which he found himself, and moreover tread water until the wars were over for good, regardless of who won them. [music]

Horace’s Early Life Up to the Battle of Philippi

Horace, as I said before, was born in 65 BCE in a town called Venusia. If you picture the boot shape of the Italian peninsula, Venusia is right around where the ankle would be – a little less than 200 miles southeast of Rome as the crow flies. In one of the many autobiographical moments in Horace’s poetry, at the end of his first book of Epistles, Horace writes a compressed statement about his identity.
[B]e sure to say [, Horace asks his collection of letters,] that I was a freedman’s son and, in humble circumstances, spread wings too large for my nest, so adding to my virtues whatever you subtract from my birth; say that I found favour with the foremost men of Rome in war and peace and was a fellow of small stature, grey before my time, fond of the sun’s rays, quick to anger but not hard to win round again. (Epis 1.20.20-6)5

It’s a characteristically humble statement – and we’ll talk a lot about Horace’s persona in his poems soon. For now we can say that among many things, Horace was a satirist, and one of his favorite things to make fun of was himself. Self mockery, in an era during which men were declaring themselves and their fathers gods, and commissioning oversized statues and temples for themselves, is a reliably refreshing ingredient in Horace’s poems. Anyway, one subject that comes up in that quote we just read is Horace’s father, who was a freedman, or former slave, who seems to have worked by commission as a money collector for an auction house.6 And Horace, who is rarely guilty of pomposity, is utterly clear about his love for his father. Here’s a quote from his first book of satires on Horace’s dad.
In no way, as long as I’m in my right mind, could I be ashamed
of such a father, and so I wouldn’t defend myself as a great number
do, saying that it’s not through any fault of their own that they don’t
have freeborn or famous parents. Both what I say and what I think
are far different from this: for if nature ordered us after we’d reached
a certain age to retrace the span of time experienced, and if each of
us chose any other parents he might wish to have in keeping with
his pride, I would be satisfied with my own and decline to take parents
ennobled by the rods. . .of high office. (1.6.89-96)

Great quote for a Father’s Day card, by the way – Horace, the satires, Book1, satire 6, lines 89-96, from the Oxford John Davie translation – and my quotes from the satires and epistles will come from this translation. While only the faintest outlines of Horace’s father’s personality emerge from the poetry, we do hear an occasional anecdote about what Horace learned from his dad. Horace’s poems are filled with ethics of moderatism, and he thus frequently advises readers to steer a course between two extremes, or two vices. On this subject, Horace writes,
If I say something is too outspoken, perhaps too calculated to raise
a laugh, you’ll be forgiving and grant me this measure of justification:
my excellent father taught me the habit, by marking out the
various vices by examples, so that I should steer clear of them. (Sat 4.81-107)

So, if there’s any grain of truth in the autobiographical portions of Horace’s poems, Horace’s earliest memories of his father were positive, and for the rest of his life the poet recalled a happy boyhood amidst the rolling hills of Venusia. He also recalled the events that led him to leave Venusia. Speaking of his father, Horace wrote that “A poor man he was, with a meager plot of land, but he didn’t want to send me to [the local] school. . .No, he was brave enough to transport his young son to Rome, to receive instruction in the same accomplishments as any [equestrian] or senator would teach offspring of his own” (Sat 1.6.70-1, 75-8). Horace explains in this same passage that his dad helped him acquire the appearance of financial prosperity and set him up for success not commonly available to a freedman’s son.

Horace’s studies in oratory and literature were broad and encompassing. When Augustus, who had just turned twenty, was meeting with Mark Antony and drafting up a death list thousands of names in length in October of 43, Horace was off studying in Athens, as many young Roman men did. Horace himself turned twenty-two that December, and at some point he fell in with Marcus Junius Brutus and co-conspirator Gaius Cassius Longinus [lawn-JINE-uhs]. Brutus and Cassius, chased out of Rome a year and a half earlier by Mark Antony, were by the autumn of 43 the last best hope of the Roman republic. The two most famous assassins of Caesar had amassed a powerful military force in the east, and in spite of the Second Triumvirate’s efforts to kill the senators and city council members who opposed them, republican loyalists continued to trickle in with Brutus over in Greece.

Philippi location alt horace battle

The location of Philippi, where the last champions of the republic fell and Horace fled from the battlefield. Image by Marsyas.

We don’t know why Horace joined the would-be liberator army. Since Octavian ultimately won, Horace had good cause not to bring the subject up much in his poetry. Classicist Betty Radice writes “There is no suggestion that, like Cicero’s son, [Horace] had any strong political feelings against tyranny; he is more likely to have joined Brutus on romantic impulse or simply to go along with his fellow-students.”7 Whatever his impulses for doing so, Horace took a position as a tribune in Brutus’ army, and stayed with the republicans up until the bitter end. At two separate engagements in October of 42 BCE, the triumvirs fought the republicans, and in the second engagement, the republicans decisively lost. A few miles in from the northern Aegean coastline, in the foothills of modern day Greece, the hopes of the republic were extinguished. Horace darkly recollects serving in “the broken line at Philippi” (Ode 3.4.27) in one of his odes.8 Another ode is addressed to an otherwise unknown comrade called Pompeius. Horace tells his addressee, “With you I knew / the rout at Philippi and my shield, / to my shame, left behind / where manhood failed and words / were eaten” (Ode 2.7.9-12).

The image of Horace beating a desperate retreat and losing his shield is a famous one. In a culture that prized martial valor above all other virtues, Horace acknowledges that he suffered the abjection of loss and sought to save his own skin. He would have been twenty-one years old at the time of the surrender – and by the publication of his first three books of odes almost twenty years had elapsed.9 Half a lifetime later, Horace’s whole world had changed, and it could be that admitting contemptible defeat in earlier civil wars was a standard gesture of obeisance to the Augustan regime. But actually, the story of Horace ditching his shield and running from the field at Philippi is famous for a different reason. By the age of 40, when he recollected leaving his shield at Philippi, Horace would have known this quote:
My shield’s in the hands of some jubilant [enemy soldier] – a faultless
     piece of equipment which I left, unwillingly, beside a bush.
Myself, I’m safe. What do I care about that shield?
     To hell with it! I’ll soon find another one that’s no worse.10

These lines came from the early Greek lyric poet Archilochus, whom Horace idolized, who lived way back in the early 600s BCE. We don’t know the exact context of this quote, but Archilochus certainly seems to count it as no disgrace to have left his gear behind on the battlefield. Thus, maybe, decades after Horace’s own terrifying loss at Philippi, he offers a story of defeat and abjection on the surface, underneath which is a message of poetic self assertion. Poets might lose a shield on a battlefield, both Archilochus and his devotee Horace imply, but they survive to write another day.

This story – the story of Horace chucking his shield down on October 23, 43 BCE and running for his life at the last battle between the Second Triumvirate and the republicans in the hardscrabble country of what was then Macedon – this story is a good introduction to the way that we read Horace’s poetry, in general. First of all, Philippi marked the end of 21-year old Horace’s brief military career. After the victory of the Second Triumvirate, Horace writes in an epistle, “As soon as Philippi discharged me. . .brought down to earth with clipped wings and stripped of my father’s / home and estate, poverty made me bold and drove me to write verse” (Epis 2.2.49-51). In other words, the Triumvirs took Horace’s family property and left him only with his life and the skills conferred on him by his education.

It’s difficult to imagine that Horace coasted into the 30s BCE with any sense of happiness about how things in the previous decade had gone. However much he’d believed in the republican cause, he had risked his life to save Rome’s ancient political structure, and must have seen similarly minded friends and acquaintances die awful deaths on the battlefield. His father had set young Horace up with all the opportunities that he’d never had, and just as Horace was on the verge of beginning a career, he was swept up a war that his side lost. Following the military defeat, Horace’s family property was confiscated and he was left destitute, grateful, perhaps, for his life, but with ambivalent feelings at best for Octavian and his fellow triumvirs.

Poetry can be confessional. It can be transparently autobiographical. But it can also operate on many layers simultaneously, as when we see Horace admitting to abandoning his shield, but at the same time subtly equating himself with a great poetic predecessor. One of the fascinations of Augustan age literature is precisely this ambiguity, and our desire to determine, over 2,000 years after Horace wrote about his life and times, what he might have really felt.

Usually, when doing so, we look up at the amassed evidence and toss up our hands. We’ll never know exactly what happened to Horace at Philippi, or how he felt about it in years and decades afterward, but sources concur that he was there, he did fight on the losing side, and this defeat did make him particularly beholden to the Augustan regime later in life. So now that we’ve discussed Horace’s short stint as a military tribune in Rome’s long and evolving civil wars, we need to bring things into the next decade all the way to the beginning of the Augustan regime proper – the period during which Rome’s most famous works of literature were composed. [music]

Octavian’s Dark Side: Philippi to Actium

In a quote we heard a minute ago, Horace mentions how after the Battle of Philippi, he was “stripped of my father’s / home and estate.” This may have been a direct measure against him specifically – one designed to punish him for opposing the triumvirs. But Horace’s loss of family property may have simply been part of a general land grab and mass deportation spurred on by Octavian himself. Following the bloody campaign seasons of 43 and 42, Octavian needed to settle his veterans. Veterans had customarily been settled in Italy, but Italy didn’t have much land left for the taking, and so Octavian took the unusual step of deporting citizens from at least eighteen towns throughout the peninsula. In some cases, entire populations of townspeople and farmers were forcibly driven out so that Augustus could settle his veterans and signal to his standing army that they would be rewarded for their service when the time came.11 The poet Virgil, who was at that time about thirty, was in danger of losing his own family property up in the north of Italy, but one of the consuls of 40 BCE, who’d later be a patron of Horace’s, intervened and Virgil’s family lands weren’t confiscated.12

Antony with Octavian aureus

A coin minted in 41 BCE featuring Antony with Octavian. Photo by the Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.

Settling the veterans was a characteristically shrewd move for Octavian. He knew that he was only strong if his fighting force was loyal to him, and his priority at this point was the consolidation of his own power t. However, clobbering and deporting thousands of Italians from their ancestral lands, on the back of the mass killing that had done away with Cicero, infuriated the median Roman and what was left of the old guard senate. A movement gained traction between 41 and early 40 BCE to destabilize Octavian’s political power. At its head were Mark Antony’s younger brother, Lucius Antonius, and Mark Antony’s wife Fulvia. Fulvia herself was by this point a very powerful woman – the historian Cassius Dio writes that in 41, Lucius Antonius and another man “nominally became consuls, but in reality it was [Lucius Antonius] and Fulvia. . .neither the senate nor the people dared transact any business contrary to her pleasure.”13 Antony himself was spending the winter siring a pair of twins down in Ptolemaic Egypt with Cleopatra, and so Fulvia must have been of a mind to swat the controversial Octavian out of the way and secure a path for her delinquent husband’s return. Octavian, however, refused to be swatted. In the brief Perusine War of early 40 BCE, Fulvia and Lucius Antonius managed to marshal eight legions against the forces of Octavian, and were able to occupy Rome. However, Octavian pushed back, besieging Fulvia and Lucius Antonius at the city of Perusia in north central Italy. And when the siege was over, Octavian pardoned Fulvia and Lucius Antonius, a gesture, at least, toward preserving the second triumvirate. But this was the end of Octavian’s leniency. On March 15, 40 BCE, exactly four years after Caesar’s death, Octavian ordered the ceremonial mass execution of 300 Perusian citizens, and Roman senators and equestrians who had favored the dissolution of the second triumvirate at Octavian’s expense. It was a gruesome and unnecessary punishment, and decades later the poet Propertius wrote sadly about the butchery of his fellow countrymen from the region of Umbria.14

Later in life, once the wars ended, Octavian would soften and to some extent adopt Julius Caesar’s mantle of clemency. In the 30s BCE, however, the future first emperor of Rome could occasionally be almost diabolical. During this decade, in addition to sparring with one another, the triumvirs were also fighting against Sextus Pompeius, the son of the famous general Pompey. When Sextus Pompeius was finally defeated in September of 36, he had in his forces some 30,000 escaped slaves. Octavian sent the bulk of them back to their owners. As for the 6,000 whose masters couldn’t be tracked down, Octavian ordered all of them crucified. As awful as this murder was, perhaps an even more famous anecdote about the young Octavian’s propensity for violent retribution is printed in the pages of Suetonius.

The historian, writing in the decades around 100 CE, recollected a grisly incident that had unfolded during the period of the second triumvirate. In his life of Augustus, Suetonius tells of how one day in Rome,
[W]hen Quintus Gallius, the praetor, came to compliment [Octavian] with a double tablet under his cloak, suspecting that it was a sword [Gallius] had concealed, and yet not venturing to make a search, lest it should be found to be something else, [Octavian] caused [Gallius] to be dragged from his tribunal by centurions and soldiers, and tortured like a slave: and although he made no confession, ordered him to be put to death, after [Octavian] had, with his own hands, plucked out [Gallius’] eyes. [The emperor’s later] account of the matter, however, is, that Quintus Gallius sought a private conference with him, for the purpose of assassinating him; that he therefore put him in prison, but afterwards released him.15

This lurid account of Augustus tearing out a victim’s eyes may or may not be true – Suetonius is particularly liable to sensationalized retellings. But whether or not Augustus personally tortured people to death and then lied about their disappearances, it’s clear from many diverse sources that as the 30s BCE passed – as Octavian and Horace lived through their twenties and early thirties – Romans couldn’t dig graves quickly enough to bury one another.

The war with Sextus Pompeius, which, again, wound up in the autumn of 36, was surprisingly costly and tactically challenging. In the east, during these same months, Antony was retreating from Parthian territory with a giant but hobbled army, having lost tens of thousands of soldiers and failed to take the Parthian capital of Ecbatana in spite of Cleopatra’s contributions to his army. By the end of 36 BCE, Sextus Pompeius was defeated and it seemed that renewed efforts against the Parthians would be futile. Perhaps the average Roman hoped for an end to the nearly continuous warfare that had been cutting his countrymen down for fifteen years. No such respite was coming any time soon. Just a few weeks after the defeat of Sextus Pompeius, Octavian stripped the third triumvir Lepidus of most of his titles. The two had squabbled over who would control Sicily after it was taken from Sextus Pompeius, and defections in his own forces caused Lepidus to surrender to Octavian’s mercy in late September of 36. The triumvirate was now a biumvirate. Antony, on the cusp of turning 50, was growing increasingly attached to Cleopatra and the decadent lifestyle available to him in the court of Ptolemaic Egypt. Octavian, approaching the age of 30, was more ambitious than ever.

Octavian also had a new reason to turn on Antony. Upon the death of Antony’s rabble rousing wife Fulvia in 40 BCE, Antony had married Octavian’s sister Octavia. The idea, of course, had been to consolidate relations between the triumvirs, but the plan backfired when Antony and Octavia separated toward the end of 36. Octavia returned to Rome, and Antony to Cleopatra and Egypt. It was becoming increasingly clear that Antony saw Alexandria as his home. Octavian wanted his last surviving opponent neutralized, but he had to wait two years for an excuse to march against the older man. The excuse came in 34. Antony gave Cleopatra the title of Queen of Kings and declared that their son Alexander Helios would be the king of Armenia and the distant east. Their daughter Cleopatra Selene would control the central part of North Africa. Their young son Ptolemy Philadelphus would rule Syria and the south central part of modern day Turkey. And most vexing of all to Octavian – the thing that may have spurred him into action most of all – was that Julius Caesar’s 10-year-old son Caesarion, the son that Caesar had had with Cleopatra, would rule Egypt as the king of kings. Octavian, whose fortunes had risen after the dead dictator had posthumously adopted him, could not let this stand.

Battle of Actium-en horace background

The Battle of Actium, in all of its details, is elaborately alluded to in the pages of the Augustan Age poets. Image by Future Perfect at Sunrise.

For several years, the dying Roman republic prepared for its final civil war. As people consolidated into the two opposing camps, 300 senators defected to join Antony, having witnessed Octavian’s chillingly singleminded pursuit of absolute power. The outbreak of war was inevitable by the beginning of 31, and in order to finance his campaign, Octavian forced the inhabitants of Italy to surrender a fourth of their annual incomes. Although rebellions flared up, Octavian had the military strength to quell them, and by the spring of 31, he was ready for the showdown that would end the republic and begin the empire.

Now, if this were a show on Octavian himself, or, say, on Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, it would be important to cover what happened in the summer of 31 in detail – Antony’s troop defections, the battle of Actium, and the follow up campaign in Alexandria. But this is a show on Horace, and for Horace’s sake, it will be sufficient to say that the Battle of Actium took place on September 2, 31 BCE, and it crushed Antony and Cleopatra’s navy. A year later, after Octavian had settled some of his oldest veterans who were overdue for retirement, Octavian invaded Egypt. Antony was dead by early August. Rome gained the single piece of Mediterranean coastline that had never belonged to it before, which would thereafter be a cornerstone of its economy for almost seven hundred years. Octavian became the most powerful person in the world. And Horace, and everyone like him, knew that Rome had changed forever, and that there was no going back. [music]

Horace’s War Poetry

I’ve spent a fair amount of time upfront here talking about the civil wars that ended the Roman Republic, because these wars frequently come up in Horace’s poetry. I want to look at some of these war poems now, because they come in very different shapes and sizes.

Horace wrote a lot of different kinds of poems on the subject of war. They were written during the Augustan regime, but they were also written earlier – during the civil wars of the 30s. Horace’s war poems range from hawkish and militaristic to pacifist, but more often than not Horace imagines the plight of the common Roman, caught up in fratricidal campaigns against his fellow countrymen.

Before we dive into Horace’s poetry proper let me say one more thing. His output included two books of satires, one book of epodes, four books of odes and two books of epistles. I’m going to be quoting from all of these in the remainder of this show, and for the sake of brevity I won’t tell you which genre and which book and which particular poem I’m quoting from, quote after quote, in the audio version of this program. If you want to track any of it down, though, as you likely know I publish free transcriptions of each episode on my website, complete with line numbers and footnotes. As I said earlier, quotes from the satires and epistles will be taken from the John Davie translation, published by Oxford University Press in 2011, and also, quotes from the odes and epodes are taken from the W.G. Shepherd translation, published by Penguin Classics in 1983.

So, Horace, who had lived through the most awful period of civil war Rome had ever faced, naturally had a bit to say about it, and as I said a second ago, he often expressed sadness and consternation at the idea of Romans killing other Romans. For instance, in one of his more famous odes, Horace asks,
What plain is not enriched with Latin blood
to witness with its graves to our unholy
wars, the resounding fall of the West
audible even to Parthian ears?

What eddy or stream untainted
by the shameful war? What sea
is not incarnadined with [Roman] blood?
What shore has no news of our slaughters? (Ode 2.1.29-35)16

It is a nightmarish image – this vision of the blood filling streams and oceans, and of a slaughter so cacophonous that it’s audible even on other continents. A similar quote in one of Horace’s epodes begins with questions that are later answered with dreadful pessimism. Epode 7, probably done some time during the skirmishes with Sextus Pompeius that ended in 36 BCE, begins with an incredulous question on the subject of the renewed descent into warfare.17
Into what, what, do you wickedly plunge? [Horace asks his countrymen.]
Why do your hands draw swords from scabbards?
Perhaps too little Latin blood has been spilled
on battlefields or Neptune’s realm. . .
Such [behavior] never [belonged] to lions or wolves,
ferocious only to alien kinds.
Does blinded frenzy possess us?
Some sharper goad, such as guilt? Reply!
– Silence. A blenching pallor dyes their cheeks,
their capsized intellects are numb.
So it goes: a bitter fate pursues
the Romans, and the crime of fratricide,
since the blood of Remus ran on the earth,
the bane of his successors. (Epode 1.7.1-4,11-20)18

These are some of the most despairing lines in Roman literature, and they are representative of many of Horace’s statements about the horrors of civil war. Later in his career – some time around 23 BCE when he published his first book of odes, even though he was living under the Augustan regime, Horace retained an utterly bleak perspective on the human toll of the earlier decade’s civil wars. Horace imagines that in the future, “Young men will hear that citizen sharpened against citizen / swords that should have slain our Persian enemies. / They will hear – / what few there are, thanks to the sins of their fathers – of the battles we fought” (I.2.21-3).19 And I took the title of this episode – Episode 50, Our Brutal Age – from one of the last odes in Horace’s first book of odes. Thinking back on the bloodshed of the past few decades, Horace writes, “Shame on our scars, our crimes, / our brothers! Our brutal age has shrunk / from nothing. We have left no impiety / untouched” (1.35.33-6).20

The ideas here are not complicated. Horace sees civil war as an act of depravity which would not be remembered kindly by posterity. And while statements condemning civil war as an awful blight on Roman history are common throughout Horace’s poems, one of his most poignant war poems adds something else – a tantalizing vision of far off peace. These lines come from Epode 16, and they begin with a standard condemnation of civil war:
Already another generation
is being ground down by civil war. Rome reels
from her own might. . .[but a moment later he fantasizes about a solution:]
[L]et the whole State go – or the portion better than
the unteachable flock – let the weak and despairing
weigh down their fated beds. But you
who have spirit, cast off. . .grief
and glide away past [our Italian] coasts. [And Horace imagines going to]
rich islands and farms, the blessed farms,
where every year the earth, untilled, yields corn;
and the vines, unpruned, forever bloom;
and the never failing sprigs of olive bud;
and dusky figs adorn their trees. . .(Epode 1.16.1-3,37-41,42-6)21

This sad, beautiful poem envisions a bucolic paradise where Romans who have sense can escape the carnage of modern history. Using the pastoral language of his contemporary Virgil and their predecessor Theocritus, Horace imagines a place of peace and plentitude in a long passage that often sounds like it could have come from the Books of Isaiah or Daniel.22

But not all of Horace’s poems related to war are staunch condemnations of it. Students of English poetry, studying the period of literature after World War I, are likely to read Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori.” Horace wrote this line, in the second poem in his third book of odes, and it means, “It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country.” In Wilfred Owen’s poem, “Dulce et Decorum est” is called an “old Lie” – a falsehood that anyone who suffered the hell of trench warfare understands to be a lie. Some of Wilfred Owen’s poem’s famous lines, published in 1920, read,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori

Now, Horace’s Dulce et decorum est is indeed an unambiguous statement about the beauty and righteousness of dying for one’s country, and Owen isn’t wrong in calling attention to this rather militaristic line. However, we should remember that Horace most often writes about war with the same incredulous revulsion that Owen does, and that Horace was no propagandistic war hawk, even though he wrote a poem extolling the alleged glory and sweetness of dying for one’s country. Let’s hear that line in context as it appears in Horace’s ode.
Let the healthy boy learn to suffer
straight poverty gladly in hard campaigns. . .
It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country
and death harries even the man who flees
nor spares the hamstrings or cowardly
backs of battle-shy youths. . . (III.2.1-2,13-16)23

Wilfred Owen plate from Poems (1920)

A photograph of the poet Wilfred Owen (1893-1918).

The poem goes on to discuss the merits of taking the less-trod path, acting nobly, and it emphasizes the inescapability of divine retribution. Even though we just read a bit of it, I wonder if those closing lines gave you pause – the ones that condemn the “cowardly backs of battle-shy youths.” Because earlier, we read lines in which Horace himself recollects fleeing at the battle of Philippi – fleeing with such desperate fear that he left his shield behind. Why would Horace admit to dashing off the field during a battle, and in an ode published the very same year – 23 BCE, by the way – condemn young men who showed cowardice in battle, as he once had?

There are two answers, both pretty simple. One is that Horace’s condemnations of war tend to be about Rome’s civil wars – to Horace, these were fruitless, reprehensible wars, and perhaps he thought that fleeing from them was more pardonable than fleeing from a Roman engagement with a foreign enemy. And the second answer is that he wrote his more militaristic odes in a time when Rome was again engaging with foreign enemies. Augustus himself, in the opening decade of his long reign, gave himself command of the more fractious provinces, including Spain and Gaul, Syria, Cilicia, Cyprus, and Egypt.24 And during the years just before Horace published his famous first three books of odes, Romans were indeed crossing swords with foes in these regions and elsewhere. However much Horace detested civil war, he generally seems to be on board with the hawkish expansionism of the Augustan period.

So we’ve talked a bit about Horace’s early life. We’ve talked about the civil wars and the effect that they had on Horace, and read some of his more prominent statements about war in the Roman world. What I want to do now is to take things into the Augustan period proper – the decades that unfolded after Actium. As I said, this is the first of two shows on Horace, and the next program will be more solely devoted to his poetry. My goal in the remainder of this show is to tell you a bit about the early Augustan regime, what we know about the Augustan sponsorship of the arts and how it worked, and what Horace himself had to say about the evolving patronage system. In upcoming programs in this sequence on Augustan literature – in our shows covering Virgil, Propertius, and Ovid, we’ll talk about many aspects of Augustus and his reign – how and when he expanded his political and military powers, for instance; the laws he passed related to marriage, fidelity, and the freeing of slaves, the wars of the period, and that kind of thing. For now, though, because imperial patronage in some form or another affected every Augustan age writer, let’s talk about how Rome’s first emperor financed the works of Horace and his contemporaries. [music]

Rome’s Patronage System During the Early Augustan Age

If you think about it, it is a bit peculiar that Rome’s most famous period of literary history immediately followed its most catastrophic decades of civil war. The civil wars claimed the lives of a number of prominent poets whose names we know but works we don’t possess – Helvius Cinna, Cornificius, Cassius Parmensis, Ticida, and others. While the production of literature was halted by the deaths of those who produced it over the 40s and 30s BCE, these same decades saw huge casualties in the aristocracy and prominent commercial class. Men and women who could have otherwise supported up and coming writers were slaughtered at the demands of proscription lists, killed in battle, impoverished by seizures of property and land, and exiled to the boundaries of the Roman world. And yet with the rise of Augustus also came Rome’s most influential writers, a quintet who have dominated studies of Latin literature for thousands of years.

Bakalovich at Maecenas' reception horace background

Stepan Bakalovich’s At Maecenas’ Reception (1890). Imaginative as this recreation was, there is little doubt that Maecenas hosted lavish parties that poets used to network and share their work with one another.

What happened, then, to facilitate the creation and preservation of works by Horace, and Virgil, Propertius, and Tibullus, and last but not least Ovid? Let’s talk a bit about that.

Augustus emerged from the end of the war with Antony in possession of vast new financial resources from the new province of Egypt. This wealth, along with Augustus’ existing fortune, was expended in literally thousands of new projects – improved roads, way stations for couriers, aqueducts, fountains, a police force, a firefighting squadron, temples, and a wide array of other public buildings. Amidst all these infrastructural expansions were libraries, too – Augustus built three in Rome during his reign. One of these libraries was folded into a new temple complex dedicated to Apollo on the Palatine Hill, a temple complex that is described in the Aeneid, and in a poem by Propertius, and another by Ovid.25 Augustus’ Rome, with its public spaces and the availability of literary texts, and its general financial stability, had the physical resources that poets needed to operate.

But much more importantly, it had a patronage system, a patronage system that supported not only artists, but all sorts of men and women who helped abet the careers of the rich and powerful. Earlier, we heard of how Horace and his family lost their property during Rome’s civil wars. At some point in the 30s, Horace was given a position as a scriba quaestorius at the Roman treasury, serving as a scribe or clerk for the quaestors who ran Rome’s financial affairs. However he obtained it, it was an undemanding civil service job that allowed him time to work on his poetry and make connections with other literarily minded inhabitants of the Roman capital. While working as a civil servant, and we don’t know exactly when, Horace befriended the poet Virgil and another poet whose works have not survived, and these two writers introduced Horace to a man named Gaius Cilnius Maecenas, whom, when I mentioned him earlier, I called Augustus’ left hand man. To understand Augustan age literature, you need to know a bit about Maecenas.

Maecenas is a very important, but rather idiosyncratic figure in this peri od of Roman history. He is most famous for enabling the poetic careers of Horace and Virgil, and generally serving to help Augustus invest his money in the arts. Suetonius offers the following description of Maecenas.
[A]ll we know [of Maecenas] is derived chiefly from the writings of Virgil and Horace; but from the manner in which they address him, amidst the familiarity of their intercourse, there is the strongest reason to suppose, that he was not less amiable and respectable in private life, than illustrious in public situation. . .[H]e was of Tuscan extraction, and derived his descent through the ancient kings of that country. Though in the highest degree of favor with Augustus, he never aspired beyond the rank of the equestrian order. . .In principle he is said to have been of the Epicurean sect, and in his dress and manners to have bordered on effeminacy. . .The liberal patronage which he displayed towards men of genius and talents, will render his name for ever celebrated in the annals of learning.26

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - Maecenas Presenting the Liberal Arts - 1743 horace bacgkround

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s Maecenas Presenting the Liberal Arts to Emperor Augustus (1743). I presume the man on the lower left is supposed to be Maecenas, gesturing to the artists showcasing their projects for the emperor.

Maecenas is mentioned often in Horace’s writings, and the two men eventually became great friends. From reading Suetonius and the poetry of Horace, we can deduce that Horace and his patron Maecenas shared an affection for easy living, food, drink, sex, and rural vacations. Both men had the opportunity to climb higher up the social ladder offered to them by Augustus – Horace was offered a position as the emperor’s secretary and Maecenas entry into the senate, and both respectfully declined. Horace, as we’ll see in much of the next episode, had an irreverent, self-effacing, generally lighthearted personality if his Satires and Epistles have any veracity to them, and we can imagine that both men were happy to play second fiddle to Augustus and those who still sought to climb the cursus honorum in the bewildering opening decades of the imperial period. Horace himself, who had lost everything after the Battle of Philippi, found that life under the sponsorship of Augustus could be quite pleasant indeed. Suetonius writes that Horace “lived in an elegant manner, having, besides his house in [Rome], a cottage on his Sabine farm, and a villa at Tibur, near the falls of the Anio, [and] he enjoyed, beyond all doubt, a handsome establishment from the liberality of Augustus.”27

Imperial patronage, then, brought Horace from rags to riches. An easygoing and likable personality, together with an expansive poetic imagination and literary education caused him to come to the attention of Virgil and his friend Varius, and thereafter Maecenas and Augustus himself. This top-down model of artistic sponsorship is a good way to begin to understand how literature was commissioned during the Augustan Age. Scholar Peter White invites us to also remember that “Poetry in this milieu was not merely a common taste but in some degree a communal activity. Its devotees wrote together and read their work to one another, offered suggestions about possible subjects, and exchanged criticism of results.”28 Thus, Horace, Virgil, dozens of other poets, and over them a small handful of patrons, including Augustus himself, formed a heterogeneous workshop, out of which came Rome’s most influential texts.

That “dozens of other poets” part is important to remember. Only the works of Horace, Virgil, Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid survive today, but there were far more writers operating in Augustan Rome than this small set. Classicist Peter White, who counts about three dozen names of poets alongside the five whose works we now have, writes that “For a critic seeking to generalize about Augustan poetry, the abundance of poets creates an obvious problem of extrapolating from five who are extant and knowable to some three dozen others who are not.”29 In other words, we’ve lost about 90% of the poetry produced in Rome during the Augustan Age, and it’s important to remember that the Aeneid was one of many Roman epics.

Additionally, there were other patrons operating in Rome than the emperor and his cultural superintendent Maecenas. While Maecenas was the main patron of Horace and Virgil, Ovid and Tibullus express gratitude toward a man named Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, a former general involved with Augustus’ postwar building projects during the 20s and 10s. Names of other patrons emerge in Juvenal’s later history – Proculeius, Fabius, Cotta, and Lentulus.30 And there seems to have been no stigma against having many patrons simultaneously – surviving books of Augustan Age poetry unabashedly contain compositions directed to several different patrons.

The line between patron and poet was often indistinguishable. One important figure from the Augustan period whose works are now lost was called Asinius Pollio. Pollio was one of the all around most valuable and important contributors to Roman literature and historiography during the Augustan regime. Formerly a consul and general, Pollio had walked a middle line throughout the civil wars, and emerged during into Augustan Age unchastened for his refusal to be involved on either side at the Battle of Actium. Pollio knew Horace and Virgil, and for his patronage to the poets received dedications in some of Virgil’s eclogues and Horace’s odes. Pollio was also a decent poet and an energetic historian, writing works that were used as references for later Roman historians like Plutarch and Appian whose histories have survived.31 While he had resisted allegiance to Augustus during the civil wars, in the 20s Pollio was at the helm of Augustus’ sponsorship of the arts, helping to fund the city’s libraries and their appended art galleries.32 What we know about Pollio and several other patrons suggests that Augustan Age writers like Horace were not confined exclusively to writing works for Augustus and those directly on his payroll. A variety of patrons were available, ranging from Augustus himself to various patricians on the periphery of the regime with their own ideologies and imperatives.

Rome’s most famous writers, then, did not exist in something like a well-oiled totalitarian state with a propaganda ministry and constant censorship and supervision. As we’ll see in subsequent episodes, the Augustan regime was an evolving experiment, cautiously developed and deployed, year after year, and poets like Horace and Virgil were part of its evolution – not victims of some fully formed totalitarian syndicate that emerged in a puff of smoke seconds after the Battle of Actium.

Still, Augustus was a constant presence, outliving every Augustan Age writer except for Ovid, and even then not by much. There’s an image of him that I want us to consider before we move forward to Horace’s own meditations on patronage. By the late first century BCE, a form of popular entertainment existed that we call “declamation.” Declamations were public demonstrations of oratorical ability. Oratory and rhetoric had been public entertainment since the heyday of the city of Athens in the 400s BCE, and in Rome during the life of Horace, speakers were still taking to public podiums to offer entertaining disquisitions, dispatches and stories.33 Something new, however, was emerging in the 30s BCE, and this was the practice of poets reading their work aloud to audiences. The Roman rhetorician Seneca the Elder, whose career began at the end of the Augustan Age, recollected that the patron and all-around man of letters Asinius Pollio was “the first of all Romans to recite his works to an invited general audience.”34 This was an important development in Roman literary history, and a curious one. After all, oratory, and narrative poems, and of course plays are all texts meant to be consumed by a crowd. Poetry, however, particularly the sort of dense and often allusive poetry crafted by Horace and other Augustan Age poets, seems like it would have been a tough sell to the general public. Nonetheless, Suetonius describes the public poetry recitations that started becoming popular in the 30s as “a practice which seems to have been carried even to a ridiculous excess” and moreover a general “rage for poetical composition” that proliferated throughout the Augustan Age.35

One of the attendees of these public readings was the emperor himself. Suetonius recollects how Augustus “generally and patiently listened to recitations, not only of poems and histories but also of speeches and dialogues.”36 Now that, I imagine, would have been an intimidating figure to have in the crowd. A patron could snip off your stipend. The public could boo you. But the emperor could do whatever he wanted. Horace, for one, was not interested in giving public readings of his work. In his first book of Satires, likely issued in the mid 30s, Horace writes, “I don’t give readings from [my writings] to anyone / except my friends, and only when they press me hard, not anywhere / or before any old audience” (1.4.73).37 A public reading, after all, could be misinterpreted, distorted through recollections of it, and reach the ears of the emperor in a form disadvantageous to a poet. Horace preferred to deliver copies of his original work to the emperor, rather than having Augustus hear about it secondhand. One of his epistles, written to a soldier or courier called Vinius, cautions the emissary to deliver Horace’s work to Augustus under Horace’s seal – and to drop them off only if Augustus is in a good mood. This same epistle tells Horace’s messenger not to be officious in his mannerism, not to carry the books in his armpit, not to reveal if he had sweated on the scrolls carrying Horace’s poems, not to trip and crush them as he began his journey to the emperor, and moreover to show exquisite care that Horace’s poems reached Augustus on good terms, exactly as he’d written them. Horace, put simply, knew what was at stake when it came to countenancing the emperor with poetry.

Alright, so, we’ve drawn a broad picture of the Augustan Age’s general patronage system. We know that the decimation of Rome’s aristocratic intelligentsia and its writers during the civil wars was insufficient to halt the production of literature in postwar Rome. We talked about the financial stability of the Augustan regime, together with the public works projects that made literature available to writers working in the capital. We discussed the broad population of poets and patrons active in the Augustan Age, and how we only possess a small portion of this period’s productions. And finally, we went over how in spite of the plurality of patrons available to the Augustan Age poet, writers did seem to treat Augustus himself very cautiously. What I want to do now is to dip back into Horace’s poetry, with the aim of looking at the various ways he treats his patrons in the texts that he wrote. By looking at how Horace manages the delicate operation of thanking the men who paid his bills, we’ll begin our journey into Augustan Age literature with an understanding of how it was funded, and how this funding affected its form and content. [music]

Horace’s Complex Understanding of Patronage

In a sentence, the dedications and addresses to patrons in Augustan Age literature are a mixture of hyperbolic flattery, genuine friendship and gratitude, and subtle self assertion. A line in one of Horace’s epistles showcases this span of different elements. Horace writes that “To achieve great deeds in war and to display the captured enemy to one’s fellow citizens is to touch the throne of Jupiter and to scale the heavens: but to have found favour with leaders in society is not the lowest form of renown” (Epis 1.17.33-6).38 The praise of Rome’s great martial leaders here is hackneyed – they are giants who touch the clouds. Great. But there is also a crafty element of self promotion – Horace indicates that being patronized by the strongmen who control Rome’s military and economy is also no small achievement.

Augustan poets occupied a slippery, but potentially very powerful rung in the Augustan social order, and they knew it. One of Horace’s more famous epistles is addressed to Augustus himself. It begins with a standard salutation exalting the emperor’s unique position. Horace writes,
Since you alone support on your shoulders so many heavy burdens of office, protecting our Italian state with arms, furnishing her with morals, and improving her with laws, I would be offending against the public interest should I waste your time, Caesar. . .[and Horace says that although great figures like Heracles never received fitting praises during their own lifetimes,] upon you, while you are still among us, we happily bestow honours in good time, and raise altars to swear by in the name of your divinity, acknowledging that nothing like you has arisen or will ever arise in ages to come. (Epis 2.1.1-4,15-18)39

These sorts of commendations are commonplace in Augustan poetry, carefully ornamented statements that acclaim the emperor as the living efflorescence of divine providence. Augustan Age poets knew how to lay it on thick, and glorifying their patrons was an important part of what put food on their tables. The epistle I just quoted from, however, is more than a sustained piece of flattery. It is actually, for the most part, an excuse – an apology for not writing the emperor an epic like Virgil was. After some remarks about literature – and we’ll talk about Horace and literary criticism in the next episode – Horace laments that he is not up to the task of a full scale epic. To quote from the same epistle again, and this is the first letter in Horace’s second book of Epistles, translated by John Davie, Horace writes,

[J]ust as ink when handled produces a mark that stains,
so writers often defile glorious actions with their ugly verses. . .
as for me,
I should not prefer my [poems] that crawl along the ground to a celebration
in verse of great exploits, to a tale of far-flung lands and rivers,
of fortresses on mountain-tops and barbaric kingdoms, of wars ended
all the world over under your auspices, of bars that enclose Janus the
guardian of peace, and of Rome striking fear into the Parthians with
you as our emperor, if only my abilities were equal to my desires;
but neither does your majesty admit of humble verse nor does my sense
of shame dare to attempt a task beyond my strength to bear. (2.1.235-6,251-9)40

These lines are, at first glance, a self-abasing apology – Horace’s literary talents are insufficient to the emperor’s grandeur, and Augustus deserves better. But Horace’s famous letter to Augustus is also curiously gutsy, saying that, whatever requests had been made to him, Horace wasn’t going to undertake the enormous task that Virgil agreed to. The epistle to Augustus shows that although the emperor had a stable of poets around him, and although these poets often heaped praises on him, they were not slaves, required to write at the snap of his fingers.

Virgil Reading the Aeneid

Jean-Baptiste Wicar’s Virgil Reading the Aeneid to Augustus, Octavia, and Livia (1790-3), one of the more famous images of Augustan Age patronage. Virgil appears rather youthful for a journeyman poet in his mid-forties!

Further, it is actually a fixture of Augustan Age poetry for a poet to reveal that he has been requested to write a full scale epic. As scholar Jasper Griffin astutely observes, “The poets all profess to be under pressure to produce patriotic and martial epic, to the glory of a dynast. The suggestion is flattering to both parties.”41 So, we can read Horace’s delicate refusal to Augustus as genuine shame and self-criticism. But we can also read it as self-promotion. He didn’t have to publish his refusal letter, after all, but Horace wanted all of Rome to know that the emperor had asked him for a grand epic like the Aeneid, and that Horace, preferring shorter works and shorter workdays, had turned Augustus down.

While occasionally Horace’s addresses to Augustus contain flickers of self promotion and self assertion, like the one we just discussed, I don’t want to give the impression that Horace’s treatment of Maecenas, Augustus, and other patrons is always subversive or double edged. Many descriptions of Augustus are unqualified glorifications of the emperor. The second ode in Horace’s first book of odes compares Augustus to Mercury, “a young man on the earth. . .Caesar’s avenger. . .may no breeze come and snatch you up too soon, angered by our sins. . .celebrate your triumphs. / Here delight to be hailed as Father and Princeps. . .you, [Augustus] are our leader.” (1.2.43-51)42 The twelfth ode in this same book celebrates Augustus in similar terms, calling the emperor the second in command to Jupiter himself, and telling Jupiter that “as your subordinate [Augustus] will rule a joyful world in equity” (1.12.57).43

We could quote dozens of places in Horace’s poems where a patron receives lavish praises. Generally those addressed to Maecenas are warmer and more familiar – the two were very close friends, after all – than the ones addressed to Augustus.44 But let’s move onto a slightly different topic. While Horace’s poetry is filled with appreciative addresses to patrons, it also contains a number of meditations about patronage itself – the ethics of the system and how it worked. Horace knew that his poems were part of a system of transaction – of product and reward – and believed that a specific decorum governed this system.

Epistles 17 and 18 in Horace’s first book of letters are about how a client ought to behave toward a patron. Horace writes that “Those who say nothing about their poverty in the presence of their [patron] will get more than the one who asks; it makes a difference whether you take gifts in moderation or grab them.” (Epis 1.17.43-5)45 Perhaps thinking of the unique friendship he had cultivated with Maecenas, Horace advises the aspiring poet that “As a married woman will differ from a prostitute and have a different way of life, so a friend will be distinct from an untrustworthy hanger-on.” (Epis 1.18.3-5)46 Trust and prudence were a key part of the client’s conduct in a patron-client relationship to Horace. He emphasizes that a client shouldn’t introduce someone unworthy to his patron, and that in general a successful client must “take care many a time what you say and about what man and to whom you say it. Avoid the man who asks questions, for he is also a gossip; open ears do not keep secrets faithfully, and a word let slip flies on its way beyond recall” (Epis 1.18.67-70).47

At first glance these are odd lines to discover in Latin poetry. They sound like they could be printed in a manual for international espionage. But if you think about it, the circle of poets who had access to the emperor and his subordinates were in a special position. They were interested in literature, first and foremost, but they were also nodes in a network of influence and money, and potential access points for outsiders who wanted to cultivate their own relationships and transactions with Rome’s elites. Part of making a career for oneself in the patron-client system of Augustan Rome was thus having a well honed political acumen – an ability to differentiate between the blandishments of grasping outsiders and the earnest efforts of genuine poets and friends. One of Horace’s satires is written on just this subject.

An early satire tells the story of Horace running into a chatty stranger who knows who Horace is and desperately wants access to Maecenas’ inner circle. The stranger promises Horace, “You’d have an able assistant, one who could play a minor role, if you saw fit to introduce [me to Maecenas]; damn me if you wouldn’t send all the rest of them packing.” (Sat 1.9.45-8)48 Horace resents the stranger’s misconception that Maecenas’ circle is competitive and backbiting, but the social climbing stranger continues to reveal a revoltingly unscrupulous ambition. “I won’t sell myself short,” he tells Horace, “I’ll bribe [Maecenas’] slaves; if I’m denied access today, I won’t give up.” (Sat 1.9.57-9)49 Here, and elsewhere, Horace draws satirical portraits of aggressive outsiders – outsiders whose clumsy attempts to headbutt their way into the delicate world of Rome’s client and patron system are both pathetic and amusing.50 Strangers might seek shortcuts through Rome’s center of power, but Horace makes it clear that Rome’s patronage system is characterized by gentility and artistic merit, and not boorish and inelegant ambition.

In the passages we’ve just discussed, we’ve seen that Horace had a sophisticated understanding of how a client ought to act toward his patron, both within and outside of his poetry. He could heap glorifying praises on Augustus. He could speak of Maecenas with heartfelt gratitude and amity. He could, in passages dealing with any of his patrons, tout their merits while at the same time craftily tipping the hat toward his own. And he could offer seasoned advice on how a client ought to conduct himself in order to steer clear of intrigues and enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with his patron. There’s just one more thing we should talk about in regards to Horace and the issue of patronage, a small but extremely important topic in Augustan Age poetry.

Anticlea in the Underworld

Johann Heinrich Fussli’s Tiresias Foretells the Future to Odysseus (c. 1800). It’s a pivotal scene in the Odyssey, and a funny one for Horace to convert into a satirical story about Rome’s patronage system.

Scholars have often looked for signs of subversion, or secret bitterness toward the postwar social order in the lines of Horace and his contemporaries. In other words, we can’t help but wonder whether or not Horace, or other writers whose lives had been upended by the civil wars that Augustus was central to funding and spurring on, slipped criticism of the new regime into the literature that they wrote. Now this is a huge and fascinating topic, and the slightly later Augustan poets Propertius and Ovid probably have a bit more subversive content than Horace himself – we’ll get to that soon – but even Horace, in a few scattered places, seems to reveal that writing poems for patrons in a newly minted autocracy was not the summit of his youthful hopes and dreams.

Earlier, we looked at a passage in which Horace advises an aspiring poet not to be too forward with a patron, and, once a commission had been established, to keep his words carefully guarded. Horace has other advice for aspiring contemporary poets, but it’s a bit darker and more cynical. The advice in question comes in the fifth satire of Horace’s second book of satires. In Horace’s poem, Odysseus is talking to Tiresias, as Odysseus does in the eleventh book Homer’s Odyssey. Horace, writing a satire, characterizes Odysseus as a bit less than heroic. In fact, Horace’s Odysseus is principally concerned with getting his money back after his adventures. “[N]either a man’s birth nor his courage is worth any more than seaweed if he lacks possessions” (Sat 2.5.8-9) Odysseus exclaims to the undead seer, and Tiresias offers him memorable advice.51
[Y]ou must hunt craftily[, Tiresias advises Odysseus,] in every place for old men’s wills, and, if one or two are cunning enough to escape the fishermen after nibbling the bait from your hook, don’t abandon hope or give up the practice because you’ve been baffled. . . [And Tiresias tells Odysseus to seek out literarily minded patrons, as well:] If he’s a lunatic writing bad poetry, praise it. If he chases after women, make sure he doesn’t have to ask you; without prompting hand over [your wife] Penelope obligingly to your better. (Sat 2.5.23-7,75-6)

In short, this particular satire paints the elderly and rich as gullible, pretentious, sometimes lecherous, and often easily duped. Horace depicts the epic hero Odysseus as a poet seeking a patron, who, like Odysseus, must use his wits and his words to make his way in the world. Still, Horace’s Odysseus, clever as he is, is told to share his wife with a rich patron if necessary, and all in all the satire paints an incredibly cynical portrait of the patronage system.52

This cynicism toward patronage is evident in other lines Horace wrote on the subject of servants and masters – particularly servants who give up a freedom to serve a master and then find themselves deprived of their previous liberty. The clearest example of this is in a very short allegory that Horace adapts from an earlier Greek writer Stesichorus, an allegory about a conflict between a stag, or powerful male deer, and a horse. Horace writes,

The stag was a better fighter than the horse and used to drive him
from the pasture they shared, until the loser in this lengthy contest
begged the assistance of man and accepted the bit; but after [the horse]
parted from his enemy in haughty triumph, [the horse] did not get rid of the
rider from his back or the bit from his mouth. In this way the man
whose fear of poverty makes him forfeit freedom, that surpasses the
wealth of mines, will in his greed carry a master and be a slave for
ever, because he does not know how to live on a little. (Epis 1.10.35-42)53

It’s not exactly a challenging parable – for the animal who accepts a deal with the devil and becomes domesticated, freedom is over, just as – and I’m interpreting here, of course – just as the poet beholden to a patron incurred artistic obligations and social expectations. This isn’t the only short allegory often used as evidence for Horace’s cynicism toward Rome’s patronage system. A second, and even shorter one, is about a vixen or female fox, who squeezes through a narrow fence into a granary, eats a great deal, and cannot escape. Here’s the story:
It happened once that a lean little vixen had crept through a narrow
chink into a bin of grain and, having fed herself, was striving with
swollen stomach to get out again but without success. A weasel hard
by remarked to her, “If you want to escape from there, be sure to
return to the narrow hole as thin as you were when you entered it.” (Epis 1.7.30-33)54

The fox slithers in, helps herself to the bounty of humanity, but in the process, it seems, she becomes too bloated to get back out the way she came in. In both of these stories – the stories of the horse and the fox – wild and free animals use, enjoy, and then cannot escape from the plentitude of humanity.

I don’t know whether these two allegories were written with Rome’s patronage system in mind, nor whether the story of Odysseus and his prospective patrons is a dour take on how dynamic young moneyless Romans cajole decadent patricians. Literary critics, particularly modern ones, are utterly fascinated by the complicity of authors with state power structures, and it would take a real Latinist to assemble evidence for whether or not the sum total Horace’s poetry critiques or endorses the Augustan regime. What I can tell you at a high level is that his poetry is filled with standard adulations of his patrons, including Augustus, that his poems contain a sophisticated understanding of how to be a client to a patron in the cutthroat world of postwar Rome, and, occasionally, we see in his poems what seem to be darker musings on the poet’s ultimate powerlessness.

Horace’s complicity within the Augustan regime, whatever its extent, was a source of criticism to later writers, including the seventeenth-century English poet John Dryden. Comparing the merits of Horace’s successor Juvenal to those of Horace himself, Dryden called Juvenal “a zealous vindicator of Roman liberty” and Horace “a well-mannered court-slave.”55 It’s a harsh assessment, and perhaps Dryden should have remembered that Horace may have simply been indisposed to being crucified or having his eyes torn out. I think that when we tell Horace’s story, and imagine how he felt about the end of the Republic, we have to remember that his father was a freed slave who’d wanted more than anything for his son to be successful in Rome, and stretched himself thin to get Horace in a position to succeed. Horace, like all Romans of his generation, had seen ugly things along the way, but by the time he was in his late thirties, he found himself a prosperous man with direct personal connections to Rome’s most powerful people. He could not be too ashamed of himself for keeping his head down and surviving the conflagration of the 40s and 30s. After all, his main ambition was not power, nor political clout, nor military muscle, nor standing up against what all evidence suggested was an unassailable new regime. His motivation, I think, is best described in his own words, in lines he published around the time Augustus emerged as the victor of the civil wars:
Let me be brief: [Horace wrote,] whether a peaceful old age
awaits me or death flits around me with her black wings, rich or poor
at Rome or in exile, should chance so determine, whatever hue my life
takes on, I will be a writer. (Sat 2.1.57-61)56

Literature and History on Patreon

Well, folks, this is Episode 50 of Literature and History. Pretty cool. Seems like it wasn’t so long ago at all that we were talking about silt deposits on the banks of the Euphrates back in 3,100 BCE, and here we are, all of a sudden, entering the splendor of Augustan Age Rome. I’m continuing to have a great time producing this show, and watching it slowly grow. While the audience of Literature and History has continued to expand, the episode length has, since the first eight programs I released, just about doubled – the early episodes I wrote averaged in at about 7,500 words, or a little over an hour, whereas upcoming shows on Virgil, Ovid, and Seneca that I’ve already written are averaging about 14,000 words, or about two hours. That means more comprehensive coverage, more engagement with scholarship, more historical background, and more great literature, coming through your headphones or speakers.

I have been approached by a number of groups seeking to buy ad space on this podcast. And I have told them all, “Hell, no.” The Iliad does not have commercials. The Book of Job does not try to get you to buy prepackaged dinners or cozy mattresses. The Oresteian trilogy doesn’t invite you to play online brain training games. So Literature and History, other than when I, personally, read a great book or hear a podcast I want to tell you about – Literature and History will never, unless someone murders me and takes this thing over, have commercials.

This means that if I want any financial support, it’s going to need to be crowd sourced, and from listeners. Now, a great deal of this episode has been about patronage. We learned about how Horace worked with Maecenas and Augustus in order to make a living. We don’t have Maecenases and Augustuses any more. We just have each other. And we have a service called Patreon. And I wanted to talk – a minute – about my Patreon page.

If you listen to independent podcasts like this one, you’ve probably heard of Patreon. Patreon is a website where you log in, you give a credit card number, and then pledge a small amount to directly support artists and intellectuals whose work you find useful or valuable. Most patrons contribute a dollar or two per month or per release. That’s it. The idea is that we find two or three projects that we want to help, and pledge a small amount to each one. I started a Patreon page a while ago and have mentioned it occasionally. I think if there’s one thing us podcasters want to communicate about Patreon, it’s that the dollar-per-show or dollar-per-month pledge is totally normal – that it’s the backbone of how Patreon works, and it’s a wonderful contribution. It’s like giving a tenth of what you do to Netflix or Amazon every month, only your contribution isn’t going to a hundred billion dollar corporation, it’s going to a regular person like you, who is directly providing you a unique specialty service that you find useful, like putting a tip in the tip jar for a coffee or burrito, except that educational audio shows are free in the first place.

On my Patreon page, for some time now, I’ve been uploading each program’s comedy song as a separate file, and putting additional audio files there – instrumental songs, recordings of famous poems, miscellaneous stuff about life, and so if you can pledge a dollar per show, you’ll not only get the gratification of supporting a public educator, but also, at this point, quite a bit of extra material, too. I also send Patreon supporters some instrumental music from time to time just for fun – once in a while I do a nice background theme piece for an episode that might be worth listening to while studying or driving or something and I’ve been happy to give those to Patreon supporters, as well.

Patreon doesn’t charge you any extra fees, and I will say up front that I will generally try for two episodes per month, and never more. I personally prefer the per-episode model because if I decide to take a couple of months off, like I did last year, I’m not getting paid for doing no work. Maecenas and Horace may have thought that a one-to-one interchange of writing for money was vulgar, but I think that on the contrary, it’s rather elegant.

Folks, if enough of you made the one dollar per episode pledge upon finishing listening to this episode, I could quit my job and do this professionally this month, and I’d be happy to do so for the rest of my life. We could, as a group, bring a heck of a lot of peer reviewed literature programs to a lot of people, all over the world, and I hope that the time and care I spend on these episodes, and keeping fluff and advertisements out of them – will make the project useful for a coming generation of listeners. The nice thing about doing all of this myself is that donations go a long way, because it’s just me doing everything.

The show notes in whichever podcast app you’re using to play this episode have links to the Patreon page, and as always, right there in your podcast app you have links to each episode’s transcription and quiz, too, over on my website. Please, when you finish listening to this episode, head over to patreon.com/literatureandhistory and make a $1 or $2 per episode pledge.

And thanks for listening to my pitch – as I said I just can’t imagine having real commercials on this thing, so your contributions are my only real hope for getting away from having two full time jobs. With all my heart, I really appreciate those of you who have reached out and contributed already – each time it’s thrilling, and special, and I don’t think it’ll ever wear off. I know you’re busy, too, and if you listen to shows like this you’re driven, and disciplined, and you’re good at maximizing your resources – time as well as money. But please, especially if you’ve listened to the nearly 80 hours of free content I’ve already released, take three minutes out of your day today, and make that pledge of a dollar or two per show. [music]

Moving on to More Poetry by Horace

As with the previous episode on Catullus’ I want to thank Professor Aven McMaster at Thorneloe University for reading over a transcription of this program prior to its release. Her doctoral work and subsequent research has dealt with Augustan Age patronage and Latin lyric poetry, and she’s been a huge help. Her podcast, which is called The Endless Knot Podcast, is a show hosted by a classicist and a medievalist, and a really fun journey through history, etymology, literature that discusses these subjects in detail, but also brings them into dialogue with contemporary history and pop culture. Aven, it’s an honor to have you helping us through the challenging world of Latin poetry!

Well, I hope this discussion of patronage during the Augustan Age has been useful. Though it’s a less dazzling a topic than some of the subjects we’ve covered in Literature and History, it will be essential for the next dozen or so episodes on the writers who worked during this period, including our next program.

In this first show on Horace, we really only covered two aspects of Horace’s poetry – his poems concerning war, and the sections of his works that have to do with patrons and patronage. Next time, though, we’ll learn a lot more about Horace’s writings – his satirical style, his amusing ethics, his ideas about what literature ought to do, and more than anything, the incredibly likable personality that he projects through his poems. In an era of cant and pomposity, with self-deifying military men on one side of him and dreadfully serious ethical philosophies like stoicism on the other, Horace just didn’t take himself very seriously, and I think that his general atmosphere of levity and self-deflation is one of the liveliest and most enchanting qualities of his writing to a newcomer. So join me, next time, for a deeper look into the lines of a charming Roman everyman who broke through the end of the republic and made his way in the brave new world of Augustan Rome, in Episode 51: Horace and Augustan Poetry. There’s a quiz on this episode on the website. And if you’re down for a comedy song, I’ve got one for you, and if not, thanks for being a terrific and intellectually driven human being who cares about ancient history, and have a great day!

Still here? Alright. Well, I was reading this essay in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus, and in it I learned something interesting – something I mentioned before. Augustus seems to have petitioned just about everyone around him to write an epic for him. Horace, Ovid, and Propertius – all record having declined. I got to thinking about how funny that was – both that Augustus wanted an epic written about him, and that no one wanted to do it except for Virgil. There’s something kind of pitiful about it – a newly minted emperor being declined again and again, and poets sort of bragging about turning him down. I got to thinking about all that, and I wrote this song, which is called “Augustus Asks for an Epic.” I hope it’s a decent satire of Rome’s first emperor, and again, the dollar-per-episode contribution to Literature and History will get you each show’s song as a separate file upon the show’s release. Thanks again for diving into the Augustan Age with me, and here’s “Augustus Asks for an Epic.”


1.^ Betty Radice’s dating is as follows. Satires, Book 1: 35 BCE. Epodes: 31 BCE. Satires, Book 2: 30 BCE. Odes, Books 1-3, 23 BCE. Epistles, Book 1: 20-19 BCE. Epistles, Book 2: just after 17 BCE. “Carmen Saeculare:” 17 BCE. Odes, Book 4: in or after 13 BCE. From Radice, Betty. “Introduction.” Printed in Horace. The Complete Odes and Epodes. Penguin Classics, 1983, pp. 13-32.

2.^ Allesandro Barchiesi is apt to remind us that “Our acceptance of the Augustan age as a well-defined period of history is deeply collusive with the strategies of self-represenation in Rome during the watch of Octavian-Augustus.” Barchiesi, Allesandro. “Learned Eyes: Poets, Viewers, Image Makers.” Printed in Galinsky, Karl, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus. Cambridge University Press, 2005. Kindle Edition, Location 5017.

3.^ Eck, Warner. The Age of Augustus. Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Kindle Edition, Locations 620-3.

4.^ Quoted in Tempest, Kathryn. Cicero: Politics and Persuasion in Ancient Rome. London: Bloomsbury, 2011, p. 188. The quote is from To Atticus 363 (14.9.2).

5.^ Quoted in Horace. Satires and Epistles. Translated by John Davie. Oxford: OUP, 2011. Unless otherwise noted, quotes from the satires and epistles in this episode come from this edition.

6.^ Horace describes his father working in connection with “auctions” and earning “a commission from collecting the buyers’ money” (Sat 1.6.86,87). (Quoted in Davie, 2011, p. 22.)

7.^ Radice, Betty. “Introduction.” Printed in Horace. The Complete Odes and Epodes. Translated and with Notes by W.G. Shepherd and with an Introduction by Betty Radice. Penguin Classics, 1983, p. 12.

8.^ Ibid, p. 135. Unless otherwise noted, references to Odes and Epodes come from the Shepherd translation.

9.^ See n. 1 for the dating of Horace’s publications.

10.^ Archilochus. Fr. 5.1-4. In Greek Lyric: An Anthology in Translation. Translated by Andrew Miller. Hackett Publishing Company, 1996. Kindle Edition, location 241.

11.^ Eck, Warner. The Age of Augustus. Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Kindle Edition, Location 232.

12.^ This was Asinius Pollio, who patronized both Horace and Virgil and received dedications and praises for helping them through some of their rougher patches.

13.^ Dio, Cassius. Complete Works of Cassius Dio. Delphi Classics, 2014. Kindle Edition, Location 11030. The quotes are from Roman History 48.4.

14.^ See Propertius 1.22.

15.^ Suetonius. Delphi Complete Works of Suetonius. Delphi Classics, 2012. Kindle Edition, Location 1371. (Augustus. XXVII.)

16.^ Quoted in Radice, 1983, p. 105.

17.^ Ibid, p. 15.

18.^ Ibid, p. 55.

19.^ Knox, Peter E. and McKeown, J.C. The Oxford Anthology of Roman Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, p. 223.

20.^ Ibid, p. 235.

21.^ Radice (1983) p. 63.

22.^ For very specific reasons, too. The epode closes with a description of different ages of gold, bronze and iron (Epode 16.65-8) that echo similar passages at the close of Catullus 64, and before it the Book of Daniel, and before it Hesiod’s Works and Days, and long after all of them Dante Inf 14.94-120.

23.^ Radice (1983), pp. 130-1.

24.^ Eck (2007), location 555.

25.^ See Aen 6.69-74, Propertius 2.31.4, Ovid Am 2.2.4.

26.^ Suetonius. Complete Works. Delphi Classics, 2016. Kindle Edition, Locations 2254, 2245, 2250.

27.^ Ibid, 2625-2629.

28.^ White, Peter. “Poets in the New Milieu: Realigning.” Printed in Galinsky, Karl, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus. Cambridge University Press, 2005. Kindle Edition, Location 5924.

29.^ Ibid, Location 5885.

30.^ Sat 7.94-6.

31.^ Seneca writes of Pollio’s “‘bumpy,’ jerky [style], leaving off when you least expect it. . .Pollio breaks off, except in the very few cases where he cleaves to a definite rhythm and a single pattern” (Let 100.3-4).

32.^ See Suetonius Augustus (29) and Pliny’s Natural History (35.10) for descriptions of Pollio’s role in the building projects.

33.^ See White (2005), Location 5832.

34.^ Seneca Controversiae 4.2. Quoted in White (2005), Location 5832.

35.^ Suetonius. Augustus (189). Quoted in Suetonius. Complete Works. Delphi Classics, 2016. Kindle Edition, Location 2935.

36.^ Printed in White (2005). Location 6032.

37.^ Printed in Davie (2011), p. 15.

38.^ Davie (2011) p. 87.

39.^ Ibid, p. 95.

40.^ Ibid, p. 100.

41.^ Griffin, Jasper. “Augustan Poetry and Augustanism.” Printed in Galinsky, Karl, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus. Cambridge University Press, 2005. Kindle Edition, Location 5793. A similar refusal in Horace is in Sat 2.1.12-16.

42.^ Knox and McKeown (2013), p. 223.

43.^ Ibid, p. 228.

44.^ See, for instance, Sat 1.6 and Ode 1.1 for adoring adresses to Maecenas.

45.^ Davie (2011) p. 87.

46.^ Ibid, p. 89.

47.^ Ibid, p. 89.

48.^ Ibid, p. 27.

49.^ Ibid, p. 27.

50.^ Satire 2.8 is written on a similar subject. A nouveau-riche man throws a dinner party at which Maecenas and others are bored by the social climber’s tedious speeches about all his dinner plates – it contains many elements of Horace – a call for moderation, and a simultaneous disparagement of pretension alongside a pride that Horace himself does belong to the inner Augustan circle.

51.^ Davie (2011) p. 50. Further references to the poem are quoted parenthetically.

52.^ Elsewhere (Epistle 1.20) Horace writes of his work as a soon-to-be-manumitted slave boy who will be consumed and then shed aside after being fondled.

53.^ Davie (2011), p. 78.

54.^ Ibid, p. 75.

55.^ Dryden, John. Essays of John Dryden. Volume 2. Translated by W.P. Ker. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900, p. 87.

56.^ Davie (2011), p. 33.