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The Alternative Augustan Age$
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Josiah Osgood, Kit Morrell, and Kathryn Welch

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190901400

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190901400.001.0001

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Saecular Discourse

Saecular Discourse

Qualitative Periodization in First-Century-BCE Rome

(p.216) 14 Saecular Discourse
The Alternative Augustan Age

Paul Hay

Oxford University Press

Even during Augustus’ own lifetime, it was possible to speak of an “Age of Augustus.” This concept emerged from an earlier tradition of qualitative periodization, the applications of which already extended beyond political promotion. Beginning during Sulla’s ascendancy, and continuing throughout the first century BCE, Roman intellectuals divided time into discrete units marked by characteristic qualities, a form of periodization that inherently narrativized history. The potential of this “saecular discourse” for sophisticated thought and description contributed to its growing importance throughout the century, linking disparate intellectual fields during this period of Roman cultural “revolution.” This chapter examines how the concept of the “Augustan saeculum” and the rhetoric of an Augustus-led return to the aurea saecula appeared alongside unrelated saecular discourse on medicine and literature, thus competing with (rather than dominating) these alternative saecular histories.

Keywords:   saecular discourse, saeculum, periodization, Sulla, Augustus, Rome

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