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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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Maecenas and the Augustan Poets

Maecenas and the Augustan Poets

The Background of a Cultural Ambition

(p.231) 15 Maecenas and the Augustan Poets
The Alternative Augustan Age

Philippe Le Doze

Oxford University Press

Attending to the historical and cultural background behind the desire to promote Latin literature allows us to interpret the partnership between Maecenas and the so-called Augustan poets without recourse to traditional notions of poets as instruments. This chapter argues that the poets’ activities, at once cultural and civic, were influenced by a philosophy of history of which Polybius, Cicero, and (in the Augustan age) Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus were exponents. The poets were also encouraged by a new idea, largely initiated by Cicero and supported by Athenodorus in the entourage of Augustus, that one could benefit one’s homeland not only through politics but also through writing. Maximum effectiveness, however, required the authority to be heard at the highest level of the state. In this context, Maecenas’ patronage was a weighty asset. His proximity to the princeps and his auctoritas allowed the poets a real freedom of speech.

Keywords:   Augustan poets, poetry, history, Maecenas, Cicero, patronage

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