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EFFECTS OF PATRONAGE
kind of merit.' Among the liberal traits in the character of Maecenas, as painted by Horace, the indifference to distinctions. of birth is specially marked :
Cum referre negas quali sit quisque parente
The new men at the court of Augustus were naturally attracted to the new men in literature, sprung from quite a different class from that to which Lucretius, Catullus, or Calvus belonged, and yet, in respect of education, refinement, and even early associations, in no respect their inferiors.
Another bond of union between them was that they were nearly all of the same age, born with one or two exceptions between the years 70 B.C., and 60 B. c., and that several of them had studied under the same masters. The distinguished men of the Ciceronian Age had passed away, with the exception of one or two, such as Varro and Atticus, living in retirement, and consoling themselves with their farms and libraries for the changes they had witnessed. The leaders in action, as in literature, were all young men, beginning their career together in an altered world, the characters and destinies of which they were called upon to mould. One by one they dropped away, most of them before passing the period of middle life, leaving the Emperor almost the sole survivor among a younger generation who had grown up under the new order of things, and, while acquiescing in it as complacently, sharing neither in the energy nor in the enthusiasm of the early years (from about 27 B.C. to about IO B.C.) during which the Empire left its greatest and happiest impression.
This relation of men of letters to the leaders of society under the Empire could not but exercise a strong influence both for good and evil on the literature of the age. Such a society,— able, versed in affairs, accomplished, fond of pleasure,-whatever
1 'When you say it makes no matter what a man's father was, provided he is of free-birth.' Sat. i. 6. 7-8.
else it may be, is sure to be characterised by good sense, a strong feeling of order and dignity, an acute perception of propriety in conduct and manners, an urbanity of tone restraining all arrogant self-assertion and violent animosity of feeling. Such a society is the determined enemy of all pedantry, eccentricity, and exaggeration, of all austerity or indecorum, of one-sided enthusiasm or devotion to a single idea. The aurea mediocritas' in feeling, conduct, thought, and enjoyment is the ideal which it sets before itself. Horace, except in his highest and most thoughtful moods, is the true representative of such a society; but its indirect influence may be noted also in the moderation, the invariable propriety and dignity, both of thought and language in Virgil, and in the tones of refinement with which Propertius and Ovid record. the experience and preach the philosophy of pleasure. Yet literature probably lost as much from the limitation of sympathy imposed upon it as it gained from this acquired dignity and urbanity of tone. The Roman poets of this era, even while expressing national sentiments and ideas, were not like Homer, Pindar, or Sophocles, who, while putting a sufficiently high value on distinctions of birth and fortune, and on the personal qualities accompanying these distinctions, are yet, in a sense in which the poets of the Augustan Age are not, the poets of a whole people. Horace introduces that series of his Odes which most breathes a national spirit by disclaiming all sympathy with the 'profanum vulgus.' He looks upon it as one of the privileges of genius, 'to scorn an ill-natured public.' He did not wish his Satires to be thumbed by the multitude or by men of the class of Hermogenes Tigellius. He cared only for the appreciation of men belonging to the class in which all culture. and regard for the traditions of Rome were now centred. The urban populace, as represented in literature, appears only as a rabble, and this is still more the case in the days of Juvenal,which had to be kept in order, fed, amused, and tended, like some dangerous wild beast. The middle class, absorbed in money-making and commercial adventure, supplies to Horace
§ 4] COURTLY CHARACTER OF AUGUSTAN POETRY 31
the representatives of the misers and parvenus whom he painted in his Satires for the amusement of his aristocratic readers. The tone of Virgil is equally anti-popular. The view of society which he delights to present is that of a paternal ruler giving laws to his people and caring for their welfare. His repugnance to the influence of the 'popularis aura' on government is indicated in such passages as the famous simile near the beginning of the Aeneid,
Ac veluti magno in populo cum saepe coorta est
and in his representation of 'the good King Ancus' as he is called by Ennius and Lucretius, among the unborn descendants of Aeneas, as
Nunc quoque iam nimium gaudens popularibus auris. The encouragement and appreciation of the leaders of society. involved on the part of the poets a position of deference or dependence; the relation between them had thus its limiting as well as its corrective effects; it tended to make literature tamer in spirit and thought, perhaps also less original in invention and more bounded in its range of human interest.
The great wealth and luxury of Rome, during the latter. years of the Republic and the early years of the Empire, exercised also an influence on the life, the imagination, and the thoughts of the poets living in those times. Through commerce and conquest Rome had entered into the possession of the long accumulated wealth of the world, and, as generally happens in eras of advanced civilisation, the
'And as when often in a mighty multitude discord has arisen and the base rabble storms with passion.'
2 Ancus, unduly vain, even already delighting too much in the veering wind of the people's favour.'
enjoyment of these was very unequally distributed. appears more remarkable in the social life of the latter days of the Republic than the great riches possessed and expended by a few individuals, such as Crassus, Hortensius, and the Luculli. One proof of the immense accumulation of money at that time is the large price which, as we learn from Cicero's letters, was paid for the houses of the leading men among the nobility. The number of villas possessed by Cicero himself, the son of a provincial Eques, and debarred by stringent laws (though probably they were evaded) from turning his pre-eminence as an advocate to profit, and the sums spent by him in their adornment, suggest to us to what an extent the soil of Italy, the works of Greek art, and the natural and artificial products of the East, were at the disposal of the ruling aristocracy of Rome. Still more is this thought forced on us when we think of Proconsuls and Propraetors who came home glutted with the spoils of their provinces, which they squandered in the coarsest luxury. The change to the Empire, though it put a considerable check on this kind of plunder, did little to distribute wealth more generally, or to limit luxurious living. The appropriation during the Civil Wars of the sacred treasures long accumulated in the temples of the gods1, and the great stimulus given to commerce by the establishment of peace, added largely to the wealth available at Rome for purposes of munificence, of ostentation, or indulgence. But the largest share in the disposal of the wealth of the world had passed from the representatives of the old governing class to the ruling powers of the new Empire, and this change was decidedly for the public advantage. Augustus and his ministers possessed the old Greek virtue of μeyaλoñρéñeɩа, and understood that immense wealth could be better expended on great public objects than on beautifying their villas and fish-ponds, or giving a more dangerous variety to their entertainments. The policy of Augustus in restoring and building the temples of the gods had an artistic as well as a religious purpose. He wished 1 Cp. Merivale's Roman Empire.
$4] CONDITIONS AFFECTING THE LIVES OF POETS 33
to make his countrymen proud of the outward beauty of Rome, as Pericles had made the Athenians proud of the beauty of Athens.
The most enduring result of this munificence, more enduring even than the noble ruins of temples and theatres—the visible monuments preserved from that age-is the finished art of the verse of Virgil and Horace. By the liberality of the Emperor, Virgil was able to devote to the composition of his two great works nearly twenty years of 'unhasting and unresting' labour in the beautiful scenery of Campania. The wealth and lands at the disposal of Maecenas enabled Horace to change the wearisome routine and enervating pleasures of Rome for hours of happy inspiration among the Sabine Hills or in the cool mountain air of Praeneste, amid the gardens and streams of Tibur or by the bright shores of Baiae 1. To the liberality of their patrons these poets owed not only the leisure and freedom from the ordinary cares of life, which allowed them to give all their thought and the unimpaired freshness of their genius to their art, but the opportunity of enjoying under the most. favourable circumstances that source of happiness and inspiration which has given its most distinctive charm to their poetrythe beauty of Italian Nature. It is only in their appreciation of the living beauty of the world for its own sake (and apart from divine or human associations) that the great Roman poets possess an interest beyond that of the poets of any other age or country, with the exception of the English poets of the present century. Nowhere is the familiar charm of a wellloved spot suggested in truer and more graceful words than these:
Vester, Camenae, vester in arduos
Tollor Sabinos; seu mihi frigidum
Seu liquidae placuere Baiae.
Od. iii. 4. 21-24.
2 Cf. the lines of Juvenal, vii. 66-68, in especial reference to Virgil:
Magnae mentis opus nec de lodice paranda