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Rome came from the consecration of Julius Caesar after his death. The 'Iulium Sidus '-'astrum quo segetes gauderent frugibus'-is appealed to both by Virgil and Horace as a witness of the mortal become immortal. As the office of the deified Julius is to answer the prayers of the husbandman, such too will be the office of Augustus; and it is in this relation that he is invoked in the first Georgic among the deities whose function it is to watch over the fields. Both poets recall also the divine origin of the Emperor,
Augustus Caesar, divum genus,
as the descendant of Venus. Both too dwell on the especial protection of Heaven of which he was the object. The divine care which had watched over Rome from its origin was now centred on him as the supreme head of the State, the heir and adopted son of the great Julius.
But, although we cannot ascribe to Virgil and Horace the ignorant superstition which raised temples to the living Emperor in the cities of Asia and in the various provinces of the Empire, it is difficult to extract from their language any germ of sincere conviction. And yet to condemn them of a base servility and hypocrisy would be to judge them altogether from a modern point of view. At such a time as the Augustan Age the minds of men were very variously affected by the different modes of religious belief, national and foreign, philosophical and artistic, which had been inherited from the past. It must have been difficult for any one to be altogether unmoved by the innumerable symbols of religion visible around him, suggestive of a constant and immediate action of a supernatural power on all human, and especially all national, concerns; and it must have been equally difficult for any one trained in Greek philosophy to accept literally the incongruous fables of mythology, or to attach a definite personality to the imaginary beings of which it was composed. Horace and Virgil appear to stand at opposite extremes of incredulity
and faith. Horace, in his Odes, accepts the beings of the Greek mythology as materials for his art, while, by his silence on the subject in his Satires and Epistles, he clearly implies that this acceptance formed no part of his real convictions. To Virgil, on the other hand, the gods of mythology appear to have a real existence, as manifestations of the divine energy, revealed in the religious traditions which connect the actual world of experience with a supernatural origin. So too Horace, in his Odes, treats the blending of the divine with the human elements in Augustus artistically or symbolically-represents him as drinking nectar between Pollux and Hercules, or as inspired with wisdom by the Muses in a Pierian cave-in much the same spirit as the great painters of the Renaissance introduced in their pictures living popes or patrons of art into the company of the most sacred personages. Virgil, to whose mind, in all things affecting either the State or the individual, the invisible world of faith appears very near the actual world of experience, seems sincerely to believe in the delegation of supernatural power and authority on the Emperor, and in the favour of Heaven watching over him. The divine energy diffused through all living things might appear to be united with the human elements in Augustus as it was in no other man, so that while still on earth he might be thought of, if not as a 'praesens divus,' yet as acting 'praesenti numine,' as the representative and vicegerent of omnipotence 1.
Some further light is thrown on this subject by considering the manifestation of this same spirit in other forms of the art of that age. The famous statue of the Emperor, found recently in the ruins of a villa of the Empress Livia, and at present seen among the statues of the Braccio Nuovo
1 The belief in the divinity of the genius attending on each individual, and also the custom of raising altars to some abstract quality in an individual, such as the 'Clemency of Caesar,” help also to explain this supposed union of the god and man in the person of the Emperor. The language of Virgil in Eclogue IV. also throws light on the ideas possible as to the union of the divine with human nature.
in the Vatican, has been critically examined by an eminent German scholar, as furnishing the best commentary on the language of the Augustan poets. In this statue the Emperor appears as blending the attributes of a Roman imperator with those of a Greek hero or demigod! Beside him a Cupid, symbolical of the Julian descent from Venus, appears riding on a dolphin. The breast-plate represents, among other protecting deities, those whom Horace addresses in the Carmen Saeculare, Phoebus and Diana, and the Sun and Earth-goddess. In the centre there is a figure of Mars attended by the wolf, receiving back the standards from the Parthian ; on either side are seen two figures, representative of races recently conquered, probably the Celtiberians and the tribes of the Alps. From the coincidence of its symbolism it may be inferred that the statue was produced at the same time as the Carmen Saeculare was composed. Its object is to impress on the minds of men the image of Augustus as at once a great earthly conqueror and a being of divine descent and possessed of more than mortal attributes: the especial object of care to the supreme God of Heaven; to Apollo, whom, since the victory of Actium, he claimed as his tutelary divinity; to the Earth-goddess, the giver of fruitfulness and prosperity; to Mars, the second divine ancestor of the Roman race, in whose honour the famous temple, of which the ruins are yet visible, had been raised after the battle of Philippi. The statue is of Greek workmanship; the Greek divinities are presented in the forms familiar to Greek art ; but the idea is purely Roman, and born of the immediate circumstances of the age.
Other extant works of art illustrate the divine functions and attributes claimed for Augustus. In one cameo he is seen throned beside the goddess Roma, with the sceptre and lituus, symbolical of his secular and spiritual function, and the eagle of Jupiter at his side. In others both the Emperor himself and various members of his family are
1 This is indicated by the bare feet.
represented under the form of gods, goddesses, and demigods. Thus, in one in which the figure of Aeneas is introduced, the young C. Caesar (Caligula) appears as Cupid, and in another Germanicus and Agrippina are represented as Triptolemus and Ceres? But still more important, as attesting not the idealising fancies of contemporary Greeks, but the native feeling with which the house of Caesar came to be regarded even in the early years of the Empire, is the one great extant monument of that age, a monument of Roman inspiration and Roman workmanship, the Pantheon, raised by Agrippa in honour of the deities connected with the Julian race.
The prominence given to this representation of Augustus in the poetry and in the art of his age is probably to be explained by his own character and policy.
He was animated in no ordinary degree by that love of fame
and distinction which very powerfully influenced the I greatest Roman conquerors and statesmen, orators and
poets. The disdain of such distinctions and the dislike / of public spectacles are mentioned, in contrast to the
tastes of his predecessor, among the causes of the unpopularity of Tiberius. The enumeration in the Ancyraean inscription of the honours and titles bestowed on him, recorded with 'imperatoria brevitas' and dictated by a proud self-esteem, attests the strength of this ruling passion in the latter years of the life of Augustus. The direct pressure which he brought to bear on the most eminent poets of the time to celebrate his wars is sufficiently indicated in many passages in the Odes and familiar. writings of Horace. Belonging by descent to the comparatively obscure families of the Octavii and Atii, Augustus attached peculiar importance to the glories of the Julian line, which he inherited through his great-uncle and adoptive father. Even Julius Caesar, notwithstanding his Epicurean indifference to the religious ideas of his age, had encouraged the belief in his divine descent, as marking him out for the special favours of fortune.
1 The substance of these remarks is taken from the late O. Jahn's ‘Höfische Kunst und Poesie unter Augustus, published in his 'Populäre Aufsätze.' The account of the cameos is given solely on his authority. Several ideas on the whole subject of the deification of the Emperors are derived from the same source.
There was moreover in Augustus, in contradistinction to Julius Caesar, a strong vein of religious or superstitious sentiment. His personal courage has been questioned, probably with injustice, but he appears to have been in a marked degree liable to supernatural terrors?. As happens not unfrequently with men who have been invariably successful in great and hazardous enterprises, along with a strong reliance in the resources of his own mind, he seems to have had faith in a supernatural guidance and assistance attending him. His politic understanding appreciated the use of such a belief to secure a divine sanction for his rule, which rested substantially on military force. He availed himself of the enthusiasm and willing services of the poets of the age, who regarded him as at once the saviour of the State and their own benefactor, to impress this idea of himself on the imagination of the refined and cultivated classes, and at the same time to glorify the actual successes of his reign, to further his policy of national regeneration, and to make men feel the security of a divinely-appointed government, along with the pride of belonging to a powerful imperial State.
Influence of Patronage on the Poetry of the Age. The political revolution which transformed the Republic into the Empire, and the state of public feeling, which, arising spontaneously, yet received direction from the will and policy of Augustus, thus appear to be the most important conditions determining the character of the Augustan literature, and distinguishing it from that of the previous age. Poetic art was employed as it had never been in any former time as an instrument of
1 Sueton. De Vita Caesarum, ii. 90 et seq.