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Maecenas and the Augustan Poets: The Background of a Cultural Ambition The Alternative Augustan Age

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For librarians and administrators, your personal account also provides access to institutional account management. Here you will find options to view and activate subscriptions, manage institutional settings and access options, access usage statistics, and more. View your signed in personal account and access account management features. It has been thought that two of his works, of which little more than the titles remain, were tragedies, namely the Prometheus and Octavia. But Seneca (Ep. 19) calls the former a book ; and Octavia, mentioned in Priscian (lib. 10), is not free from the suspicion of being a corrupt reading. An hexameter line supposed to have belonged to an epic poem, another line thought to have been part of a Galliambic poem, one or two epigrams, and some other fragments, are extant, and are given by Meibom and Frandsen in their lives of Maecenas.

Dio also provides a miniature pen portrait of Maecenas, on the occasion of his death in 8 BC. But to do so, the family of Maecenas must have been plausibly prominent, but not part of the traditional Roman aristocracy. His wife killed herself in an astonishingly painful manner (was this even possible?), suggesting a determination to resist Caesar to the point of death. He negotiated Octavian’s marriage to Scribonia (Appian, Civil Wars 5.53). He then led negotiations at Brundisium on behalf of Octavian (Appian,Civil Wars 5.64) and continued to liaise with Antony over the next years (Appian,Civil Wars 5.92).But when the war with Pompeius was going badly.


He was possibly with Octavian by 43, if Propertius’ suggestion that he weave into the epic story of the war against the assassins is not ironic. Our systems have detected unusual traffic activity from your network. Please complete this reCAPTCHA to demonstrate that it’s you making the requests and not a robot. If you are having trouble seeing or completing this challenge, this page may help.

Other Word Forms of Maecenas

Maecenas also wrote literature himself in both prose and verse, which are now lost literary work. The some twenty fragments that remain show that he was less successful as an author than as a judge and patron of literature. Maecenas is most famous for his support of young poets; hence his name has become the eponym for a “patron of arts”. It was Virgil, impressed with examples of Horace’s poetry, who introduced Horace to Maecenas. Indeed, Horace begins the first poem of his Odes (Odes I.i) by addressing his new patron.

Maecenas can be thought of as the force behind the flowering of Latin culture, not only during his only life, but for several generations that followed. His name has become a byword in many languages for a well-connected and wealthy patron. In various languages, it has even been coined into a word for patronage .

A verse of the student song “Gaudeamus igitur” wishes longevity upon the charity of the students’ benefactors (“Maecenatum”, genitive plural of “Maecenas”). Opinions were much divided in ancient times as to his personal character; but the testimony as to his administrative and diplomatic ability was unanimous. He enjoyed the credit of sharing largely in the establishment of the new order of things, of reconciling parties, and of carrying the new empire safely through many dangers. To his influence especially were attributed the more humane policies of Octavian after his first alliance with Antony and Lepidus.

A generous patron or supporter, especially of art, music, or literature. The Gaius Maecenas mentioned in Cicero as an influential member of the equestrian order in 91 BC may have been his grandfather, or even his father. The testimony of Horace and Maecenas’s own literary tastes imply that he had profited from the highest education of his time.

During the Sicilian war against Sextus Pompeius in 36, Maecenas was sent back to Rome, and was entrusted with supreme administrative control in the city and in Italy. He was vicegerent of Octavian during the campaign that led to the Battle of Actium, when, with great promptness and secrecy, he crushed the conspiracy of Lepidus the Younger; during the subsequent absences of his chief in the provinces he again held the same position. Maecenas is a marketplace that allows anyone to purchase fractional interests in great works of art, using the ease and efficiency of blockchain technology, and the same crypto security used by the world’s leading banks. For full access to this pdf, sign in to an existing account, or purchase an annual subscription. When on the society site, please use the credentials provided by that society.

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Maecenas felt that, though a knight , his lineage and power overtopped any senator’s, and he refused a career as one. The gardens became imperial property after Maecenas’s death, and Tiberius lived there after his return to Rome in 2 AD. Nero connected them with the Palatine Hill via his Domus Transitoria, and viewed the burning of that from the turris Maecenatiana. This turris was probably the “molem propinquam nubibus arduis” (“the pile, among the clouds”) mentioned by Horace. His great wealth may have been in part hereditary, but he owed his position and influence to his close connection with the emperor Augustus. He first appears in history in 40 BC, when he was employed by Octavian in arranging his marriage with Scribonia, and afterwards in assisting to negotiate the Treaty of Brundisium and the reconciliation with Mark Antony.

This information should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional. Maecenas, Etruscan eques, right-hand man of Augustus and literary patron. Of Maecenas’s own literary productions, only a few fragments exist.


The “Auditorium of Maecenas”, a probable venue for dining and entertainment, may still be visited (upon reservation) on Largo Leopardi near Via Merulana. During the latter years of his life as recorded by Suetonius he fell somewhat out of favour with his master. Maecenas died in 8 BC, leaving the emperor sole heir to his wealth. It was in 38 BC that Horace was introduced to Maecenas, who had before this received Lucius Varius Rufus and Virgil into his intimacy.

His ability to advise and restrain and speak truth to power were valued by Augustus. Their relationship gives the lie to the stereotype of the modern Great Man, whose greatness What is Maecenas allows none to stand in its way. For Romans individual power required the operation of reason and restraint and the great man needed his friends to keep him in place.

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Agrippa advised him to pursue that course, but Maecenas strongly urged him to establish the empire ; and Dio Cassius (52.14, &c.) has preserved the speech which he is said to have addressed to Octavianus on that occasion. The genuineness of that document is, however, liable to very great suspicion. It is highly improbable that Maecenas, in a cabinet consultation of that kind, would have addressed Octavianus in a set speech of so formal a description; and still more so that any one should have been present to take it down, or that Maecenas himself should have afterwards published it. Yet Suetonius, in his life of Augustus , confirms the account of Dio Cassius so far as that some such consultation took place; and the tenor of the speech perfectly agrees with the known character and sentiments of Maecenas. However that may be, the document is certainly a very able one, and should be carefully consulted by all who are studying the history of Rome during its transition from a republic to an empire. 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.

  • From these, however, and from the notices which we find of his writings in ancient authors, we are led to think that we have not suffered any great loss by their destruction; for, although a good judge of literary merit in others, he does not appear to have been an author of much taste himself.
  • But to do so, the family of Maecenas must have been plausibly prominent, but not part of the traditional Roman aristocracy.
  • Maecenas had responsibilities under the Augustan regime, but his most important role was friend and confidante of Augustus, a position of enormous power and influence and trust.
  • This chapter argues that the poets’ activities, at once cultural and civic, were influenced by a philosophy of history of which Polybius, Cicero, and Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus were exponents.
  • After Maecenas’ death, the gardens became an imperial property.
  • Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article .

A generous benefactor; specifically, a patron of literature or art. The birthplace of Maecenas is unrecorded, but his mother’s family, the Cilnii, had lorded it centuries earlier in Arretium (modern Arezzo, about 90 miles north of Rome), and this was apparently also the hometown of his father’s family. Tacitus once calls him Cilnius Maecenas (Etruscans used the mother’s family name), but officially he was Gaius Maecenas. His great wealth may have been partly inherited, but he owed his position and influence to Octavian, later the emperor Augustus.

This chapter argues that the poets’ activities, at once cultural and civic, were influenced by a philosophy of history of which Polybius, Cicero, and 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. His proximity to the princeps and his auctoritas allowed the poets a real freedom of speech. Among the poets he patronized were the celebrated Virgil and Horace – both of whom he befriended. Maecenas has also been credited with encouraging both writers to focus more on topics of public interest, such as affairs of state.

During the reign of Augustus, Maecenas served as a quasi-culture minister to the Roman emperor but in spite of his wealth and power he chose not to enter the Senate, remaining of equestrian rank. The event’s namesake, Gaius Maecenas, was friend to the first Emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus, and a celebrated patron to such artists of his time as Horace and Virgil. Today his name is synonymous with “patron of the arts.” Pittsburgh Opera’s Maecenas Award is bestowed upon benefactors whose exceptional dedication to our work ensures that live opera can thrive in Pittsburgh. Causing disturbance to either men or things he extinguished the portentous beginnings of a new and reviving civil war. Lepidus himself paid the penalty for his ill-advised plot. Servilia his wife must be placed on a parity with the wife of Antistius already mentioned, for by swallowing live coals she compensated for her untimely death by the lasting memory of her name.

Words Near Maecenas in the Dictionary

Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article . While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. Britannica is the ultimate student resource for key school subjects like history, government, literature, and more. Whether the horti Maecenatiani bought by Fronto actually were the former gardens of Maecenas is unknown, and the domus Frontoniana mentioned in the twelfth century by Magister Gregorius may also refer to the gardens of Maecenas.

But perhaps more useful is the claim that Maecenas was of distinguished lineage. Such origins are mysterious, but are mentioned in Horace’sOdes 1.1where Ovid talks of him as a descendant of ‘ancient kings’. Those kings have to have been leaders in one of the towns of ancient Etruria. Whether Lepidus was conspiring or not, Maecenas moved with extreme force.

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