Promised Verse: Poets in the Society of Augustan Rome

Promised Verse: Poets in the Society of Augustan Rome

Promised Verse: Poets in the Society of Augustan Rome

Promised Verse: Poets in the Society of Augustan Rome

Excerpt

In this book I describe how the Augustan poets and Roman poets generally were integrated into the social order which sustained Roman literary life. I discuss how poets served and were served by the leaders of society, how that symbiosis complemented their relationships with a wider pubHe, and how they positioned themselves to address civic or political themes as well as more private ones. The challenge of the task has been to try to bring a mass of literary and anecdotal particulars into a clean alignment. The pleasure of seeing the patterns into which they fall is what more than anything else I hope to pass along to readers.

Readers will also see how circumscribed the perspective of this book is. It is concerned with poets and poetry only, not with literature in general. I have not set out to elucidate what makes Latin poetry universal, but rather the opposite: the imprint it carries of a particular social matrix is what interests me. Although from time to time I interpret passages of poems or relate them to a historical or ideological context, critics will not find the argument literary and historians may not consider it properly historical. As a rule I do not review competing interpretations of texts brought up for comment, and that also limits the generality of this inquiry. The one sense in which I hope it is comprehensive despite these limitations is that I have tried to see as far as can be seen from the vantage point I have adopted. Roman poetry seems socially bound to an unusual degree, as anyone knows who has tried to teach it to nonclassicists. A book that ponders why it is so deeply embedded in Roman social life cannot help dealing with important issues.

The book consists of two parts, which are each subdivided into three chapters. Part One describes how poets interacted with the magnates and groups who made up almost the entirety of the Roman literary milieu, and it concludes with a discussion of the influence that readers . . .

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