The Literary Epistles
IF THE PRECEDING rationales for the epistles addressed to Augustus, Florus, and the Pisos are substantially correct, they hold further implications for understanding the poems as a group. The three persons addressed are all, presumably, vitally interested in poetry: Augustus as a patron, Julius Florus and the elder son of Piso or as aspiring practising poets. There is in each epistle a pervading emphasis on the crucial importance of self-criticism. As a group, the addressees represent a full spectrum of the Roman upper-class interested in literature: Augustus as one of Horace's own generation, and Florus a contemporary of his stepson, Tiberius; Piso seems younger yet, just becoming interested in writing drama. Florus, of course, has already reached the stage where Horace can be enthusiastic about some of his achievements: "prima feres hederae victricis praemia" ( Epistle 1.3-2.5).
Augustus ( Epistle 2.1) is tactfully petitioned to reassess his own standards as a patron of the arts and assist promising young poets once more, as Horace reminds him of his part in the success of Vergil and Varius, and the glories of their art. The rhetorical context of Horace's request is a shrewd analysis of the present literary scene in Rome, one in which we see everywhere a chaos of artistic standards and motivations. The universal infatuation with the stage was not something to which even