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By Francesco Petrarca, a cura di Rosanna Bettarini

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From the age of the triumvirate, there- Poetry in Augustan Rome 25 fore, epic poetry was a part of the program of the poets of Maecenas’ circle. Most of them preferred to limit themselves to less demanding genres, but the need for Rome to have a modern epic poem was felt before Augustus started to govern Rome. Only a few years later, Rome had, thanks to that group of poets, its Roman Hesiod with the Georgics, its Roman Alcaeus with the Odes by Horace, and its Roman Callimachus with Propertius. And in his posthumous edition of the Aeneid, Varius consecrated his fraternal friend as the true new Roman Homer.

Poetry from Revolution to Empire One of the first acts of the triumvirate, in 43 BC, had been the compilation of lists of adversaries to be eliminated. Antony desired the death of Cicero, who had attacked him violently, as an enemy of the Senate and of the State. Octavian, who had maintained an ambiguous relationship with Cicero, and in reality had used him, endorsed the decision. Thus, the greatest Roman intellectual died at the age of 63. By that time, almost all the poets who had acquired prestige during the age of Caesar had already died, at a more or less young age: Lucretius and Catullus about ten years earlier, and Calvus at least six years before; others had fallen in the recent civil wars.

The ‘professional’ figure of the person who performed intellectual activities in order to make a living remained connected with teaching, with private intellectual training for representatives of the educated classes, and with various specialized scientific and cultural activities (including some that had previously been reserved to the senatorial class: cf. Wallace-Hadrill 2005), but this figure tended to disappear from the panorama of high-quality poetic production. Now, however, not only the wealthier knights but also members of the lower classes had access to this field, who had the opportunity, thanks to the new social mobility, to become rich and to emerge.

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