Augustan literature (ancient Rome)

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The Augustan poet Vergil in a 3rd-century mosaic also depicting the Muses Clio and Melpomene.

Augustan literature refers to the pieces of Latin literature that were written during the reign of Caesar Augustus (27 BC–AD 14), the first Roman emperor.[1] In literary histories of the first part of the 20th century and earlier, Augustan literature was regarded along with that of the Late Republic as constituting the Golden Age of Latin literature, a period of stylistic classicism.[2]

Most of the literature periodized as "Augustan" was in fact written by men—Vergil, Horace, Propertius, Livy—whose careers were established during the triumviral years, before Octavian assumed the title Augustus. Strictly speaking, Ovid is the poet whose work is most thoroughly embedded in the Augustan regime.[2]

Impact and style[edit]

Augustan literature produced the most widely read, influential, and enduring of Rome's poets. The Republican poets Catullus and Lucretius are their immediate predecessors; Lucan, Martial, Juvenal and Statius are their so-called "Silver Age" heirs. Although Vergil has sometimes been considered a "court poet", his Aeneid, the most important of the Latin epics, also permits complex readings on the source and meaning of Rome's power and the responsibilities of a good leader.[3]

Ovid's works were wildly popular, but the poet was exiled by Augustus in one of literary history's great mysteries; carmen et error ("a poem" or "poetry" and "a mistake") is Ovid's own oblique explanation. Among prose works, the monumental history of Livy is preeminent for both its scope and stylistic achievement. The multi-volume work De architectura by Vitruvius also remains of great informational interest.[3]

Questions pertaining to tone, or the writer's attitude toward his subject matter, are acute among the preoccupations of scholars who study the period. In particular, Augustan works are analyzed in an effort to understand the extent to which they advance, support, criticize or undermine social and political attitudes promulgated by the regime, official forms of which were often expressed in aesthetic media.[4]

List of Augustan writers[edit]


  1. ^ Julius Caesar held the office of dictator in perpetuity; technically, the constitution of the Roman Republic was still in effect during Caesar's relatively short time in power. His heir Augustus styled himself princeps, or "Leading Citizen", but is considered the first of the Imperial monarchs and reigned for more than 40 years. See Roman Emperor (Principate).
  2. ^ a b Fergus Millar, "Ovid and the Domus Augusta: Rome Seen from Tomoi," Journal of Roman Studies 83 (1993), p. 6.
  3. ^ a b Joseph Farrell, "The Augustan Period: 40 BC–AD 14," in A Companion to Latin Literature (Blackwell, 2005), pp. 44–57.
  4. ^ Christopher Pelling, "The Triumviral Period," in The Cambridge Ancient History: The Augustan Empire, 43 B.C.–A.D. 69 (Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 73 online. See also Farrell, "The Augustan Period."

Further reading[edit]

  • Helmke, Tim (2023). Exemplarisches Krisenwissen: Gender in Narrativ Und Narration Des Fruhen Prinzipats. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. ISBN 9783525302286.