The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

-MAECENAS.

by his patronage of the most eminent poets of his time, but also by several performances of his own, both in verse and prose. That at the time of Julius Caesar's assassination he was with Octa-vianus at Apollonia, in the capacity of tutor, rests on pure conjecture. Shortly, however, after the appearance of the latter on the political stage, we find the name of Maecenas in frequent conjunction with his ; and there can be no doubt that he was of great use to him in assisting to establish and consolidate the empire ; but the want of materials prevents us from tracing his services in this way with the accuracy that could be wished. It is pos­sible that he may have accompanied Octavianus in the campaigns of Mutina, Philippi, and Perusia; but the only authorities for the statement are a passage in Propertius (ii. 1), which by no means necessarily bears that meaning ; and the elegies attributed to Pedo Albinovanus, but which have been pronounced spurious by a large majority of the best critics. The first authentic account we have of Maecenas is of his being employed by Octavianus, b. c. 40, in negotiating a marriage for him with Scribonia, daughter of Libo, the father-in-law of Sext. Pompeius; which latter, for political reasons, Octavianus was at that time desirous of conciliating. (App. B. C. v. 53; Dion Cass. xlviii. 16.) In the same year Maecenas took part in the negotiations with Antony (whose wife, Fulvia, was now dead), which led to the peace of Brundisium, confirmed by the marriage of Antony with Octavia, Caesar's sister. (App. B. C. v, 64.) Appian's authority on this occasion is supported by the scholiast on Horace (Sat. i. 5. 28), who tells us that Livy, in his 127th book, had recorded the intervention of Maecenas. According to Appian, however, Cocceius Nerva played the principal part. About two years afterwards Maecenas seems to have been again employed in negotiating with An­tony (App. B. C. v. 93) ; and it was probably on this occasion that Horace accompanied him to Brimdisium, a journey which he has described in the 5th satire of the 1st book. Maecenas is there also represented as associated with Cocceius, and they are both described as " aversos soliti componere araicos."

In b. c. 36 we find Maecenas in Sicily with Octavianus, then engaged in an expedition against Sex. Pompeius, during the course of which Mae­cenas was twice sent back to Rome for the purpose of quelling some disturbances which had broken out there. (App. B, C. y. 99, 112.) Accord­ing to Dion Cassius (xlix. .16), this was the first occasion on which Maecenas became Caesar's vice­gerent ; and he was entrusted with the adminis­tration not only of Rome, but of all Italy. His fidelity and talents had now been tested by several years' experience ; and it had probably been found that the bent of his genius fitted him for the cabinet rather than for the field, since his services could be so easily dispensed with in the latter. From this time till the battle of Actium (b. c. 31) history is silent concerning Maecenas ; but at that period we again find him intrusted with the administration of the civil affairs of Italy. It has indeed been maintained by many critics that Maecenas was present at the sea-fight of Actium ; but the best modern scholars who have discussed the subject have shown that this could not have been the case, and that he remained in Rome during this time, where he suppressed the conspiracy of the younger

891

MAECENAS.

Lepidus. The only direct authority for the state­ment of Maecenas having been at Actium is an elegy ascribed to Albinovanus on the death of Maecenas, which is certainly spurious ; and the commentary of Acron on the first epode of Horace, which kind of authority is of little value. The first elegy of the second book of Propertius has also been quoted in support of this fact, but upon examination it will be found wholly inadequate to establish it. Yet the existence of Horace's first epode still remains to be accounted for. Those critics who deny that Maecenas proceeded to Ac­tium have still, we believe, hitherto unanimously held that the poem is to be referred to that epoch; and they explain the inconsistency by the supposi­tion that Maecenas, when the epode was written, had really intended to accompany Caesar, but was prevented by the office assigned to him at home. In confirmation of this view, Frandsen, in his Life of Maecenas, appeals to the 35th o<Je of Horace's first book, addressed to Augustus on the occasion of his intended visit to Britain, a journey which it is known he never actually performed. But to this it may be answered that Augustus at least started with the intention of going thither, and actually went as far as Gaul; but proceeded thence to Spain. A more probable solution, there­fore, may be that first proposed by the author of this article in the Classical Museum (vol. ii. p. 205, &c.), that the epode does not at all relate to Ac­tium, but to the Sicilian expedition against Sext. Pompeius. But for the grounds of that opinion, which would occupy too much space to be here re-stated, the reader is referred to that work.

By the detection of the conspiracy of Lepidus, Maecenas nipped in the bud what might have proved another fruitful germ of civil war. Indeed his services at this period must have been most important and invaluable ; and how faithfully and ably he acquitted himself may be inferred from the unbounded confidence reposed in him. In con­junction with Agrippa, we now find him empowered not only to open all letters addressed by Caesar to the senate, but even to alter their contents as the posture of affairs at home might require ; and for this purpose he was entrusted with his master's seal (Dion Cass. Ii. 3), in order that the letters might be delivered as if they had come directly from Octavian's own hand. Yet, notwithstanding the height of favour and power to which he had attained, Maecenas, whether from policy or inclina­tion, remained content with his equestrian rank ; a, circumstance which seems somewhat to have diminished his authority with the populace.

After Octavianus' victory over Antony and Cleopatra, the whole power of the triumvirate cen­tered in the former ; for Lepidus had been pre­viously reduced to the condition of a private person* On his return to Rome, Caesar is represented to have taken counsel with Agrippa and Maecenas respecting the expediency of restoring the republic* Agrippa advised him to pursue that course, but Mae­cenas strongly urged him to establish the empire j and Dion Cassins (Hi. 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

Pages
About | First

890

891

892
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.