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894

MAECENAS.

not suffered any great loss by their destruction ; for, although a good judge of literary merit in others, he does not appear to have been an author of much taste himself. It has been thought that two of his works, of which little more than the titles remain, were tragedies, namely the Pro­metheus and Octavia. But .Seneca (Ep. 19) calls the former a book (librum) ; and Ociavia, men­tioned in Priscian (lib. 10), is not free from the suspicion of being a corrupt reading. An hexameter line supposed to have belonged to an epic poem, another line thought to have been part of a Galli-ambic poem, one or two epigrams, and some other fragments, are extant, and are given by Meibom and Frandsen in their lives of Maecenas. In prose he wrote a work on natural history, which Pliny several times alludes to, but which seems to have related chiefly to fishes and gems. Servius (ad Virg. Aen. viii. 310) attributes a Symposium to him. If we may trust the same authority he also com­posed some memoirs of Augustus ; and Horace (Carm. ii. 12. 9) alludes to at least some project of the kind, but which was probably never carried into execution. Maecenas's prose style was affected, unnatural, and often unintelligible, and for these qualities he was derided by Augustus. (Suet. Aug. 26.) Macrobius (Saturn, ii. 4) has pre­served part of a letter of the emperor's, in which he takes off his minister's way of writing. The author of the dialogue De Causis Corruptae Elo-quentiae (c. 2G) enumerates him among the orators, but stigmatises his affected style by the term cala-mistros Maecenatis. Quintilian (Inst. Orat, ix. 4. § 28) and Seneca (Ep. 114) also condemn his style ; and the latter author gives a specimen of it which is almost wholly unintelligible. Yet, he likewise tells us (Ep. 19), that he would have been very eloquent if he had not been spoiled by his good fortune ; and allows him to have possessed an in-genium grande et virile (Ep. 92). According to Dion Cassius (Iv. 7), Maecenas first introduced short-hand, and instructed many in the art through his freedman, Aquila. By other authors, however, the invention has been attributed to various persons of an earlier date ; as to Tiro, Cicero's freedman, to Cicero himself, and even to Ennius.

But though seemingly in possession of all the means and appliances of enjoyment, Maecenas cannot be said to have been altogether happy in his domestic life. We have already alluded to an intrigue between Augustus and his wife Terentia ; but this was not the only infringement of his domestic peace. Terentia, though exceedingly beautiful, was of a morose and haughty temper, and thence quarrels were continually occurring be­tween the pair. Yet the natural uxoriousness of Maecenas as constantly prompted him to seek a reconciliation ; so that Seneca (Ep. 114) remarks that he married a wife a thousand times, though he never had more than one. Her influence over him was so great, that in spite of his cautious and taciturn temper, he was on one occasion weak enough to confide an important state secret to her, respecting her brother Murena, the conspirator (Suet. Aug. 66 ; Dion Cass. liv. 3). Maecenas himself, however, was probably in some measure to blame for the terms on which he lived with his wife, for he was far from being the pattern of a good husband. His own adulteries were notorious. Augustus, in the fragment of the letter in Macrobius before alluded to, calls him jUdtAcvyjua maecMrum;

MAECENAS.-

and Plutarch (Erot. 16) relates of him the story of the accommodating husband, Galba, who pretended to be asleep after dinner in order to give him an opportunity with his wife. Nay, he is even sus­pected of more infamous vices. (Tacit. Ann. i. 54.) In his way of life Maecenas was addicted to every species of luxury. We find several allusions in the ancient authors to the effeminacy of his dress. Instead of girding his tunic above his knees, he suffered it to hang loose about his heels, like a woman's petticoat ; and when sitting on the tribunal he kept his head covered with his pallium (Sen. Ep. 114). Yet, in spite of this softness he was capable of exerting himself when the occasion required, and of acting with energy and decision (Veil. Pat. ii. 88). So far was he from wishing to conceal the softness and effeminacy of his man­ners, that he made a parade of his vices; and, during the greatest heat of the civil wars, openly ap­peared in the public places of Rome with a couple of eunuchs in his train (Senec. L c.). He was fond of theatrical entertainments, especially pantomimes ; as may be inferred from his patronage of Bathyllus, the celebrated dancer, who was a freedman of his. It has been concluded from Tacitus (Ann. i. 54) that he first introduced that species of representation at Rome ; and, with the politic view of keeping the people quiet by amusing them, persuaded Augustus to patronize it. Dion Cassius (Iv. 7) tells us that he was the first to introduce warm swimming baths at Rome. His love of ointments is tacitly satirized by Augustus (Suet. Aug. 86), and his passion for gems and precious stones is notorious. According to Pliny he paid some at­tention to cookery ; and as the same author (xix. 57) mentions a book on gardening, which had been dedicated to him by Sabinus Tiro, it has been thought that he was partial to that pursuit. His tenacious, and indeed, unmanly love of life, he has himself painted in some verses preserved by Seneca (Ep. 101), and which, as affording a specimen of his style, we here insert:—

Debilem facito manu Debilem pede, coxa ; ~. Tuber adstrue gibberum, Lubricos quate dentes ; Vita dum superest, bene est, Hanc mihi, vel acuta Si sedeam cruce, sustine.—

From these lines it has been conjectured that he belonged to the sect of the Epicureans ; but of his philosophical principles nothing certain is known.

That moderation of character which led him to be content with his equestrian rank, probably arose from the love of ease and luxury.which we have described, or it might have been the result of more prudent and political views. As a politician, the principal trait in his character was fidelity to his master (Maecenatis erunt vera tropaea fides, Pro-pert, iii. 9), and the main end of all his cares was the consolidation of the empire. But, though he advised the establishment of a despotic monarchy, he was at the same time the advocate of mild and liberal measures. He recommended Augustus to put no check on the free expression of public opinion ; but above all to avoid that cruelty, which, for so many years, had stained the Roman annals with blood (Senec. Ep. .114). To the same effect is the anecdote preserved by Cedrenus, the Byzantine historian j that when on some occasion Octavianus

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