In this episode of Literary Tales we dig into the so-called “praise poetry” of Horace and deconstruct the claim that Horace was a propagadnist for Augustus. On the contrary, Horace’s traditionalism and praise of Augustus is tied to a greater concern in Horace: the romanticism of the agrarian idyll which was, in fact, the republican idyll before the Civil Wars. We end by discussing the possibility that Horace was the forerunner to “romanticism.”

Thomas Cole, “An Evening in Arcadia,” 1843. The grace and beauty of the pastoral idyll in Horace is eulogized against the urban, chaotic, and arguably “unnatural” aesthetic and nature of cities.
Friedrich von Kaulbach, “In Arcadia,” 1880. Beauty and sensualism flow together in Horace’s praise poetry focusing on the erotic and human relationality and happiness offered in the pastoral life which is impossible in the urban life of pollution and the mundane.
Anton von Werner, “Horace.” Reimagined, of course.
Lionel Royer, “Vercingetorix throws down his arms at the feet of Julius Caesar,” 1899. Horace lived through the turmoil of the Civil Wars and even fought on the republican side as an officer in the armies of Brutus and Cassius. He was no friend of “empire,” which has led many careful scholars and readers of Horace to note that he does not praise Augustus per se, but, ironically, the republican idyll that Augustus’ rule restored: the pastoral garden of peace.

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