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Post-Augustan Poetry From Seneca to Juvenal   By: (1878-1951)

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From Seneca to Juvenal


H.E. BUTLER, Fellow of New College


I have attempted in this book to provide something of an introduction to the poetical literature of the post Augustan age. Although few of the writers dealt with have any claim to be called poets of the first order, and some stand very low in the scale of poetry, as a whole the poets of this period have suffered greater neglect than they deserve. Their undeniable weaknesses tend in many cases to obscure their real merits, with the result that they are at times either ignored or subjected to unduly sweeping condemnation. I have attempted in these pages to detach and illustrate their excellences without in any way passing over their defects.

Manilius and Phaedrus have been omitted on the ground that as regards the general character of their writings they belong rather to the Augustan period than to the subsequent age of decadence. Manilius indeed composed a considerable portion of his work during the lifetime of Augustus, while Phaedrus, though somewhat later in date, showed a sobriety of thought and an antique simplicity of style that place him at least a generation away from his contemporaries. The authorities to whose works I am indebted are duly acknowledged in the course of the work. I owe a special debt, however, to those great works of reference, the Histories of Roman Literature by Schanz and Teuffel, to Friedländer's Sittengeschichte , and, for the chapters on Lucan and Statius, to Heitland's Introduction to Haskin's edition of Lucan and Legras' Thébaïde de Stace . I wish particularly to express my indebtedness to Professor Gilbert Murray and Mr. Nowell Smith, who read the book in manuscript and made many valuable suggestions and corrections. I also have to thank Mr. A.S. Owen for much assistance in the corrections of the proofs.

My thanks are owing to Professor Goldwin Smith for permission to print translations from 'Bay Leaves', and to Mr. A.E. Street and Mr. F.J. Miller and their publishers, for permission to quote from their translations of Martial (Messrs. Spottiswoode) and Seneca (Chicago University Press) respectively.


November , 1908.




Main characteristics, p. 1. The influence of the principate, p. 1. Tiberius, p. 2. Caligula, p. 4. Claudius, p. 5. Nero, p. 6. Decay of Roman character, p. 9. Peculiar nature of Roman literature, p. 10. Greatness of Augustan poets a bar to farther advance, p. 11. Roman education: literary, p. 12; rhetorical, p. 14. Absence of true educational spirit, p. 16. Recitations, p. 18. Results of these influences, p. 19.



i. THE STAGE. Drama never really flourishing at Rome, p. 23. Comedy, represented by Mime and Atellan farce, p. 24. Legitimate comedy nearly extinct, p. 25. Tragedy replaced by salticae fabulae , p. 26; or musical recitations, p. 28. Pomponius Secundus, p. 29. Curiatius Maternus, p. 30.

ii. SENECA: his life and character, p. 31. His position in literature, p. 35. His epigrams, p. 36. His plays, p. 39. Their genuineness, p. 40. The Octavia, Oedipus, Agamemnon, and Hercules Oetaeus, p. 41. Date of the plays, p. 43. Their dramatic value, p. 44. Plot, p. 45. Descriptions, p. 48. Declamation, p. 49; at its best in Troades and Phaedra , p. 51. Dialogue, p. 55. Stoicism, p. 58. Poetry (confined mainly to lyrics), p. 63. Cleverness of the rhetoric, p. 65. Sententiae , p. 68. Hyperbole, p. 69. Diction and metre; iambics, p. 70; lyrics, p. 71. Plays not written for the stage, p. 72. Influence on later drama, p. 74.

iii. THE OCTAVIA. Sole example of fabula praetexta , p. 74.

Plot, p. 75. Characteristics, p. 76. Date and authorship, p. 77.



Life, p. 79. Works, p. 81. Influence of Lucilius, p. 83; of Horace, p. 84. Obscurity, p. 85. Qualifications necessary for a satirist; Persius' weakness through lack of them, p. 87. Success in purely literary satire, p... Continue reading book >>

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