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Praise For Augustus In Horace Odes 3 Notes

Classics Notes > Latin Literature of the 1st Century AD Notes

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Praise for Augustus in Horace Odes 3 Praise for Augustus in book three of Horace's odes is extensive and it is clear that he was an integral part of the Augustan propaganda machine which created a culture of praise for the new autocratic princeps and helped to solidify his position in Rome. Horace's task was to advertise the values which the new regime was promoting, especially the revival of the old morality, the sanctity of family life and the importance of a simpler, more rustic life as opposed to the decadence and luxury which has blighted Rome and brought the civil wars upon her. He also lavishes extensive praise upon the great man himself and reminds the people in no uncertain terms that he is vital to the preservation of law and order in the state. One of the great themes of Augustus' principate was a desire to legislate extensively on matters of morality and family values; therefore it is useful to provide a certain amount of background on this issue in order to have a better understanding of what Horace is actually referring to in his odes and in what sort of context they would have been received by his audience. It was in 18 BC, that Augustus' legislation for moral and social improvement was ratified by the senate and people of Rome. The new Julian laws on marriage meant that there were penalties for men over the age of twenty five and women over the age of twenty who were unmarried or childless, for example they could not attend certain public games nor could they be the benefactors in any will. There were also extensive rewards for people with numerous children; the senior consul was now the man with most children, for every child one year was subtracted from the minimum age for standing for a certain office, in Flavian municipal law it is recorded that in Municipium Irnitanum the man with the most children always voted first and finally a freedman was freed from any work obligations to a former master if he had two or more children. He also allowed, for the first time, marriage between free man and freed woman to be legitimate, except for senators, who had to maintain and enrich the prestige and numbers of their ranks (Dio 54.16). Suetonius mentions further legislation Augustus enacted to deal with people who were trying to dodge their new obligations, for example he limited the period between betrothal and marriage to stop men marrying little girls and also limited the number of lawful divorces. He did not stop there however, he also introduced legislation against adultery; this probably is aimed at moral improvement but any laws of this sort when none existed beforehand can possibly show anything other than state intervention. Under this exhaustive and complete new law a permanent court was set up to try women accused of adultery and sexual excess. A convicted woman was divorced, lost half her dowry, one third of her property, relegated to an island and not allowed to marry again. Any husband who failed to convict his wife promptly could expect similar punishment and furthermore third parties were able to convict any woman they suspected and receive a substantial reward if they were successful. This law was predominantly aimed at the senatorial classes, whose irregular sexual practises some felt were at the heart of political corruption (Cicero ad. Att. 1.16.5). There was also a need to bolster the ranks of this class because there was a concern that their numbers were

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