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Circle of Maecenas
 
  Gaius Maecenas was born c. 70 B.C.E., possibly in Arretium, about 90 miles north of Rome. A man of great wealth from the equestrian class, Maecenas likely inherited some of his fortune, but he probably owed much of his financial and social success to his relationship with Octavian, also known as Augustus, master of the Roman world after 31 B.C.E. He had much success in aiding Octavian in his powers. In fact, he essentially administered Italy and Rome while Octavian was abroad, fighting against his enemies. Later, when Octavian became emperor, Maecenas was one of his most trusted advisors.
  In addition to his interest in the affairs of state, Maecenas also took an active interest in literature as well, forming the so-called "circle of Maecenas," which included Virgil, Horace, Propertius, and many others -- all the most famous poets of their day. It is difficult to underestimate the influence of this circle in generating notions of Roman-ness for the Augustan Age and beyond. The upheavals of civil war left not only the countryside in tatters. Roman identity itself had been torn apart, or at least left deeply unsettled, as old idols, values, and heroes were toppled. Maecenas' circle, and Vergil in particular, did the major cultural repair work of their generation.
  Himself a writer, Maecenas wrote both prose and poetry, although his works were much criticized, and only a few fragments of them survive. He had much more impact on literature through his influence on his poet friends, whom he swayed to write for the glory of the imperial regime and the emperor himself. Does this then mean that these poets were just propogandists for the state? Such a view would overlook the distinctive qualities of their writings, which rank among the great works of literature ever produced. The Aeneid is hardly equivalent to a slogan spray-painted on city wall. On the other hand, it is indeed legitimate and important (some would say even necessary) to locate, track, and critique the political and social effects of this great art.
Sources:
  Hornblower, Simon and Spawforth, Antony, ed. The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Oxford University Press, 1998.
  Levi, Peter. Horace: A Life. Routledge, Inc. 1997.
  Levi, Peter. Virgil: His Life and Times. St. Martin's Press. 1998.
  "Maecenas, Gaius (Cilnius)." Encyclopedia Britannica. January 11, 2001. http://www.britannica.com.
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