Doing Politics by Other Means: Horace's "Art of Poetry"

Harper Memorial Library, 130

Horace received the elite education of an orator and served as a military tribune under Brutus against Caesar in the civil wars. When the Roman Republic collapsed and Augustus came to power, Horace gave up the expectation of becoming Cicero's successor and turned to poetry. Once we realize that literature replaced politics as the public sphere under the empire, many enigmas in Horace’s famed Ars poetica appear in a new light: the address to a preeminent republican family, the focus on tragedy, the audience as populus, and the figure of Empedocles—an example of a poet gone mad.