(Gaius Maecenas)

70–8 BC

Maecenas was a close friend of Augustus, and although he did not hold official public offices, he was very influential in government, both domestically, and diplomatically. His reputation was one of exceptional tact and moderation and he aided Augustus greatly in his dealings with rivals and political opponents. The fact that the reputation of Augustus was one of moderation and accommodation was largely due to the influence of Maecenas, who actively discouraged him from carrying out purges or mass executions of his political enemies.

In spite of his significant contributions to the new political order in Rome, Maecenas is still best known for being a patron of the arts. He supported and promoted the careers of such Latin literary greats as Virgil, Horace, and Propertius. The Augustan era is known as the Golden Age of Latin literature, and it marks the first time that Latin rose to the same level as Greek in terms of original literary contributions. Maecenas can be thought of as the force behind the flowering of Latin culture, not only during his only life, but for several generations that followed.

After thirty years of a very close relationship with Augustus, Maecenas eventually fell out of favor, due to some personal intrigues regarding his wife Terentia. He died in 8 B.C., the same year as his lifelong friend Horace.

Key events during the life of maecenas:

43 BC
Negotiated reconciliation between Antony and Octavius.
42 BC
Assisted Octavius in campaign at Philippi.
39 BC
Became acquainted with Horace, and Virgil shortly afterward.
37 BC
Sent as ambassador for Octavius to work peace treaties with rivals.
36 BC
During war with Pompey, Maecenas administered government in absence of Octavius.
31 BC
Vicegerent of Octavius during campaign in Actium.
  Greatly influenced the establishment of new order, without holding public office.
19 BC
Death of Virgil.
12 BC
Fell out of favor with Octavius due to personal considerations.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Maecenas and His Friends  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Augustan Age  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber

Image Links

Roman Empire at the Death of Augustus
 in  Augustus—His Life and Work

In the time of Augustus, Hildensperger
 in Famous Men of Rome

Short Biography
Augustus Caesar First emperor. Reigned for over fifty years. Established the Imperial system.
Agrippa Most trusted general and advisor of Augustus Caesar. Married Augustus's daughter Julia.
Virgil Great epic poet of the Augustan age. Wrote The Aeneid.
Livy Roman historian. Wrote History of Rome from its Founding.
Horace Great lyric poet and satirist of the Augustan age.
Propertius Poet whose career was promoted by Maecenas.
Tarentia Wife of Maecenas, whose intrigues caused his downfall.