The first century of the Christian era has often been termed the' age of rhetoric'. Tacitus Dialogus is a valuable witness to the attitudes and aspirations of the first century. The arguments of Vipstanus Messalla have been cited to prove the corrupting effects of rhetorical education. For a professional poet in need of patronage the recitation must have been of some assistance. Statius, for instance, at one point refers to the fact that senators were in the habit of attending his readings and Juvenal, in sarcastic vein, confirms their success, though denying that they brought Statius any financial benefit. To see the literature of die first century in perspective, it seems best to bear in mind a number of disparate but possibly cumulative factors, educational, social, political and philosophical, all of which are, to a greater or lesser degree, relevant to die whole picture.