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18 - Literary Patronage and the Roman Imperial Court from Augustus to the Severan Dynasty

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 September 2022

Benjamin Kelly
Affiliation:
York University, Toronto
Angela Hug
Affiliation:
York University, Toronto
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Summary

Under some emperors, the imperial court was a social space in which writers could seek and obtain patronage. However, as this chapter cautions, later generations of writers romanticized such patronal relationships (especially those of the Augustan era), so we must be wary of accepting fantasy as truth. The chapter accordingly commences with a discussion of evidence and methodology. What counts as evidence for an author’s presence and activities in the imperial court? It then focuses on common themes that reflect the experience of authors from Augustus to the Severan dynasty, after which evidence for court patronage becomes even patchier. These are: the court as a privileged performance space for literature; the polarities of ‘autonomy’ and ‘subservience’ that defined the patronage relationship between author and emperor; and the ways in which the writer both contributed and conformed to the official messaging of the regime.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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