Horace himself had obeyed all these precepts but one- he had not learned to weep. Because his feelings were too thin, or had been stifled into silence, he seldom rose to the high art that gives form to sincere sympathy, or to “emotion remembered in tranquillity.” He was too urbane. Nil admirari, “to marvel at nothing,” was poor advice; to the poet everything should be a miracle, even when, like the sunrise or a tree, it greets him every day. Horace observed life, but not too deeply; he studied philosophy, but kept so persistently an “even mind” that only his Odes rise above a “golden mediocrity.” He honored virtue like a Stoic, and respected pleasure like an Epicurean. “Who, then, is free?” he asks, and answers, like Zeno, “The wise man, he who is lord over himself, whom neither poverty nor death nor bonds affright, who defies his passions, scorns ambition, and is in himself a whole.” One of his noblest poems sings a Stoic strain:
Iustum et tenacem propositi virum si fractus inlabatur orbis impavidum ferient ruinae-
“If a man is just and resolute, the whole world may break and fall upon him and find him, in the ruins, undismayed.” But despite all this he calls himself, with engaging honesty, “a pig from Epicurus’ sty.” Like Epicurus he placed more store on friendship than on love; like Virgil he lauded the reforms of Augustus, and remained a bachelor. He did his best to preach religion, but he had none. Death, he felt, ends all. His last days were clouded with this thought. He had his share of pains- stomach trouble, rheumatism, and much else. “The years as they pass,” he mourned, “rob us of all joys, one by one.” And to another friend: “Alas, O Postumus, the fleeting years slip by; nor shall piety hold back our wrinkles, or pressing age, or indomitable death.” He recalled how, in his first satire, he had hoped, when his time came, to quit life contentedly, “like a guest who has had his fill.” Now he told himself: “You have played enough, eaten enough, drunk enough; it is time for you to go.” Fifteen years have passed since he had told Maecenas that he would not long survive the financier. In 8 B.C. Maecenas died, and a few months later Horace followed him. He left his property to the Emperor, and was laid to rest near Maecenas’ tomb.
Augustan prose achieved no triumphs equal to those of Augustan verse. Oratory subsided as the making of laws and decisions passed in reality if not in form from Senate and assemblies to the secret chambers of the prince. Scholarship continued its quiet course, sheltered from present storms by its ghostly interests. It was only in the writing of history that the age achieved a masterpiece in prose. Born in Patavium (Padua) in 59, Titus Livius came to the capital, devoted himself to rhetoric and philosophy, and gave the last forty years of his life (23 B.C.-A.D. 17) to writing a history of Rome. That is all we know of him; “Rome’s historian has no history.” Like Virgil he came from the region of the Po, retained the old virtues of simplicity and piety, and- perhaps through the pathos of distance- developed a passionate reverence for the Eternal City. His work was planned on a majestic scale and was completed; of its 142 “books” only thirty-five have come down to us; as these fill six volumes we may judge the magnitude of the whole. Apparently it was published in parts, each with a separate title, and all under the general heading, Ab urbe condita – “From the city’s foundation.” Augustus could forgive its republican sentiments and heroes, since its religious, moral, and patriotic tone accorded well with the Emperor’s policies. He took Livy into his friendship and encouraged him as a prose Virgil who was beginning where the poet had left off. Halfway on his long journey from 753 to 9 B.C., Livy thought of stopping, on the ground that he had already won lasting fame; he went on, he says, because he found himself restless when he ceased to write.