Wednesday, June 25, 2008

'Silver Age' Again

Chris comments in the post below:

If I recall, some "silver age" authors actually first designated Cicero, Vergil, and company as authors of the "Golden Age". So naturally taken up from that Silver Age would be a complement. My OED is packed before the move, so I cannot check it at the moment.

I would be interested in any references in which 'silver' writers refer to the Augustan writers (or even to late Republican literature if we want to extend back to Cicero, as we probably should) as having written in a 'Golden Age'. To be sure, 'silver' writers sometimes made a trope of their secondariness; for example, Statius Thebaid 10.445-6 (Hinds discusses this and other passages relating to 'secondariness'):
vos quoque sacrati, quamvis mea carmina surgant
inferiore lyra, memores superabitis annos.

Also of interest is the pseudo-Ovidian Argumenta Aeneidis, praefatio 1-4 (text from Ziolkowski and Putnam's The Virgilian Tradition):
Vergilius magno quantum concessit Homero,
tantum ego Vergilio, Naso poeta, meo.
Nec me praelatum cupio tibi ferre, poeta;
ingenio si te subsequor, hoc satis est.

Vergil refers to the return of a golden age in general terms in Eclogue 4, which he specifically relates to Saturnian myth (e.g., redeunt Saturnia regna, 6): ac toto surget gens aurea mundo (9); but a quick glance through Ziolkowski and Putnam's index s.v. 'golden age' didn't yield anything relating to literary designations (but I was skimming pretty quickly and don't have time at the moment for a really thorough search).

In English, the term 'golden age' to refer to Augustan literature seems to have come into play earlier than 'silver age'. The OED's earliest reference is from Dryden in 1700: 'With Ovid ended the golden age of the Roman tongue.' Interestingly, Dryden uses the term mythically 15 years previous to this: 'Those first times, which Poets call the Golden Age.'


Chris Weimer said...

I'll try to find the references, but Vergil also talks about the return of the Golden Age of Saturn in the underworld when Anchises tells him of the reign of Augustus. I'd tell you the line numbers, too, but I'm not at home.


Eric said...

Yes, you're right, at 6.791-7:

hic uir, hic est, tibi quem promitti saepius audis,
Augustus Caesar, diui genus, aurea condet
saecula qui rursus Latio regnata per arua
Saturno quondam, super et Garamantas et Indos
proferet imperium; iacet extra sidera tellus, 795
extra anni solisque uias, ubi caelifer Atlas
axem umero torquet stellis ardentibus aptum.

Dennis said...

After a long and unfruitful search for Roman sources on "Golden Age" literature I checked Karl Galinsky's Augustan Culture.


On p. 90 he says that within a generations of Augustus the terms aurea aetas, saeculum aureum, and felix saeculum are "virtually interchangeable."

Endnote 31 to ch. III lists Tacitus, Dial. 12.3, Seneca Contr. 2.7.7, and Quintilian 8.6.24.

Having glanced at each, the most specific reference to a literary age is the Tacitus:

"ceterum felix illud et, ut more nostro loquar, aureum saeculum, et oratorum et criminum inops, poetis et vatibus abundabat, qui bene facta canerent, non qui male admissa defenderent."

Galinsky seems to be a bit cautious about equating modern and ancient uses of the term, and I don't have time to read it in depth now, but will report back.

Dennis said...

I just found this old post of yours, E.

Eric said...

Interesting...unbeknownst to me I've apparently had this issue pass between my ears before. Good thing there's a record of it, because I had completely forgotten.

Eric said...

Also, thanks for your hunting in Galinsky. I quickly looked at the entries for aureus in Lewis & Short, OLD, and TLL, but didn't see anything. Then again, when I say I looked quickly, I mean *quickly*. The Tacitus seems to be the most promising, esp. because he seems to imply that the designation was customary (ut more nostro loquar). Perhaps I'll have to pull that up and look at the wider context of the passage.