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Silver Age of Latin literature

From Academic Kids

In reference to Roman literature, the Silver age covers the first two centuries A.D. directly after the Golden age (which was the first century B.C., and the start of the first century A.D.)

Literature from the Silver age has traditionally, perhaps unfairly, been considered inferior to that of the Gold age.

Silver Latin itself may be subdivided further into two periods: a period of radical experimentation in the latter half of the first century AD, and a renewed Neoclassicism in the second century AD.

Under the reigns of Nero and Domitian, poets like Seneca the Younger, Lucan and Statius pioneered a unique style that has alternately delighted, disgusted and puzzled later critics.

Stylistically, Neronian and Flavian literature shows the ascendence of rhetorical training in late Roman education. The style of these authors is unfailingly declamatory - at times eloquent, at times bombastic. Exotic vocabulary and sharply-polished aphorisms glimmer everywhere, though at times to the detriment of thematic coherence.

Thematically, late 1st century literature is marked by an interest in terrible violence, witchcraft, and extreme passions. Under the influence of Stoicism, the gods recede in importance, while the physiology of emotions looms large. Passions like anger, pride and envy are painted in almost anatomical terms of inflammation, swelling, upsurges of blood or bile. For Statius, even the inspiration of the Muses is described as a calor "fever".

While their extremity in both theme and diction has earned these poets the disapproval of Neoclassicists both ancient and modern, they were favorites during the European Renaissance, and underwent a revival of interest among the English Modernist poets.

By the end of the first century, however, a reaction had set in, and Tacitus, Quintilian and Juvenal all testify to the resurgence of a more restrained, classicizing style under Trajan and the Antonine emperors.

The Silver age also furnishes our only two extant Latin novels: Apuleius's Golden Ass and Petronius's Satyricon.

Some writers of the silver age include Petronius, Seneca, Phaedrus, Persius, Quintilian, Lucan, Statius, Tacitus, Martial, Juvenal, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Aulus Gellius, and Apuleius.

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