Horace [65-8 B.C.E.], Satires I.1, II.3, and II.5 [35 B.C.E. (Book I) and 30 B.C.E. (Book II)]

        Note: Horace also wrote letters (epistolae) to public figures and had them reproduced by scribes to achieve a wider readership.  One of his most influential "epistles," Epistle 3 of Book II, was known in later eras as the Ars poetica or "Art of Poetry," after Aristotle's Poetics, the most famous classical instruction manuals for poets.  He often urges Roman poets to follow the subjects and characters given them by the Greeks, but warns them not to imitate the Greeks slavishly or to alter their characters and plots too radically (e.g., your Achilles must be brash of speech and violently energetic).  This is a tough balance to maintain.  As you read Horace's satires, notice how he adapts the Greek works from which he borrows, and especially how he changes their significance by adding irony and worldly criticism of their assumptions, which apparently now seem primitive to Horace's cosmopolitan eye.

        Get to know Horace's satires by topic.  Give them names more descriptive of what they're about than the numbering system by which scholars know them.  What do you think would be good memorable names for "I.1, II.3, and II.5"?  If you have never thought about the social function of satire as a genre of literature, try connecting it to the Aristotelian notion of tragic drama as the "doctor" of the polis or city.  The Greek theater seemed to have a moving target for what it perceived as the source of the city's ills (usually manifesting itself as a plague or nightmarish dreams), but frequently it came down to some form of hubris or overweening pride that led to loss of self-control (sophrosyne).  Roman writers seem to pick more specific and varied ways to attack society's ills, not focusing at all on the rulers.  Juvenal (for Monday) will even admit that it's too dangerous in Domitian's imperial reign!  Also, in addition to the worst human errors leading to the greatest disasters (Oedipus?), Horace in particular seems interested in getting his readers to acknowledge that humanity is beset by a host of foolish notions that, while not fatal to civilization, make us miserable.  As you read the satires of Horace and those from Juvenal's first and second book, try sorting out what kinds of folly and what kinds of outright crime are targeted by each author.  Are these peculiarly Roman issues, or have we inherited them along with the Classical Tradition of literature that satirizes them?

Satire I.1--

1) In I.1, what drives people to desire the changes in their  situation, and what perspective does H offer? 

2)  In addition to the oppositions he discusses in terms of occupation (soldier-merchant, farmer-cityman), Horace prescribes a rule for the life properly lived (ll. 49-51).  What does the context of this rule tell you about what Horace presumes of his audience, and how might other alternatives pose problems for his rule?  How does this satire reveal the social class of its community?

3)  How does Horace read the fate of Tantalus (Odyssey 11), and what other fates from that same Greek source might be read similarly? 

4)  How does capital accumulation affect human relations in Horace's view, and what does that suggest about the dangers besetting the Roman imperial elite?  Would things be different for the underclass (non-citizens, slaves, poor plebians, etc.)?

5)  If an ideal life is lived as if the soul were at a banquet,  how are the other lives lived (according to the analogy)?

6)  H proposes staying between the "limits" of things.  Is there  a goodness about the middle between great vices and virtues?  Are  these "middles" all good (e.g., between truthfulness and lying)?

Satire II.3--

1)  Damasippus, the Stoic, treats the peculiar talents that  control human careers as "disorders" and "madness" (e.g. ll. 20‑ 30).  What, then, is Stoic "order" or "sanity"?

2)  In Stertinius' lecture, he makes use of Aeschylus' Orestia  (ll. 132‑41) and Homer's Iliad (185‑220)‑‑how does he read them,  and how might that differ from a Greek (or an American) reading?

3)  How does Stertinius define "insanity" (ll. 157‑60)?  Hint:  check the word's Latin root and its opposite in a Latin‑English  dictionary.

4)  How would Stertinius have judged the more famous inhabitants  of Hollywood, California?

5)  When H concedes the argument "to the greater maniac"  (Damasippus), what does he really mean as a character and as a  poet? 

Satire II.5--

1)  II.5  uses a persona whose  outrageous opinions he means to lampoon.  What are the hazards of  this tactic?

2)  What stylistic attributes of Homeric verse does Horace imitate in this parody, and what effects do they produce? 

3)  How does Odysseus' plans for replenishing his household differ from the advice given by Horace's Tiresias?  What kinds of social change must have taken place in order to enable these suggestions?

4)  What does H's Ulysses suggest H thinks of Odysseus'  character in the Odyssey?  Does Horace read his Homer well?

5)  How does Penelope fare in Horace's rewriting of the Homeric past in Roman times?  That is, how does Horace read (ironically?) her faithfulness?

6)  Why is Ulysses the apparent target of this satire, and who  (in general) is its real target?