Juvenal [50?-127? C.E.], Satires I, VII [?120 C.E.]

        Discussing Juvenal's style, Green (our translator) says in his introduction that "there is no correlation between regularity of form and literary excellence in the Satires" (46). As with Horace's satires, we have to hit the ground running, even (gasp!) having to read the translator's notes to each satire so that we get the historical contexts that are being alluded to at lightning speed. Green describes J's compositional style as "the principle of random selection at work, a train of thought which proceeds from one enticing image to another like a man leaping from tussock to tussock across a bog" (47). Remember the "ring composition" pattern of Catullus' poem on the courtship and wedding of Pelleus and Thetis? You won't find that in Juvenal. Don't bother looking. Instead, he's shooting from the hip, making a catalog of all the things he just can't stand about Rome, the government, the arts, and (presumably) all the Romans except those who think exactly as he does. Inclusiveness and diversity? Nah, not so much. But can we be inclusive and tolerate him in our little patch of classical diversity? That's the challenge.
        Rather than just attacking this as some kind of artistic failing, try treating each vignette he throws at you as a tiny snapshot or screen-capture of Roman life between circa 55 CE and 140 CE. What do you see, hear, even smell in the streets of Juvenal's Rome? What's going on behind the doorways and walls of the rich and powerful? For 20 centuries, these poems have been our best clue to the secrets of the Empire in its later days. J is dishing the dirt. He's rapping, even "illing" on his enemies. As Alice Roosevelt Longworth, a famous Washington socialite once said, "If you can't say something good about someone, come sit right here by me." Try coming up with a list of memorable passages.
        Look and listen to what Juvenal is showing you about the secrets of the imperial capital.  We have only scraps of historical context to use when testing J's assertions, but he usually seems to be absolutely right about what he says is happening.  Read Green's notes on pages 72-4 and 172-5.  Try sorting out what kinds of folly and what kinds of outright crime are targeted by the guy Green calls "the bitter old man from Acquinum" (10).  Are these peculiarly Roman issues, or have we inherited them along with the Classical Tradition of literature that satirizes them?
        (For those of you with English 211 in your background, comparison of this style with the "Wife of Bath's Prologue" might be instructive. But is she the satirist, or the satirized?)
        One repeated feature of Satires 1 and 7 is Juvenal's overt loathing for Greek literary models. Everyone's doing it, even kids in school are being taught to imitate Greeks, and it nauseates him. If you look at your Horace, especially Epistle II.3 (the "ars poetica" or art of poetry), he urges his rich patron's sons to follow Greek models, and that's only about 100 years before Juvenal. Does this give us a clue about how fast literary styles start changing in the Roman world? Greek culture kept retelling stories we found in Homer for well over 500 years. In less than 1/5 that time, we've run into a Roman who just can't stand it anymore. And yet, they're all part of the same thing Anglo-Europeans would call "the classical tradition." How does that work?

Discussion Questions:

Satire I--

1)  Following Green's introduction's description of the rise and  fall of J's reputation (9‑10), how would you say good satire  appeals to its audience?  (Ditto for tragedy, comedy, epic, etc.)

2)  In Satire I, J utters the famous list of people whose  behavior shocks him so much "it is harder not to be writing  satires."  Who are his targets, and what general kinds of  behavior does he accuse them of?  What should they do?

3)  One great theme in Satire I is "excess."  How does this theme  relate to the Greek tragedian's use of "excess," and what is  missing from J's world that controls excess in Greek works like Aeschylus' Orestia or Sophocles' Oedipus Rex?

4)  J attacks legacy hunters like Horace (Satire II.5), but in a much different manner.  How would you compare the tone of his satire on this point with Horace's?  How does he achieve this?  (Hint: consider Horace's strategy in using the personae of Tiresias and Ulysses.)

5)  What is the gist of J's complaint regarding the use of Greek mythological figures in "modern" Roman poetry (67)?  Consult the note to this passage to identify the references he assumes his audience will be able to identify.  How many were you able to spot without the note's assistance?

6)  Confronting the ironies of aristocratic behavior regarding wealth, J asks, "Is it not plain lunacy / to lose ten thousand on a turn of the dice, yet grudge / A shirt to your shivering slave?" (68).  What are the causes of this "lunacy" and why does it continue in America today?  Compare the class distinctions in the lines immediately below ("Clients were guests..."  through "flout this sacred office")

7)  J asserts "it is Wealth, not God, that compels our deepest  reverence" (69).  How does he construct the visual metaphor, and  how does it act to summarize the principle by which he attacks  his previous targets?  What kinds of ordinary life events does he  say are turned upside‑down by pursuit of wealth?

8)  Near the close of I (70‑71), J alludes to the dangers of  writing satires of living persons.  What are they, and what  problems and advantages does J gain from writing of the dead?

Satire VII--

1)  According to J, how are artists treated if they  haven't the Emperor's support?  What roles do these artists play,  and how might they be travesties of the artist's true function in  society?  (E.g., do poets bathe us, bake something for us, etc.?) 

2)  J refers (164‑66) to the grubby details of getting a poet's  work heard.  Do you know your era's poets?  How do such details  compare with the narratives of poetic performance we've read  before? (Homer's "Demodokhos" & "Phemios,"   Sappho's poetic groves, Catullus' and Horace's parties, etc.)

3)  When J moves to historians & lawyers, is there any logic for  juxtaposing them?  (166)  What attributes does J assert will  determine the size of the lawyer's fee, and how might you  apply that to such persuasive efforts as (say) an academic paper  or a teacher's performance?  How do such seemingly irrelevant  features of these works have such great effects?

4)  J's advice to rhetoric teachers is based on a hypothetical  classroom scene.  What kind of learning is modeled there, and why  is it worthy of J's satire?

5)  When J turns to the teacher's reward (170‑71), he briefly extols Luck as that which makes one talented and famous.   Compare to Satire X, p. 217‑‑is J a consistent thinker?  Can you  explain the passage on 170 another way?

6)  The most numerous kind of American college teacher is the  Assistant Professor, and at Goucher, their average yearly salary is about  $60K this year.  Applying J's "jockey" formula to other  occupations which entertain the elite but are not productive  (e.g., baseball pitchers and NFL quarterbacks), what effect does this  "cultural price" have on our values?  Is J saying the "jockeys"  of this world should be paid less?