Juvenal Satire 1

Ø       A programmatic satire , mentioning themes that Juvenal will return to later in his “satires” This satire was probably written as an introduction to satires 2-5 and added later than these satires as an introduction to book 1 of the satires.

Ø       The structure of this satire is broadly symmetrical:

1-21                     Introduction

22-80                 First exposition : objects of satire.

81-146             Second exposition , marked by a clear new beginning- the main vices of humans are isolated.

147-171         Conclusion: reason for using illustrations  from the past.

Ø       The speaker begins the satire by a rant about bad poetry and poets  (similar to Horace 1.4)

Ø       Note the number of rhetorical  questions in the first few lines  - this is a favourite way of engaging the publics attention by  any public speaker (Juvenal may have been a public speaker by trade.

Lines 1-21

Ø       As Juvenal has suffered another’s poetry so he will inflict his poetry on others- he too has suffered an education!

Ø       The examples Juvenal mentions of things that he considers to be bad poetry are (deliberately) obscure . Each example is meant to represent a different genre of poetry:

a)      Cordus has written a Thesid -  an epic poem based on the life of the Athenian hero Theseus. Epic poetry could take several days to read.

b)      X has written farce

c)      Y has written elegies.

d)      “Telephus” and “Orestes” are mentioned as examples of plays.

To Juvenal, who read his books off scrolls, these are wastes of good paper!

Ø      Juvenal claims he knows all the myths well -  the example he gives (knowing the groves of Mars , a cave near Aeolus’ island belonging to Vulcan) is taken from the epic poetry cycle “Jason and the Argonauts” – the golden fleece that Jason stole was kept in the grove of Mars , the Argonauts stopped off at the cliffs of Aeolus the winds god.

Ø      The main complaint of Juvenal the satirist is that there is nothing  new in poetry > The same themes are repeated in poetry day after day in rich men’s houses where it was the fashion to have poetry recitals (this begins the theme  of patron client which runs through his satires – see particularly satire 5)

Ø      Other trite poetic themes are mentioned , Aeacus is an underworld god mentioned in Homers Odyssey. The size of spears used by Centaurs could be a reference to Achilles spear  in the Iliad. The point the satirist is making is that all the themes in poetry are the same myths re- worked by   both good and bad poets.

Ø      Juvenal mentions suffering in school trying to write speeches such as “Advise to Sulla” (a Roman general and champion to the Senate) He even quotes from the first line of a speech urging Sulla to retire “Let the despot retire…”

Ø      Juvenal’s argument is humorous : the paper’s going to  be wasted on bad poetry anyway, why not join such bad poets?! He ,like Lucilius before him will write satire . The next section will be a list of characters that he could satirise.

Lines 22-80

Ø      Juvenal juxtaposes characters of mythology in section 1 (lines 1 –21) with characters from real life. The argument in this second section is that indignation would make him a poet if talent failed him.

Ø      The characters mentioned by Juvenal as fit for satire are :

a)      The married eunuch.

b)      Well bred rich girls marrying country boys

c)      The barber who  becomes a millionaire.

d)      The Egyptian slave who becomes a Senator. Crispinus , an Egyptian who came to Rome as a trader in fish ,lived to become a member of Domitian’s Privy  council  and is mentioned by name which is unusual in Juvenal – Crispinus is a near contemporary.

e)      Lawyer.

f)        An informer (spy ) who betrayed his patron and is now given bribes by other informers to stay quiet and wives of actors want to have sex with him.

g)      Men earning legacies in bed by sleeping with rich women  -such a man is as pale as a contestant in a competition set up by the (long dead) Emperor Caligula at Lyons .At Caligulas competitions those who didn’t win the public speaking competition were forced to erase their speeches with sponges or tongues. The implication of this is the man who earns legacies by sleeping with rich matrons can easily loose their place in her affections.

h)      A mob of bravos (yobs) who  are led by a man who slept with his male charges and later defrauded him too.

i)        The provincial governor exiled for extortion.

j)        Corrupt courts.

All these characters are worthy of “Horace’s pen” claims Juvenal.

Ø      He returns to his original  theme in line 52 -  having to  write poetry using trite mythology .Here he mentions Hercules’ adventures , the minotaur (thingummy in the labyrinth) and Icarus and Daedalus (“tale of the flying carpenter and how he went splash into the sea)

Ø      The effect of mentioning trite mythological themes and characters of poetry in juxtaposition to modern characters who are morally repulsive is to make the modern characters seem mythological themselves – an absurd concept.

Ø      Juvenal the satirist claims that you can only be important in his day if you’re prepared to do bad deeds.

Ø      He then asks who   is comfortable with “today’s” type of world in which your daughter in law can be seduced for cash or your bride – even schoolboys are adulterers today!

Ø      Anger at today’s world is what will turn Juvenal to verse.

Ø      His poetry is to be about all human endeavours , men’s prayers , fears ,angers, pleasures, joys and pursuits.

Ø      Not since the days of Deucalion and Pyrrha (Roman Adam and Eve) has there been so many  vices – humans were born from stones according to the myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha. To  mention this couple is to imply that there is a new type of world- full of vice – that has been created.

Ø      Men gamble more in this new world and are more greedy . The only type of battle you’ll see today claims Juvenal , are on the gaming tables.

Ø      In the old days , claims Juvenal, things were different…people were kinder to their slaves . No ancestor would use a country house just for himself alone or eat large meals alone.

Ø      In the old days, clients were guests (Satire 5 explores this more fully) , now they’re not given meals as they used to have , but clients leave patrons baskets of food to bribe them. Juvenal then imagines the squabbles that might break out over one of these baskets of food for importance . A praetor (like deputy prime minister) and tribune (important member of the peoples council) are beaten by the freedman (slave who bought his freedom) The freedman is a foreigner who  owns shops which bring in 400,000 per year – enough to make him a knight (eques) The themes of the self made man is popular with Juvenal (see Satire 5 and 6) Self made men can even become Senators complains Juvenal!

Ø      Humorously he writes a hymn to the god “cash” who has the deepest worship  of human beings.

Ø      After a consul (like prime minister) has had his year of office at Rome , he goes to the provinces and there is able to levy as many  taxes as he likes . Juvenal complains that as a client he doesn’t get any of his consul patrons wealth but what he considers less important people get in front of him for their money – like the husbands who use their pregnant wives to jump  the queue. Some even pretend their wives are pregnant and ill and sitting  in an empty sedan chair just to  jump the queue to the patron!

Ø      Juvenal follows his patron to the forum – even there foreign people such as the Egyptian Pasha  ( a Jew who rose to become an eques and prefect of Egypt)  have usurped the position of the “true” Roman.

Ø      Clients follow the patron home in the hope of a dinner invitation which doesn’t come. A contrast between the opulent food and lifestyle of the patron and the poor client follows (see satire 5)

Ø      After his food (a whole roast boar to himself) he’ll pay the price as he gets into a warm bath – his belly  swollen with peacock meat and Juvenal imagines him having a heart attack.

Ø      At the end of the poem Juvenal returns to the theme of indignation . Juvenal asks can he, a satirist , match the great satirists? Lucilius is named . The quote from Lucilius “Show me the man I dare not name” is contrasted with Juvenals situation. Lucilius had a powerful patron – Scipio Africanus – and as such could write about whatever he liked as long as it didn’t upset his patron. Juvenals patron is seen to be weak and stingy , so Juvenal dare not criticise an “Imperial favourite” (Who were usually freemen) otherwise he might die.

Ø      He can’t talk about vices in his own day. It’s safe to write epic poetry ,he claims , but satire is dangerous. Satire is like a naked sword that will expose guilt. Juvenal ends the satire saying he’s already armed and may as well fight (with the sword of satire) but he might end up  dead.

Humour in Satire 1

Ø       The reason that he writes poetry is because he’s tired of poets!

Ø       Characters in mythology are compared to  the vices of the modern day-  these vices form a new mythology.

Ø       The newly made rich patron , foreign and politically , weak is fawned over by the clients. Juvenal likes to think himself above everyone but he too waits in line for a handout – he is paranoid and jealous of those with wealth and therefore has to think himself superior in some way so he thinks himself morally superior.

Ø      The prayer to “cash” . If honour , Peace and virtue have altars , cash must be a greater god.

Ø      The greedy clients and greedier patron who Juvenal imagines dying of a heart attack after a large meal is humorous.

Ø      Juvenal is a satirist who is afraid of writing satire!