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To Horace and other satirists Lucilius (180-102 B.C.) was the inventor of the genre of satire, in particular of personal and social criticism. He gave to satire the predominant characteristics of fault-finding and personal and social criticism. He was a man of property who was on equal terms with some of the eminent politicians of the time. As land-owner, soldier and the companion of policy- makers and intellectuals he learned from wide experience to assess the corruption and pretensions of his society as well as some of its achievements.

He wrote informal pieces, mainly autobiographical, on incidents in his own life and that of his friends, travels, banquets and literary subjects. In these were included outspoken criticism of authors and men in public life, and protests against luxury and gluttony. (Most of his work, except for fragments, has vanished.) He changed the old style of satire, with its variety of content and semi-dramatic approach, into severe criticism. Horace says: He rubbed the city down with plenty of salt.
Similarities to Horace: independence, preference for leisure, dislike of regular employment, commonsense attitude to life, frank self-revelations, chatty impressions of his own experiences or those of his friends.
Differences: inferior in workmanship, no easy-going tolerance for the subjects of his satire. He has more of Juvenal's fierce indignation.

See what Horace says about him in I.4 and 1.10.


Horace (65-8 B.C.) was the son of a freedman from S. Italy. His father had been a tax-collector and had acquired a small estate. He gave Horace the best education available, first at Rome and then at Athens (some people have an the luck, don't they, children). The civil war broke out while Horace was in Greece. He was commissioned as a tribune (junior officer) in Brutus' army and fought (and, he says, ran away) at the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. when the forces of Caesar's assassins, Brutus and Cassius, were defeated by Octavian and Mark Antony. Thus he was on the "wrong" side when Octavian came to power .
He later returned to Italy and made his submission. He obtained a clerical post in the civil service, as a clerk, but he was one of the many, like Virgil, who lost his estate when the land was taken for the veterans of Octavian's army and so, reduced to poverty, he had to write verses.
In about 38 B.C. he was introduced by Virgil and others to Maecenas (Octavian's literary adviser) who, after some delay, took him under his protection, admitted him to the circle of Augustan poets and, about 33 B.C., gave him the Sabine farm not too far from Rome which was the source of much happiness to Horace.
About 35 B.C. he issued the first Book of his Satires. The Second Book came around 30 B.C., after the Battle of Actium

The Satires are conversational in style, humorous and polished, modelled (especially the earliest) on Lucilius. They deal with a great variety of subjects, incidents in his own life, the follies and vices of mankind, or his own poetical methods. The Second Book is more advanced than the First in literary taste and skill; the poems are less personal and their spirit more mellow and reflective. Horace adopts a more dramatic form which gives life and lightness to the discussion of various aspects of Roman life.


Petronius (d. A.D. 65) was probably governor of Bithynia, consul, and then accepted into Nero's inner circle and chosen to be his advisor on what was fashionable. Unfortunately for him, he upset one of Nero's close friends, who falsely accused him to the Emperor. Rather than be put to death Petronius chose to take his own life.
Petronius wrote a satirical novel known as the Satyricon, in a mixture of prose and verse (Menippean satire), which describes the disreputable adventures of two rogues, Encolpius and Ascyltus, and their slave-boy, Giton, as they wander around the semi-Greek cities of southern Italy.

The main episode in the surviving portion of the work is Trimalchio's Dinner Party. Trimalchlio is a wealthy, vulgar ex-slave, and we see his ostentatious display of wealth in the decoration of his house and the large number of varied dishes in the banquet, the grotesque incidents at the banquet, the comical conversation of the guests and the ridiculous conduct of Trimalchio as he becomes more and more drunk.


Very little is known about Juvenal's life. Most sources agree on a period of banishment (probably spent in Egypt) as a result of insulting the Emperor Domitian's favourite actor, Paris, after which he wrote a lot (!).
His Satires are fierce attacks on the vices, abuses and follies of Roman life, directed not at the living but at the dead, although it is clear that the same evils still exist in Juvenal's day. The Satires are notable for their bitter ironical humour , their invective, sympathy with the poor , and a narrow pessimism which sees only the seamy side of life. Juvenal claims that Lucilius and Horace are his masters, but he has none of Horace's kindly humour. His extravagant hatred of the rich, the exaggeration of his criticism and his condemnation of women suggest he was a man embittered by experience. The picture he gives of Roman life is in strong contrast with that given by his contemporary, Pliny the Younger. What is perhaps most remarkable in his writing is his ability to evoke a scene in Roman life in just a few words (see especially Satire 3).

A useful list of the Satires and their content:
1. His programmatic piece, an introductory poem (like most "introductions", probably written after he had done the rest). Juvenal is driven to write by disgust at the popular poetry of the day. He will deal with realities and expose the scandals of the age. But he will speak only of men now dead. "Indignation will drive me to write", he claims.

3. Perhaps Juvenal's best satire, a picture of life in Rome. He praises a friend who is running away to the country from the many dangers in town and "poets reciting in the middle of August". Umbricius cannot stand the invasion of Greeks and Greek fashions. Furthermore, the honest man has no chance in Rome; poverty stands in the way of merit. The city is described: its narrow winding streets flanked by tall houses with pigeons on the roof, the mud, porters carrying wine-casks, the noise of wagons, the house on fire, the upsetting of a builder's wagon. Then there is the city at night: a great man passing in his scarlet cloak with torches and a retinue of slaves and clients, a bully picking on the poor man who has no-one to protect him, the burglar .

 6. An attack on women in general. Juvenal is astonished that a friend should contemplate marriage when there is so much rope to be had, and then shows at great length the vices of women: their extravagance, tyranny, quarrelsomeness in the home. If you chance upon a good woman, she will be arrogant.

10. On the folly of human prayers, whether they are for wealth (which exposes you to dangers the poor man does not experience), for power (you live longer if you are not ambitious), or for eloquence, long life or beauty. It is better to leave your fate to the gods, or at most pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.

14. On the influence of parental example in education. The parents' faults will be copied by the children.

For this topic, you will be expected to know two of the three authors in great detail for a context question. You cannot avoid knowing the third author fairly well as you may be asked to compare a context author with one or both of the other authors. As well as the context question (a choice of one out of two), you must answer one essay question from a choice of five or six. Some will concentrate on one author or one particular satire by an author , while other questions may ask you to compare/ contrast two or all three of the set authors.

L. Primmer