previous next

Horatius


1.

The name of three brave Roman brothers, who fought, according to the old Roman legends, against the Curiatii, three Alban brothers, about 667 years before the commencement of our era. Mutual acts of violence committed by the citizens of Rome and Alba had given rise to a war. The armies were drawn up against each other at the Fossa Cluilia, where it was agreed to avert a battle by a combat of three brothers on either side —namely, the Horatii and Curiatii. It is evident that we have here types of the two nations regarded as sisters and of the three tribes in each. In the first onset, two of the Horatii were slain by their opponents; but the third brother, by joining address to valour, obtained a victory over all his antagonists. Pretending to fly from the field of battle, he separated the three Curiatii, and then, attacking them one by one, slew them successively. As he returned triumphant to the city, his sister Horatia, who had been betrothed to one of the Curiatii, met and reproached her brother bitterly for having slain her intended husband. Horatius, incensed at this, stabbed his sister to the heart, exclaiming, “So perish every Roman woman who bewails a foe.” For this murder he was adjudged by the duumvirs to be scourged with covered head and hanged on the accursed tree. Horatius appealed to his peers, the burghers or populus; and his father pronounced him guiltless, or he would have punished him by the paternal power. The populus acquitted Horatius, but prescribed a symbolical punishment. With veiled head, led by his father, Horatius passed under a yoke or gibbet—tigillum sororium, “sisters' gibbet.” (See Livy, i. 26.)


2.

Cocles. See Cocles.


3.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus, a celebrated Roman poet, born at Venusia, December 8th, B.C. 65, during the consulship of L. Aurelius Cotta and L. Manlius Torquatus ( Carm. iii. 21, 1; Epod. 13, 6). His father, who was a freedman of the Horatian family, had gained considerable property as a coactor, a name applied to the servant of the moneybrokers, who attended at sales at auction, and collected the money from the purchasers ( Hor.Sat. i. 6, 86). With these gains he purchased a farm in the neighbourhood of Venusia, on the banks of the Aufidus. In this place Horace appears to have lived until his eleventh or twelfth year, when his father, dissatisfied with the country school of Flavius, removed with his son to Rome, where he was placed under the care

Monument of the Horatii and Curiatii. (Von Falke.)

of a celebrated teacher, Orbilius Pupillus, of Beneventum, whose life has been written by Suetonius. After studying the ancient Latin poets, Horace acquired the Greek language. He also enjoyed, during the course of his education, the advice and assistance of his father, who appears to have been a sensible man, and who is mentioned by his son with the greatest esteem and respect. It is probable that, soon after he had assumed the toga virilis at the age of seventeen, he went to Athens to pursue his studies, where he appears to have remained till the breaking out of the Civil War during the second triumvirate. In this contest he joined the army of Brutus, was promoted to the rank of military tribune, and was present at the battle of Philippi, his flight from which he compares to a similar act on the part of the Greek poet Alcaeus.

Though the life of Horace was spared by the imperial party, his paternal property at Venusia was confiscated, and he repaired to Rome, with the hope of obtaining a living by his literary exertions. Some of his poems attracted the notice of Vergil and Varius, who introduced him to Maecenas, and the liberality of that statesman quickly relieved the poet from all pecuniary difficulties. From this eventful epoch the current of his life flowed on in a smooth and gentle course. Satisfied with the competency which his patron had bestowed, Horace declined the offers made him by Augustus, to take him into his service as private secretary, and steadily resisted the temptation thus held out of rising to wealth and political consideration; advantages which would have been dearly purchased by the sacrifice of his independence. That he was really independent in the noblest sense of the word, in freedom of thought and action, is evidenced by that beautiful epistle (i. 7) to Maecenas, in which he states that if the favour of his patron is to be secured by a slavish renunciation of his own habits and feelings, he will at once say farewell to fortune and welcome poverty.

Not long after his introduction to Maecenas the journey to Brundisium took place (Hor. Sat. i. 5), and the gift of his Sabine farm soon followed. Rendered independent by the bounty of Maecenas, high in the favour of Augustus, courted by the proudest patricians of Rome, and blessed in the friendship of his brother poets, Vergil, Tibullus, and Varius, it is difficult to conceive a state of more perfect temporal felicity than Horace must have enjoyed. This happiness was first seriously interrupted by the death of Vergil, which was shortly succeeded by that of Tibullus. These losses must have sunk deeply into his mind. The solemn thoughts and serious studies which, in the first epistle of his first book, he declares shall henceforward occupy his time, were, if we may judge from the second epistle of the second book, confirmed by those sad warnings of the frail tenure of existence. The severest blow, however, which Horace had to encounter, was inflicted by the death of his early

Horace. (From a Gem in the British Museum.)

friend and best patron Maecenas. He had declared that he could never survive the loss of one who was “part of his soul” ( Carm. ii. 17, 5), and his prediction was verified. The death of the poet occurred only a few weeks after that of his friend, on the 27th of November, B.C. 8, when he had nearly completed his fiftyeighth year. His remains were deposited next to those of Maecenas, on the Esquiline Hill.

When at Rome, Horace lived in a small and plainly-furnished mansion on the Esquiline. When he left the city, he either betook himself to his Sabine farm or his villa at Tibur, the modern Tivoli. When in the country, as the whim seized him, he would either study hard or be luxuriously idle. The country was his favourite abode, and here he displayed all the genial simplicity of his nature.

If we may believe Horace himself, his own preference was for a country life; and some of the truest poetry that he ever wrote deals with themes drawn from his love of rural scenes— the peaceful meadows of Apulia, the Bandusian fountain, the cattle resting in the flickering shade through the long summer afternoon, the siesta by the brook-side, the cool vistas of the forest glades with the young deer browsing among the trees. His own homely tastes are delightfully set forth in the passages where he tells of his sitting about the fire at evening with his rustic neighbours, exchanging stories and cracking jokes over the mellow wine.

Horace is described as short and stout, so that Augustus rallied him on his corpulency; of a rather quick temper, yet easily placated; and given to ease and the enjoyment of the good things of life. This disposition is perfectly reflected in his writings, which embody a genial, if not very deep, philosophy of life, and a good sense which robbed Epicureanism of its selfishness and Stoicism of its sourness and severity.

The productions of Horace are divided into Odes, Epodes, Satires, and Epistles. The Epodes (Epodi) are the earliest of his works, and are written in various forms of iambic and dactylic verse. They were not published as a collection until B.C. 29, after the publication of his first book of Satires (Sermones), which had appeared about the year B.C. 35, dedicated to Maecenas. At about the time of the publication of the Epodes appeared the second book of Satires. The Odes (Carmina) were written in part as early as B.C. 29, but their formal appearance in three books is to be assigned to the year B.C. 20 or thereabouts. These three books were also dedicated to Maecenas. Following them came a continuation of the Satires in a new form, that of letters addressed each to a single person, and called Epistles (Epistulae). These are in two books, the first having been published soon after the first publication of the Odes, and the second not long before the poet's death in B.C. 8. In B.C. 17, the Carmen Saeculare or Secular Hymn was composed at the request of Augustus for the celebration of the Ludi Saeculares (q. v.). Horace likewise, being in a way the Poet Laureate of Augustus, celebrated the victories of the emperor's stepsons, Tiberius and Drusus, in several new Odes, which he published with a number of others, as a fourth book of Odes in B.C. 13. The famous bit of literary criticism, the Epistula ad Pisones, usually known as the Ars Poetica, and perhaps unfinished, is of uncertain date, but is to be assigned with much probability to the year B.C. 20.

Horace, as a poet, does not show the inspiration and Geist that would rank him with the great masters of lyric verse—Pindar, Alcaeus, Sappho— whom he imitates; and he is himself thoroughly aware of his own poetic limitations. When he attempts the flight of the Theban eagle and when he writes in his rôle of Poet Laureate, he is never at his best; but, like Tennyson in his official verse, invariably suggests a person ill at ease

Augustus and his Friends. (From a wall-painting from the Palace of the Caesars, discovered in 1737.)

over a perfunctory task. His temperament and tastes marked out for him a far different sphere, in which he is inimitable. When he gets away from battles and triumphs, and gods and heroes, and the whole machinery of Olympus, and turns to the familiar world in which he lives, he plays with a master hand upon the chords that vibrate in the breast of all men. Tenderness, humour, a lively and picturesque fancy, a sympathetic love of external nature in her familiar aspects, a keen insight into human nature in its varying moods—all these are his in a high degree, and joined with them is an undercurrent of occasional melancholy that not infrequently touches the source of tears. In those Odes where he depicts the lighter side of love, the genial intercourse of friends, and natural scenery, or in which he sets forth his amiable philosophy of life, he is quite inimitable. Words cannot do justice to the exquisite polish of his verse, the crispness and terse vigour of his phrases, and the perfect choice of words, which Petronius, in the following century, characterized as Horatii curiosa felicitas. He has filled the pages of modern literature with a host of sparkling epigrams, phrases, and proverbial lines—“jewels five words long”—more numerous, in fact, than those that have been taken from all the rest of Latin literature put together. No other writer in any language so abounds in pregnant phrases. His carpe diem is an epitome in two words of the whole practical teaching of Epicureanism. His nil desperandum, twisted out of its context, has almost become an English phrase. So, too, the expressions consule Planco— damnosa quid non—nunc vino pellite curas—post equitem sedet atra cura—non omnis moriar—semper avarus eget—sapere aude—nil admirari—sub iudice lis est—disiecti membra poetae—and a hundred others.

It is in his Satires and Epistles that the true Horace is most clearly seen, freed from the uncomfortable trappings of the grand style, and, as it were, chatting at ease among his friends. Here he most winningly sets forth his shrewd and kindly views of men and things, laughing good-humouredly at the foibles of his friends and at his own as well, like Thackeray, except that in the laugh of Horace there is no subacid tone of even a pretended cynicism. The whole tenour of his teaching is moderation—the mediocritas aurea, the modus in rebus—which he preaches incessantly alike to the ambitious, the pleasure-loving, and the philosopher. Not even virtue itself is to be pursued beyond what is reasonable. This is essentially the philosophy of “good form,” of the man of the world, enlivened by a sense of humour that is fatal alike to the fanaticism of the “crank” and the priggish solemnity of the Philistine. It is the philosophy of the average man, and it explains the constant popularity of Horace in all ages and all nations, and the fact that he is today, at the end of the nineteenth century, the most modern writer that literature can show us. He, more than any other, makes antiquity live for us again; and, stripping off the superficial differences of time and place and language, flashes upon the mind a conviction of the essential unity of the present and the past. He is thus the most human of all the classic writers, and the one whose wit and wisdom linger in the mind of the most idle student long after the lines of Aeschylus and Vergil and even Homer have been forgotten. Hence we find him admired, translated, and imitated by men of such different types as Pope, Byron, Gladstone, and Eugene Field. His nearest representative in English literature is Pope; but, as Mr. Mackail well says, to suggest a true parallel we must unite in thought the excellence of Pope and Gray with the easy wit and cultured grace of Addison.

From an early date Horace's poems were used in Roman schools as a text-book, and were expounded by Roman scholars, especially by Acron and Porphyrion. His use as a school-text has perpetuated the order in which his works are now always printed, that being the order in which the Roman school-boys read them. As Horace has been continuously popular, there exist a very large number of MSS. (about 250) of the text—none, however, older than the ninth century A.D. The oldest is the Codex Bernensis (denoted as B), written in Ireland. This is incomplete. A separate source of Horace is represented by the Codex Blandinius

Q. Horatius Flaccus. (From a Gem. )

(Vetustissimus or V), in part collated by Cruquius (Jacques de Crusques) at Blankenberg, but destroyed about 1566. (See Cruquius.) The best representative of this “family” is probably the Codex Gothanus (G), dating from the year 1456. The Horatian MSS. are enumerated in Keller and Holder's preface.

Bibliography.—The editio princeps of Horace is said to have appeared at Milan in 1470. Great editions are those of Lambinus (Leyden, 1561, reprinted at Paris in 1567, 1579, 1587, and at Coblentz in 1829); Cruquius (first printed as a whole at Antwerp, 1578); Heinsius (Leyden, 1612); the great epoch-making work of Bentley (Cambridge, 1711, reprinted at Amsterdam, 1713, and lately at Berlin, 1869); Wakefield (London, 1794); Orelli and Baiter (1850-52; last ed. Berlin, 1885 foll.); Dillenburger (1881); Nauck and Krüger (Leipzig, 1885); Schütz (Berlin, 1880-83); Kiessling (Berlin, 1884- 1888); the text alone by Meineke (Berlin, 1854); Keller and Holder (Leipzig, 1864-70); Haupt and Vahlen (4th ed. Leipzig, 1881); L. Müller (last ed. Chicago, 1882); with illustrations from gems, by King, text by H. A. J. Munro (London, 1869); French commentary by Waltz (Paris, 1887); English commentaries by Macleane (London, 1869); Wickham (vol. i. Odes and Epodes, 1874; vol. ii. Satires and Epistles, 1891). Separate editions are those of the Odes by Page, with an off-hand commentary of much literary merit (4th ed. London, 1890), and Wickham (2d ed. London, 1887); of the Satires by Palmer (London, 1883) and L. Müller (Vienna, 1891); of the Epistles by Wilkins (3d ed. London, 1889), Shuckburgh (Cambridge, 1888), L. Müller (Vienna, 1893); of the Satires and Epistles together by Kirkland, after Kiessling (Boston and N. Y. 1893). The Ars Poetica is edited separately by Hofmann-Peerlkamp (Leyden, 1845) and Albert (Paris, 1886), and discussed by Weissenfels (Görlitz, 1880), and Bonino (Turin, 1888).

No translation of Horace does any kind of justice to the original, though some of the imitations in English by Pope are very clever. There are translations by Sir Philip Francis, by Professor Conington (in verse), by Sir Theodore Martin (Odes and Satires), by Clark (Odes), by Sargent (Odes), and Sir Stephen De Vere (selected Odes and Epodes)— the last two in 1893. There is a fair prose translation by Lonsdale and Lee.

The life of Horace has been written in English by Milman (1853) and Hovenden (1877); in German by L. Müller (1880); in French by Walckenaer, 2 vols. (1858), and Des Vergers (1855); in Italian by Onesolto (Padua, 1888). A valuable life of the poet by Suetonius has come down to us with some discreditable interpolations, in the MSS. of the poet. Valuable criticism of Horace will be found in Teuffel's Charakteristik des Horaz (Leipzig, 1842); Gerlach, Leben und Dichtung des Horaz (Basle, 1867); Weissenfels, Horaz (Berlin, 1885); Vogel, Die Lebensweisheit des Horaz (Meissen, 1868); Beck, Horaz als Kunstrichter und Philosoph (Mainz, 1875); Weise, De Horatio Philosopho (Colberg, 1881); Maier, D. philosoph. Standpunkt des Horaz (Kremsier, 1888); and Sellar, Roman Poets of the Augustan Age: Horace (1892).

The scholia to Horace have been edited by Fabricius (Basle, 1555), with additions by Pauly (Prague, 1858 and 1877), and by Hauthal (Berlin, 1864-66). See the account of the scholia by Usener (Berne, 1863). There is a lexicon to Horace by Koch (2d ed. Hanover, 1879). On the language, etc., of Horace, see Ernesti's Clavis Horatiana (2d ed. Leipzig, 1823); Barta, Sprachliche Studien, etc. (Linz, 1879 and 1881); Habenicht, Alliteration bei Horaz (Eger, 1885); Waltz, Des Variations de la Langue et de la Métrique d'Horace, etc. (Paris, 1881); and the introduction to Kirkland's edition of the Satires and Epistles (1893). On Horace as a satirist, see R. Y. Tyrrell in Hermathena, iv. 355; id. Latin Poetry (1895); and the article Satira.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: