People - Ancient Rome: Horace
Born Quintus Horatius Flaccus, known as Horace, he was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.
Horace in Roman Biography
Horace, hor'ass, [Lat. Hora'tius; Fr. Horace,
o'rJUs'; Or. Horaz, bo-rits'; It. Orazio, o-rat'se-o,]or,
more fully, Quin'tus Hora'tius Flac'cus, an excellent
and popular Latin poet, born at Venusia, (now Venosa,)
in Italy, in December, 65 B.C. His father was a freednian,
who gained a competence as a coactor, (collector of
indirect taxes or of the proceeds of auctions,) and
a farm near Venusia, on the bank of the Aufidus,
(Ofanto.) At an early age he was sent to Koine, and
became a pupil of the noted teacher Orbilius Pupillus,
with whom he learned grammar and the Greek language About
his eighteenth year, he went to prosecute his
studies in the groves of the Academy at Athens,—then
the principal seat of learning and philosophy,—where he
remained until the death of Julius Cassar (in 44 B.C.)
involved the empire in a civil war. As Brutus passed
through Athens, Horace, with patriotic ardour, joined
his army, was made a military tribune, took command
of a legion, and witnessed the fatal defeat of the cause at
Philippi, where he threw away his shield. (Carmina, ii.
7.) 1 lis estate having been confiscated, he went to Rome,
where he supported himself a short time by acting as clerk
in the treasury. His early poems having excited the
interest of Virgil and Varius, they recommended him to
Maecenas, in whom he found a liberal patron and intimate
friend. Thenceforth his life was eminently prosperous,
and serenely passed in congenial studies and patrician
society. Preferring independence to the tempting prizes
of ambition, he refused the office of private secretary
to Augustus, who treated him with particular favour.
He had a true relish for rural pleasures and the charms
of nature, which he often enjoyed at his Sabine farm or
his villa in Tibur. Died in November, 8 B.C. He was
never married. He was of short stature, and had dark
eyes and hair. His character, as deduced from his writings,
is well balanced, and unites in a high degree good sense,
good nature, urbanity, and elegant taste. His poems,
consisting of odes, satires, and epistles, may all be
in one small volume. His chief merits are a calm
philosophy, a graceful diction, an admirable sense of
propriety, and a keen insight into human nature, which
have attracted an admiration growing from age to age,
and have rendered him, next to Virgil, the most illustrious
poet of ancient Rome. " It is mainly," says
Magazine" for April, 1868, "to this large and
many-sided nature of the man himself that Horace owes
his unrivalled popularity,—a popularity which has indeed
both widened and deepened in its degree in proportion
to the increase of modern civilization." His "
are among the few poems which represent the most perfect
and original form of Latin verse. There is no very
good English translation of Horace's entire works : that
of Francis (4 vols., 1747) is perhaps the best. Lord
translation of the Odes (1869) is highly praised.
See Suetonius, "Vita Horatii ;" Masson, "Vita Horatii,"
Henky H. Milman, " Life of Q. Horatius Flaccus," 1854: Van
Ommkkn, "Horni als Mensch und Biirger von Rom," 1802; C.
Fkancke, " Fasti Horatianl," 1839; Wai.ckenaer, "Histone de
Vie et des Poesies d'Horace," 2 vols., 1840; J. Murray.
Views of the Passages in the Life and Writings of Horace,"
1851 ; J. (or F.) Jacob,
" Horaz und seine Freunde," 1852; Ersch
Allgemeine Encyklopaedie ;" see, also, the excellent
article on Horatius in Smith's "Dictionary of Greek and
Biography," by the late Dean H. H. Milman, (author of the
of Q. Horatius Flaccus;") "Horace and his Translators," in
" London Quarterly Review" for October, 185S :
" Horace and
Tasso," in the
Edinburgh Review" for October, 1850.
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Horace in Wikipedia
Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Venusia, December 8, 65 BC – Rome, November 27, 8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the
leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.
Born in the small town of Venusia in the border region between Apulia and Lucania (Basilicata), Horace was the son of a freed slave,
who owned a small farm in Venusia, and later moved to Rome to work as a coactor (a middleman between buyers and sellers at auctions,
receiving 1% of the purchase price from each for his services). The elder Horace was able to spend considerable money on his son's
education, accompanying him first to Rome for his primary education, and then sending him to Athens to study Greek and philosophy. The
poet later expressed his gratitude in a tribute to his father:
If my character is flawed by a few minor faults, but is otherwise decent and moral, if you can point out only a few scattered blemishes
on an otherwise immaculate surface, if no one can accuse me of greed, or of prurience, or of profligacy, if I live a virtuous life,
free of defilement (pardon, for a moment, my self-praise), and if I am to my friends a good friend, my father deserves all the
credit... As it is now, he deserves from me unstinting gratitude and praise. I could never be ashamed of such a father, nor do I feel
any need, as many people do, to apologize for being a freedman's son. Satires 1.6.65–92
After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Horace joined the army, serving under the generalship of Brutus. He fought as a staff officer
(tribunus militum) in the Battle of Philippi. Alluding to famous literary models, he later claimed that he saved himself by throwing
away his shield and fleeing. When an amnesty was declared for those who had fought against the victorious Octavian (later Augustus),
Horace returned to Italy, only to find his estate confiscated; his father likely having died by then. Horace claims that he was reduced
to poverty. Nevertheless, he had the means to gain a profitable lifetime appointment as a scriba quaestorius, an official of the
Treasury, which allowed him to practice his poetic art.
Horace was a member of a literary circle that included Virgil and Lucius Varius Rufus, who introduced him to Maecenas, friend and
confidant of Augustus. Maecenas became his patron and close friend and presented Horace with an estate near Tibur in the Sabine Hills
(contemporary Tivoli). Horace died in Rome a few months after the death of Maecenas at age 57. Upon his death bed, having no heirs,
Horace relinquished his farm to his friend, the emperor Augustus, for imperial needs and it stands today as a spot of pilgrimage for
Horace is generally considered to stand alongside Virgil and Ovid as one of the greatest poets of the Augustan Age. Several of his
poetry's main themes, such as the beatus ille (an appraisal of simple life) and carpe diem (literally "pluck the day", more commonly
rendered into English as "seize the day", but perhaps closer to "enjoy the day") were recovered during the late Middle Ages and the
Renaissance, influencing poets such as Petrarch and Dante. However, those themes were not truly retaken till the 16th century, when the
Renaissance culture and its admiration of Roman and Greek antiquity was solidly established. In that sense, the influence of Horace can
be traced in the works of poets such as Garcilaso de la Vega, Juan Boscán, Torquato Tasso, Pierre de Ronsard and especially in Fray
Luis de León. The latter wrote some of the most remarkable "Odes" dealing with the beatus ille precepts. Besides, several latter
poets such as Shakespeare and Quevedo were heavily influenced by Horace's poetry. Moreover, his work Ars Poetica remained as a
canonical guide for composing poetry till the end of romanticism, and it was known and studied by most writers; even though its
precepts were not always thoroughly followed, it held an unimpaired prestige when it came to deal with the form, wording and setting of
any poem, play or prose work, and its influence can be traced well into the works of playwrights and writers such as Lope de Vega,
Michel de Montaigne, Henry Fielding, Calderón de la Barca, Pierre Corneille, Samuel Johnson, Goethe, Voltaire or Diderot.
Apart from carpe diem, Horace is also known for having coined many other Latin phrases that remain in use today, whether in Latin or
translation, including Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country), Nunc est bibendum (Now
we must drink), and aurea mediocritas ("golden mean").
Horace also forms the basis for the character Quintus Horatius Flaccus in the Oxford Latin Course, a Latin textbook for secondary
students; the books loosely follow his life.
His works, like those of all but the earliest Latin poets, are written in Greek metres, ranging from the hexameters which were
relatively easy to adapt into Latin to the more complex measures used in the Odes, such as alcaics and sapphics, which were sometimes a
difficult fit for Latin structure and syntax.
The works of Horace are:
Odes (or Carmina) (23-13 BC)
Epodes (30 BC)
Satires, in Latin Sermones (35 and 20 BC)
Ars Poetica, or The Epistle to the Pisones (18 BC)
Epistles (20 and 14 BC)
Carmen Saeculare (17 BC)
Horace's Odes and the Mystery of Do-Re-Mi==Translation==
John Dryden, successfully adapted three of the Odes (and one Epode) into verse for readers of his own age. Samuel Johnson favored the
versions of Philip Francis. Others favor unrhymed translations.
In 1964 James Michie published a translation of the Odes—many of them fully rhymed—including a dozen of the poems in the original
Sapphic and Alcaic metres.
More recent verse translations of the Odes include those by David West (free verse), Stuart Lyons (rhymed) and Colin Sydenham (rhymed).
Ars Poetica was first translated into English by Ben Jonson and later by Lord Byron.
Horatius in Harpers Dictionary
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 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
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 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
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 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 (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
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.
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