Horace's birthplace in Venosa. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus (December 8, 65 BC - November 27, 8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Latin lyric poet during the beginning of the Roman Empire.

Life[edit | edit source]

Horace was born in the small town of Venusia (today Venosa) in the border region between Apulia and Lucania (Basilicata), His father was 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 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 at age 56 a few months after the death of Maecenas. 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 his admirers.

Writing[edit | edit source]

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.

Recognition[edit | edit source]

File:Quinto Orazio Flacco.jpg

Horace, portrayed by Giacomo Di Chirico

Horace is generally ranked alongside Virgil and Ovid among 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"[1] dealing with the beatus ille precepts. Besides, several later 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,[2] 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 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.

Publications[edit | edit source]

Major works[edit | edit source]

  • Iambi (Epodes, 30 B.C.).
  • Sermones (Satires: Satires I, 35/34 B.C.; Satires II, 30 B.C.).
  • Carmina (Odes: Odes I-III, 23 B.C.; Odes IV, 13 B.C.).
  • Epistulae (Epistles: Epistles I, 20-19 B.C.; Epistles II: 2.1, ca. 14 B.C.; Epistles II: 2.2, ca. 19 B.C.).
  • Ars poetica (date uncertain, 23-18 B.C. or 13-8 B.C.).

Standard editions[edit | edit source]

  • Quinti Horati Flacci Opera, ca. 1470.
  • Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Opera (edited by Richard Bentley); 3rd edition Berlin: Weidmann, 1869.
  • Q. Horati Flacci Opera (edited by E.C. Wickham; 2nd edition edited by H.W. Garrod). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1912.
  • Q. Horati Flacci Opera (edited by Friedrich Klingner). (3rd edition), Leipzig: Teubner, 1959.
  • Horatius: Opera (edited by Istvan Borzsák). Leipzig: Teubner, 1984.
  • Horatius, Opera (edited by D.R. Shackleton Bailey). (3rd edition), Stuttgart: Teubner, 1995.

English translations[edit | edit source]

  • The Art of Poetry: An epistle to the Pisos (translated by George Colman). London: T. Cadell, 1783.[3]
  • Echoes from the Sabine Farm (Odes; translated by Eugene Field and Roswell Martin Field). privately published, 1899.[4]
  • Horace: The odes and epodes (translated by Charles E. Bennett). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (Loeb Classical Library), 1914).
  • Horace: Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica (translated by H. Rushton Fairclough). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (Loeb Classical Library), 1926.
  • The Odes and Epodes of Horace (translated by Joseph P. Clancy). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.
  • Ad Pyrrham: A Polyglot Collection of Translations of Horace's Ode to Pyrrha (Book 1, Ode 5) (compiled by Ronald Storrs). London: Oxford University Press, 1959.
  • Horace: Odes (translated by James Michie). New York: Orion Press, 1963.
  • The Satires of Horace and Persius (translated by Niall Rudd). New York: Penguin, 1979.
  • The Complete Works of Horace (translated by Charles E. Passage). New York: Ungar, 1983.
  • The Essential Horace (edited by Burton Raffel). San Francisco, CA: North Point Press, 1983.
  • The Complete Odes and Epodes with the Centennial Hymn / Horace (translated by W.G. Shepherd). New York: Penguin, 1983.
  • Horace, Epistles (translated by Colin W. Macleod). Rome: Edizioni dell'Ateneo, 1986.
  • Horace's Odes and Epodes (translated by David Mulroy). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994.
  • Horace in English (edited by D.S. Carne-Ross and Kenneth Haynes). New York: Penguin, 1996.
  • The Odes of Horace (translated by David K. Ferry). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.
  • Horace: Odes and Carmen Saeculae (translated by Guy Lee). Leeds, UK: Francis Cairns, 1998.
Horace_-_Carpe_Diem_(English_translation)

Horace - Carpe Diem (English translation)


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[5]

See also[edit | edit source]

Horace_-_Diffugere_Nives_(English)

Horace - Diffugere Nives (English)

References[edit | edit source]

  • Michie, James (1964). The Odes of Horace. Rupert Hart-Davis. 
  • West, David (1997). Horace The Complete Odes and Epodes. Oxford University Press. 
  • Sydenham, Colin (2005). Horace The Odes. Duckworth. 
  • Lyons, Stuart (1997). Horace's Odes and the Mystery of Do-Re-Mi. Aris & Phillips. 
  • Lyons, Stuart (2010). Music in the Odes of Horace. Aris & Phillips. 

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Rivers, Elias L. Fray Luis de León: The Original Poems. London: Grant & Cutler, 1983
  2. Cfr. James Boswell, "The Life of Samuel Johnson" Aetat. 20, 1729 where Boswell remarkable of Johnson that Horace's Odes "were the compositions in which he took most delight."
  3. Project Gutenberg's The Art Of Poetry An Epistle To The Pisos, by Horace, Project Gutenberg, Web, Oct. 8, 2012.
  4. The Project Gutenberg eBook, Echoes from the Sabine Farm, by Roswell Martin Field and Eugene Field, Project Gutenberg, Web, Oct 8, 2012.
  5. Horace 65 BCE - 8 BCE, Poetry Foundation, Web, Oct. 8, 2012.

External links[edit | edit source]

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