Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus): Most of us know a tiny bit of the lyrical poetry that Horace wrote, but I'll wager that very few of us know that he wrote it. Horace was born to wealth, but to poor social position -- his parents were rich freed slaves -- in the fortress town of Venusia (now Venosa, in Apulia) in 65 BC. Freedmen's sons often had wider educational opportunities than sons of citizens (who tended to be both indolent and on the military track) did, and that was the case with young Horatius, who studied first in Rome and then in the famous Athens Academy where he took prizes in philosophy and poetry.

Horatius made a bad decision in 44 BC and joined the Republican army of Marcus Junius Brutus, that Brutus who had been a ringleader in the assassination of Julius Caesar. After Marc Antony and Octavian (later Caesar Augustus) trashed the Republicans at Philippi in 42 BC, Horace accepted amnesty and returned to Rome where he became a civil servant and amateur poet. His poetry impressed first Vergil and then, in about 38 BC, Maecenas, who was the acknowledged maestro dell'arte and an important political advisor in the court of Octavian. Soon Horatius was the darling of Roman political and literary circles (and of Maecenas, with whom he often shared a bed). In about 33 BC, Maecenas either bought or otherwise obtained an estate for Horatius in the Sabine Hills, and Horatius was able to quit his day job and become a full time poet. When Vergil died in 19 BC, Horatius succeeded his friend and colleague as Poet Laureate of Rome.

Horatius' was one of Rome's great lyric poets -- his famous Odes were performed in the Roman Odeon and in the auditorium that was part of Maecenas' villa on the Esquiline. He also wrote epodes (originally the third or choral part of an ode, but, by his time, separate choral poems), satires, and many letters (epistles). In his own time, he was most famous for his Carmen Saeculare, non-religious songs written on commission from Octavian for Rome's secular games, and for his Ars Poetica (his Epistula ad Pisones) in which he outlined high Roman poetic theory. His rhythmic, ironic, and urbane works were models for noted 18th and 19th  century authors and poets (among them, Michel de Montaigne, Ben Johnson, Henry Fielding, John Gay, Lord Chesterfield [Philip Dormer Stanhope], and Horace Walpole). Horace died at the end of November, 8 BC, in Rome, leaving his estate to Octavian, and was buried next to Maecenas, who had died two months earlier.

Much of Horace's work survives, and it is available in English as well as in Latin on the Internet.


http://www.uky.edu/ArtsSciences/Classics/horawill.html and

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0025&loc=1.1&query=toc and




Report on the UCLA/American Academy in Rome archeological dig at Horace's Sabine villa: http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/horaces-villa/Contents.html


-- Lyric poems, and especially odes, were either recited or sung by one person (almost invariably a young man) to the accompaniment of a lyre. Special halls -- odeons -- were built for such recitals. Auditoriums were multi-purpose halls where you could listen to (audit) whatever might be performed.

-- The tiny bit of Horace that everyone knows -- thanks to Hollywood -- is from the last line in the 11th Ode of his first book of Odes. It reads in English: "Seize the day! -- trust tomorrow even as little as you may." The first two words in Latin, "Carpe diem", were the tag line and advertising slogan for a gloppy little Robin Williams feel-good flick called Dead Poets Society (1989). Spielberg used the same two words, in English, to end another gloppy (but, at least fun) Robin Williams movie, Hook! (1991). If you thought Dead Poets was great and must have your own (NTSC) video, it's available for ten bucks at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/6301627768/imdb-adbox/002-2981302-6886648.

You can get Hook (also NTSC) for $14 at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/6302453356/o/qid=954514129/sr=2-2/002-2981302-6886648.