About Quintus Horatius Flaccus, "Horace"
Quintus Horatius Flaccus (8 December 65 BC – 27 November 8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus. The rhetorician Quintillian regarded his Odes as almost the only Latin lyrics worth reading, justifying his estimate with the words: "He can be lofty sometimes, yet he is also full of charm and grace, versatile in his figures, and felicitously daring in his choice of words."
Horace also crafted elegant hexameter verses (Sermones and Epistles) and scurrilous iambic poetry (Epodes). The hexameters are playful and yet serious works, leading the ancient satirist Persius to comment: "as his friend laughs, Horace slyly puts his finger on his every fault; once let in, he plays about the heartstrings". Some of his iambic poetry, however, can seem wantonly repulsive.
His career coincided with Rome's momentous change from Republic to Empire. An officer in the republican army that was crushed at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC, he was befriended by Octavian's right-hand man in civil affairs, Maecenas, and became something of a spokesman for the new regime. For some commentators, his association with the regime was a delicate balance in which he maintained a strong measure of independence (he was "a master of the graceful sidestep") but for others he was, in John Dryden's phrase, "a well-mannered court slave".
His poetry became "the common currency of civilization", and he still retains a devoted following, despite some stigmatization after World War I (perhaps due to popular mistrust of old-fashioned patriotism and imperial glory, with which he was identified, fairly or unfairly). Horatian studies have become so diverse and intensive in recent years that it is probably no longer possible for any one scholar to command the whole range of arguments and issues.
Most of what we know about Horace the man is based on self-disclosures in his poetry and a short biography probably written by Suetonius. He even has some claims to being the world's first autobiographer Recent scholarship tends to frown on biographical interpretations of literature (critical analysis reveals an author's mask or persona, not necessarily the real person) but Horace seems to be quite open about himself, he mentions events that are verifiable and some inferences about the man thus seem valid.
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 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.
Horace's 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 dating of Horace's works isn't known precisely and scholars often debate the order in which they were first 'published'. There are good arguments for the following order of publication:
[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satires_%28Horace%29 Satires 1] (c. 35–34 ''BCE'') [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satires_%28Horace%29 Satires 2] (c. 30 ''BCE'') [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epodes Epodes] (30 ''BCE'') [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odes_%28Horace%29 Odes 1–3] (c. 23 ''BCE'') [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistles_%28Horace%29 Epistles 1] (c. 21 ''BCE'') [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistles_%28Horace%29 Epistles 2] (c. 19 ''BCE'') [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ars_Poetica Ars Poetica] (c. 18 ''BCE'') [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmen_Saeculare Carmen Saeculare] (17 ''BCE'') [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odes_%28Horace%29 Odes 4] (c. 11 ''BCE'')