Roman Verse Satire Reader, A
Selections from Lucilius, Horace, Persius, and Juvenal
By Catherine Keane
The trademark exuberance of Lucilius, gentleness of Horace, abrasiveness of Persius, and vehemence of Juvenal are the diverse satiric styles on display in this Reader. Witnesses to the spectacular growth of Rome’s political and military power, the expansion and diversification of its society, and the evolution of a wide spectrum of its literary genres, satirists provide an unparalleled window into Roman culture: from trials of the urban poor to the smarmy practices of legacy hunters, from musings on satire and the satirist to gruesome scenes from a gladiatorial contest, from a definition of virtue to the scandalous sexual display of wayward women. Provocative and entertaining, challenging and yet accessible, Roman verse satire is a motley dish stuffed to its readers’ delights.
- Introduction on the Roman satiric genre and its authors
- 556 lines of unadapted Latin text selections: Lucilius, Satires, fragments 172–75, 176–81, 185; 524–29; 1145–51; 1196–1208 • Horace, Satires 1.1.41–79; 1.4.103–43; 2.5.23–50; 2.7.21–71, 111–18 • Persius, Satires 1.1–12, 107–34; 2.1–16, 31–51; 5.21–51 • Juvenal, Satires 1.63–93, 135–46; 3.190–231; 6.60–102; 8.183–99, 215–30; 13.38–70; 14.1–55
- Grammatical and stylistic commentary printed at the back of the book
- 1 map and 4 black-and-white photos
- Complete vocabulary
Catherine C. Keane is Associate Professor of Classics at Washington University in St. Louis, where she has taught both undergraduate and graduate students since 2001. She holds a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on Roman verse satire, especially its generic theory and its connections with other ancient literature and cultural institutions. She is the author of Figuring Genre in Roman Satire (Oxford University Press, 2006) and of numerous articles and essays on the Roman satiric poets. Her works in progress include a book on Juvenal.
Comments and Reviews
Keane and Williams offer engaging Latin readers that familiarize students with the distinct features of Latin satire and epigram and aim to advance the language-reading skills of Latin students at the intermediate level. They offer a varied range of selections (as the Latin Readers series prescribes), as well as a well-organized and elegant presentation of the material that exposes the delights of reading the genres of satire and epigram for the novice Latin reader. In addition, the readers do well at illuminating the challenges and rewards of their respective genre with accessible notes on major themes, language (grammar and syntax), some trends in major scholarship, vocabulary, suggested further reading, and other media (maps, illustrations, and occasional URL links to online content, such as to images of partially preserved multi-story buildings at Ostia and Herculaneum at www.vroma.org and an online map of Imperial Rome from William Shepherd’s Historical Atlas). In the following, I will offer some observations about each book separately, since Keane and Williams are ostensibly working on different authors and genres.
Keane’s introduction opens with a generous survey of the four canonical Latin satirists—Lucilius, Horace, Persius, and Juvenal—that includes “characteristics of the genre,” a general overview of their works (and as they relate to her choice of selections), and an explanation of style and meter. Since a separate volume could easily be dedicated to each satirist, Keane expertly condenses the material by offering the student incisive remarks on important issues pertaining to all the satirists, including the satirists’ use of personae, reflections on social and political mobility (Lucilius and Juvenal), philosophical self-examination (Horace, Persius, and Stoic philosophy), expression (or suppression) of anger, and the use of rhetoric (sententiae, locus de saeculo) and mythology. In addition, what Keane’s Latin selections may overlook (e.g. Horace’s programmatic Satire 1.10 or Juvenal’s Satire 10) is adequately offset by larger discussions of specific satires that convey to the reader a fuller and more comprehensive sense of each author’s oeuvre.
Keane’s array of Latin selections also speaks well to her definition of the genre when she states that “It [satire] documents daily life and customs, reflects on historical events and figures, and articulates and scrutinizes particularly Roman values” (ix). Some selections include “A definition of virtue” (Lucilius, Satires, fragments 1196-1208), “Greed and its manifestations” (Horace, Satires 1.1.41-79), “The satirist’s philosophical and ethical roots” (Persius, Satires 5.21-51), and “Unchaste women on display” (Juvenal, Satires 6.60-102). The occasional map of Rome detailing its urban layout and of Italy, as well as a few illustrations of graffiti and sculptors of comic actors are a welcome addition as visual aids to the student’s understanding of Rome’s cityscape, its environs, and the culture’s artistic output. The commentary is also very useful to the student, with brief explanations headlining each selection that include: the content of the upcoming selection; thematic and/or literary echoes to other satires or selections in the reader itself (highlighted in bold font); and resonances with authors outside the genre proper. Moreover, Keane often in the notes supplements explanations of tricky grammar and syntax with references to Gildersleeve’s Latin Grammar (annotated as “GL”) and Bennet’s New Latin Grammar (“B”). I believe these markers can encourage students to acquaint themselves with more advanced supplementary grammar aids also necessary for those who continue Latin at the advanced levels and beyond. In the main, Keane’s reader offers a compact yet thorough introduction to the extensive Latin satiric tradition.
Williams’ Martial reader offers rich strategies for reading the author’s fifteen books of epigrams, with his choice of selections often acting as thematic “teasers” for the book as a whole. In the preface Williams states his desire to empower his reader to appreciate the reading of Martial cover to cover, unlike its traditional appreciation in the form of “bits and pieces” (ix) as light fare after the tough prose of a Cicero or Sallust. In this spirit, Williams, like Keane, offers in his Introduction a concentrated analysis of major components and issues informing a deep understanding of Martial. These topics consist of the author’s life, the work’s publication and manuscript tradition, the history of the genre of epigram (and its affinities with other existing Greek and Latin literary genres, such as the invective of the iambic tradition), Martial’s significant use of names, use of personae and the autobiographical “I”, and a very accessible guide to the scansion and reading of the elegiac couplet, phalaecian hendecasyllable, and scazon.
Most impressive is Williams’ “tips for reading” that encourage the reader to understand “questions of structure” beyond the reading of individual epigrams themselves. To this end Williams poses salient questions to the student when reading the epigrams, such as how the internal structure of the couplet (the hexameter and pentameter pair), and the couplet itself, either as a monodistich (two-line poem) or within an extended series, conveys sense and “progressions in thought and language.” It is also for this reason that Williams does not offer any introductory treatment before each selection in the commentary section, with a view to encouraging the student to “decipher and unpack” Martial’s language and style on her/his own terms. Where difficulties of sense or syntax arise (as they often do!), however, Williams offers ample assistance for clarification without either giving away any final punch lines or undermining the students’ reading and interpretive efforts. Williams offers a most valuable approach to reading Martial in this regard, one that many other commentaries geared towards intermediate readers would benefit from.
In sum, any intermediate student interested in these more challenging genres will greatly benefit from these well-executed, accessible, and affordable collections. My only minor reservation with these readers lies not with the commentators’ choices, but with the series’ restriction on the length of Latin that the commentator can treat (about 500-600 lines), which ostensibly precludes the examination of a satire or a book of epigrams in its entirety. The upshot to this, however, may lie in Keane’s suggestion to pair a look at the verse satirists with Martial’s Epigrams, in which case both Keane and Williams together would serve as an effective Latin commentary duo for any school or university term.
— Osman Umurhan,
University of New Mexico
A Roman Verse Satire Reader is a recent addition and fine complement to the expanding Bolchazy-Carducci series aimed at advanced undergraduates and intended to work in combination with other texts. Keane is acutely aware of this mission, and this volume will certainly be a welcome component of a variety of Latin literature and culture courses. The persistence of satire from Lucilius to Juvenal and its many points of contact with other genres and rhetorical modes certainly justifies the inclusion of this volume in the series, and Keane is an excellent choice for selecting and editing the specified 500-600 lines from the corpus of Roman Satire. Nevertheless, like the genre itself, this slim volume at times overreaches in its scope and as a result may best function more as an ancillary than as a central resource to an undergraduate language course.
The opening one-page overview contains the obligatory quotation from Quintilian that satire was tota nostra and gives a description of the genre including a brief and compelling discussion of the etymological origins, generic affiliations, programmatic satire, and satirical persona, or as Keane prefers, “personality.” Remarks on the individual satirists and passages chosen for this volume follow, including a brief depiction of the meter and style, as well as useful and varied suggestions for further reading. The Latin text consists of four selections from the fragments of Lucilius, four excerpts from Horace, three from Persius, and six from Juvenal. There are brief and insightful introductions to each of the passages establishing the literary and cultural context. There is also a helpful vocabulary with vowel quantities included at the end of the book.
Keane’s stated goals are “to trace the broad changes in satire from the Republic to the high Imperial period; to show each author’s range of themes and strategies; to draw attention to the ways the authors imitate and modify one another’s work; and occasionally to train the spotlight on a poem that might not otherwise make it onto course syllabi” (xxii). As a consequence the selections move chronologically and there is often an understated thematic coherence between passages. Keane does the reader a commendable service in her commentary by highlighting in bold points of contact with other passages within the volume. Additionally, in plain type she directs the reader to related verses from the satirists that lie outside the scope of her commentary. On her choice of selections Keane is to be applauded on two fronts. First, in such a circumscribed volume she includes 35 lines of Lucilius as well as significant excerpts from the often neglected and difficult Persius. Second, she chooses passages from less popular satires such as Horace Sermones 2.5 and 2.7 as well as Juvenal 13 and 14. The reason for this lies in Keane’s desire to showcase not only the personae the satirists employ ‘most frequently and strikingly,’ but to provide a multiplicity of perspectives and rhetorical modes (xii). This is a worthy goal, but one that she does not fully achieve given the confines of the series. In these limited excerpts it seems difficult enough to establish what can be considered the dominant Horatian or Juvenalian modes of satire let alone develop a nuanced understanding of the author’s various “personalities.”
Indeed, Keane admits that there is much that both students and instructors must bring in order to more fully appreciate the text. In her introduction she recommends that “students using this volume will benefit by familiarizing themselves with some issues in satiric scholarship and discussing the individual selections in these terms” (ix). For this purpose she provides a limited and current bibliography on the genre, but in some ways this focus on generic investigation exists in tension with her desire for the genre to be read as a “window into Roman culture” (ix) and as a response to political, military, and cultural growth. Keane appropriately qualifies this notion of satire as a transparent view of Roman society well enough, but this view may be difficult to overcome. Nevertheless Keane fully intends this book to be used as a comparandum with other sources on Roman culture and not as unbiased evidence of Roman society. How successfully the snippets of Satire can be employed in a discriminating investigation into the reality of ancient Rome without an understanding of the subtleties of the genre is difficult to judge, but it is perhaps too much to ask of this libellus. Still, while the role of this volume is less clearly defined than others in the series, instructors will certainly be glad to have a collection of excerpts that are extremely adaptable to a wide variety of courses.
Keane selects fragments from Lucilius on a range of topics, including his famous description of political and social competition in Rome (frr. 1145-51) and his definition of virtue (frr. 1196-1208). Although in her introduction Keane emphasizes Lucilius’ engagement with contemporary politics (xiii-xiv) there are unfortunately no fragments involving contemporary political figures. This is surely due to the brevity of these fragments, but nevertheless in this respect the description from the introduction does not fully correspond to the selected texts. From Horace’s first book of satires she includes a sampling of the diatribe satires (1.1.41-79) and important programmatic lines from Sermo 1.4, but the absence of Maecenas is noticeable. From his second book a brief passage on legacy hunting from the speech of Tiresias in 2.5 and an extended selection of Davus’ philosophical diatribe from 2.7 give the reader a sense of Horace’s range in these compositions. From Persius we see a similar thematic pattern in the passages: the beginning and end of the programmatic first Satire, two passages from the second satire concerning moral hypocrisy, and the description of Persius’ philosophical underpinning and debt to Cornutus from the fifth Satire. The first three of the Juvenalian passages are well known and indicative of his indignatio: the urban vices that inspire his farrago, a portion of Umbricius’ description of Rome, and a taste of misogyny from the sixth satire. From there Keane offers some selections increasingly less known to contemporary readers but thematically connected with others in the volume: an indictment of contemporary performances, an ironically charged depiction of the golden age, and a lengthy passage on parental hypocrisy from the rarely encountered fourteenth satire.
There are occasional innocuous typos (e.g. the odd single spaced verses on page 3, mire for mirae on page 55), but others, such as the feminine form terriculas being listed only as neuter in the glossary, could be perplexing. The grammatical assistance offered by the notes is quite helpful with such difficult texts, but at times uneven. For example, Keane identifies facimus in Persius 1.10 as a verb in an indirect question, but does not note the poetic use of the indicative, a possible source of confusion for undergraduates expecting to see the subjunctive. Earlier, however, she notes that credunt (Luc. fr. 526) introduces an indirect statement. Moreover, some notes seem compressed to the point of potential confusion. For example, the note on veto . . . oletum (p. 55) seems to try to accomplish too much as it touches on the metaphorical, grammatical, cultural, and etymological in a five line explanation. All of these, however, are minor issues with a commentary that will add welcome depth to the syllabi of numerous courses and spotlight the scope of Roman Satire’s multiple generic and cultural points of contact.
— Bryce Walker,
Sweet Briar College
Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.03.76