Authors: Horace

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Roman poet

Author Works


Satires, 35 B.C.E., 30 B.C.E. (English translation, 1567)

Epodes, c. 30 B.C.E. (English translation, 1638)

Odes, 23 B.C.E., 13 B.C.E. (English translation, 1621)

Epistles c. 20-15 B.C.E. (English translation, 1567; includes Ars poetica, c. 17 B.C.E.; The Art of Poetry)

Carmen Saeculare, 17 B.C.E. (The Secular Hymn, 1726)


The Epistles of Horace, 2001 (David Ferry, translator)


No other Latin poet has so greatly influenced modern poetry as Horace (HAWR-uhs). The son of an Apulian tax collector, freed by the patrician Horatii family from which he took his name, young Quintus Horatius Flaccus went to Rome with his father for the education he could not get in his hometown of Venusia. Later he continued his studies in Athens, where he met Brutus, a fugitive after the assassination of Julius Caesar, and enrolled in the republican army of Brutus and Cassius. He commanded part of a legion at the Battle of Philippi (42 b.c.e.), at which Octavius and Antony were victorious.{$I[AN]9810000491}{$I[A]Horace}{$S[A]Quintus Horatius Flaccus;Horace}{$I[geo]ROMAN EMPIRE;Horace}{$I[tim]0065 b.c.e.;Horace}


(Kim Kurnizki)

His father dead and his small estate confiscated, Horace secured a minor post in the treasury. About the same time his poems brought him to the attention of Vergil, through whose offices Horace became the clerk and protégé of Maecenas, wealthy patron of the arts. When Augustus offered Horace a post as private secretary, the poet chose to remain with his benefactor, who gave him the famous villa in the Sabine Hills, still visited by tourists. Horace admired Augustus’s efforts to secure peace, however, and wrote many admiring poems to him.

In his earliest poetry Horace reveals Greek influence. His early writing was cruel and heartless, and his satires were bitter attacks on individuals, but as he grew older his poetry became gentler. After the death of his friend Vergil in 19 b.c.e., Horace was the chief representative of the Augustan age of Roman literature. Always a master of poetic form, his satires were generalized, though never as popular as his odes. He also became interested in literary criticism and wrote The Art of Poetry as precepts for a young dramatist. As an urban Epicurean, he presented in his odes (short poems translated by some of the world’s great poets) charming pictures of contemporary society. Those describing his Sabine farm reveal his love for nature, which never eclipsed his love of the city.

Horace never married, as marriage was considered unfashionable by literary people, but his amorous poetry reveals that he was not a celibate. He died in Rome in the year 8 b.c.e.

Further Reading:Commager, Steele. The Odes of Horace. Reprint. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995. Commager’s book is widely regarded as the most substantial, incisive commentary on Horace’s verse in English. He approaches Horace as a “professional poet,” one committed to art as a vocation. Horace’s distinctive characteristic is that he writes poetry about poetry, as if he wants to define the idea and demonstrate verbal craftsmanship at the same time.Fraenkel, Edouard. Horace. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957. Extensive twentieth century commentary on the poet’s works. Although not intended as a biography, a chapter on Horace’s life is thorough and illuminating. Concentrates on close readings of selected poems which illustrate the range of Horace’s tastes, interests, and abilities. Carefully researched and documented; most useful for those with some knowledge of Latin literature and culture.Hadas, Moses. A History of Latin Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1964. The chapter on Horace demonstrates why he is the most beloved of Roman poets. It articulates the virtues of common sense, good fellowship, and literary pleasure that generations of European writers have found in the poetry.Highet, Gilbert. The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Through judicious use of the index, the curious student can survey European attitudes toward Horace’s poetry since the Renaissance. Highet is an opinionated and lively critic who inspires a return to primary texts.Horace. The Complete Works. Translated by Charles E. Passage. New York: F. Ungar, 1983. This volume offers an unusual translation: without rhyme, in the original meter, with notes about the context of and allusions in each poem. Passage makes Horace accessible to the new reader and offers a fresh perspective to readers familiar with other translations.Levi, Peter. Horace: A Life. New York: Routledge, 1998. Biography of the poet intended for general readers with little understanding of classical life or literature. Emphasizes the personal relationships that inspired his poetry; provides insight into the historical events that shaped Horace’s thought. Offers close textual analysis of key works, including an extensive discussion of Ars Poetica.McClatchy, J.D., ed. Hoarce, The Odes: New Translations by Contemporary Poets. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002. McClatchy collects new interpretations of Horace’s works by today’s preeminent poets.Noyes, Alfred. Horace: A Portrait. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1947. Himself a poet, Noyes tries to re-create Horace’s real experiences from the topics, persons, and places recorded in the poetry. Noyes’s reading is, therefore, fascinating, idiosyncratic, and largely unreliable. Noyes detects a proto-Christian sensibility in Horace that anticipates the end of the pagan worldview.Oliensis, Ellen. Horace and the Rhetoric of Authority. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. This introduction to Horace covers the poet’s entire career and all the genres in which he wrote.Putnam, Michael C. J. Artifices of Eternity. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986. Putnam presents a detailed analysis of Horace’s last work, the final book of Odes. Traditionally the fourth book is considered not unified and is said to show Horace bowing to Augustus’s influence. Putnam argues that Horace remakes Augustus as the poet sees him. The approach has interesting biographical implications for interpreting Horace’s last years.Reckford, Kenneth J. Horace. New York: Twayne, 1969. Reckford’s brief, appreciative study attempts to chart the growth of Horace’s imagination and thought by a survey of his poetry. The emphasis is on theme rather than poetic technique. Includes notes and bibliography.Rudd, Niall, trans. Horace 2000, a Celebration: Essays for the Bimillennium. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993.Wilkinson, L. P. Horace and His Lyric Poetry. 2d ed. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1968. Though this study is intended for the student who can read Latin, the first four chapters are accessible to the general reader. Wilkinson’s Horace is neither the patriotic versifier of Augustus’s policies nor the contented gentleman farmer addicted to ease and companionship. Wilkinson provides valuable summaries of Horace’s thoughts on subjects ranging from religion to love to the state to poetry.
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