Authors: Juvenal

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Roman poet

Author Works


Saturae, 100-127 (Satires, 1693)


Born in the Roman town of Aquinum about 60 c.e., Decimus Junius Juvenalis, known as Juvenal (JEW-vuhn-uhl), was the poet of the Age of Trajan. Of his cruelly biting satires written between 100 and 127, sixteen, in five volumes, are still preserved. From them, a reader deduces that Juvenal disliked almost everything in the life of his time. There is a brief characterization of him in a poem written by Martial. A conservative Roman who scorned the soft life of the fashionable and wealthy, Juvenal lashed out in quotable epigrams against the follies and vices of the upper classes. Fools as well as philosophers are subject to his savage denunciation. His humor is grim, but his pictures are unforgettable, especially of the affectations and immorality of women of high society.{$I[AN]9810000489}{$I[A]Juvenal}{$S[A]Decimus Junius Juvenalis;Juvenal}{$I[geo]ROMAN EMPIRE;Juvenal}{$I[tim]0060 c.e.;Juvenal}

Several editions of his work contain prefatory biographies, but these show little agreement in details. Apparently, Juvenal was the son of a freedman. Tradition says also that, like Demosthenes, he practiced declamation with a pebble in his mouth. Wisely, not until after Domitian’s death did he publish his tragic satires, which show considerable development over the disunited productions of Petronius and Horace. An actor, taking personally the satire probably aimed at Domitian’s favorite actor, Paris, is believed to have persuaded Trajan to banish Juvenal under the guise of a military appointment to Egypt, though some claim that he was sent to Britain. According to a fourth century biographer, the poet died in exile at the age of eighty, “of vexation and disgust.”

Further Reading:Braund, Susanna Morton. The Roman Satirists and Their Masks. London: British Classical Press, 1996.Duff, J. Wight. A Literary History of Rome in the Silver Age: From Tiberius to Hadrian. 1927. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979. A broad historical survey of the literature of the period, with a specific discussion of satire as a literary form in Juvenal’s time.Duff, J. Wight. Roman Satire: Its Outlook on Social Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1964. Duff relates Juvenal’s poems to the literary and social contexts, but he does not analyze the poems in any detail. A brief but useful introduction to the poet.Freudenberg, Kirk. Satires of Rome: Threatening Poses from Lucilius to Juvenal. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. This study of Roman verse satire highlights the mounting pressure in ancient Rome of Imperial oversight.Henderson, John. Figuring Out Roman Nobility: Juvenal’s Eighth Satire. Exeter, England: University of Exeter Press, 1997.Highet, Gilbert. Juvenal the Satirist: A Study. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961. Includes a cogent discussion of each of Juvenal’s satires and of their influence on later literature. The book is very thorough but accessible to the general reader.Jenkyns, Richard. Three Classical Poets: Sappho, Catullus, Juvenal. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982. This detailed study of Juvenal’s style and poetic effects brings to light the satirist’s techniques and methods. It is well written, but it is directed toward an academic audience.Martyn, John R. C. Juvenal, a Farrago: A Collection of Articles on the Satires of Juvenal and on Roman Satire. Amsterdam: A. M. Hakkert, 1996.Rudd, Niall. Themes in Roman Satire. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986.Wehrle, William Thomas. The Satiric Voice: Program, Form, and Meaning in Persius and Juvenal. New York: Olms-Weidmann, 1992.
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