Biography of Horace


QUINTUS HORATIUS FLACCUS, the renowned Roman Satirist and Lyrist, was born on the 8th of December, 65 B.C. His father had been a slave, but was manumitted before the poet's birth. Early seeing the genius and promise of his son, he resolved to devote his whole means to his education, and removing to Rome for that purpose, he gave him the culture usually bestowed on the children of the higher classes. Having finished his youthful studies at Rome, he was engaged on the higher ones at Athens, when the assassination of Julius Caesar threw the whole Roman world into confusion, and dragged Horace himself - in his 21st year - into the civil war which followed.

Brutus, coming with Cassius to Greece, made Horace a tribune, and he served with the republican leaders in that rank until the fatal field of Philippi put an end to their campaign. Brutus and Cassius destroyed themselves. Horace made his submission and returned to Rome. With what was left of his patrimony he bought the office of public scribe, and while living by this humble place, devoted his energy to literary creation. Thoroughly accomplished in Greek and Roman literature, he set himself to two great tasks - the naturalization in Latin of the Greek lyric spirit, and the perfect development of the old Roman Satire. It is his complete artistic success in both objects, which has made him one of the most influential writers of the world, and which will secure his fame as long as order or culture shall exist upon the globe. He made the acquaintance of Virgil, whose rise preceded his own, and of Varius; and Virgil and Varius introduced him to Maecenas when he was about 26 years old. That great, Etruscan noble and friend of Augustus, became the good genius of the poet's life. He endowed him with a farm near Tivoli, in the Sabine country, established his independence, fostered his fame, sought his intimacy, loved, honored and encouraged him as much as one man could another. The friendship of Maecenas led to that of Augustus, and Horace enjoyed all his life (he died at 57) the consideration of the greatest persons of his time.

The value of the Odes of Horace as representing an older literature which only exists in fragments, is immeasurable. Their charm as breathing, now all the gaiety, now all the sadness of the ancient Pagan mind, is irresistible. Great however as is the merit of his Odes; that of the Satires and Epistles is still higher. The native Roman satire was developed by Horace into a branch of composition peculiarly his own, and in his own species of which he has never had a rival. He ridicules the follies of the world, from the point of view of a man of the world, playing around vice like a picador round a bull; and though his morality does not rise above the level of a prudential moderation abhorrent of extremes, he enforces this with so much soundness, dramatic liveliness, and gay vivacious humorous wit, that the pulpit has profited by him not less than the author's study, and he has been the favorite of ecclesiastical dignitaries and statesmen, while also being the pocket companion of men of letters. The Epistles contain the graver element of the Satires in still greater perfection, and with the addition of a fine vein of personal emotion and affection, tinged occasionally with the melancholy of advancing life, which on the whole, makes them the most valuable of Horace's works.