Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65–8 bce) is one of the most important Roman poets, a friend and contemporary of Virgil, who composed in the time of Augustus. He wrote significant works in a number of genres: hexameter satires and epistles, iambic epodes, and lyric odes. The first three books of his Odes (c. 23 bce) are his most influential work.A brief life of Horace of mixed reliability survives from the ancient world, attached to the name of Suetonius: it attests (credibly) the poet’s date of birth (December 8, 65 bce; for the year see Odes 3.21.1, for the month Epistles 1.20.27), his birthplace (Venusia, modern Venosa, on the border of ancient Apulia and Lucania—see Satires 2.1.34–35), and his date of death (November 27, 8 bce). Much of the information is based on Horace’s own works, but some appears to be derived from now-lost works of others. Its description of the poet’s father as an auctioneer and financial agent with freedman status is confirmed by .
Statesman, pleasure lover, and literary patron, C. Cilnius Maecenas was born on April 13 (Hor. C. 4.11.14–16) between 78 and 64 bce, in or near Arretium in Etruria. The nomen Maecenas may derive from a place name (Var. LL 8.41); Cilnius (Tac. Ann. 6.11) is perhaps his mother’s gentilicium, the Cilnii being a prominent and wealthy Etruscan family (Livy 10.3.2). Several poets call him “descendant of Etruscan kings” (Hor. C. 1.1.1, C. 3.29.1, Prop. 3.9.1, Eleg. in Maec. 1.13); it is unclear whether he himself boasted of royal origins. How he met the young Octavian (see Augustus) and whether he participated in the military campaigns of the 40s and 30s bce (Philippi, Perusia, and Actium) are also gray areas. There are papyrus records of his property holdings in Egypt. He evidently profited from the proscriptions: his estate (Horti) on the Esquiline Hill in Rome is said to have been confiscated from M. Favonius, supporter of Cato (schol. ad Juv.
The idea that a writer’s works form the record of a clearly defined career is a familiar but relatively understudied aspect of ancient literary history. In Greek literature, relevant motifs appear already in Homer (in the Iliad, Achilles’ self-referential singing of klea andron (9.189) in combination with Telemachus’s defense of Phemius’s novel, post-Iliadic theme in the Odyssey (1.345–352), and Hesiod (initiated by the Muses at Theogony 22–34 and at Works and Days 650–662 previously victorious—with Theogony?—in a singing contest at the funeral games of Amphidamas). But thinkers of the archaic and classical periods generally considered a poet’s work in a single genre as an expression of his immanent character, and not as the result of a career choice. Beginning with Thucydides and Xenophon, however, retired military men and politicians establish a normative career pattern in the genre of history. But in the Hellenistic period, as poets cultivate expertise in many genres (polyeideia), the career motif begins to come in to view.
A Stoic writer (See stoicism), alleged source in Hor.Sat. 2. 3 (see l. 296) said by [Helenius Acro] (on Hor.Epist. 1. 12. 20) to have written 220 books; the implication that these were in verse is not credible.
The influence of Hellenistic Greek poetry on Roman poetry can hardly be overestimated. Latin poetry is from its beginnings based on scholarly appreciation of the literary production of the Greeks, and it was from the perspective of the literary and scholarly activity of the Hellenistic period that the Romans viewed Greek literature as a whole. The fragmentary nature of early Latin poetry means that the first stages of the *reception of Hellenistic poetry at Rome remain obscure. It is possible that *Livius Andronicus employed the work of Hellenistic commentators on Homer in translating the Odyssey and that *Naevius and *Accius knew and imitated the Argonautica of Apollonius. The Annales of *Ennius provides better evidence. When he proclaims his originality, presents himself as dicti studiosus (“a student of language”) proud of his stylistic superiority over his predecessors, and describes his poetic initiation, he has in mind *Callimachus(3)'s Aetia, although the exact nature and extent of his debt remain unclear.
The collection of verse fables by Babrius, a Greek poet about whose life nothing is known, survives, albeit not in its entirety, in a manuscript which only came to light at the beginning of the 19th century. The focus of scholarship accordingly lay after its discovery, and for some 200 years, largely on textual history and criticism. Modern analytical approaches have revealed that Babrius is a skilled and fascinating narrator, one who attaches more importance to the plot of his fables than to the moral of each tale. Indeed, the composition and disposition of his two-book work—written in choliambics, the fables are set out in loosely alphabetical order but connected by a web of intratextual allusions, all in combination with obvious intertextual references to classical Greek literature—places the poet firmly in the Hellenistic tradition of self-reflexive poetry.Babrius’s fables date roughly from the end of the 2nd or the beginning of the 3rd century ce and, around the year 400, were drawn on by the Roman poet Avianus for his own collection of fables.
The poet Sappho, one of the greatest poets of world literature, a rare example of a woman whose work has survived in appreciable measure from archaic Greece, was celebrated in antiquity as “the tenth Muse” (Anth. Pal. 9.506). The Garland of Meleager, a Hellenistic anthology, includes some verses of Sappho, which the poet calls “few, but roses.” Sappho has long been praised as a superb poet of Eros, capable of subtle and effective evocations of desire and erotic pleasure, especially devoted to Aphrodite, who sends the joys and pains of love. Aphrodite is seen by some as an alter ego to the poet herself. Sappho appeals to her, as the poems voice yearning for an absent object of desire.1 She also invokes the Muses, and the Graces. The erotic poems often recall intimacy; express loss, tender yearning, and homoerotic longing; and create in memory a community bound by pleasure and song, exhibiting great elegance of composition and a sensuous luxury.