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  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: September 2009

3 - DREAMING ABOUT QUIRINUS: Horace's Satires and the development of Augustan poetry



At the opening of the final poem of the first book of his Sermones, Horace responds to (probably imaginary) critics who had objected to his criticism of Lucilius for sloppy writing in the fourth Satire. Lucilius deserves praise, he repeats from that poem, for his wit and his attacks on vice: quod sale multo | urbem defricuit (10.3–4). At the same time, however, admirable content does not make a good poem: there is need for constant control of style and tone, something that Lucilius' model (at least according to 1.4), the comic poets of classical Athens, had attained, and for which they deserve imitation (16–17):

illi scripta quibus comoedia prisca uiris est

hoc stabant, hoc sunt imitandi.

But, he continues, neither Hermogenes nor the simius who can only sing along with Calvus and Catullus has ever bothered to read them (17–19):

quos neque pulcher

Hermogenes umquam legit neque simius iste

nil praeter Caluum et doctus cantare Catullum.

At this point, the imaginary interlocutor – presumably the same imaginary person as the one who had criticized Horace for criticizing Lucilius – offers a praise of Lucilius' style (20–1):

at magnum fecit, quod uerbis Graeca Latinis