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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2015

A.J. Woodman
University of Virginia
E-mail address:


Fraenkel dismissed Epode 11 with the statement that it ‘is an elegant piece of writing, but there is little real life in it’. By this ambiguously expressed comment he did not mean that the poem fails to ‘come alive’, but that it is artificial: he saw the poem as little more than an assembly of themes and motifs which recur in other genres, especially epigram and elegy. This has also been the perspective of some other twentieth-century scholars: Georg Luck's self-styled ‘interpretation’ of the poem consists largely of a numbered list of thirteen motifs which the epode has in common with elegy and which in Luck's opinion were derived by Horace from Gallus. Alessandro Barchiesi, on the other hand, capitalizes on the perceived elegiac motifs in order to see the poem as a dynamic fusion of elegy and iambus. As for commentators, although older representatives seem to have regarded Epode 11 as generally self-explanatory, the poem receives increasing attention from Cavarzere, Mankin and Watson, the last of whom originally discussed some of its problems in a paper published twenty years earlier. Yet various problems still remain, and in this paper I propose to re-examine lines 1–6 and 15–18 in the hope that a clearer view of the epode as a whole may emerge.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2015 

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For reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this paper I am most grateful to S. Bartera, E. Courtney and I.M.Le M. Du Quesnay, none of whom should be assumed to agree with it.


1 E. Fraenkel, Horace (Oxford, 1957), 67.

2 Luck, G., ‘An interpretation of Horace's eleventh epode’, ICS 1 (1976), 122–6Google Scholar. Derivation from Gallus would be one possible explanation for the three verbal similarities with Book 2 of Propertius which will be mentioned in the course of our discussion.

3 A. Barchiesi, ‘Alcune difficoltà nella carriera di un poeta giambico. Giambo ed elegia nell'Epodo XI’, in R. Cortés Tovar and J.C. Fernández Corte (edd.), Bimilenario de Horacio (Salamanca, 1994), 127–38. I am most grateful to CQ's anonymous referee for drawing my attention to this discussion and for other comments.

4 See e.g. F.G. Doering (Oxford, 1838), Th. Obbarius (Jena, 1848),  J.G. Orelli, G. Baiter and W. Hirschfelder (Berlin, 1886), J. Gow (Cambridge, 1896), E.C. Wickham (Oxford, 1896),  A. Kiessling and R. Heinze (Zurich and Berlin, 196411).

5 A. Cavarzere, Orazio: Il libro degli Epodi (Venice, 1992); D. Mankin, Horace Epodes (Cambridge, 1995); L.C. Watson, A Commentary on Horace's Epodes (Oxford, 2003). A line-by-line discussion of the poem is provided by V. Grassmann, Die erotischen Epoden des Horaz (Munich, 1966), 90–122.

6 Watson, L.C., ‘Problems in Epode 11’, CQ 33 (1983), 229–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 There is nothing relevant to these problems in the latest discussion of the epode ( Cowan, R., ‘Alas, poor Io! Bilingual wordplay in Horace Epode 11’, Mnemosyne 65 [2012], 753–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar) or in the brief remarks of T.S. Johnson, Horace's Iambic Criticism: Casting Blame (Leiden and Boston, 2012), 138–41.

8 Watson (n. 5), 359 = (n. 6), 230.

9 So e.g. N. Rudd in the Loeb edition (Horace: Odes and Epodes [Cambridge, MA and London, 2004]): ‘Dear Pettius, I get no pleasure from writing little verses, as I did before, because …’.

10 Wigodsky, M., ‘Horace's miser (S. 1 1 108) and Aristotelian self-love’, SO 55 (1980), 47–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar (an excursus on lines 1–2 of Epode 11). In fact, numerous commentators make no comment at all on sicut antea (so e.g. Orelli, Wickham, Gow, Kiessling-Heinze; above, n. 4).

11 So e.g. Orelli (n. 4).

12 Watson (n. 5), 359; (n. 6), 230.

13 Watson (n. 5), 359 = (n. 6), 229–30. Whether ingenium in fact means ‘poetic talent’, as Watson says, is uncertain; candidum is agreed to mean ‘sincere’ or ‘well-intentioned’, which perhaps implies that ingenium rather means ‘character’ or the like. Mankin ad loc. suggests that, since in elegy the lover-poet ‘is what he writes’, both meanings are active, and this is perhaps the best explanation of the (otherwise unparalleled) phrase. The contrast lucrum ~ pauperis ingenium certainly seems to allude to the topos of the ‘poor poet’, as pointed out by K. Büchner, ‘Die Epoden des Horaz’, in id., Studien zur römischen Literatur, VIII: Werkanalysen (Wiesbaden, 1970), 60 n. 2.

14 Watson (n. 5), 359–60 = (n. 6), 230.

15 Barchiesi (n. 3), 129.

16 Wigodsky (n. 10), 38–9 (my italics).

17 Strangely called anaphora by Watson (n. 5), ad loc.; Mankin (n. 5) cross-refers to an earlier note of his (4.20) on anadiplosis or geminatio. Cavarzere (n. 5) gets it right.

18 Kiessling and Heinze (n. 4), on line 2 comment that amor ‘ist auch hier nicht der Gott, sondern die “Liebe” …, die auch im folgenden nur auf der Grenze der Personifikation steht’.

19 Rudd (n. 9) has come to the same conclusion (‘because I am deeply smitten by Love’), although he has misrepresented graui.

20 For percutio used of arrows see Ov. Met. 6.266, Hyg. Fab. 107.1, Curt. 8.10.27, Sen. Ag. 849–50, Plin. NH 8.97. The commentators quote Anacreon without drawing any conclusion.

21 Cf. K.-S. 1.378.

22 This is similar to the claim made, as I now see, by Büchner (n. 13), 60 n. 2: Nihil … graui ‘heisst nicht, “jetzt mache ich keine Verse mehr, weil ich der Liebe verfallen bin” …, sondern “wenn ich, wie z. B. jetzt, der Liebe verfallen bin”; denn die Verse haben nichts genützt’. It should, however, be noted that, if we supply iuuat, the meaning ‘help’ is eliminated as a possibility, since it would imply that, in the periods when he is not in love, Horace required poetic help for some other problem—which seems quite implausible. Büchner's interpretation appears not to be mentioned by the three recent commentators.

23 recusatio is a term used with reference to Epode 11 also by C.F. Kumaniecki, ‘De Epodis quibusdam Horatianis’, in Scripta minora (Wrocław, Warsaw and Cracow, 1967), 267–81, at 273. Kumaniecki, whose discussion was originally published in Commentationes Horatianae (Cracow, 1939), 139–57, helpfully surveys the views of some earlier scholars and complains that ‘unusquisque eorum id potissimum agebat, ut iambum nostrum certo cuidam generi litterario adnumeraret, interpretatione ipsius epodi paene neglecta’ (p. 274 of the reprint). This complaint may find an echo today, seventy-five years later, although his own interpretation of the poem seems to me misguided.

24 See Cavarzere (n. 5), 189. Grassmann (n. 5), 120 has an equivalent division.

25 Scholars note that Varro in his turn is alluding to Apollonius, though the precise passage is disputed: the majority compares 2.1098 and following, but A.S. Hollis acutely triangulates Horace, Varro and Apollonius to suggest that the relevant passage is 4.216–17, where the autumnal month itself is described as shedding leaves (Fragments of Roman Poetry c. 60 BC-AD 20 [Oxford, 2007], 210).

26 Barchiesi (n. 3), 130.

27 I pointed this out in CR 48 (1998), 307 (not picked up by Watson in his commentary). Horace's phrase is later imitated by Martial (6.64.23).

28 The difference is underlined by the fact that the metre is asynartetic.

29 The few exceptions are in Greek tragedy: Soph. El. 435–6 (gifts and libations), Eur. Bacch. 350 (fillets), Tro. 454 (garlands).

30 Not surprisingly, no parallel is produced in TLL 5.1.1597.43–5.

31 This is also the view of H. Darnley Naylor, Horace Odes and Epodes: A Study in Poetic Word-Order (Cambridge, 1922), who refers to ‘an emphatic addendum’ (258).

32 Watson (n. 5), 371 = (n. 6), 235.

33 A105 DK αἰτίαν οὖσαν τῶν ὀξέων νοσημάτων· ὑπερβάλλουσαν γὰρ ἀπορραίνειν πρός τε τὸν πλεύμονα καὶ τὰς φλέβας καὶ τὰ πλευρά.

34 The connection between the two texts seems to have been made by R.B. Onians, The Origins of European Thought (Cambridge, 19542), who, when in one place suggesting that Horace's praecordiis is a reference to the lungs (42 n. 6), without further comment cross-refers to the page on which he quotes Anaxagoras (84). There is no relevant comment in D. Sider, The Fragments of Anaxagoras (Meisenheim am Glan, 1981) or P. Curd, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae: Fragments and Testimonia (Toronto, 2007).

35 See OLD uentus 4b; D.R. Langslow, Medical Latin in the Roman Empire (Oxford, 2000), 187.

36 Kissel ad loc. quotes no parallels, but remarks: ‘Dieser hyperbolischen Metapher verleiht nun Persius durch die Zufügung von pulmonem und ventis den Anschein einer physikalisch-medizinischen Realität.’ I acknowledge the advice of J.N. Adams, K.-D. Fischer and N. Holmes on this matter.

37 For the difficulties associated with translating into English the various Greek terms for ‘wind’, ‘breath’ and ‘air’, see W.H.S. Jones, Hippocrates (Cambridge, MA, 1923), 2.224, who chooses to translate πνεῦμα as ‘wind’.

38 This is thus the opposite of Sat. 1.4.89 condita cum uerax aperit praecordia Liber.

39 See A.J. Bell, The Latin Dual and Poetic Diction (Oxford, 1923), 317.

40 Parker, H.N., ‘Horace Epodes 11.15–18: what's shame got to do with it?’, AJPh 121 (2000), 559–70Google Scholar.

41 I am not the first with this suggestion: Gow attributes it to Postgate (evidently a personal communication); C.H. Moore, Horace: The Odes and Epodes (New York and Cincinnati, 1902), renders very similarly: ‘the false pride that still urged him to the contest’.

42 See again Grassmann (n. 5), 120.

43 The thought that Horace might try poetry to improve his situation is naturally not mentioned in 23–8: not only did he tell us at the very beginning of the epode that, when he is in love like this, he derives no pleasure from writing poetry, but there has been no suggestion of poetry's curative role anywhere in the poem.

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