Horace: Odes and Poetry Background

Horace: Odes and Poetry Background

Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace) was an important Ancient Roman poet. He was closely integrated into Roman society, as he joined Brutus' army, before becoming a highly respected scribe and poet. He was also well educated, as he studied in Rome as well as Athens. Horace's poetry provides great insight into the late Roman Republic.

A key mode adopted by Horace is autobiographical poetry. By speaking of his father, a freedman, Horace raises idead regarding freedom and enslavement. His poetry also evokes key Roman values, such as 'pietas' (piety), 'libertas' (freedom), 'dignitas' (dignity) and 'virtus' (manliness).

Horace's early poetry was written during the Triumviral period. This context of civil war strongly impacted his poems. His earliest poetry was a collection of 17 epodes, iambic poems written during the 1st century BCE. These poems are highly critical attacks on society. In this way, Horace was a 'vate', a poet whose role is to warn and encourage the people. He also wrote a series of satires, exploring society's ills such as foolish pride and excessive ambition. The overall message of his poetry in this period is that moderation is the key to happiness.

Horace also wrote poetry during the reign of Augustus. His poetry was iconoclastic and subversive. During the war against Rome and Egypt, he wrote poems which praised Cleopatra's nobility ("no sign of womanish fear"). These poems also alluded to Rome's arrogance in victory.

Horace's poetry was also strongly influenced by dominant philosophical moments, such as Epicureanism, the belief that individuals should abstain from politics and religion.

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