Quintus Horatius Flaccus, (December 8, 65 BC – November 27, 8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading lyric poet in Latin, the son of a freedman, but himself born free. His father, though poor, spent considerable money on Horace’s education, accompanying him first to Rome for his primary education, and then to Athens to study Greek and philosophy. Horace never took for granted his father’s care and sacrifice, and his relationship with his father remains one of the most endearing personal episodes to survive from the classical period.
After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Horace joined the army, serving under the generalship of Brutus. He was in the Battle of Philippi, and saved himself by fleeing. When an amnesty was declared for those who had fought against the victorious Augustus, he returned to Italy, only to find his father dead, and his estate confiscated. Horace was reduced to poverty. He was, however, able to purchase a clerkship in the quaestor’s office, which allowed him to get by and practice his poetic art.
Horace was a member of a literary circle that included Virgil and Lucius Varius Rufus; they introduced him to Maecenas, friend and confidant of Augustus. Maecenas became his patron and close friend, and presented Horace with an estate near Tibur, contemporary Tivoli.
Perhaps the finest translator of Horace was John Dryden, who successfully adapted most of the Odes into English verse for readers of his own age. These translations are favored by many scholars despite some textual variations. Others favor unrhymed translations.
Horace’s surviving work includes:
Four books of Odes (or Carmina), longer poems, usually on mythological subjects;
A book of Epodes, containing shorter poems;
Two books of Satires
Two books of Letters or Epistles, andThe Carmen Saeculare
One of the Epistles is often referred to as a separate work in itself, the Ars Poetica. In this work, Horace forwards a theory of poetry. His most important tenets are that poetry must be carefully and skillfully worked out on the semantic and formal, and that poetry should be wholesome as well as pleasant. This latter issue is often referred to as the dulce et utile, which is Latin for the sweet and useful. (This work was first translated into English by Queen Elizabeth I).
Horace is generally considered by classicists to be, along with Virgil, the greatest of the Latin poets.