Horace, Satires

LCL 194: 196-197

Go To Section
Go To Section

Satires II.V


The Art of Legacy-Hunting

The practice of seeking legacies, especially from those who had no family connexions, seems to have been common in Rome at the beginning of the Imperial period. Horace, therefore, in true satiric fashion, undertakes to lay down rules for the guidance of those who may need advice in playing the game.

The Satire takes the form of a dialogue, and is a burlesque continuation of a famous scene in the Eleventh Odyssey (90-149), where Odysseus (Ulysses), in the lower world, learns from the Theban seer Tiresias that he will return to his home in Ithaca, but only when reduced to poverty. The hero, therefore, desires to ascertain how he may again enrich himself, and the seer instructs him in the lucrative ways of fortune-hunting;

From the obvious reference to Actium in tellure marique magnus (1.63) we infer that the Satire was not composed before 30 b.c. The skilful parody of epic style shows Horace’s satiric power at its best, and it is well to recall the fact that the travestying of heroic themes is traditional in both satire and comedy. The Amphitryo of Plautus, based on some play of the New Attic Comedy, is a good example. Both Lucilius and Varro made use of parody, and it is


Satires II.V

a prominent feature of the prose satire of Lucian, upon which many modern satires have been modelled, such as Disraeli’s Ixion in Heaven and The Infernal Marriage, and Bangs’s Houseboat on the Styx. Lucian’s resemblances to Horace, which, according to Lejay, are due to a direct knowledge of the Roman poet on the part of Lucian, may really be the result of their common indebtedness to Menippus of Gadara (cf. Fiske, Lucilius and Horace, p. 401). Sellar describes the poem before us as “the most trenchant of all the Satires” of Horace, who doubtless conceived the utmost contempt for the fortune-hunters of his day. No analysis is necessary.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.horace-satires.1926