Satires II


Town And Country Life

This famous Satire, which has been so happily imitated by Pope, contrasts the annoyances and discomforts of life in Rome with the peace and happiness enjoyed by the poet on his beloved Sabine farm.

It is probably owing to its peculiarly personal tone that for this Satire Horace does not set up a dialogue framework, but reverts to the monologue form of the First Book, although a large portion of the poem, viz. the fable of the Town and the Country Mouse, is put into the mouth of another speaker.

Kiessling has pointed out how the hours of morning (1-23) and of evening (60-76), as spent in the country, suggest the two side-pictures of a triptych, which enclose the central and larger picture, that of a day passed in Rome (23-59). The contrast thus presented between the peacefulness of rural life and the restlessness of city life is then summed up in the delightful allegory with which the Satire concludes (79-117). Nothing could be more artistic than such an arrangement.

Besides being one of the most charming of Horace’s compositions, this Satire is important for settling some of the chronology of Horace’s life. Thus 1.38


Satires II

seems to refer to the time which included the Battle of Actium and succeeding events, when Maecenas, in the absence of Octavian, had full control in Rome and Italy. The mention of the Dacians in 1.53 reminds us that these people wavered between Octavian and Antony and that Crassus was sent against them in 30 b.c. Again, the assignment of lands to the veterans, referred to in 1.55, is doubtless the reward promised for services at Actium. In this connexion some of the soldiers mutinied in the winter of 31 b.c. The Satire therefore was composed late in 31 b.c. or early in 30 b.c, and it follows from 11.40 ff. that Horace entered the circle of Maecenas in 39 or 38 b.c. The Sabine farm was given to the poet some six years later.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.horace-satires.1926