A Commentary on Horace Odes Book III

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R . G . M . N I S B E T






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  Th i s work follows the same lines as the commentaries by Nisbet and Hubbard on Books I and II of the Odes (Oxford, 1970 and 1978). It concentrates on individual poems and problems, and aims to elucidate the poet’s meaning at the most literal level; it is not another book about the Odes in general. Yet in view of the lapse of time since the earlier volumes we have repeated a few facts in the General Introduction, and at the same time have summarized our approach, particularly on con- troversial matters.

  Recently there has been some discussion about the commentary as a literary form: see G. W. Most (ed.), Commentaries—Kommentare (Go¨ttingen, 1999), R. K. Gibson and C. S. Kraus (edd.), The Classical Commentary (Leiden, 2002). In the case of Horace the size of the bibliography causes particular difficulty; inevitably our own reading has been selective. While a commentary should be clear at all costs and not unreasonably long, these aims would never have been realized if we had done full justice even to the more important books and articles.

  As in the earlier volumes the editors try to support their interpret- ations by citing parallel passages; these may record an allusion to a predecessor, exemplify a commonplace, provide the reason for prefer- ring a textual variant, illustrate a syntactical usage, or give evidence for a historical or antiquarian point. We use the catch-all ‘cf.’ to introduce these different types of parallel; it is objected that this obscures import- ant distinctions and fails to show how the author is using his models, but the reason for the citation is usually obvious, and where Horace significantly modifies his predecessor a note is normally supplied. To avoid clogging the exegesis with lengthy lists, we have often selected the earliest or most interesting parallels and then added a cross-reference to TLL, OLD, or a more expansive commentator like Mayor, Pease, or Bo¨mer. We do not hesitate to cite classical authors later than Horace, as they may exemplify a standard locution or be derived from a common source. We have sometimes quoted imitations of Horace in major English poets; these should not be allowed to determine the interpret- ation of our text, though of course the reception of Horace is an important theme in the study of European literature (see for instances the introduction to 3. 30).

  Needless to say, in recording parallels we are not denying Horace’s originality, as some critics of the first volume supposed. In fact we regard him as one of the most original of ancient poets for his ability vi P R EFAC E

  to integrate political and philosophical themes in his lyrics, his virtuos- ity in adapting Greek metres to the heavier Latin language, his use of traditional forms to present his unique personality, and above all the range of his style and tone which his imitators have found inimitable.

  As our collaboration developed we reached a large measure of agree- ment. In the few places where we differed, rather than attempt an unsatisfactory compromise we have used our initials to indicate our separate positions. As before, the editors owe much to previous com- mentators, especially Bentley, Orelli–Hirschfelder, and Kiessling– Heinze, and to the interpretation of the Odes by H. P. Syndikus (edn. 3 , Darmstadt, 2001); the attractive short commentary on Book 3 by David West (Oxford, 2002) appeared too late to be consulted. It remains only to thank the staff of the Oxford University Press for bringing the book to completion.

  R. G. M. N. Corpus Christi College, Oxford University of Bristol N. R.

  August 2003



bibliography ix

general introduction xix

  1. horace ’s early life xix 2. the date of Odes i–iii xix

3. the ‘roman odes’ xx


4. horace and augustus xxi

5. maecenas and other addressees xxii

6. horace ’s ‘love-poems’ xxiii

7. religion in horace xxiii


8. the meaning of the author xxiv

9. ambiguity xxv

10. person and persona xxvi

  11. genre xxvi 12. style xxvii

13. structure xxvii


14. the arrangement of the book xxviii

15. the text xxix

16. the ancient commentators xxix

  17. metre xxx commentary


index nominvm 379

index verborvm 383

index rervm


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  This bibliography lists books cited in abbreviated form in the commen- tary; references like ‘Kroll 24’ can be elucidated here. It does not include either articles or commentaries on other works. In the commentary a select bibliography is prefixed to each ode; the expression ‘op. cit.’ normally refers to those bibliographies, not to this one. For further details see W. Kissel, ANRW II. 31. 3 (Berlin, 1981), 141 ff.; E. Doblhofer, Horaz in der Forschung nach 1957 (Darmstadt, 1992); W. Kissel in S. Koster (ed.), Horaz-Studien (Erlangen, 1994), 116 ff.

  (a) texts and commentaries For fuller lists see Schanz–Hosius 2. 152 and Kissel (1981) cited above.

  Lambinus, D. (1561), Lyons. Bentley, R. (1711), Cambridge; edn. 3 (1728), Amsterdam (repr. 1869). Mitscherlich, C. G. (1800), vol. 2, Leipzig. Peerlkamp, P. Hofman (edn. 2, 1862), Amsterdam. Schu¨tz, H. (edn. 3, 1881), Berlin. Orelli, J. C., revised by W. Hirschfelder (edn. 4, 1886), Berlin. Kiessling, A. (edn. 2, 1890), Berlin. Page, T. E. (1895), London. Wickham, E. C. (edn. 3, 1896), Oxford. Gow, J. (1896), Cambridge. Keller, O., and Holder, A. (edn. 2, 1899), Leipzig (text and parallels). Mu¨ller, L. (1900), 2 vols., St Petersburg and Leipzig. Shorey, P., and Laing, G. J. (edn. 2, 1910), Chicago, repr. Pittsburgh, 1960.

Wickham, E. C., revised by H. W. Garrod (edn. 2, 1912), Oxford Classical


  Darnley Naylor, H. (1922), Cambridge. Heinze, R. (edn. 7 of Kiessling, 1930; edn. 10, 1960), Berlin. Campbell, A. Y. (edn. 2, 1953), Liverpool. Klingner, F. (edn. 3, 1959), Leipzig (text only). Williams, G. (1969), Oxford (Book 3 only). Quinn, K. (1980), London. Borzsa´k, S. (1984), Leipzig (text only). Shackleton Bailey, D. R. (1985, revised 2001), Stuttgart (text only). x B I B LI O G R A P H Y

Syndikus, H. P. (2001), Die Lyrik von Horaz edn. 3, 2 vols., Darmstadt (a literary

commentary with valuable detail).

  West, D. (2002), Dulce Periculum, Oxford (Book 3 only).

  (b) other books cited Abbe, E. (1965), The Plants of Virgil ’s Georgics, Ithaca.

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Allen, W. S. (1965 and 1978), Vox Latina: A Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical

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Bo, D. (1960), De Horati poetico eloquio, vol. 3 of Q. Horati Flacci opera (Corpus

Scriptorum Latinorum Paravianum), Turin. Bolton, J. D. P. (1962), Aristeas of Proconnesus, Oxford. Bompaire, J. (1958), Lucien e´crivain: imitation et cre´ation, Paris.

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Bruchmann, C. F. H. (1893), Epitheta deorum quae apud poetas Graecos leguntur,

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Campbell, A. Y. (1924), Horace: A New Interpretation, London. Capponi, A. (1979), Ornithologia Latina, Genoa.

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Christ, F. (1938), Die ro¨mische Weltherrschaft in der antiken Dichtung (Tu¨binger

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Cooper, Lane (1916, repr. 1961), A Concordance of the Works of Horace, Washing-

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  (d) abbreviations For periodicals see L’Anne´e philologique or OCD edn. 3.

  ALL Archiv fu¨r lateinische Lexikographie und Grammatik (1884–1909).

ANRW Aufstieg und Niedergang der ro¨mischen Welt, ed. H. Temporini

and W. Haase (1972– ).

  CAH Cambridge Ancient History (edn. 2, 1961– ). CGL Corpus Glossariorum Latinorum, ed. G. Goetz (1888–1923). CIL Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (1863– ). CLE Carmina Latina Epigraphica, ed.

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  IG Inscriptiones Graecae (1873– ).


IGRR Inscriptiones Graecae ad res Romanas pertinentes, ed. R. Cagnat

etc. (1901–27).


ILLRP Inscriptiones Latinae Liberae Rei Publicae, ed. A. Degrassi, edn. 2


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  86 ).

Mus. Lap. Musa Lapidaria, ed. E. Courtney, American Classical Studies 36


  N–H R. G. M. Nisbet and M. Hubbard, Commentary on Horace, Odes 1 (1970), 11 (1978).

OCD The Oxford Classical Dictionary, edn. 3, ed. S. Hornblower and

A. Spawforth (1996).


OGIS Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae, ed. W. Dittenberger

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PL Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina, ed. J.-P. Migne

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RE Real-Encyclopa¨die der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed.

  A. Pauly, G. Wissowa, W. Kroll (1893– ).

ROL Remains of Old Latin (Loeb edn.), ed. E. H. Warmington, 4

vols. (1934–53).


SIG Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum, ed. W. Dittenberger, edn. 3


Supp. Hell. Supplementum Hellenisticum, ed. H. Lloyd-Jones and P. Parsons


TGF Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, edn. 2, ed. A. Nauck (1889),

suppl. by B. Snell (1964). TLL Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (1900– ). TRF Tragicorum Romanorum Fragmenta, ed. O. Ribbeck (1897).

TrGF Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. B. Snell, R. Kannicht, S.

  Radt (1971– ).

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1 . Horace’s early life

Horace was born on 8 December 65 bc (3. 21. 1, epist. 1. 20. 27 f., Suet.

  vita 71R) at Venusia in Apulia (serm. 2. 1. 34 ff., carm. 3. 4. 9 ff.). His father had once been a slave, probably as a result of capture in the Social War (G. Williams ap. Harrison, 1995: 296 ff.); the stigma of servile origin, however unfair, remained and is made clear at serm. 1. 6. 5 ff. and 45 f. After his emancipation the father made good as an auctioneer and provider of credit (serm. 1. 6. 86, Fraenkel 4 f.), and could afford to educate his son not only at Rome (serm. 1. 6. 76 ff.) but also at Athens (epist. 2. 2. 43 ff.); Horace exaggerates the humbleness of his origins (3. 30. 12, epist. 1. 20. 20), but by the standards of his later friends his background was undoubtedly restricted. In 42 bc he served as a tribunus militum under Brutus at Philippi (serm. 1. 6. 48, carm. 2. 7. 9 ff., 3. 4. 26), evidence of energy and organizational ability; but though he lost his patrimony (epist. 2. 2. 50 f.), within a few years he had made peace with Octavian’s victorious faction, obtained a high-ranking post in the treas- ury (serm. 2. 6. 36, Suet. vita 8, Fraenkel 14 f.), and resumed his position as an eques Romanus (serm. 2. 7. 53, Lyne, 1995: 3 n.). About 37 bc he was befriended by Maecenas (serm. 2. 6. 40), under whose auspices he wrote two books of sermones or satires (issued about 35 and 30) and completed his collection of iambi or epodes (again about 30). In 36 he saw some- thing of Octavian’s war against Sextus Pompeius (3. 4. 28 n.), and in 31 he seems to have accompanied Maecenas to Actium (epod. 1 and 9, cf. perhaps carm. 3. 1. 38–9 n.). 1 In the meantime Maecenas had presented him with a property in the Sabine hills (serm. 2. 6. 1 ff., carm. 1. 17, 3. 1.


  • –8 n.) that gave him an income from his tenants’ rents, and the leisure to write. For further biographical detail see Enciclopedia oraziana 1. 217 ff.


. The date of Odes I–III

  The first three books were issued together (epist. 1. 13. 2 speaks of volumina), but the poems were not in chronological order. The date was probably 23 bc in the consulship of Sestius (whose position in 1. 4 is otherwise hard to explain), before the death of Marcellus later in the 1 See E. Wistrand, Horace’s Ninth Epode, 1958 (¼Opera Selecta, 1972: 293 ff.), R. G. M.


Nisbet ap. Woodman and West (1984), 9 ff. (underlining the need to read huc at epod. 9. 17), xx H O R AC E : O D ES I I I

  same year (N–H vol. 1, p. 145 on 1. 12. 45 f.), and before the disgrace of 2 Murena (the recipient of 2. 10), which is put by Dio 54. 3 in 22 bc.

  Some of the non-political poems may have been written earlier than Actium (Encicl. oraz. 1. 220), before the Satires were completed, but political allusions are the most reliable criterion of date. It is sometimes said that Horace might have made revisions up to 23; but though an elegiac or hexameter poet might have done it, this would have been more difficult with the complex structures of the Odes. G. O. Hutch- inson now argues that the three books were issued separately (CQ 52, 2002

  : 517 ff.); though he does not persuade us, he provides some valuable details.


3 . The ‘Roman Odes’

  The first six poems of Book III have been called the Roman Odes at least since Plu¨ss (1882). They share the Alcaic metre in contrast to Horace’s usual variatio, a substantial length, an absence of individual addressees, a subject-matter that concentrates on the political and moral issues which were thought important by the new regime, and an im- pressive seriousness of style. 3. 4 seems to belong to 29, when Octavian returned in triumph from the East and demobilized his army (38 n.), 3. 6 looks forward to his repair of the temples in 28 (res gest. 20. 4), a date that also suits the apparent abandonment of his first attempt at moral legislation (see the introduction to that poem). In January 27 he as- sumed the name ‘Augustus’, by which he is described at 3. 3. 11 and 3. 5. 3; later that year he departed for Gaul, from where he was expected to invade Britain (cf. 3. 5. 3–4 n. and possibly 3. 3. 56). 3. 2 cannot be dated; 3 . 1 serves as an introduction to the series and perhaps to the book as a whole.

  Many have seen in the Roman Odes not just a common form and purpose but a carefully planned unity of design. Mommsen thought the series celebrated the new constitution of 27 bc (cf. Reden und Aufsa¨tze, 1905

  : 168 ff.), but this seems too late for nos. 4 and 6. Domaszewski found in poems 2–5 the qualities represented on the shield presented to Augustus in 27, virtus, iustitia, clementia, pietas (RhM 59, 1904: 302 ff.); but that, apart from being incomplete, is far too schematic a treatment. Many have claimed to detect various patterns of arrangement and 3 cross-reference, but these are often arbitrary and unconvincing: for 2 The Murena of 2. 10 (a poem that commends the Golden Mean) must be the alleged

conspirator, one of whose associates was the Peripatetic philosopher Athenaeus (Strabo 14.

  5 . 4, N-H vol. 2, p. 152). 3 See for instance H. Wagenvoort, De Horatii quae dicuntur Odis Romanis, Diss.

  G EN ER A L I N T RO D U C T I O N xxi

  example, the simplicity of life commended in 3. 1 is not the same as the pauperies that the young soldier must learn to endure (3. 2. 1); 3. 1. 7 ‘clari Giganteo triumpho’ (of Jupiter himself ) has a different function from 3. 4. 49 ff. (the defeat of the Titans), which is a clear political analogy to the overthrow of the Antonians. Some have even thought of treating the 4 series as one long poem, but the dates of the odes are different, their subjects quite distinct, and all have convincing openings and closures.


4 . Horace and Augustus

  In considering this question we reject two contradictory approaches. A former generation of scholars, well represented by Fraenkel (1957), was content to accept Augustan ideology on its own terms, without regard to the violence and deception that characterized Octavian’s seizure and retention of power, and to assume that Horace felt the same in every respect. A contrary and more recent approach has been to exaggerate the similarities between Augustus and the chief dictators of the twenti- eth century, and then sometimes to seek hints of subversion in Horace; this is to ignore the poet’s closeness to the regime, as shown later by Augustus’ wish to make him his secretary (Suet. vita 18), and also to disregard the feelings of loyalty that counted for more in Rome than the political independence valued in modern democracies. It can be debated how far Horace was sincere in his support of Augustus’ policies, indeed whether the concept of sincerity is relevant to the public utterances of a court-poet (see the introduction to 3. 6); but whatever view one takes of his private commitment, it must be agreed that Horace showed great skill in selecting illustrations which he knew would have a wide appeal. Thus Antony is damned indirectly by eloquent Pindaric allegories (3. 4); Augustus’ moral policy is made more acceptable by vignettes of metro- politan decadence and rustic simplicity (3. 6); the abandonment of the prisoners in Parthia is justified by invoking the legendary self-sacrifice of Regulus (3. 5); references to the ruler-cult in Rome are confined to the future (3. 3. 11, 3. 5. 2), where they would cause less offence to traditional attitudes.

  Apart from the Roman Odes a few poems in the book are concerned with Augustus. 3. 24 (like 3. 1) denounces materialism and (like 3. 6) calls for moral revival; the implication that earlier attempts have failed (vv. 25 ff.) suggests that it too should be assigned to about 28 bc. In


ff. For the independent composition of the six odes see R. Heinze, Vom Geist des

Ro¨mertums, edn. 3, 1960: 190 ff., L. Amundsen, SO suppl. 11, 1942: 1 ff. (¼ Oppermann,

1972 4 : 111 ff.).

  Diomedes (GL 1. 251) regards 3. 7 as the second ode in the book (cf. Porph. on 3. 1. 1);

add S. J. Heyworth in Formative Stages of Classical Traditions (ed. O. Pecere and xxii H O R AC E : O D ES I I I

  3 . 25, under the inspiration of Bacchus, the poet talks of celebrating the Princeps; this is often thought to refer to the Roman Odes, but the celebration may not look beyond the poem itself. In 26 bc Augustus was absent in Spain fighting the Cantabrians in the north, and in 25 he was seriously ill at Tarraco on the east coast; see the introduction to 3. 8, which we assign to the latter year. In 24 bc Horace celebrates the great man’s return to Rome in an ode that combines his roles as a public and a private poet (3. 14); here he emphasizes what all reasonable people must have felt by that date, that the survival of Augustus is at once the strongest guarantee against the renewal of civil war and the best hope for the country’s regeneration.


5 . Maecenas and other addressees

  Three odes in the book are addressed to Maecenas: 3. 8, 3. 16 (beginning the second half ), and 3. 29 (the last poem before the epilogue); in addition 3. 1 has some pointers in the same direction (see the introduc- tion to that poem). Maecenas was not Horace’s patronus (a word not used in the Augustan period of literary patrons), but rather his amicus— even if an unusually grand one (Saller, 1982: 8 ff., P. White: 1993, 29 ff., 280

  f.). The poems mentioned above allude to various aspects of his life and personality—his pride in his Etruscan ancestors, the grandeur of his life-style, his wide learning, his munificence, and the worries caused by his political responsibilities (especially in the absence of Augustus). At the same time Horace is ready to tease him about his eminence (Lyne, 1995 : 102 ff.), and even to hint, perhaps, that his wealth has not brought him so much happiness as the Sabine estate has brought to the poet (see 3 . 1 and 3. 16). In Book 4, when Maecenas’ political power seems to have waned (Lyne, 1995: 136 ff., 189 ff.) Horace still speaks of him warmly (11. 17 ff.), and we are told that Maecenas’ final commendation to Augustus was ‘Horatii Flacci ut mei memor esto’.

In the period of Odes 1–3 Maecenas was still close to Augustus, and in spite of his equestrian status he had a deserved reputation for diplomatic

  skill (serm. 1. 5. 27 ff., carm. 3. 16. 15 n.). One no longer thinks of him as a propaganda-minister issuing fiats to poets, but the emphasis is now sometimes too much the other way. It is not enough to point out that people absorb their opinions from the prevailing atmosphere, for in the twenties Augustus was still consolidating his position, and positive guidance was needed. In the Roman Odes Horace seems to have followed the official line in every particular (see also 3. 24. 54 ff. for the criticism of young men’s sports), and Maecenas was the obvious intermediary between the Princeps and the poet; no one, least of all Horace himself, would have regarded the gift of the Sabine estate as an

  G EN ER A L I N T RO D U C T I O N xxiii

  Only three other poems are addressed to identifiable people, namely Aelius Lamia (17), Murena the augur (19), and the great orator and statesman Messalla Corvinus (21). As usual Horace includes tactful or humorous allusions to the personalities and families of the recipients. Yet, unlike the second book of odes and the first book of epistles, Odes 3 puts rather little emphasis on friendship.


6 . Horace’s ‘love-poems’

  Horace’s Kæø ØŒ show little of the emotional involvement found in Catullus or Propertius. One of his roles is that of the urbane and experienced consultant. Thus he urges Asterie to ignore her serenading lover (7), consoles the love-lorn Neobule (12), and warns Pyrrhus not to compete with a predatory woman for the favours of a good-looking boy (20). When he professes to speak of his own case, he wittily adapts the traditional situations of love-poetry, the paraclausithyron in 10, the renuntiatio amoris in 26, the propempticon in 27; when he reminds Lyde of the heroically loyal Hypermestra (11) and Galatea of the spec- tacularly indiscreet Europa (27), his exempla are entertaining rather than moving. His amusement is often directed wryly at himself: Lydia is given the last word in her tart exchanges with the poet (26), if Lyce and Neaera are unresponsive (10 and 14), he will not persist, and though he pretends (unconvincingly) to have given up his interest in girls, he says he would like to get his own back on Chloe (26). He admits to many relationships with both puellae and pueri (epod. 11. 4, serm. 2. 3. 325, carm.

  4 . 1. 29 ff.), and his references to hetaerae no doubt reflect personal experience (Griffin, 1985: 20 f.), but that is not to say that the names and situations are to be taken as historically authentic. He does not lay claim to lasting affections (4. 1. 30 ff., cf. 1. 13. 17 ff.), whether because of the ambiguity of his social position or simply his inborn nature. Some- times he is more brutally sexist than any other Augustan poet (see epod.

  8 and 12, serm. 1. 2. 116 ff., carm. 1. 25, 2. 5, 3. 15, 4. 13, epist. 1. 18. 71 ff.); yet towards the end he seems to have regretted the loneliness which his bachelor life-style has brought (4. 1. 30 f.). For further discussion see N–H vol. 1, pp. xvi f., Lyne (1980), 201 ff., B. Arkins ap. Rudd (1993), 106 ff., Encicl. oraz. 1. 527 ff.


7 . Religion in Horace

  Other people’s religions are often hard to understand. That of ancient Rome may seem unattractive because of its blood-sacrifices (3. 13. 3 ff.), its bargaining spirit (3. 18. 5 ff.), its legalistic insistence on verbal accur- acy (3. 21. 5 n.), the absurdity of its superstitions (3. 27. 11 n. on augury), its complacency about Rome’s role in the divine purpose (3. 6. 1 ff.). Yet

  Horace, like Virgil, conveys some of the deeper feelings that antiquarian xxiv H O R AC E : O D ES I I I

  pedantry and anthropological speculation cannot illuminate: the recur- ring festivals reflect the age-old rhythms of the agricultural year (3. 13, 3 . 18), there is awe at the mystery of woods, caves, and springs (cf. 3. 25. 2 n. and the introduction to 3. 13), the solemn rites convey a sense of peace and order (3. 1. 2 n., 3. 14. 5 ff., 3. 30. 8 f.), as in the tableaux of the Ara Pacis. Moreover, Roman religion was unusually tolerant and inclu- sive, as is shown by the incorporation of Greek cults even in the earliest times (3. 3. 9 n., 3. 14. 1); it found a place for slaves and freedmen (see

  3 . 23 on the Penates), women had goddesses to suit their special needs

  (3. 22. 2 ff.), and as it was not constricted by any formal creed it could accommodate even a sceptic like Horace. See further Wissowa (1912) and Latte (1960) for antiquarian detail; for more modern approaches add Beard–North–Price (1998), D. Feeney, Literature and Religion at Rome (1998), especially the summary at 2 ff.


. The meaning of the author

  To establish Horace’s meaning on the most literal level may seem difficult when one is dealing with a dead language; yet in this respect Horace is easier than Shakespeare and far easier than many a modern. According to one theory which has been familiar for over half a century, the writer’s intention is always unknowable. This dogma exaggerates the 5 difficulties in the concept, and underestimates the amount of common ground shared by poetry and everyday communication: if even a tenth of our ordinary discourse were as problematic as poetic discourse is sup- posed to be, social life would soon become chaotic. So in dealing with basic questions of language we have followed a long and well-tried tradition, inviting others to refute our views (or to supplement them) by evidence and argument.