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THE materials for Horace's life are derived almost entirely from his own works.
A few additional facts are obtained from
a short memoir, attributed to Suetonius.
He was born on the 8th of December, A. U. C. 689 (B. C. 65), at or near Venusia * (Venosa), in the Apennines, on the borders of Lucania and Apulia. His father was a freedman,† having, as his name proves, been the slave of some person of the Horatia gens. As Horace implies that he himself was ingenuus, his father must have obtained his freedom before his birth. He afterwards followed the calling of a coactor,§ a collector of money in some way or other, it is not known in what. He made, in this capacity, enough to purchase an estate, probably a small one, near the above town, where the poet was born. We hear nothing of his mother, except that Horace speaks of both his parents with affection. His father, probably seeing signs of talent in him as a child, was not content to have him educated at a provincial school, but took him (at what age he does not say, but probably about twelve) to Rome, where he became a pupil of Orbilius Pupillus,¶ who had a school of much note, attended by boys of good family, and whom Horace remembered all his life as an irritable teacher, given unnecessarily to the use of the rod.
* C. iii. 4. 9; C. iv. 9. 2; S. ii. 1. 34. + S. i. 6. 8.
|| S. i. 6, 96.
† S. i. 6. 6. 46, 47.
§ S. i. 6. 86.
Epp. ii. 1. 71; ibid. 2. 41.
With him he learnt grammar, the earlier Latin authors, and Homer. He attended other masters (of rhetoric, poetry, and music perhaps), as Roman boys were wont, and had the advantage (to which he afterwards looked back with gratitude) of his father's care and moral training during this part of his education. It was usual for young men of birth and ability to be sent to Athens, to finish their education by the study of Greek literature and philosophy under native teachers; and Horace went there too, at what age is not known, but probably when he was about twenty. Whether his father was alive at that time, or dead, is uncertain. If he went to Athens at twenty, it was in B. c. 45, the year before Julius Cæsar was assassinated. After that event, Brutus and Cassius left Rome and went to Greece. Foreseeing the struggle that was before them, they got round them many of the young men at that time studying at Athens, and Horace was appointed tribune in the army of Brutus, a high command, for which he was not qualified. He went with Brutus into Asia Minor, and finally shared his defeat at Philippi, B. C. 42. He makes humorous allusion to this defeat in his Ode to Pompeius Varus (ii. 7). After the battle he came to Italy, having obtained permission to do so, like many others who were willing to give up a desperate cause and settle quietly at home. His patrimony, however, was forfeited, and he seems to have had no means of subsistence, which induced him to employ himself in writing verses, with the view, perhaps, of bringing himself into notice, rather than for the purpose of making money by their sale. By some means he managed to get a place as scriba § in the Quæstor's office, whether by purchase or interest does not appear. In either case, we must suppose he contrived soon to make friends, though he could not do so by the course he pursued,
*S. i. 6. 48.
† Epp. ii. 2. 50.
Some persons reject this notion, supposing Horace to mean, in the passage on which it is founded (Epp. ii. 2. 51), that poverty made him desperate and careless of consequences, but that when he became comparatively
rich he lost that stimulus.
§ Suet. Vit. S. ii. 6. 36.
without also making many enemies. His Satires are full of allusions to the enmity his verses had raised up for him on all hands. He became acquainted, among other literary persons, with Virgil and Varius, who, about three years after his return (B. c. 39), introduced him to Mæcenas, who was careful of receiving into his circle a tribune of Brutus, and one whose writings were of a kind that was new and unpopular. He accordingly saw nothing of Horace for nine months after his introduction to him. He then sent for him (B. c. 38), and from that time continued to be his patron and warmest friend.
At his house, probably, Horace became intimate with Pollio, and the many persons of consideration whose friendship he appears to have enjoyed. Through Mæcenas, also, it is probable Horace was introduced to Augustus; but when that happened is uncertain. In B. c. 37, Mæcenas was deputed by Augustus to meet M. Antonius at Brundisium, and he took Horace with him on that journey, of which a detailed account is given in the fifth Satire of the first book. Horace appears to have parted from the rest of the company at Brundisium, and perhaps returned to Rome by Tarentum and Venusia. (See S. i. 5, Introduction.) Between this journey and B. c. 32, Horace received from his friend the present of a small estate in the valley of the Digentia (Licenza), situated about thirty-four miles from Rome, and fourteen from Tibur, in the Sabine country. Of this property he gives a description in his Epistle to Quintius (i. 16), and he appears to have lived there a part of every year, and to have been fond of the place, which was very quiet and retired, being four miles from the nearest town, Varia (Vico Varo), a municipium perhaps, but not a place of any importance. During this interval he continued to write Satires and Epodes, but also, it appears probable, some of the Odes, which some years later he published, and others which he did not publish. These compositions, no doubt, were seen by his friends, and were pretty well known before any of them were collected for publication. The first book of the Satires was published probably in B. c. 35, the Epodes in B. c. 30, and the second book of Satires in the following year, when Horace was about thirty-five years old.
When Augustus returned from Asia, in в. c. 29, and closed the gates of Janus, being the acknowledged head of the republic, Horace appeared among his most hearty adherents. He wrote on this occasion one of his best Odes (i. 2), and employed his pen in forwarding those reforms which it was the first object of Augustus to effect. (See Introduction to C. ii. 15.) His most striking Odes appear, for the most part, to have been written after the establishment of peace. Some may have been written before, and probably were. But for some reason it would seem that he gave himself more to lyric poetry after his thirty-fifth year than he had done before. He had most likely studied the Greek poets while he was at Athens, and some of his imitations may have been written early. If so, they were most probably improved and polished, from time to time, (for he must have had them by him, known perhaps only to a few friends, for many years,) till they became the graceful specimens of artificial composition that they are. Horace continued to employ himself in this kind of writing (on a variety of subjects, convivial, amatory, political, moral,some original, many no doubt suggested by Greek poems) till B. C. 24, when there are reasons for thinking the first three books of the Odes were published. During this period, Horace appears to have passed his time at Rome, among the most distinguished men of the day, or at his house in the country, paying occasional visits to Tibur, Præneste, and Baie, with indifferent health, which required change of air. About the year B. C. 26 he was nearly killed by the falling of a tree, on his own estate, which accident he has recorded in one of his Odes (ii. 13), and occasionally refers to; once in the same stanza with a storm in which he was nearly lost off Cape Palinurus,* on the western coast of Italy. When this happened, nobody knows. After the publication of the three books of Odes, Horace seems to have ceased from that style of writing, or nearly so; and the only other compositions we know of his having produced in the next few years are metrical Epistles to different friends, of which he published a volume probably in B. c. 20 or 19. He seems to have taken
* C. iii. 4. 28,