Juvenal  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, known in English as Juvenal, was a Roman poet active in the late 1st and early 2nd century CE, author of the Satires, in which he criticized -- as a moral crusader -- contemporary Rome.

The Satires and their genre

Satires of Juvenal

Juvenal is credited with sixteen known poems divided between five books; all are in the Roman genre of Satire, which, at its most basic in the time of the author, comprised a wide-ranging discussion of society and social mores in dactylic hexameter

In Satire I, concerning the scope and content of his work, Juvenal says:

Back from when Deucalion climbed a mountain in a boat
as the clouds lifted the waters, and then asked for an oracle,
and then little by little spirit warmed the soft stones
and Pyrrha showed naked girls to their husbands,
whatever men do – prayer, fear, rage, pleasure
joy, running about – is the grist of my little book.
ex quo Deucalion nimbis tollentibus aequor
nauigio montem ascendit sortesque poposcit
paulatimque anima caluerunt mollia saxa
et maribus nudas ostendit Pyrrha puellas,
quidquid agunt homines, uotum, timor, ira, uoluptas,
gaudia, discursus, nostri farrago libelli est.
(1.81-86)

Juvenal claims as his purview the entire gamut of human experience since the dawn of history. Quintilian – in the context of a discussion of literary genres appropriate for an oratorical education - claimed that, unlike so many literary and artistic forms adopted from Greek models, “satire at least is all ours” (satura quidem tota nostra est). At least in the view of Quintillian, earlier Greek satiric verse (e.g. that of Hipponax) or even Latin satiric prose (e.g. that of Petronius) did not constitute satura per se. Roman Satura was a formal literary genre rather than being simply clever, humorous critique in no particular format.

  • Book I: Satires 1-5
  • Book II: Satire 6
  • Book III: Satires 7-9
  • Book IV: Satires 10-12
  • Book V: Satires 13-16 (Satire 16 is incompletely preserved)

The individual Satires (excluding Satire 16) range in length from 130 (Satire 12) to c. 695 (Satire 6) lines. The poems are not individually titled, but translators have often added titles for the convenience of readers.

Bread and circuses

Bread and circuses was how the Roman satirist Juvenal characterized the imperial leadership's way of placating the masses.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Juvenal" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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