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N various manuscripts of Juvenal short lives of the
satirist are to be found, one of which is not uncommonly supposed to have been written by the grammarian Probus, although it is published among the memoirs attributed to Suetonius. There are but few references to the personal history of their author in the Satires themselves; for the reticent Juvenal is very unlike the confiding Horace, who wears his heart upon his sleeve. Putting together such scanty indications of the facts as we have from these two sources, an imperfect sketch may be made of a biography, which I will give nearly in the words of Macleane :
"DECIMUS' JUNIUS JUVENALIS was born, possibly at Aquinum in Latium, about the beginning of Nero's reign, that is soon after A. D. 54, of respectable parents, his father being a rich libertinus, and he himself therefore ingenuus. He received the usual education of a Roman boy and youth, attending a school of rhetoric after the grammar-school. He took the toga virilis about the beginning of Vespasian's reign, A. D. 70, and having learnt rhetoric, continued to practise it as a man, not professionally, but for his own amusement. Soon after the year 100, in the early part of the reign of Trajan, Juvenai first published a volume of Satires (of which the first in our collection was one), having already recited them to large audiences. It is not unlikely that some of these, or parts of them, had been composed in the reign of Do
1 Macleane and some others make the mistake of calling him
Decius," which never was a Roman praenomen.
mitian (A. D. 81–96), or even earlier, but that the poet had not ventured to make them public. He continued to write freely during Trajan's reign, which ended A. D. 117, when Juvenal was about sixty, and during the early years of Hadrian's reign, that is, till about A. D. 120. In this reign he may have lived in comfort through the liberality of the emperor, though his household was on a frugal scale, as he tells us in Sat. xi., from which (verse 65) we learn that he had property at Tibur. It is not impossible he may have lived till the accession of Antoninus Pius, who succeeded Hadrian A. D. 138, when Juvenal was eighty or a little more."
I have omitted in this sketch any allusion to Juvenal's banishment, on account of the great uncertainty which attends the whole subject. The pseudo-Suetonius says of Juvenal, "Having written a clever satire of a few verses on Paris the pantomimus, and a poet of his who was puffed up with his paltry six months' military rank, he took pains to perfect himself in this kind of writing. And yet for a very long time he did not venture to trust anything even to a small audience. But after a while he was heard by great crowds, and with great success, several times; so that he was led to insert in his new writings those verses which he had written first:
quod non dant proceres, dabit histrio: tu Camerinos
praefectos Pelopea facit, Philomela tribunos. - (vii. 90 sqq.)
"The player was at that time one of the favorites at court, and many of his supporters were daily promoted. Juvenal, therefore, fell under suspicion as one who had covertly censured the times; and forthwith, under color.
of military promotion, though he was eighty years of age, he was removed from the city, and sent to be praefectus of a cohort which was stationed in the farthest part of Egypt. That sort of punishment was determined upon as being suited to a light and jocular offence. Within a very short time he died of vexation and disgust."
There are things intrinsically difficult of credence in this story, and it is told with great variations in the dif ferent manuscript lives. The part of the offended emperor is played by Nero and Trajan, as well as Domitian, and three of the lives make Scotland the scene of the exile, whither Juvenal is sent as praefectus militum in the hope that he would be killed in battle. Of recent scholars who accept the banishment, Hermann makes Domitian send the satirist to Scotland, Friedländer dates the event under Trajan, with whom the actor Pylades had great influence, Ribbeck under Hadrian. Macleane discredits the whole story, although allowing that, if placed in the reign of Domitian, it is not chronologically impossible. It is thought that Sidonius Apollinaris refers to Juvenal in the lines, where, after mentioning the banishment of Ovid, he adds:
nec qui consimili deinde casu
ad vulgi tenuem strepentis auram
irati fuit histrionis exsul. — Carm. ix. 270.
From the Satires themselves, it would appear that Juvenal was most certainly writing after Domitian had perished in a. D. 96, for he speaks of the death of that emperor (iv. 153); and after the conviction of Marius Priscus (i. 47), which we know to have taken place in A. D. 100. The thirteenth satire was probably written as late as A. D. 127 (see verse 17); the fifteenth soon after that date (see verse 27).
There are three epigrams in Martial containing allusions to a Juvenal who is probably our satirist: one (vii. 24) against a slanderer who tried to bring about a quarrel between the two poets; another (vii. 91), sent with a Saturnalian present of nuts, in which the recipient is addressed as "facunde Juvenalis ;" and a third (xii. 18), which begins with the following lines:
Dum tu forsitan inquietus erras
One other witness has come down to us from the times of our poet. There is an inscription (Mommsen Inscr. Neapol. 4312) at Aquinum, which (with the lacunae supplied in small letters) runs thus:
The inscription marks an altar dedicated by Juvenal to the Helvina Ceres mentioned in Sat. iii. 320.
The most interesting speculation of recent times in regard to our author was originated by Ribbeck, in his treatise Der echte und der unechte Juvenal, which appeared in Berlin in 1865. According to this acute scholar, the
with the exception of verses 1--36 in
first nine satires, the fourth, the eleventh satire, - with the exception