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Juvenal was born at Aquinum, an Italian town some seventy-five miles south-east of Rome, at some time during the last years of Nero's reign, or shortly after his death; that he lived to an advanced age is inferred from some references in the Satires themselves,* while the date of his death is entirely unknown, except that it must have been after 128 A.D.†

Here, then, is a long life, of which the boundaries are very indistinct, and the incidents conjectural: for besides a number of short biographies of the poet attached to manuscripts, confused and contradictory, and three references by Martial, the satires themselves form the one certain source of information. The stories of Juvenal's poverty or wealth, of his banishment to Egypt, and of his military command, were in all probability suggested by the Satires, not drawn from any external authority.

According to the traditional account, Juvenal's parents were people of substance, and sent him to Rome in early youth to learn rhetoric; that he was a rhetorician by nature, if not also by art, the Satires sufficiently prove, and at Rome, after giving examples of oratorical power, he began to attempt satire-that "mixed mode" including prose and verse, serious and comic, the ridiculous and the sublime. Domitian's death in 96 A.D. was the signal for an outburst of free speech, no less than for the return of many exiles, so that the first publication of the first book of Juvenal's Satires took place after 96: it would have been impossible before. There is no reason for supposing

* S. XI, 203; XIII, 17.

+ S. xv, 27.

That is the common deduction from Martial's application to him of the word facundus.

that his production or publication were hindered by Trajan or Hadrian.

What then was the Rome which Juvenal found, and how did it impress him? Were the circumstances of his life such as to account for the vehemence and justify the bitterness of his invective? Rome had changed since the days of Augustus; then a wise and statesmanlike ruler had conciliated a people and a nobility by whom the traditions of freedom were not yet forgotten; with the principate not yet assured, and the senate still powerful, there had been need of caution and moderation; a century of civil war and depredation had demanded peace and made economy advisable. But now, when, at the age perhaps of eighteen or twenty, Juvenal came to Rome, Domitian was on the throne; Rome was the recognised centre and capital of a vast empire, and for the traditional simplicity and rigour of a single free city, had substituted the motley habits and the combined luxury and excesses of a swarm of various peoples, united only in servility to one despotic ruler; and the power that raised him was often the sword that slew his predecessor.* The senate had declined to impotence, and the army was supreme. It resulted from the growth to maturity of the imperial system that Rome became a capital as vast, as varied, as, rich and as poor, as is London or Paris to-day; by the time of Domitian the old Roman pride and Roman stoicism were confined to a few families, and had become unpopular, not to say dangerous, possessions. The people of influence might be freedmen or foreigners, actors or gladiators, only they must be favourites of the Emperor, and they must be wealthy. So far from Cato had the * Cf. S. x, 112, 113.

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Romans sunk, that the Latin language was neglected with the Latin dress and the Latin religion. From the East there flowed into Rome a perpetual stream of new cults, new superstitions, and new vices; the most exclusive of cities had become the most cosmopolitan.

It is partly to his life in Rome at this time that Juvenal owes his startling" modernity," the feature which perhaps most forcibly strikes his readers to-day. True, that unless he had been also a keen and candid observer of the


❝ constant part of life-the passions, pleasures, fears, and affections of men- -the accidental similarity between Rome and London (vividly portrayed in Johnson's paraphrase of the third satire) would not have survived for our notice; but now, when the poet's strictures and mockeries of vice and folly are as true as they have always remained, and when London and Paris present the same hybrid features and revolting contrasts as did Rome in 100 A.D., when the nearest parallel to the Roman citizen is the British subject-now the "modernity" of the Satires is as striking and as trustworthy a witness to the constancy of human nature as to the insight of Juvenal.

Here, at Rome, less in the study of rhetoric, it is probable, than in the study of the city and its populace, Juvenal spent his youth; and thus he became imbued with the indignation which fires his first nine satires. Conversant as his writing shows him to have been with every line of Virgil, and clinging to the old Roman ideals, he was perpetually contrasting that simple "virtus" and "nobilitas " with the flippant viciousness and the mean greed of this heterogeneous Rome. When at last Domitian died, the iron had entered into Juvenal's soul; so soon as the gag was removed, he burst out in a torrent of angry

scorn against his countrymen in particular, and, affecting to name only those whose death ensured their acquiescence, delivered a comprehensive indictment against the human race in general. His object was not to lash particular offenders: Crispinus and Apicius,† Cornelia and Hippia, stand for whole classes. For these years spent in Rome he paid a heavy price, since they left him broken in spirit by the evil and misery of all he had seen,-unable, when the time of freedom came, to utter any but words of fire.

Between the first nine and the remaining six satires a considerable interval must have elapsed: nor is it im probable that in the decline of his life and under the influence of a milder and more peaceful rule, Juvenal recovered some of the gentler feelings, something of the cheerful outlook which the anger and disappointment of his earlier days had overwhelmed. At any rate, the difference of style and manner is remarkable; and it is interesting to notice that, while most critics deplore the change from the early to the later style, Merivale writes: "The later satires of Juvenal more than compensate for the earlier." There is, moreover, an equal divergency of opinion upon almost every question connected with Juvenal.

The striking literary qualities to be found in the Satires are (to quote a commentator ‡) the "power of painting life-like scenes," and the "command of brilliant epigrammatic phrase"; to them frequent quotation bears witness. But there is another quality,—the source of most of the

* S. 1, 170.

†The mention of Tigellinus, 1, 155, proves this, for Tigellinus lived under Nero; the name merely stands for the class of whom Tigellinus was one.

Mr. J. D. Duff, in Section п of his Introduction.


difficulty experienced in understanding the Satires, and the cause which makes an adequate translation impossible,—I mean the quality of inconstancy and unexpectedness. An example will make it clear, for this quality is not striking in the same way as are those already mentioned. killed his mother, and Juvenal compares him with Orestes, to the latter's advantage*: "Orestes," he says, "avenged his father; he never murdered his sister or his wife, nor mixed poisons for his kinsmen, nor sang on the stage, nor murdered the Tale of Troy in verse." Now this particular passage and others like it are noticed for blame by Mr. Duff and M. Nisard, and other critics; the sudden transition from the sublime to the ridiculous seems to them unworthy of an earnest or a sincere writer of satire. But surely it is in reality the satirist's most effective weapon; he chose the satiric form precisely because it gave him that licence, and though Juvenal's transitions are more abrupt and more difficult to comprehend, to say nothing of rendering them, than those of Horace or of any other satirist left to us, yet it is ridiculous to imagine that he was unconscious of anticlimax or not skilful enough to avoid it when he wished. Juvenal was a master of language, not only of fierce invective and of rhetoric, but of parody (as the fourth satire sufficiently shows), of sublimity, and of pathos. The grotesque juxtapositions so frequent and, according to most critics, so damaging, in his satires are designed, and are effective by the contrast they present;

it is only because Juvenal understood so well how to write in an epic strain, that the value of his satiric form has been depreciated, and his propriety in using parody and the "bizarre" disputed.

* S. vIII, 217.

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