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We know very little of the life of Juvenal. He rarely speaks of himself, and is seldom mentioned by other Latin writers. The sources of our information are
1. Thirteen versions of a Life of Juvenal which have come down to us from an unknown source, in connection with various MSS. of his works. No one of these is accurate or trustworthy. Seven are given at the end of Jahn's edition.
2. Scattered references in his own writings serving to fix dates and places. Many of these references, however, occur in passages the authenticity of which is disputed. 3. The following inscription, discovered at Aquinum:
Csere]ri sacrum D. Iunius Iuvenalis
vovit dedicav[it q]ue sua pec[iunia] 4. Passages in Martial (VII, 24; 91; XII, 18), in Sidonius Apollinaris (Carm. IX, 270), in Johannes Malala (Chron. X, p. 341, Chilm.), and in Rutilius Namatianus (I, 603).
From these sources we gather the following probable account:
DECIMUS IUNIUS IUVENALIS, the son or foster-son of a rich freedman, was born at Aquinum, about 54 A. D. He attended school, probably at Rome, studied rhetoric and practiced declamation, without, however, any view to either teaching or law, as a profession. He wrote some satirical verses on the actor Paris, the favorite of Domitian, possibly the lines (87–96) which were afterward inserted in the seventh satire. From Martial's statements, as well as from his own works, we conclude that he lived for some time in Rome. He served in the army as tribunus cohortis, and was at one time banished, probably to Egypt. He lived to the age of eighty. Satire was
a distinctively Roman literary production. The name was given by Ennius (239 B. c.) to a collection of poems in various metres, dealing with various subjects. Lucilius (ca 148 B. C.) gave to satire the character that it afterward retained ; a rambling account of matters and things, half philosophy, half ridicule. llorace (65 B. c.) polished and refined this form of composition, and gave it more of the genial spirit of the later essay. Following Horace came Persius (34 A. D.), whose style is rough and at times obscure, and whose treatment is more directly philosophical than that of his predecessors.
Sixteen satires have come down to us as the writings of Juvenal; the genuineness of several, and of parts of others, has been questioned, particularly by Otto Ribbeck in his Der echte und der unechte Iuvenal, Berlin, 1865. Most editors, while admitting Ribbeck's clear insight and critical ability, and conceding that each of the two sections into which he divides the works attributed to Juvenal has marked characteristics, hesitate to adopt the theory as a whole, and the text stands in the main as given in the MSS. The division into five books seems to have been an arbitrary arrangement made by the early commentators.
The MSS. of Juvenal are divided into two classes. To the first class belongs the Montepessulanus 125, or Pithoeanus (P.), a MS. of the ninth century, which contains corrections made by a later hand (p.). Here belonged too the now lost MS. used by G. Valla in his edition of 1486, and another lost MS. formerly in the monastery of St. Gall, the scholia of which are still accessible. The second class contains a large number of later and less trustworthy MSS., among which must be reckoned the corrections in P.
The classification of the scholia follows that of the MSS.
Horace lived when the Roman state, emerging from the horrors of civil war, seemed about to enter upon a new life under the wise leadership of Augustus; his satire, sympathizing with the time, strikes only at those lesser
follies that might be reached by a laugh. In fact, the satires of Horace have very little of the bitter irony and the scathing criticism which we connect with the word satire, but contain a pleasant, rather loquacious, discussion of matters of general interest, with side blows at an unhappy miser, a foolish scribbler, a conceited dandy, or a rich glutton; a general contempt for the folly of men that refuse to enjoy their present happiness in their impatient struggles for something more. In fact, Horace treats vice as folly, not so much a thing to be harshly censured as one to be sharply ridiculed.
Juvenal lived about a century later, when the seeds of moral degradation, sown long ago, had produced their fruit, when the glory of the empire had faded into a despotic, self-glorifying rule, when the practically unlimited power which, in the hands of Augustus, had been bounded by his own self-respect and the self-respect of the nation, had crossed or leveled all such bounds, and was used for the gratification of the worst passions of its possessors. Rome was full of adventurers from all lands, anxious to acquire wealth and power by any arts; the spirit of earnest devotion to the state and to personal duty, which had marked the earlier Romans, had given place to selfseeking; pride had become vanity, frugality had become avarice; the curse that attends unearned wealth had fallen upon the great city. It was to reprove the sins of such an age that Juvenal wrote. Here was no time for pretty philosophic generalities; here was no time to compose poems on the beauty of content, lying beside some gently murmuring stream, or, crowned with roses, sipping Falernian wine amid a company of pleasant friends; here was no time to laugh at vice, to say what foolish fellows bad
No; here was a time for fierce invective, for denunciation like that of the Hebrew prophets; here was a time to cry out that sin was the death of all that was good and fair in family and state. Here was room for contempt indeed, but a contempt too deep and bitter for a laugh. And Juvenal has this contempt, a contempt tinged with despair, for he loved Rome, the ideal Rome, the Rome of the republic, when patriotism ruled in the Forum and family affection in the home; and it was a sense of this terrible change, the sure sign of approaching dissolution, that gave to the lash of Juvenal its severest sting. “Facit indignatio versum.”