Perhaps more than any other writer, Juvenal (c. AD 55-138) captures the splendour, the squalor and the sheer energy of everyday Roman life. In The Sixteen Satires he evokes a fascinating world of whores, fortune-tellers, boozy politicians, slick lawyers, shameless sycophants, ageing flirts and downtrodden teachers. A member of the traditional land owning class that was rapidly seeing power slip into the hands of outsiders, Juvenal also creates savage portraits of decadent aristocrats - male and female - seeking excitement among the lower orders of actor and gladiators, and of the jumped-up sons of newly-rich former slaves. Constantly comparing the corruption of his own generation with its stern and upright forebears, Juvenal's powers of irony and invective make his work a stunningly satirical and bitter denunciation of the degeneracy of Roman society.
About The Author
Less is known about the life of Juvenal (D. Iunius Iuuenalis) than was once believed – a key source, an inscription naming one Iunius Iuuenalis, refers to a later descendant, not the satirist – and such evidence as there is remains sadly inadequate. Much of it comes from Juvenal’s own work. We know that the family was from Aquinum in Latium near modern Monte Cassino. One ancient Life offers a plausible birth date of AD 55. Another states that till middle-age Juvenal practised rhetoric, not for professional reasons but as an amusement, which implies a private income. Book I of the Satires was not published till c. 110–12, when the poet was in his fifties, and is clearly the work of an impoverished and embittered man who has come down in the world – a hanger-on of wealthy patrons with a chip on his shoulder – but the precise circumstances of Juvenal’s fall from grace are unclear.
The Lives all agree that he was exiled for an indiscreet lampoon of the jobbing of appointments by a Court favourite. But they do not agree as to where he was sent or which emperor was responsible, and Juvenal never refers to the matter. Many doubt whether he was exiled at all. If he was, it was almost certainly by Domitian, c. 93, to Egypt. In any case he must have lost his patrimony. It is reasonable to assume that he was recalled after Domitian’s assassination in 96. After Hadrian’s accession he seems to have acquired a small farm at Tivoli and a house in Rome. His last and unfinished (or partially lost) collection appeared c. 128–30. He may have died then: at the latest he is unlikely to have survived long after Hadrian’s death in 138.
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Comments about The Sixteen Satires:
This guy is the Alan Jones of Rome, real laugh, and some delightful anecdotes regarding aristocratic Roman sexual morals.
Series: Penguin Classics
For Ages: 18+ years old
Number Of Pages: 320
Published: 1st February 1999
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.9 x 1.8
Weight (kg): 0.24
Edition Number: 3