Horace is a poet of surprising contradictions who lived through the most dramatic period of social and political revolution in Rome. From fighting on the losing side in the civil war, he became a confidant of his recent enemies. From humble beginnings as the son of a freedman, he rocketed to the very centre of the Roman establishment. Though he is often regarded as morally and politically conservative, his love poetry is played against the backdrop of a hedonistic, bisexual demi-monde. The strident voice of some of the nationalistic odes contrasts with the quieter melancholic tone of the personal lyrics, with their timeless meditations on the nature of friendship, morality and mortality. A poet of dazzling technical brilliance, Horace introduced the metrical complexities of Greek lyric poetry to the Latin language on a scale never previously contemplated. We know more of his life and background than any other ancient poet and his voice has echoed down the ages as a wise comforter and urbane friend to poets and statesmen alike. This introduction embraces all of these aspects and more, assessing the profound and lasting impact of Horace on the culture of the western world.
According to the poet Horace, poets try to give us profit as well as pleasure. Philip Hills's Horace has given me both. He has written the best introduction to my friend and your friend. It deserves to be THE gateway to Horace for a generation.