Episode 72: Bread and Circuses

Juvenal’s Satires, produced some time in the decades around 100 CE, mercilessly mock some of the more colorful aspects of Roman life.

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Juvenal’s Satires

Hello, and welcome to Literature and History. Episode 72: Bread and Circuses. This program is about the Roman writer Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, known to us as today Juvenal, who, between about 100 and 130 CE, wrote some of history’s most influential works of satire. Juvenal’s sixteen satires, though they vary in length and content, are today perhaps most famous for their ruthless, obscene, snarling criticism of Roman culture – specifically, the culture of Rome during the late Flavian and early Nerva-Antonine dynasties. In a sentence, Juvenal’s satires are an angry denunciation of Roman decadence – of the grotesque materialism, hedonism, and disingenuousness of Roman culture during the opening decades of the 100s CE, and to a lesser extent, a nostalgic threnody for the lost republican past. A conservative, and a critic of social change, Juvenal looked at the world around him and saw decay, sensualism, and vice.

Juvenal: A General Introduction

Charles Bartlett - Captives in Rome, 1888 juvenal context

Charles Bartlett’s Captives in Rome (1888). While Juvenal could be pretty nasty toward certain echelons of the Roman world, he also focused his concern on those made vulnerable by the extremely uneven distribution of wealth that characterized the Nerva-Antonine period.

While Juvenal’s Satires have been popular since Late Antiquity – indeed, surprisingly popular, considering their crude and often disgusting content – we know very little for certain about the poet himself. Modern scholars propose a birth date of 55 or 60 CE, and the poet lived until a decade or so after 130.1 Living, then, likely into his seventies or even eighties, Juvenal saw Rome go through some striking changes. By most accounts, he was born in the latter part of Nero’s reign. Juvenal would have been a child during the Year of the Four Emperors between 68 and 69, come of age under the reigns of Vespasian and Titus, and spent his late 20s and much of his 30s under the dictatorial reign of the Emperor Domitian. We should here that these were harsh years, and that when Domitian was assassinated in the autumn of 96, the 40 or so year old Juvenal, like the rest of his countrymen, had every reason to expect another bloody succession dispute. Instead, under the brief, senatorially sanctioned reign of the Emperor Nerva, and the two decade reigns each of Trajan and Hadrian, Rome quite unexpectedly entered the most prosperous and peaceful century it would ever know. The smattering of facts we have about Juvenal’s life, then, and the sixteen satires that he produced between about 100 and 130 all indicate that as the poet grew to middle age and beyond, the Rome he saw around him was becoming safer, and more stable than it had been when he was young. While we know little for certain about Juvenal, a broad consensus exists that the later satires he wrote show a milder and more philosophical poet than the earlier satires. Maturation surely played a role in this evolution, but it’s also reasonable to assume that as Juvenal saw Rome entering the balmy summertime fostered by rulers often called the Five Good Emperors, he had less to complain about than when he first started writing the Satires in his 40s, with the violence and instability of the late first century still fresh in his mind.

There are thirteen biographies of Juvenal that survive from antiquity – they vary in length, detail, and some are clearly copying one another. They provide a hodgepodge of sometimes contradictory information, but they agree on some key details. One of these, which is also supported by Juvenal’s Satires, is that the poet was born in Aquinum, or modern day Aquino, about seventy miles southeast of Rome as the crow flies. The biographies agree that Juvenal knew rhetoric and law well, and that he practiced rhetoric and law professionally before writing his satires. Finally, Juvenal’s ancient biographers agree that at some point, he was exiled from Rome – most often to Egypt, but also, possibly, to Scotland. If Juvenal really were exiled, a timeframe that often gets discussed is the final years of Domitian’s reign – in other words 93-96, although Juvenal’s later biographers may have just invented the story of the exile in order to explain the poet’s bitterness and ire in his earlier satires.2 And that, sadly, is about all we know about Juvenal – a smidgen of often suspect narratives written a couple of centuries after the writer died. He is not, like Cicero, or Ovid, or Seneca, ever interested in autobiography.

While we can’t reliably extract much about Juvenal’s life from ancient biographers, we can intuit a definite personality in his poetry. It’s a personality that, as I said, mellows as you move through the sixteen satires, but that has at its core a staunch resentment of socioeconomic change. In terms of social class, the speaker we meet in the satires can pervasively be described as shabby genteel – in other words, having some vestiges or pretenses of money that never quite conceal a real lack of financial resources. Juvenal writes, in the Penguin Peter Green translation,
[I]n Rome we must toe the line of fashion, spending
beyond our means, and often on borrowed credit.
It’s a universal failing: here we all live in pretentious
poverty. (III.180-3)3

Juvenal, especially in the earlier satires, isn’t simply angry that he and other Romans find themselves concealing their poverty with a veneer of secondhand fashion. The deeper concern is that Rome’s social order is transforming, that pedigree and education no longer count for anything, and that the old aristocracy, putrefying under the influence of new money, immigrants, and grotesque conspicuous consumption, is hoarding all the wealth while hardworking artists and tradespeople starve on the street. The speaker of Juvenal’s poems, then, is conservative to the core. And by the way, when I say “conservative” I don’t mean anything associated with modern politics – I mean “conservative” in the eighteenth century, Edmund Burke sense – conservatives have historically simply been defined by a dislike of rapid social change and an associated nostalgia for the past. Throughout Juvenal’s Satires, the present seems to be festering through with decadence, and the past, while never idolized through and through, is generally imagined as a purer and more moral time.

From what you’ve heard so far, Juvenal may sound like little more than an irate social critic – a sort of Roman prophet Jeremiah, standing on a soapbox and thundering his condemnations over startled passerby, angry that he has to pretend to a greater level of wealth than he has simply to save face in his social circles. And while this isn’t a bad image to have in your mind as we begin looking at the Satires, the poet’s work is more multifaceted than this. Today, we read certainly read the Satires as they’re intended to be read – darkly funny, brilliantly concise, verbally resonant denunciations of the hypocrisy and gross materialism at the apex Juvenal’s Rome, and advanced civilizations more generally. But Juvenal’s Satires are also a dense thicket of data about life in imperial Rome.

There is a quote that one comes across often in scholarship about Juvenal – one that seems to really get at the essence of what makes Juvenal memorable. It’s in an 1895 survey of Roman literature, written by the Scottish classicist J.W. Mackail. Here’s the quote – again about what makes Juvenal endure, generation after generation.
In [his] elaborate indictment of the life of the capital. . .[Juvenal] draws a picture of the Rome he knew, its social life and its physical features, its everyday sights and sounds, that brings it before us more clearly and sharply than even the Rome of Horace or Cicero. The drip of the water from the aqueduct that passed over the gate from which the dusty, squalid Appian Way stretched through its long suburb; the garret under the tiles, where, just as now, the pigeons sleeked themselves in the sun and the rain drummed on the roof; the narrow, crowded streets, half choked with the builders’ carts, ankle-deep in mud, and the pavement ringing under the heavy military boots of guardsmen; the tavern waiters trotting along with a pyramid of hot dishes on their heads; the flower-pots falling from high window-ledges; night, with the shuttered shops, the silence broken by some sudden street brawl, the darkness shaken by a flare of torches as some great man, wrapped in his scarlet cloak, passes along from a dinner-party with his long train of clients and slaves: these scenes live for us in Juvenal, and are perhaps the picture of ancient Rome that is most abidingly impressed on our memory.4

In Juvenal, then, as is the case with almost no other Roman writers, we see oddments and tiny everyday details of Roman life. While Juvenal is keen on painting detailed vignettes of Roman life in general, he’s also interested in inventorying, and cataloging the sheer excessiveness of the Roman aristocracy. Like his predecessor Petronius, whom we met a couple of episodes back, Juvenal writes about the absurd luxury of Rome’s richest citizens – their gaudy homes, their daily expenditures, and – this was a source of special fascination for both writers – their inconceivable gluttony. Through exhaustingly detailed descriptions of how the rich live, Juvenal invites us into the minutiae and the stench of imperial Roman decadence, showing us the texture of life in the capital with a level of detail largely unavailable elsewhere.

Couture Les romains de la decadence Musee Orsay Juvenal's World

Thomas Couture’s Romans During the Decadence (1847). A predominant focus in Juvenal’s work is the conspicuous consumption of the Roman 1% – their lusts, depravities, and casual cruelties, while provincial citizen and starving intellectuals, teachers and artists in the capital all had to suffer famine and dearth as a result.

Just a couple of quick notes before we open up Juvenal’s Satires and see what’s inside. These poems are, for the most part, rambling and discursive, jumping from topic to topic with the speed of an urban wanderer hustling down an ancient Roman alleyway with you and pointing things out as you go along. So, as I usually do with poetry and non-narrative compilations, I will discuss most of the book on a topic-by-topic basis – as you probably know by now, literatureandhistory.com has full episode transcriptions, citations, line numbers, and relevant maps and artwork if you ever want to track anything down there. However, there are a couple of exceptions to the generally meandering style of Juvenal’s Satires – most famously, in the sixth satire, the longest of the sixteen, Juvenal sets himself the dubious task of vilifying women for 661 lines, and some of the others are loosely written around a theme. But generally Juvenal’s satires are heterogeneous combinations of elements – as translator Peter Green notes, “Juvenal’s powers of concentration never seem to extend much beyond a hundred lines.”5

I’ll be quoting from several editions in this program, but unless otherwise noted, I’ll be using Peter Green’s translation, published by Penguin in 1998. It should be said that translations of Juvenal have, up until very recently, been softened or censored, but that these days, he’s getting treated with a lot more fidelity. It should also be said that the remainder of this program will have some adults-only details. While Juvenal leaves out the four letter words, we’re still going to hear plenty about private parts, all sorts of sex, and that sort of thing, so this program – trust me – is not for the faint of heart. Well, let’s get to it! [music]

Juvenal and Rome’s Changing Social Classes

In some of the opening lines of the first Satire, Juvenal lays out why he has decided to write satire. And the answer is, memorably, that looking around at the aberrant aristocrats and vulgar parvenus who surround him, he has not been given a choice. Here’s Peter Green’s translation of some important lines from Book 1.
When a flabby eunuch marries, when well-born girls go crazy
for pig-sticking up-country, bare-breasted, spear in fist;
when the barber who rasped away at my youthful beard has risen
to challenge good society with his millions; when Crispinus –
that Delta-bred house-slave, silt washed down by the Nile –
now hitches his shoulders under Tyrian purple, airs
a thin gold ring in summer on his sweaty finger. . .
it’s harder not to be writing satires; for who could endure
this monstrous city, however callous at heart[?](I.22-31)
We find ourselves elbowed aside by men who earn legacies
in bed at night. (I.37-8)

The phrase “it’s harder not to be writing satires,” or dificile est satiram non scribere in Latin, is one of Juvenal’s most famous lines. What you’ve just heard is a concise introduction to Juvenal’s main theme in the Satires – slaves and service people are becoming millionaires, millionaires are behaving with reckless abandon of morality, and people like lowborn gigolos are out there, wheedling their way into patrician good graces and being named heirs. To Juvenal, Rome had turned topsy-turvy, wealth was hemorrhaging out from the previously insular aristocracy, all sorts of toadies and hookers were catching the spillage, and a battalion of lowborn businesspeople, after lifting themselves up by the bootstraps, were treading on the older landed gentry with their outrageously expensive new shoes. While we will see various dimensions of this theme, it is the governing idea of Juvenal’s Satires – that moral rectitude was vanishing, that knaves and outsiders and usurpers were taking over, and that an epidemic of avarice and hedonism had infected Roman civilization. Juvenal writes toward the end of the first satire that “Today, every vice has reached its ruinous zenith” (I.149). And at the summit of these vices, Juvenal writes, is greed.

He identifies greed as an exceptionally insidious social problem, emphasizing that it is the new state religion, and criticizing it pervasively throughout the sixteen satires. In the first satire Juvenal asks, in the Green translation,
. . .when has there been so abundant a crop of vices? When
has the purse of greed yawned wider?. . .
In the old days who’d have built all those country houses, or dined
off seven courses, alone?. . .
Of all gods it’s Wealth that compels our deepest
reverence – though as yet, pernicious Cash, you lack
your own temple. (I.87-8,94-5,112-4)

The pursuit of wealth and pleasure at the highest echelons of society, Juvenal says, has a corrosive effect on everyone, making commoners struggle to even pay rent in their dreadful, squalid, overpriced tenements (III.192-205). Because Rome is such a hive of rich barons and desperate underlings seeking work in the city, Juvenal observes, it has become a dreadful place for anyone without substantial means. At one point Juvenal describes the hazards of simply walking in the city – mud, surging crowds, elbows and construction parts being carried in the streets, stacked logs falling off of a wagon, tiles falling from roofs, and filth slopped down from upper story windows (III.245-74). Amidst this maelstrom of patrician rapacity and plebeian desperation, Juvenal says, poor people actually die from insomnia, unable to afford a sheltered spot where they can actually get any sleep (III.232-40).

At one point, unable to take it any more, an acquaintance of Juvenal’s speaker decides to ditch Rome and light out for country living. Juvenal tells this man’s story in the Satires, most of which is his friend’s departing soliloquy. In the soliloquy, the fed up Roman goes on and on about how eager, lowborn contractors and con artists have sopped up so much of the city’s wealth, while he himself will never pursue a disingenuous profession like telling rich people’s fortunes, for instance. In the older G.G. Ramsay prose translation, Juvenal writes
[W]hile all his goods and chattels were being packed upon a single wagon, my friend halted at the dripping archway of the old Porta Capena[, and said] “. . .how much more near to us would be the spirit of the fountain if its waters were fringed by a green border of grass, and there were no marble to outrage the native tufa!. . .Farewell my country!. . .let those [upstarts] remain. . .to whom it comes easy to take contracts for temples, rivers or harbours, for cleansing drains, or carrying corpses to the pyre, or to put up slaves for sale under the authority of the spear. These [rich contractors] were once horn-blowers, who went the round of every provincial show, and whose puffed-out cheeks were known in every village; to-day they hold shows of their own, and win applause by slaying with a turn of the thumb whomsoever the mob bids them to slay; from that they go back to contract for cesspools, and why not for any kind of thing, seeing that they are of the kind that Fortune raises from the gutter to the mighty places of earth whenever she wishes to enjoy a laugh? “What can I do at Rome? I cannot lie; if a book is bad, I cannot praise it, and beg for a copy; I am ignorant of the movements of the stars; I cannot, and will not, promise to a man his father’s death; I have never examined the entrails of a frog; I must leave it to others to carry to a bride the presents and messages of a paramour. No man will get my help in robbery, and therefore no governor will take me on his staff: I am treated as a maimed and useless trunk that has lost the power of its hands. What man wins favour nowadays unless he be an accomplice – one whose soul seethes and burns with secrets that must never be disclosed. (III.10-57)6

Because of his steadfast honesty, then, Juvenal’s friend has no place in the new social order of Rome, a social order in which baseborn nobodies have become so rich they can put on games, having the power of life and death over gladiators; a social order in which success requires loose morals and often outright profligacy.

The slow ruination of Roman culture, to Juvenal, is the result of widespread changes to the aristocracy – lackeys and nouveau riche entrepreneurs infiltrating this class, and previously proud aristocratic families decomposing due to exogamous marriages, deviant sexual behavior, laziness, and sensualism. We’ve heard enough of Juvenal so far to get a general idea of the way he imagined that the present was a blighted and immoral time. What I want to do now is look at passages in the satires related to the Roman aristocracy itself – the trends and patterns that Juvenal perceived to be rotting Rome from the top down. [music]

Juvenal and the Nerva-Antonine Aristocracy

The modern Roman aristocracy, throughout Juvenal’s Satires, is depicted as a ghastly carnival – a freak show of excess and aberrant behavior. And amidst the gentry’s many faults, Juvenal sees gluttony as particularly excessive – an addiction that aristocrats pursue with such zest that they actually manage to bankrupt themselves. Juvenal writes of aristocrats in the Ramsay translation that “The greater their straits – though the house is ready to fall, and the daylight begins to show between the cracks – the more luxuriously and daintily do they dine. Meanwhile they ransack the elements for new relishes” (XI.12-14). And ravenous nobles not only eat themselves into financial ruination, Juvenal tells us. In some cases, they actually eat themselves to death. Juvenal tells us that at the end of a typical day of selfishness and conspicuous consumption, a typical nobleman
will be devouring the choicest products of wood and sea, lying alone upon an empty couch; for off those huge and splendid antique dinner-tables he will consume a whole patrimony at a single meal. . .What a huge gullet to have a whole boar — an animal created for conviviality — served up to it! But you will soon pay for it, my friend, when you take off your clothes, and with distended stomach carry your peacock into the bath undigested! Hence a sudden death, and an intestate old age; the new and merry tale runs the round of every dinner-table, and the corpse is carried forth to burial amid the cheers of enraged friends! (I.134-46)

In that passage – the Ramsay translation, by the way – Juvenal envisions an endless cycle of consumption. After the glutton dies of overeating in his bath, a flock of legacy hunters swoops in to gobble up his remaining fortune, while the dead man’s friends are enraged not to have been given any handout. There is no mourning, or human sentiment here – only a bestial competition for unevenly distributed resources.

At one point in the eleventh satire, Juvenal imagines treating an acquaintance to a meal at his house in the country – a meal not made of expensive imported ingredients, but of good, homegrown Italian food, raised on his own property. Nobles in the capital might be gorging themselves on oysters and mushrooms and exotic fish, Juvenal says, but he himself will serve his addressee a bit of goat, some homegrown asparagus and eggs, and some fruits from his orchard. Such a meal, he tells us, would have seemed a feast to the senators and consuls of the ancient republic, even if it lacked the high cost and exoticism required by modern Rome’s blueblood gourmands.

Domitian Louvre Juvenal fish

The Emperor Domitian, a story about him eating a giant fish, is a main concern of Juvenal’s fourth Satire. The dead emperor is one of the few named targets in the Satires, but Domitian, reviled during the Nerva-Antonine Dynasty, was a safe target.

A fervor for exotic cuisine, Juvenal tells us, had even at one point taken hold of the imperial palace. In one of the longer narrative passages in the Satires, Juvenal offers a story about the Emperor Domitian, and a giant fish. Some fisherman, Juvenal explains, caught an enormous turbot – a flatfish considered a delicacy amidst Rome’s upper classes. A small army of caricatured lackeys scuttled together and tried to decide how to feed the great fish to the great man – should it be chopped up? put in a casserole? baked? – and the operations of the Roman court seemed to shut down for the occasion. Domitian, Juvenal tells us, was a sort of epicure-in-chief, capable of discerning where oysters came from by tasting them, and pinpointing the origins of sea-urchins with a brief glance (IV.139-43), and the meeting about the fish was carried out with all the urgency of a national emergency. The story takes up most of Book 4 of the Satires, and Juvenal’s portrait of the executive branch of the government screeching to a halt for the sake of a fish is his ultimate salvo against Roman gluttony.

The story of Domitian and the giant fish epitomizes the way Juvenal perceived the modern Roman aristocracy – a parasite sucking up resources from all over the empire, and in return radiating a culture of conspicuous consumption out into the provinces. Rome’s debauchery, to Juvenal, spread quickly. Initially, he writes, conquered provincials were disgusted by the profligacy of their colonizers (II.159-62). In time, however, exposure to Roman morality had a corrosive effect on all sorts of faraway cultures. Juvenal offers the example of Armenian youths becoming infected with Roman decadence, and carrying it all the way back to the recently annexed capital city of Armenia (II.162-70). A nouveau-riche Egyptian man in Juvenal’s Satires seems to be the capstone of Rome’s process of intercontinental corruption – raised with a papyrus loincloth, he ascends to the status of equestrian, and eventually purchased a rare fish for an astronomical sum, perhaps aspiring to the same conspicuous consumption as the Emperor Domitian (IV.1-36).7

But Rome’s aristocratic corruption, Juvenal tells us, is not entirely native to the capital. Since the Punic Wars, Romans had a love-hate relationship with Greek civilization, half awed by its sophistication and ancient heritage, and half resentful due to Rome’s comparatively laggard cultural development. We have met various Roman Hellenophiles and Hellenophobes in past episodes of this program, from the angry nativist tracts of Cato the Elder to the more balanced plays of Terence, to the poetry of Virgil and Ovid, in which Greek and Latin literature are methodically synthesized. The Emperor Hadrian ascended to the throne in 117, at which time Juvenal was certainly at work on the Satires. And Hadrian, sometimes called graeculus, or “Greekling,” made no attempt to conceal his love for Ancient Greek culture. Now, on the spectrum between Hellenophilia and Hellenophobia – on other words the love, or hatred of Greek culture, Juvenal, against the general flow of Roman history, falls far to the nativist side, adopting an angry, priggish, xenophobic attitude about Greeks in Rome.

Juvenal sees Greeks as one of the main ingredients of Rome’s general decay. He writes in the Peter Green translation that Greeks are “a nation of actors. Laugh, and they’ll out-guffaw you, / split their sides. When faced with a friend’s tears, they weep too, / though totally unmoved” (III.100-2). Disingenuous, crafty, and fond of theatrics, Greeks, according to Juvenal, inspired reprehensible behavior in the Roman gentry. Juvenal mentions a purebred Roman aristocrat who married another man and passed his time as a gladiator, a man who, shockingly, outranked everyone in the gladiatorial arena as he fought down on the sands (II.143-8). Juvenal describes other Romans, under the corrupting culture of Greece, following the path of Nero and taking to the stage to sing, to act in slapstick comedies, and to run around the arena with swords and tridents, their fine clothing and patrician faces concealed beneath their armor and helmets (VIII.185-210).

And as Roman noblemen engaged in such scandalous behavior, Juvenal writes, scheming Greeks finagled their way into the uppermost aristocracy through lies and sex. A speaker in Book 3 of the Satires lets loose against the pandemic of Greeks in Rome. He says, in a racist rant in the Ramsay translation,
And now let me speak at once of the race which is most dear to our rich men, and which I avoid above all others; no shyness shall stand in my way. I cannot abide. . .a Rome of Greeks. . .he Syrian Orontes has long since poured into the Tiber, bringing with it its lingo and its manners, its flutes and its slanting harp-strings: bringing too the timbrels of the breed, and the [prostitutes] who are bidden ply their trade at the Circus. [They come from all over the Aegean]; all making for [Rome]. . .all ready to worm their way into the houses of the great and become their masters. [They are] [q]uick of wit and of unbounded impudence. . .Say, what do you think that [Greek] fellow there to be? He has brought with him any character you please; grammarian, orator, geometrician; painter, trainer, or rope-dancer; augur, doctor or astrologer. . . Besides all this, there is nothing sacred to his lusts: not the matron of the family, nor the maiden daughter, not the as yet unbearded son-in-law to be, not even the as yet unpolluted son; if none of these be there, [a Greek] will debauch the grandmother. (III.58-79,109-12).

Giovanni Domenico Tipeolo, Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy, 1760

Juvenal, taking an unusually conservative path for the early second century, vilifies Greeks as a corruption that had infiltrated Rome’s otherwise stalwart and plainspoken culture, a stereotype that went at least as far back as Cato the Elder three centuries earlier and is perhaps best symbolized by the Trojan Horse and the phrase, “Beware Greeks bearing gifts. (Aen 2.49)”

Greeks, then, to Juvenal, were weevils, insinuating themselves into Roman civilization and playing no small part in its decay. And while Juvenal’s nativism in this passage is less than appealing, part of his anger comes from an awareness of what decadence in the capital does to poor and disenfranchised Romans. To Juvenal, Rome’s vortex of greed, fueled by grasping foreigners, moves upward to the aristocracy – very damagingly, toward provincial governors who, as in Cicero’s day, often sought to vacuum wealth from their provinces regardless of the awful toll they took on the defenseless people who lived there.

In the Satires Juvenal warns newly instated provincial governors like these to at least have some small control over their raging avarice, as the vulnerable peasants of Rome’s outlying territories have already been sucked dry – down to their bone marrow – of everything that they have (VIII.87-90). He says that Rome’s obsession with wealth is so extreme that the court testimonies of indigent citizens count for nothing, and the wealthier a citizen is, the more he is considered reliable at the witness bench, even though aristocrats are all too often the spawn of prostitutes and gladiators, or more generally vulgar nouveau-riche (III.136-58). And Juvenal is perhaps at his most ferocious, and most effective, when calling aristocrats out for their blatant hypocrisy.

Part of Juvenal’s critique of aristocratic hypocrisy is challenging the notion of aristocracy itself. While Juvenal certainly isn’t not fond of new money, he also dismisses the notion that real aristocratic heritage actually counts for anything. Book 8 of the Satires is essentially a long tract attesting that actions, rather than pedigree, define a person. Thoroughbred horses, Juvenal says, become what they are through contests and victories, not through idly meandering in inherited pastures (VIII.59-61). Juvenal writes that while Rome’s modern aristocrats claim to have brave and martial ancestors, in reality they are fat and decrepit, and Rome’s real fighting force is made up of commoners (VIII.51-4). Perhaps most damningly, Juvenal reminds his aristocratic reader that somewhere in their lineage, even if they had to go back to the Rome of Romulus and Remus, there were sheep pens, and manacles, and gutters and slums. The notion that virtuous character is the only true nobility is resonant, if a bit hackneyed, and so Juvenal augments this basic critique with a series of carnivalesque portraits of lazy aristocrats pretending to be something else. This, by the way, is where things are going to get properly nasty, so kids, cover your ears.

The second satire is devoted to fiery invective against aristocratic hypocrisy. A prominent Roman, we learn, is interested in implementing laws to govern sexual norms, but his own behavior is sickening. Juvenal tells us, in the Peter Green translation, about
. . the adulterer with a tragic
incestuous twist, so busy reviving those stern [morality laws of Augustus],
a threat to everyone – even to Mars and Venus! Meanwhile
his too-fertile niece gobbled pills, brought on an abortion,
and every embryo lump was the living spit of Uncle. (II.29-33)

It’s a grotesque little set of lines, surely, but it’s also representative of a lot of what we find in Juvenal’s second satire – aristocrats publicly affecting stern moral codes and privately doing all sorts of illicit things, like impregnating their nieces, and then having their nieces have abortions. In another passage that will make you wince, Juvenal condemns aristocrats who pretend to have interest in the various philosophical heirs of Socrates, but really just get together and have sex. Juvenal writes, in the Oxford Niall Rudd translation,
One longs to escape from [Rome] beyond Sarmatia and the frozen
sea, when some people dare to pronounce on morality – those who
affect [an austere lifestyle] while living a Bacchic orgy.
First, they are ignorant, in spite of the plaster casts of [philosophers]
that fill their houses. The nearest any of them comes to culture
is to buy a copy of Aristotle’s head. . .
or to have an original bust of [a stoic philosopher] placed on their sideboard.
Faces are not to be trusted. Why, every street is just full
of stern-faced sodomites. How can you lash corruption when you
are the most notorious furrow among our Socratic faeries?
Hirsute limbs, it is true, and arms that are stiff with bristles,
bespeak a ‘soul of adamant’; but your anus is smooth, as the surgeon
notes with a grin when he takes knife to your swollen piles. (II.1-13)

It’s not the most pleasant set of lines, and the passage may require a bit of extra explanation. The Ancient Mediterranean had very different ideas about sexuality than the ones with which most of us were brought up. Juvenal’s ideas were conventional to Roman culture more generally. He, like the Romans of his day, believed that it was fine for a man to have sex with a boy, up until around the time the boy started shaving. He believed that sex between adult males, however, was morally suspect, and even more so, that the penetrated partner of a homosexual encounter was far more debased by intercourse than the man who penetrated him. Obviously, an underlying notion of domination governed ancient Rome’s actual and tacit rules about homosexual encounters. And so when Juvenal accuses an unnamed pretender to Socratic philosophy of having a worn out backside, the accusation is that the man nominally subscribes to a philosophy characterized by austerity and the spartan pursuit of virtue, only to frequently enjoy being what Juvenal perceived to be a submissive tool for someone else’s sexual gratification.

Juvenal was thus not homophobic in the way that we now use the word – indeed, as we’ll see shortly, he wrote with great sympathy about a well-endowed male prostitute who didn’t get paid enough for the services he provided to male and female customers alike by means of his unique – uh – anatomy. What concerned Juvenal was that in the aristocracy, the rules that had traditionally governed male homosexuality were rapidly changing, just as the landed gentry was infiltrated with foreigners and new-money freedmen. Rome’s decadence, then, to Juvenal, was emblematized by increasingly effeminate males who wore makeup and women’s clothing and had sex with one another, but this was a symptom of greater problems within a decaying culture, rather than the problem itself. In a fascinating set of lines in Book 2, Juvenal pulls back the gauzy curtain of a private nocturnal gathering of effeminate men – one from which women are barred. He begins this passage by talking about the corrosion of Roman culture as an epidemic, in the Ramsay translation, writing that,

This plague has come upon us by infection, and it will spread still further, just as in the fields the scab of one sheep, or the mange of one pig, destroys an entire herd; just as one bunch of grapes takes on its sickly colour from the aspect of its neighbor.
Some day you will venture on something. . .shameful. . .no one reaches the depths of turpitude all at once. In due time you will be welcomed by those who in their homes put [ribbons] round their brows, swathe themselves with necklaces, and propitiate the [divine mother] with the stomach of a porker and a huge bowl of wine, though by an evil usage the Goddess warns off all women from the door; none but males may approach her altar. “Away with you! profane women” is the cry; “no booming horn, no she-minstrels here!” Such were the secret torchlight orgies [once held in Athens]. One prolongs his eyebrows with some damp soot on the edge of a needle, and lifts up his blinking eyes to be painted; another drinks out of [a phallus]-shaped glass, and ties up his long locks in a gilded net; he is clothed in blue checks, or smooth-faced green; the attendant swears by Juno like his master. Another holds in his hand a mirror like that carried by the effeminate Otho. . . in which he gazed at his own image in full armour when he was just ready to give the order to advance — a thing notable and novel in the annals of our time, a mirror among the kit of Civil War! (II.78-103)

Here, in this passage, we see the Roman moralist’s nightmare – secret cabals where men swear to goddesses of fertility and chastity and marriage while preening themselves and sipping drinks out of penis-shaped glassware – a glittery inversion of Rome’s inveterate schema for gender. Otho, who had – sort of – been emperor for three months back in 69, had been a full blooded aristocrat and chum of young Nero before Nero stole Otho’s wife and exiled Otho to the western part of the Iberian Peninsula. The image of him grooming and powdering himself prior to killing his countrymen in battle, while it reeks of ancient Roman libel, nonetheless makes Otho a figurehead of the extreme muddledness Juvenal perceived governing the Mediterranean during his lifetime.

Alright, so far, we’ve covered a lot. We started by looking at how Juvenal saw greed, and displays of conspicuous consumption as forces toxic to Roman culture, making it impossible for an honest, moral person to live in the city. We watched Juvenal point to gluttony as an especially odious aristocratic vice, and pinpoint inveigling, clever Greeks as one of the main causes of Rome’s fall from grace. We heard of how Juvenal criticized the very idea of merit based on birth, and how Juvenal argued that aristocrats who pretend to have spartan, rigorous morals are doing all sorts of prohibited things behind closed doors. What I want to do now is to talk about something I mentioned earlier – the gigolo with the huge penis. You get to write the most delightful sentences when you study Juvenal. Anyway, surprisingly enough, Juvenal uses a well-hung male prostitute to support a general argument about Roman history that comes up throughout the Satires – namely, that a relatively fairminded patronage system used to govern Rome’s artists, artisans, and service workers, but that as Rome’s culture became ever more tightly gripped by greed, it was hard for even the most industrious of Romans to get along. [music]

Juvenal’s Take on Roman Greed and the Decaying Patronage System

We will get to the aforementioned gigolo soon, but in order to understand what Juvenal has to say about him, we’ll need to explore what Juvenal has to say about patronage in Rome more generally. In the broader story that Juvenal tells about the decay of Roman culture, a frequent point returned to is the collapse of a once functional patronage system, due to a pervasive dumbing down of Roman civilization. This was a point, we can assume, in which Juvenal was personally invested – the poet was perhaps shabby genteel precisely because artistic patronage, in the spectacle-driven world of Roman popular culture, was increasingly hard to come by for a good old fashioned poet.

Satire 7 is a long lament about how, as Rome became more materialistic, and increasingly crude in its public entertainment culture, funding for the arts and for education more generally has slowly dried up. The poem opens with cautiously optimistic lines – most scholars agree – about the Emperor Hadrian, stating that with Hadrian on the throne, maybe the ailing world of the arts will see some funding. Hadrian, Juvenal says, is the workaday poet’s only hope for a paycheck. Juvenal tells an aspiring young writer, in the Oxford Niall Rudd translation,
But if you expect support for your fortunes from anywhere else [other than Hadrian],
and, in that hope, are filling your pages of yellow parchment –
quick. . .go and obtain some kindling wood,
and then present your poetic creations to [the fires of Vulcan],
or close your books and lay them aside for the tunnelling worm. (VII.22-6)

These are heartbreaking lines for an aspiring writer to hear – the cold reality that a culture has entered a period in which authors are no longer required. Juvenal tells hopeful young poets to just burn their books, and a moment later, he explains why. In the Peter Green translation, Juvenal grumbles,
our skinflint millionaires
only flatter artistic talent, only load it with compliments,
like children admiring a peacock. So the prime of life slips by,
the years when you might have been a sailor, soldier, farmer,
until the spirit grows weary, till your glib yet penniless
old age turns into hatred against itself and its art. (VII.30-5)

Devote yourself to an artistic pursuit, Juvenal says, and you are consigned to penniless obscurity – and eventually, you will regret not taking a more well trod path that provides an actual income. And while Juvenal writes about an increasingly miserly gentry refuses to pay artists for their work, throughout the empire, Juvenal also saw teachers who are grossly underpaid and overworked. Juvenal writes that the empire’s teachers are required to have sweeping knowledge, to always be available for work, to control classrooms full of unruly teenagers, and yet a typical teacher makes in a year what a jockey rakes in from a single race. And speaking of races, one of the most famous lines in the Satires occurs a couple of books later, when the Juvenal sighs that the public “is eager and anxious for two things only: / bread and races” (X.80-1). That’s the Rudd translation – in Green it’s “bread and games,” and more colloquially the expression for unsophisticated appetites of the general public is “bread and circuses,” also the title of this podcast episode.

Gustave Boulanger - Theatrical Rehearsal in the House of an Ancient Rome Poet - Juvenal's World

Gustave Boulanger’s Theatrical Rehearsal in the House of an Ancient Roman Poet (1855). Juvenal saw the financial engine that powered Rome’s artistic and intellectual culture – the patronage system – to be collapsing under the sheer weight of aristocratic greed.

For those of us who have taught in a classroom, and those of us who have produced any artwork and not met with any commercial success, these lines hit close to home. It is challenging, now or two thousand years ago, to devote vast amounts of energy to pupils in a classroom or a novel artistic project, and barely get by, while others, sometimes with far less ability and discipline, through chance and the evolutions of public fads, get to enjoy vast financial rewards. The humdrum and perhaps timeless tragedies of the underpaid teacher and unrequited artist receive real sympathy from Juvenal, but as a rule in the Satires he is on the attack, and his empathetic lines about moneyless teachers and artists fuel a fierce offense against penny pinching patrons. Throughout Satire 5, and later in Satire 9, Juvenal draws a portrait of a truly, maliciously stingy aristocrat – one who might have been a beneficent patron, but is instead utterly, soullessly greedy.

This aristocrat’s name is Virro. He’s likely a fictional character, but in any case in Juvenal’s fifth satire, a hopeful client receives a dinner invitation from him this potential patron, Virro. Thinking, perhaps, to incur some benefit from Virro, the client nervously awaits the meal. The hopeful client is so poor that merely getting fed is a privilege. And yet upon arriving at wealthy Virro’s house, the client rather quickly understands that the evening will probably not unfold in a way favorable to his humble hopes. He notices that rich Virro’s servant won’t even look at him. The poor client is given spoiled wine, while Virro drinks the finest. The client is served awful, moldy bread, while Virro’s is freshly baked. Virro eats a large crayfish, served in a bed of fresh asparagus – the poor client is given half of an egg, in which there is stuck just one prawn, served on a depressingly small plate. As the evening unfolds, Virro increasingly rubs his moneyless guest’s nose in the economic divide that lies between them – Virro enjoys delicious imported fish, his guest an eel from a sewage-polluted section of the Tiber, and as Virro enjoys goose liver, and boar, and truffles and a plate of fresh fruit, the humiliated client is fed a rotten apple. While Virro is vilified throughout the poem, in the end Juvenal turns his scorn on the hopeful client, as well, saying that no one should endure such degradation and keep his mouth shut.

And this takes us, finally, to the story of the male prostitute, whose name is Naevolus. Juvenal runs into Naevolus in Satire 9 and notices that his acquaintance looks exhausted. Upon being asked, Naevolus tells his story. Naevolus says he’s never made much money as a gigolo, in spite of always being a hard worker. Other prostitutes have earned fortunes – Naevolus says he’s barely been able to get by. Most stingingly, Naevolus says, his patron Virro – that same Virro who mocked an aspiring client by underfeeding him – will not write him into his will at all. This, Naevolus says, was a big part of Naevolus’ plan for the future. He had had a long relationship with Virro. Virro, who evidently had no interest in women, appreciated experiencing Naevolus’ unique anatomy – again the gigolo was very well endowed. Virro had Naevolus take his wife’s virginity, and the aristocratic couple thus both had sex with Naevolus. Eventually, Naevolus had even sired Virro’s children, and helped secure Virro’s financial legacy. And yet, Naevolus said, he would receive no inheritance from his patron. The heartless aristocrat even threatened to kill the family prostitute if Naevolus ever spoke up about his patron’s kids, and so, he had given up hope.

While the sexual politics of Naevolus’ story are exotic to us today, it’s nonetheless a tragic tale. Far more than the client whom Virro humiliates at dinner, Naevolus has served his patron and Virro’s family – with his long attentiveness, his body, and even his genetics. To be cast aside after such a long tenure would indeed be devastating, and Naevolus ends his story by remarking that no matter how much he cried for Fortune’s help, the deity never listened. [music]

Juvenal’s Nostalgia and Ages of Man Story

Alexandre Cabanel - Cincinnatus Receiving Deputies of the Senate

Cincinnatus Receiving Deputies of the Senate, by Alexandre Cabanel (1843). Juvenal bought into the general Roman conservative narrative of a decline from a rugged agrarian past – a time that produced paragons of bravery and virtue like the legendary Cincinnatus.

So we’ve talked about Juvenal’s multi-pronged attacks on the Roman aristocracy – overall their disgusting decadence and heartless greed, and moreover the topsy-turvy process of the Roman aristocracy being percolated with new money and foreigners. But so far in this episode, I have skirted around one of the main parts of Juvenal’s Satires. And that is his nostalgia for a purer bygone past – most often the stouthearted, virtuous and honorable centuries of the Roman republic. Now it seems like every single Roman writer we’ve met, even if he just had some extra white space on his parchment beneath a soup recipe, was compelled to tell the Ages of Man story – that there was a gold, then silver, then bronze, then iron age, and surprise, living in the latter. In the imperial period, this old story had a specific resonance – after all, the ascension of Augustus really had been the passing an age, and various writers, over the 300 or so years of Roman literary history we’ve studied together, indulged in wistfulness for a supposedly superior former time.

Juvenal’s sixth satire rehearses a fairly standard version of the Ages of Man story – a sequence of distinct epochs of time unfold, each worse than the last (VI.1-19) and eventually justice and chastity depart altogether (VI.286-95). Late in the Satires, the Ages of Man story surfaces again – in the midst of the thirteenth of his surviving sixteen satires, Juvenal attests that one really shouldn’t be surprised by anything one sees in Rome – for Rome has degenerated into an age even worse than the Age of Iron. And in the fifteenth satire, Juvenal rehearses a story common in the Ancient Mediterranean up to his time – a creator had distinguished humanity by giving humans the power of reason, and in our earliest years we lived in simple, idyllic harmony with one another (XV.147-58), the standard Rousseauvian State of Nature spiel.8 Considering how brave and brilliant and virtuous Romans once were, Juvenal maintains, even ancient Roman ghosts down in the underworld, when modern Romans arrived at the check in desk of Hades, were shocked at how far their civilization had fallen (II.149-59).
To Juvenal, the morality of contemporary Rome was so corroded that eminent figures from the republican past wouldn’t even be able to operate there. For instance, the court testimonies of figures of paradigmatic virtue, like the pious king Numa, would be ignored, as the moral paragons of Rome’s republican past were of uncertain financial stature (III.134-42). Cicero, Juvenal says, wouldn’t get the time of day in a modern Roman court, since he was an equestrian (VII.139-43). And Juvenal’s famous line about bread and circuses, in context, is actually part of his general dirge for a lost past – Juvenal writes in the Ramsay translation that “the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddles no more [in politics] and longs earnestly for just two things – Bread and Games!” (X.78-80).
And speaking of bread, as you’ve already heard, Juvenal talks a lot about food in the Satires. In Book 11, his nostalgia for the lost republic leads him to write these lines about Rome’s bygone days. Juvenal writes in the Green translation,
[Back] [t]hen a soldier was rough, no Greek art connoisseur. . .
[Bygone Roman soldiers] ate their porridge from plain earthenware bowls. . .
The power of godhead, too, was closer. . . (XI.100,108,111)
In those days there were home-grown tables, carpentered
from our own local timber. If a gale uprooted
some ancient walnut-tree, its trunk would serve this purpose. (XI.117-9)

It’s a common, and overplayed sentiment in Roman cultural history – rugged republican soldiers were once the motor of Rome, and they were powered by simple, healthy homegrown Italian cuisine, and they didn’t need any fancy tables – they’d just stand around a fallen tree, perhaps scratching their hairy chests and doing bicep curls and occasionally smiting some Samnites or suplexing some Volscians. Juvenal isn’t entirely unreserved in his praises of Rome’s erstwhile republican culture – we’ll talk about that later. But it is a sense of nostalgia for the lost past that catalyzes his longest and most famous satire – Satire 6, a diatribe against the moral degeneration of modern women. [music]

The Satires‘ Depiction of Women

Chastity, Juvenal writes in the Satires, once existed on earth, in the far gone days of country living. But with Saturn’s departure and Jove’s ascendancy, justice and chastity fled the scene. When the golden age fell to the silver age, adultery began, and when the iron age came along, things became even worse. Juvenal’s acquaintance, a man named Posthumus, is planning on getting married at one point in the Satires – being groomed for the occasion and perhaps, Juvenal says, this Posthumus has already bought his wife a ring. But marriage, Juvenal asserts, is the last thing any man in his right mind ought to be doing. A better plan would be hanging oneself, or jumping off a bridge. If suicide is out of the question, then having sex with a good looking boy is a much better option – boys, after all, are less demanding in bed.

Tocador de una matrona romana Juan Giménez Martín Juvenal's World

Juan Giménez Martín’s Dressing Table of a Roman Woman (19th century). Juvenal’s disparagement of women focused on what he perceived to be their inclination to spend excessive amounts of money.

Whatever men think, Juvenal asserts, women are prone to licentiousness and adultery. Even country girls, supposedly chaste and innocent, quickly pick up on the decadent behaviors of towns and cities. There is a touch of Chaucer and Boccaccio when Juvenal tells his addressee, “You think [your wife would] prefer a professor of rhetoric [like you]? / Marry a wife, and she’ll make some smart guitarist / or flute-player a father, not you” (VI.75-7). Throughout Book 6, Juvenal maintains that women and wives can scarcely control themselves around actors and gladiators, and really anyone other than their husbands. Juvenal tells a scandalous and in all probability utterly fictitious story about how the Emperor Claudius’ wife would go to a brothel and have sex with customers all night, outlasting all the other prostitutes, before staggering home at dawn, still unsatisfied.

Some marriages, Juvenal admits, can provide temporary advantages. A rich bride might bring her husband cash, which helps attenuate her inevitable affairs. A beautiful bride’s affairs are acceptable as long as her looks remain faultless. And as for that almost impossibly rare person – a loyal wife, like the legendary Cornelia – Juvenal says such a person is tiresome, anyway – prideful and chilly in her fierce nobility. Juvenal gets sidetracked for a moment, castigating Roman women who are overly fond of speaking Greek, and then returns to his addressee – the gentleman on the verge of being married.

Weddings, Juvenal growls, are a waste of money. And if the aspiring groom to whom he’s speaking won’t be dissuaded, then he should know some things – adultery is only one of the many problems husbands face. For one, wives are financially controlling, obsessively monitoring all their husband’s economic transactions. They decide who their husbands can have over as company. They demand that slaves be crucified without question, just so that their husbands can display unquestioning loyalty. Their mothers move in with them, helping them have affairs and bankrupting their husbands.

It all comes, Juvenal believes, from a falling away from Rome’s simple agrarian past (VI.286-295). As Juvenal puts it, “Now the long ills of peace afflict us: luxury, a more deadly / incubus than warfare, avenges the world we subdued” (VI.292-3). Women, Juvenal writes, now eat oysters at midnight – they drink perfumed wine, reeling drunk and staring at the ceiling, and then go and urinate on statues of Venus, after which, if they can’t find their lovers, they don’t hesitate to resort to slaves, or common workers, or livestock. They take pleasure in having lovers who masquerade as homosexuals, but are, in reality, enthusiastic connoisseurs of women. And because, Juvenal writes, all women are so wildly lustful, they conspire together to conceal one another’s transgressions, slaves helping mistresses, and on and on. The next part of the sixth satire is an inventory of various kinds of women.

There is the busybody, Juvenal writes, who runs around gossiping, pugnacious with neighbors and servants. Then there is the angry woman, who ends up at the bathhouse having a masseur do sexual favors for her, and then works up such a thirst that she guzzles booze on an empty stomach and then vomits all over when she gets home. Next, after the busybody and angry woman in Juvenal’s catalog, is the erudite wife, a pedant who makes everyone around her uncomfortable and aggressively corrects their grammar. Then there is the rich woman – one who lavishes endless time on finery and cosmetics and is fiercely violent to anyone who impedes her regimen for personal beauty. Next in Juvenal’s list of women is the superstitious one. Such a woman might become obsessively devoted to the rites and omens of a goddess like Cybele. Just as superstitious a type of woman is the elderly Jewish lady, who is so reliant on soothsayers and diviners that Juvenal gets distracted in a long discussion of the commercial aspects of augury. From this point on, Book 6, the longest of the Satires, gets a bit more discursive.

Abortion, says Juvenal in Book 6, is a splendid way to tidy up one’s affairs, although if one wants to find another way out wriggle out of having children in wedlock, there are always infants left exposed that can be picked up and raised as aristocrats. However, Juvenal warns, stepsons are in grave danger from stepmothers – yet another sort of dangerous wife. Murderous women, Juvenal says, once at least had the honesty to kill family members in public, like Clytemnestra at the palace gates of Argos. At present, though, such killings are done in secret, with poisons. And with this last fearsome allegation added to the end of this diatribe against women, Juvenal wraps up Book 6 of his Satires.

Putting aside the fact that Satire 6 heartlessly disparages half of our species, it is an energetic piece of rhetoric, and one whose nostalgia for a lost past is more than a little undermined by its unsparing cynicism for the present. A thousand years of monks in scriptoriums, having little contact with women, must have read this book on the Satires at face value and patted themselves on the back for their celibacy. [music]

Juvenal’s Satires within the Context of Roman Satire

There’s one more topic we need to cover with Juvenal’s Satires, and that topic is their genre. Now, we had an overview of Roman satire as a genre back in Episode 51 on Horace’s Satires, so I’ll go over this topic fairly quickly in this program. Romans were well aware that their various genres were adopted from other cultures – predominantly Greek culture. But Juvenal’s younger contemporary Quintilian famously called satire tota nostra, or “all our own.”9 He did not mean that Romans had invented comedy, or even socially critical commentary – any page of Aristophanes would disprove such a silly notion. What Quintilian meant was that some time in the years between 125 and 100 BCE, a specific form of comedic writing had been born. It had been born under the pen of a writer called Gaius Lucilius, and what characterized it structurally was its use of dactylic hexameter. Dactylic hexameter was epic meter – that meter used by Homer in the Iliad, and by Virgil in the Aeneid, and by using dactylic hexameter, the first Roman satirist Gaius Lucilius took a poetic structure normally reserved for the sacred and grand, and put it to work in the service of libel and mockery and bathroom humor. The name satire is often thought to have come from the phrase lanx satura, used to describe a plate full of devotional fruits offered to the gods, and so the word satire, to Romans, meant a bundle of miscellaneous comic offerings written in dactylic hexameter.

Between Lucilius, who likely died just before 100 BCE, and Juvenal, who died around 250 years later, many Roman writers tried their hand at the distinctly Roman genre of satire. We spent some time with Horace’s Satires, which he started publishing back in 35 BCE. Juvenal knew Horace’s work, along with the work of Juvenal’s older contemporaries Martial and Persius, whose work also survives. Martial, though not a satirist proper, since his comic epigrams are written in elegiac couplets, knew Juvenal personally.10 And a few passages in Juvenal’s Satires also suggest familiarity with some of the works of Persius.11 And between the satires of Lucilius, and Horace some 75 years later, and Persius, 75 years later still, Roman satire grew less wild and savage in its fusillades against Roman society. Departing from the bare knuckle aspersions of Lucilius and Catullus, Horace’s satires don’t seek out individual Romans for slander. Around 35 BCE, Horace wrote that “my excellent father taught me the habit, by marking out the / various vices by examples. . .I should steer clear of them” (Sat 1.4.106-7).12 And the satirist Persius, a bridge between Horace and Juvenal, continued the pattern. Persius’ works, a far cry from Rome’s earliest satirical poems, often ask profound philosophical questions, investigating how one ought to live in troubled times, and Persius often sounds more like the epistles of Seneca than anything humorous. Persius ran in stoic circles, associating with some of the most prominent stoic writers of his age. His fourth satire ends with lines that sound more like wisdom literature than comedy. Persius mused, perhaps some time in the 50s CE in the generation before Juvenal lived, on how people don’t spend enough time in self contemplation:
Not a soul is there – no, not one who seeks to get down into his own self. . .We keep smiting by turns and by turns presenting our own legs to the arrow. That is the rule of life; that is the lesson of experience. You have a secret wound beneath the groin; but a broad golden belt keeps it out of view. Well, as you please; trick your body and befool it if you can!

“What? If all my neighbours call me a fine fellow, am I not to believe them?” If, in your greed, you change colour at the sight of gold; if you yield to every foul desire; if by some crafty trick you flog the money-market with whipcord, in vain will you lend your thirsty ears to the flattery of the mob. Cast off everything that is not yourself; let the mob take back what they have given you; live in your own house, and recognise how poorly it is furnished. (IV.23,42-52)13

The lines from the Roman satirist Persius, who again lived in the generation before Juvenal, sound more like ethical philosophy than they do satire. If our podcast were exclusively on Roman literature, we’d need to spend some time with both Martial and Persius, Roman poets important to the evolution of short, comedic poetry. But for the purposes of understanding Juvenal, we can simply state that between Lucilius in, say, 110 BCE, Horace in 30 BCE, and Persius in 60 CE, and Martial in 90 CE, a number of generations of Roman poets had been associated with satire. From its early republican roots as a vehicle for no holds barred defamation, it had taken some different directions, softening into a vehicle for general moralizing under Horace and then becoming even more impersonal and philosophically abstract with the satires of Persius. When Juvenal got into the game, then, satire was already a two century old genre, perhaps more characterized by its use of dactylic hexameter and its meditations on contemporary subjects than its purely comedic value.

When we read Juvenal’s Satires from end to end, we can observe the diverse history of the genre in action, as, in terms of genre, Juvenal evolves from raging and frenetic, in the initial poems, to mellow and contemplative, in the later poems. The change is not total, or decisive, and indeed there are elements of the philosophical sage in the earliest poems, and of the snarling malcontent in the latest, but nonetheless what is foulest and angriest tends to appear in earlier satires, and what is pensive and temperate, later. The earliest satires are not only uncommonly filthy. They also explain why Juvenal has chosen to write satire itself in the first place.

To Juvenal, writing epic poetry was a cop out. By pulling the puppet strings of familiar mythological figures, he writes, poets created tepid and toothless sagas, ignoring the world around them. Juvenal asks, in a terrific passage in the Penguin Peter Green translation,
Why rehash Hercules’ labours, or what
Diomedes did, all that bellowing in the Labyrinth, or the legend
of the flying craftsman [Daedalus], and how his son went splash in the sea? (I.52-4)
. . .It’s safe enough to retell how Aeneas fought fierce Turnus;
no one’s a penny the worse for Achilles’ death, or the frantic
search for Hylas, that time he plunged in after his pitcher.
But when fiery Lucilius rages with Satire’s naked sword
his hearers go red; their conscience freezes with their crimes. (I.162-7)

Juvenal, then, valorizes Lucilius as a firebrand with a real social mission while mocking the works of writers like Virgil and Ovid, whose most famous works were harmless carousels of popular myths. And once again Juvenal says, famously, that in his Rome, Difficile est saturam non scribere, or, “It is hard not to write satire,” and to Juvenal, epic poetry was for the faint of heart. At key points, his iconoclasm toward Rome’s literary and religious history is actually hilarious, as when he compares the raging Achilles to a drunken bully (III.278-80), or dismisses the myths of the Olympians as a silly rubbish heap (I.7-13). Myths, Juvenal wrote, were light amusements, but a satirist like Lucilius could actually make a social difference.

But Juvenal didn’t follow Lucilius entirely, and indeed, as satires, Juvenal’s earlier poems are a peculiar combination. They are, perhaps unexampled in the sheer extent of their disgustingness. From bloody abortions to overused rear passages to a dirty ragbag of lines on sex and bodily fluids we didn’t even look at, Juvenal piles the filth on thick. But he also follows Horace’s path of not ever singling out actual contemporary Romans for scorn – not so much out of mildness as out of a sense of self-preservation. History had changed since 100 BCE, Juvenal tells us, and while Lucilius could lampoon the consuls themselves, two hundred years later a chance remark against an imperial favorite could get one burned alive (I.153-7). Thus, Juvenal’s satires essentially use stock characters as their targets – the aforementioned rich miser Virro, for instance, and a one time Egyptian fishmonger called Crispinus who’d risen to the highest ranks of Roman society. Fresh from the century of the Julio-Claudians and the purges of Domitian, Juvenal understandably felt that one stray stroke of the pen could land him on an imperial execution list.

As we move into later satires, Juvenal’s takedowns of stock figures become increasingly accompanied by philosophical musing and ethical advice. He never stops being angry at the wayward course of Roman civilization, but if in the early satires, we have the strength and flavor of rotgut grain alcohol, the later satires are a mellow red wine. Juvenal denies any real affiliation with stoic philosophy (XIII.120-4), but stoic ideas pervade the later satires, which advise the reader variously to pursue virtue rather than worldly gain (VIII.19-20), to dine on simple cuisine (XI.60-79), and to be moderate in all things (XI.203-8), and other stoic standards. In the thirteenth satire, Juvenal meets with a friend named Calvinus – Calvinus is furious about a fiscal loss resulting from some sort of crime committed against him (XIII.113-9). Calvinus, railing to Jupiter, prompts Juvenal to explore the question of the problem of evil. Juvenal emphasizes, in this late satire, that really, such things happen all the time (XIII.135-144) – that a few days in a courtroom will disabuse Calvinus of any particular sense of personal injustice (XIII.160-1). Besides, Juvenal adds, “Their guilty conscience keeps them / in a lather of fear; the mind’s its own best torturer, / lays on with invisible whips, silently flays them alive” (XIII.193-5). The language in this late poem is strong, but the approach is still basically stoic – Juvenal holds that virtue is its own reward and anger and excess their own punishment.

The tenth satire, often called “The Vanity of Human Wishes” after the poem Samuel Johnson published in 1749 that was inspired by Juvenal’s satire, is almost entirely stoic in its argument. People, Juvenal writes, wish for all sorts of things and spend their days in pursuit of vanity and achievement. Alexander the Great, Juvenal says, conquered much of the known world, but wound up dead in a small coffin in Babylon, still a young man. People wish for beauty, but with beauty comes an increase in temptation and distraction. People wish for children, but children can cause as much strife as they do joy. And in another of the most famous sections of Juvenal’s Satires, he writes, in the Oxford Niall Rudd translation,
Still, that you may have something to ask for – some reason to offer
the holy sausages and innards of a little white pig in a chapel –
you ought to pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body
Ask for a valiant heart which has banished the fear of death. . .it is certain
that the tranquil life can only be reached by the path of goodness.
Lady Luck, if the truth were known, you possess no power;
it is we who make you a goddess and give you a place in heaven. (X.354-7,363-6)

It’s an appealing and philosophically stoic passage – stay physically healthy, use your powers of reason, and you are much more likely to be the master of your fate. And a fun factoid – the phrase “a healthy mind in a healthy body,” or mens sana in corpore sano, or alternately, and listen closely, anima sana in corpore sano is where the athletic footware company Asics gets their name – A-s-i-c-s – anima sana in corpore sano. And I hope someone is listening to this and jogging in Asics right now, because damn, that would be appropriate on a number of levels.
Anyway, by the tenth satire, as he counsels having a healthy mind in a healthy body and not fearing death, Juvenal has come a long way from berating the Roman aristocracy with foul and fiery rhetoric. At times, the later satires, like some of those of Juvenal’s satirical predecessor Persius, sound like wisdom literature, unfolding with measured ethical advice on how to best live in an imperfect world. Maybe, as an artist, Juvenal found he wanted to explore other styles of satire than that of the vitriolic Lucilius. Maybe he grew older and milder in personal temperament. Maybe a change in fortune allowed him live with more prosperity and get out of Rome more often – this seems to be the case in Satire 11, when he tells us he’d rather let his wrinkled and aged skin soak up country sunshine than dash around the bustle of Rome in a toga (XI.203-8). And maybe, just like Horace before him, he found that the period of civil war and political turmoil in which he’d spent his early years had given way to unexpected peace and prosperity, and his sense of security under the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian slowly took the edge off of his former anger. Juvenal’s sixteen satires, in a single volume, show the many facets of Roman satire. But they also, when read beginning to end, may tell the story of a generation – one terrified by the civil war of the late 60s CE, made fearful by the purges of the 90s, and one that expected more strife, but instead found that the Caligulas, and Neros, and Domitians of the previous century had been replaced by Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, the emperors who helped usher Rome into the all time summit of its prosperity. [music]

Juvenal and the Medieval Scriptorium

Juvenal isn’t quite a household name, like Homer and Virgil. However, we likely possess more manuscripts of Juvenal than any other classical author.14 This is, at first glance, surprising. We have no evidence that Juvenal was popular during his own lifetime or the century afterward.15 By 200 CE, Virgil, Ovid, and Statius were Rome’s poets par excellence. And while nearly every classical manuscript was subject, at some point, to the whims of Christian scriptoriums, Juvenal’s Satires, with their unremitting obscenity, their frequent mentions of Rome’s footloose sexual culture, and their general, unflinching foulness seem like really strange poems for pious monks to read and copy. With so many other classical texts extinct – most of the epic cycle around the Trojan War, for instance, or the works of the father of Roman poetry, Quintus Ennius, or the foundational texts of stoic philosophy – with so many other texts now extinct that were once central to Ancient Mediterranean literature, it seems quite peculiar that the enraged rantings of a minor Silver Age Latin poet were considered indispensable parts of so many medieval monastic libraries. Wouldn’t the garden variety Christian scriptorium have a special place in the trash bin for a poet who wrote about sodomy and midnight male orgies, men marrying men, women getting so drunk that they urinated on statues and copulated with donkeys – who explicitly recommends having sex with prepubescent boys rather than women? Wouldn’t some of this be slightly disagreeable to a self-respecting Christian abbot, or a devout friar?

Juvenal Nuremberg Chronicle

Juvenal in the Nuremberg Chronicle (late 15th century). The combination of smut and moralistic philosophizing that fills Juvenal’s Satires made his work fit in perfectly with the miscellanies of the medieval scriptorium, including the Biblical Prophetic Books.

The answer to these questions is complicated, but the fact that we’re drawn to ask them in the first place reveals some assumptions that we make about Christian culture during late antiquity and the Middle Ages that aren’t necessarily true. We tend to assume, generally, that the first millennium of Christianity had a moral outlook like the churches down the street from us today, and overestimate the centrality of the Roman Catholic Church during late antiquity, during which what one historian calls “regionalized micro-Christendom” practiced many culturally distinct variants of the religion.16 Those of us unfamiliar with medieval literature – especially non-Anglophone medieval literature – have not been acquainted with the utterly pornographic world of French fabliaux, or the just as shocking – although for different reasons – genre of martyr stories, in which flesh burns and bones pop and gristle rips apart under red hot tongs while Catholicism’s saints and heroes die for their beliefs. The medieval monastic library was no air conditioned tomb of holy books – it held all sorts of things, from the pious Apologies of Origen to blood soaked chapters of martyr stories to the folktales of medieval manuscripts, packed to the margins with penises, vaginas, anuses, farts, adultery, poop, pee, and anything under the sun to make a reader blush, squirm, or giggle. Chaucer’s tragic Prioress’ Tale, a martyr story about a little boy getting his throat slashed and tossed in a pile of manure, is as dark as his Second Nun’s Tale, in which Saint Cecila is boiled and then slowly decapitated. But Chaucer’s very same collection also includes tales of lusty, bed switching clerks, a besmitten scholar tricked into kissing the nether parts of his uninterested beloved, and a young bride cuckolding her husband by having sex with her lover in a tree while the old man sits nearby, oblivious. And so Juvenal’s Satires, perhaps precisely because of their varied combination of scabrous content and ethical contemplation, fit right into the monastery bookshelves.

In fact, certain books of especially the Old Testament – books excoriating the delinquent course of ancient Judah’s civilization – sound quite similar to Juvenal. In one of my favorite sentences ever written in literary criticism, scholar Peter Green describes Juvenal as “a Jeremiah-like persona who tears into corruption with all the relish of a vulture working its way through ripe carrion.”17 Juvenal, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and other Old Testament prophets, all had a bone to pick with the periods of time in which they lived, and their diatribes against the dreary present are indeed wrathful. Biblical prophets, as we saw a number of episodes ago, alternately wish for the bloody demise of their own civilization and the suffering of their enemies, and their frequent images of pregnant women ripped open, raped wives, and trenches filled with carnage might have actually made Juvenal pale. For sheer sexual foulness, the book of Ezekiel gives Juvenal a run for his money. We heard this passage a while ago, but Ezekiel, describing the civilization of Judah as an indecent woman, writes that Judah “played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose emission was like that of stallions” (Ez 23.19). Similarly, Juvenal tells us, lacking any men, women are “ready and willing / to go down on all fours and cock their dish for a donkey” (VI.333-4). This is gross stuff, obviously, but I include it simply to remind you that a huge part of the Old Testament is delivered by enraged prophets decrying the degenerate present, prophets who from time to time are every bit as x-rated as Juvenal.

So Juvenal wasn’t especially vile within the context of a monastery library, and indeed, the pessimistically sermonizing tone of the Satires would have been familiar to anyone who’d dipped into the pages of the prophetic books. All of this helped ensure the survival of his works. But another aspect of Juvenal that helped was the philosophizing sections of, especially, the later poems in Juvenal’s collection. Neither Juvenal, nor Seneca, nor the satirist Persius were Christians, but they were all, to varying extents, associated with stoicism. First century Roman stoicism, as we learned a couple of episodes ago, seems to have been an influence on Saint Paul, who wrote so much of the New Testament. The cardinal stoic values of moderation, pursuing virtue and self improvement, not seeking worldly goods or distinction, and having faith in the ultimate order of the universe – these ideas were shared with Christianity – and in preserving the works of Rome’s first century stoics and pseudo-stoics, Christian intellectuals sought to safeguard some of the wisdom of the pagan past that most related to them.

Still, though, even though Juvenal wasn’t all that grotesque by the standards of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and even though he sounded like a Jeremiah or an Ezekiel from time to time, and even though his ethical philosophy resonated with the New Testament, Juvenal was foul. There are sections of the Satires that go by – sometimes a dozen pages at a time, that you can’t read without grimacing. And yet Juvenal’s expansive portrait of Roman vice, down to the reeking, sticky details, may have been precisely what attracted medieval readers to him the most. Because Juvenal’s Satires were a tour through Rome’s darkest and most putrid secrets. Reading his poems, later Christians enjoyed the titillating contents while at the same time being able to walk away with the sense that their own times, and their religion, were ultimately superior alternatives to the wicked, although dazzling, pagan past. To all the scribes who helped preserve and share Juvenal’s world, he appeared to offer evidence that a once grand civilization had been smothered by its own towering rot, and that Rome’s collapse was ultimately due to a breakdown in moral virtue. Juvenal gave Christians the same gratifying sense of superiority that they got from Revelation, with its figurative prophecy of Rome’s overripe depravity and fall into destruction.18 From his portrait of a down and out male prostitute, to his sizable diatribe against Rome’s women, his gauzy tableaus of cultic all-male sex parties, to his denunciation of patrician hypocrisy, Juvenal offered later Christian readers a portrait of a culture that had fermented and was beginning to spoil. The form, then, and the content of Juvenal’s Satires, whether stoic ruminations or raunchy tourism, ensured their survival, while thousands of other classical texts fell by the wayside. [music]

The Satires and Consumerism

For his early Christian audiences all the way down to us today, Juvenal has always been a mixed bag. The Satires are riddled with internal contradictions. Juvenal does not, in essence, exactly know what he wants. The Satires open with a brisk dismissal of writing myths, and yet it’s not long before Juvenal is sharing the Ages of Man story with us, and giving us scores of figures from popular mythology to prove various points.19 His general conservatism leads him to resent new money upstarts crashing their way into the aristocracy, but elsewhere he whines that you can’t be successful without pedigree, and certainly has nothing good to say about the thoroughbred Roman aristocrats. He gripes about artists and sex workers not being able to secure functional patronages, and at the same time he looks down on up-by-the-bootstraps businesspeople whose contract work builds Rome’s temples, cleans its drains, buries its dead and maintains its waterways. His nostalgia for the wholesome republican past is often at odds with his disparagement of traditional Roman religion and an occasional snide remark about the republic’s primitivism – I mean Juvenal was a product of the mature political and artistic culture of the Roman Empire at the moment of its summit, and it’s difficult to imagine him actually wanting to go back to 600 BCE, slurp porridge out of wooden bowls, and mud wrestle with angry Etruscans. His disparagement of ethnic Greeks, coming along so late in the historical record, simply seems unaccountable – Greeks had been a cornerstone of Roman culture from the very beginning, and Juvenal ought to have known this.

A Roman Plasterer (Zahrtmann)

Kristian Zahrtmann’s A Roman Plasterer (1886). Juvenal sought to pull back the drapes from Roman consumerism, demonstrating how the voracity of the aristocracy was fed by concentric rings of increasingly impoverished service classes.

But there is something about Juvenal that, today, is perhaps more relevant than ever. And in order to explain that something, I need to tell a quick story. While researching this episode I came across the hyphenate word “shabby-genteel.” I hadn’t heard it in a while, but it brought to mind the world of the French fin de siècle – of Parisian salons and smoky apartments where starving poets sipped absinthe and tried to conceal the holes in their shoes and aging coats – Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, and Huysmans, that fascinating French writer, himself so schooled in Silver Age Latin literature, whom we met a couple of programs back. The description “shabby-genteel” also reminded me of the same decades of American literary history – the 1870s, 80s, and 90s, when largely unregulated capitalism led American tycoons to have such vast fortunes that motheaten aristocratic dynasties from Europe stooped to intermarry with them, disembarking in New York and Boston in their threadbare waistcoats to sell their ancestral titles for fresh cash. I looked up the hyphenate word “shabby-genteel” on the internet, just to make sure that the definition in my head was accurate, and I accidently let the search engine autocomplete the phrase “shabby chic.” And then Google pulled off its innocuous white mask and roared to life. It wanted to know my location. Stores appeared with maps. A carousel of purchasable furniture invited my perusal – bright pastel hues with artificial wear on the paint. A $1,700 dresser. A $400 television stand. An $800 set of a table with chairs. A $900 mirror frame. Altogether, tens of thousands of dollars worth of off-white, light green, light gray and blue furniture that looked like it had all been painted hazy day seashore colors, briefly sprayed with a sandblaster, and then priced and put on the market. Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of this stuff – obviously dressing up our homes nicely is something that we do. But still, I had a gut reaction. I looked at half a dozen rococo headboards, some pretty chintzy chandeliers, a dozen clawfooted dressers, a flamboyant grandfather clock, faux antique paintings, ostentatious curtains, and pastel floral rugs, and for a moment – just a moment – don’t hate me – I scowled with all of the pompous and deluded self-righteousness of a stoic philosopher. I felt, maybe, like Juvenal. Expecting to see penniless Dickensian looking figures in ragged top hats, instead I saw the glossy and algorithmically turbo charged world of modern internet consumerism, and it made me think of Juvenal’s Satires.

Juvenal’s Satires turn a flame thrower on Roman consumer culture, for its vulgarity, its one upmanship, and its naked hedonism. The inner world of the Roman aristocracy that he paints is an awful hive of hornets – hornets that scour the peninsula and the provinces for sesterces and then return, living in an insulated world and having no idea, or, more cruelly, not caring, about how the rest of their fellow species lives. It would be overstepping to argue that Juvenal favors a redistribution of wealth, or that he has any interest in egalitarianism. But nonetheless, Juvenal looks on conspicuous consumption with palpable rage. The shabby-genteel artist in him resented it. The pseudo-stoic stance he often adopted told him Rome’s disturbing materialism was bad for the aristocrats themselves. The nostalgic conservative in him told him that Rome was not built by oyster-sucking fops, but instead farmers and soldiers. And so when we watch Juvenal’s roaring rampage against imperial materialism, we meet a person who had some very different, and very compelling reasons to hate conspicuous consumption. Ancient Mediterranean wisdom literature in general cautions us not to seek after riches or place too much emphasis on material possessions, but in Juvenal and Petronius, for the first time, we get to see Roman consumerism in high definition. And we find, as we so often have in our podcast, that the experiences and concerns of the ancient world are hauntingly close to our own, whether concerns about underpaid teachers or the devaluation of art, or a popular culture that, like popular cultures tend to, only cares for bread and circuses. [music]

Moving on to Apuleius

To the medieval monastery, Juvenal was the familiar growl of the Old Testament prophet, the pithy moral philosopher, and the enumerator of Roman vice. This idea of Rome as a decadent and collapsing thing was helped along by what was likely the most influential book on Roman history ever written – Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which introduced the shocking hypothesis that Christianity itself had destroyed Roman civilization, rather than pagan degeneration. Whatever the reason we adduce for its fall, we seem to think of Rome as a garish and bloody Hindenberg, or Titanic, and fixate on the periods of its collapse while ignoring the long prehistory of its assembly, or the identities of the people aboard. The irony of the Middle Ages’ perhaps smug appetite for Juvenal was that Juvenal is one of the few poets who wrote during the absolute apex of Roman civilization, and Rome, notwithstanding its greed, envy, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, and pride, was not going down any time soon. Neither, in fact, was Roman literature.

In the next program, we’re going to meet a writer who began his career right around the time Juvenal passed away. And we’re going to do something we’ve never done before. We’re going to read a full novel [sound effect]. The novel in question is called The Golden Ass, written by a North African author named Apuleius. Apuleius’ The Golden Ass is the only Roman novel written in Latin to have survived in its entirety, and while like all ancient long narratives, it’s a bit challenging from time to time, it’s also a lot of fun.

The Golden Ass is about a young man named Lucius, who due to some ill-advised tomfoolery with magic spells, ends up being transformed into a donkey. Following his transformation, he is bought, sold, and bandied about all over the Roman Empire, along the way having a series of adventures that reveal, just as Juvenal does, the slimy underbelly of Rome. A picaresque tale, a novelized fable, a conversion narrative, and a miscellany all at once, The Golden Ass is a tremendous piece of work, and it’s now more popular than ever. Should have that out for you in a couple of weeks. Try a quiz at literatureandhistory.com to review everything you’ve learned about Juvenal. For you Patreon supporters, special treat – I’ve recorded the entirety of Samuel Johnson’s long poem “The Vanity of Human Wishes,” published in 1749 – his adaptation of one of Juvenal’s satires, minted for eighteenth-century England. Johnson is a character I’ve always liked – a Juvenalian one in some ways, and this is definitely one of the most famous works of eighteenth-century English literature. For everybody, I have a song coming up on Juvenal – stay tuned if you want to hear it, and if not, get ready for Apuleius’ The Golden Ass next time [sound effect].

Still listening? Well I got to thinking about Juvenal, and what he’s like, stylistically. I mean the guy is relentless – he turns the full force of his satire on all kinds of decadence and vice – and altogether the Satires reminded me a bit of a sheriff, riding out across the territory of Ancient Rome, and disparaging more or less everything that moved. This tendency, together with Juvenal’s penchant for old-fashioned country living, made me decide that someone with talent and ingenuity needed to write a big, cinematic, western theme for Juvenal, and that while the world awaited that someone, I would give it a shot, too. So this one’s called “The Juvenal Song” – I hope it’s cute and fun, and the dog and I will be back real soon, and serve y’all up some more educational audio on literature.

[“The Juvenal Song”]


1.^ Peter Green, with a cautious analysis of available sources, proposes 55-140 (Green, Peter. “Introduction.” Printed in Juvenal. The Sixteen Satires. Penguin Classics, 1998. Kindle Edition, Location 482.) Niall Rudd proposes a slightly later birth date – 60 – in Juvenal. The Satires. Translated by Niall Rudd. Oxford’s World Classics, 1991. We know Juvenal lived at least until 127, as Sat 15 mentions a revolt in Coptos, Egypt that took place in the autumn of this year.

2.^ The 93-6/7 date is mentioned by Green (Location 399); Rudd emphasizes that current consensus holds that the exile as entirely fictional.

3.^ Green, Peter. “Introduction.” Printed in Juvenal. The Sixteen Satires. Penguin Classics, 1998. p. 18. Further references to this text are noted parenthetically with line numbers.

4.^ Mackail, J.W. Latin Literature. John Murray, 1895, p. 223.

5.^ Green (1998), Location 986.

6.^ Juvenal. Delphi Complete Works of Juvenal. Translated by G.G. Ramsay . Delphi Classics, 2014. Kindle Edition, Location 249. Further references to the text are noted parenthetically with line numbers in this transcription.

7.^ Crispinus is probably not of Egyptian descent, though his identity and nationality remain open questions. See Green (1998) p. 140.

8.^ Green (1998), p. 218 lists passages telling the same story in Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Ovid.

9.^ Institutes of Oratory (10.1.93).

10.^ See Book VII.18, VII.24, and VII.91.

11.^ Peter Green parallels Juvenal I.140-4 with Persius 3.98-106

12.^ For the dating see Horace. The Complete Odes and Epodes. Translated and with Notes by W.G. Shepherd and with an Introduction by Betty Radice. Penguin Classics, 1983, p. 13. The passage is quoted from Horace. Satires and Epistles. Translated by John Davie. With an Introduction and Notes by Robert Cowan. Oxford: OUP, 2011, p. 16.

13.^ Juvenal and Persius. Translated by G.G. Ramsay. William Heinemann, 1918, pp. 361, 363.

14.^ Green, Peter. “Introduction.” Printed in Juvenal. The Sixteen Satires. Penguin Classics, 1998. Kindle Edition, Location 1126.

15.^ See ibid, Location 218.

16.^ Brown, Peter. The Rise of Western Christendom. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, p. 232.

17.^ Green, Peter. “Introduction.” Printed in Juvenal. The Sixteen Satires. Penguin Classics, 1998. Kindle Edition, Location 885.

18.^ Rev 18 particularly exemplifies this tendency.

19.^ A representative example is perhaps his mention of Hippolytus and Bellerophon as victims of the lust of married women.