Monthly ArchiveJanuary 2018

Horace’s Satiric Style

Chris Francese No Comments

Horace’s satiric style is informal and conversational—so much so that he called his works not satūrae but sermōnēs, “conversations, chats.” There are often snippets of dialogue and quick changes of topic and tone. The vocabulary ranges widely and urbanely between high (epic, grand) and low (colloquial, humble, obscene). Horace is somewhat confrontational, frequently addressing and challenging the reader or another imaginary or named person, but never in a hostile or angry way. He is fond of quoting proverbial wisdom and recalling well-known stories. He invokes principles of philosophy, but is never dogmatic or hair-splitting. He uses some rhetorical techniques, but his imagined audience seems to be one of friends—people in the know, rather than the general public.

Here are some of the more noticeable stylistic features, with examples taken from the first two satires of Book 1. This does not include aspects of Latin metrics or Latin grammar and usage.[1]

Snippets of Dialogue (brusque questions and snappy interruptions) ‘nil fuerit mi’ inquit ‘cum uxoribus umquam alienis.’ / verum est cum mimis, est cum meretricibus “’I would never,’ he says ‘have anything to do with other men’s wives.’ But you do have to do with mime actresses, with courtesans.”1.2.57-58

Challenging questions: quid iuvat immensum te argenti pondus et auri / furtim defossa timidum deponere terra? “What pleasure does it give you to fearfully place a massive weight of silver and gold in secret under the excavated earth?” (1.1.41-2) quid inter / est in matrona, ancilla peccesne togata? “What’s the difference if you do wrong with a matrona or with a toga wearing slave-woman (prostitute)?” (1.2.62-3).

Direct address to the audience: hiscine versiculis speras tibi posse dolores / atque aestus curasque graves e pectore pelli? “Are you hoping that these little verses can banish the woes, passions, and grievous anxieties from your heart?” (1.2.109-110).

Generalizing direct address: num, tibi cum faucis urit sitis, aurea quaeris / pocula? “When thirst burns in your throat, you don’t look for a golden cup, do you?” (1.2.114-115)

Direct address to the satirized person: cum tu argento post omnia ponas “Since you put money before everything else” (1.1.86)

Lists: multae tibi tum officient res, / custodes, lectica, ciniflones, parasitae “Many things get in your way: chaperones, litter, sedan-chair, coiffeuses, entourage” (1.2.97-98).

Proper names: deprendi miserum est: Fabio vel iudice vincam. “Getting caught (in adultery) is awful. I could prove that in court that even if Fabius were the judge.” (1.2.134)

Fringe vocabulary: Ambubaiarum collegia, pharmacopolae, / mendici, mimae, balatrones, hoc genus omne “The guild of go-go girls, quacks, beggars, mime-actresses, buffoons, all those type of people.” (1.2.1–2).

Colloquial language: Fufidius vappae famam timet ac nebulonis. “Fufius is afraid of getting a reputation as a low-life spendthrift” (1.2.12).

Obscenity mixed with formality: ‘nolim laudarier’ inquit / ‘sic me’ mirator cunni Cupiennius albi. “’I should not like to be praised in this way,’ says Cupiennius, the connoisseur of aristocratic [coarse word for female genitalia]” (1.2.35–36).

Oxymoron/paradox: semper ego optarim pauperrimus esse bonorum, “when it comes to these riches, I hope I am always very poor” (1.1.79). transvolat in medio posita et fugientia captat, “he flies past what is freely available and chases that which flees” (1.2.108)

Wordplay: dum vitant stulti vitia, in contraria currunt. “The fools, while they avoid one fault, they run to the opposite (fault)” (1.2.24).

Metaphor: interdicta petes, vallo circumdata “you seek the forbidden, (a woman) hedged around by a palisaded rampart” (1.2.96). metiri possis oculo latus “you can get the measure of her flank with your eyes” (1.2.103). plenior ut siquos delectet copia iusto, / cum ripa simul avolsos ferat Aufidus acer. / at qui tantuli eget quanto est opus, is neque limo / turbatam haurit aquam neque vitam amittit in undis. “He who takes delight in a supply that is more than just, the swift river Aufidus carries him off along with the bank that has been ripped away. But he who needs only what is essential, he drinks water untainted by mud, and does not lose his life in the waves.” (1.1.57-60)

Well-known examples: ut quondam Marsaeus, amator Originis ille, / qui patrium mimae donat fundumque laremque “Like Marsaeus, the famous lover of Origo, who once made his ancestral farm and home a present to a mime actress.” 1.2.55-56.

Proverbial sayings: in silvam ligna feras “you would be taking wood to the forest” [i.e. doing something totally useless] (1.10.34).

Allusions to fables or plays: ita ut pater ille, Terenti / fabula quem miserum gnato vixisse fugato / inducit. “Like that well-known father in Terence’s play, who lived a wretched life after his son ran away.” (1.2.20–22)

Parataxis (“setting beside,” i.e. the omission of conjunctions): milia frumenti tua triverit area centum: / non tuus hoc capiet venter plus ac meus “Your threshing floor may grind down a hundred thousand bushels of grain a year. [But] Your belly holds no more than mine.” (1.1.45–46)

1. For details on those topics, see Emily Gowers, Horace: Satires Book I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 22–25 (“Style and Metre”), and J. C. Rolfe, Q. Horati Flacci Sermones et Epistulae (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1901), pp. xxvii–xxxviii (“The Language and Style of the Satires.”).

Videos on Homeric Dialect and Scansion

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A few years ago I made some videos using the Showme app about the Homeric dialect and Homeric metrics. They are somewhat buried on the Showme site, so here are the two series, first on dialect, second on metrics:

Homeric Dialect 1 augments and endings: 

Homeric Dialect 2 the article:

Homeric Dialect 3 verbs:

Reading Homer 1 Long and Short:

Reading Homer 2 Quantity Exceptions:

Reading Homer 3 Dactylic Hexameter: 

I think I made a fourth installment for the grammar series about particles, but I cannot find that on the Showme site. Hope you find these useful!

Enablers and Servants

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One of the things I learned at the SCS meetings this past weekend is that it is important to echo and amplify on social media ideas and voices you find important. My favorite notion this year came from Gregory Crane, in a talk about  the Open Greek and Latin Project: classicists should see themselves less as professors, experts, and authorities, and more as enablers and servants of the community of readers of classical texts. 

Here is his list of the OGL’s goals in full:

  • 2 or more editions for as much of Greek and Latin as possible
  • CC licensing (CC-BY-SA)
  • Smooth pathway from Images of text-bearing objects through an open-ended and evolving set of machine actionable annotations
  • Based on evidence rather than authority
  • Community driven
  • Paid professionals as enablers and servants
  • Multilingual emphasizing  global access and exchange

There is much in this list to discuss. A key piece of context is the imminent arrival of the new Perseus interface, the Scaife Digital Library Viewer, which is set to debut on the Ides of March. Those who attended the OGL pre-conference workshop, or the Ancient MakerSpace session by the developer James Tauber, got a live preview of this lovely new package for Perseus data and tools. Here is a screenshot, which, it should be noted, is a work in progress.

Pre-release draft of the new Scaife Viewer for Perseus 5.0

Pre-release draft of the new Scaife Viewer for Perseus 5.0

Notice the CTS URN in the upper right hand corner, a key piece of infrastructure. Note also the “Log in”: users will be able to contribute much more directly than is now the case. When individual words are highlighted the url will change, allowing a unique identifier that can be used as a stable peg to hang annotations on. Very exciting. The new Greek Word Study Tool will have several new features, including the ability to provide improvements and  “contribute to open philology” through things like treebanking and commenting on texts.

Feature list of the new Greek Word Study Tool for Perseus 5.0

Greek word study tool feature list

Crane’s presentation was part of the annual Digital Classics Association panel, which is always exciting, and this year was no exception. Sam Huskey gave an update on the Digital Latin Library, and tools he is helping develop that will partly automate the creation of TEI-XML encoding for apparatus criticus of Latin editions. The scholar creates a spreadsheet of variants attributed to certain witnesses, and a nifty Python script creates the appropriately tagged XML. This will get you only part way, of course. At certain junctures scholarly judgment has to intervene in the constitution of a text. The brilliance of this new tool is that it actually makes clear what is rote reporting of variants and what is actual scholarly intervention. It clearly and unambiguously marks out the intellectual labor that goes into the creation of a critical apparatus, something that every dean and tenure committee can use to give scholars appropriate credit. 

Peter Heslin gave a fascinating paper arguing, in apparent contradiction to Huskey, that TEI-XML is not the best way of encoding critical apparatus. Rather, we should be using as a model the version control of Github, which simply stores different versions of a document in parallel, until the user wants to know what the differences are between them. He pointed out that a traditional apparatus is a rhetorical device for supporting a single version of the text, but is quite unhelpful if you want to know how similar or different two versions of a text are (say, the Propertius texts of Barber and Goold). In the discussion it became apparent that the two approaches a complementary, but Heslin’s talk was quite the satisfying (to me) attack on TEI-XML as a data model. Here are his main beefs:

list of problems with tei for encoding app crit

Peter Heslin: The Problems with XML and the App. Crit.

Thomas Koentges gave an absolutely wonderful talk on the uses of distant reading techniques for Greek stylometry. Using the vastly increased corpus of Greek from the First Thousand Years of Greek project  he is able to use topic modeling to show quite clearly the in-authenticity of Plato’s Menexenus–only the most die-hard skeptic would disagree, it seems to me. The essence of the technique is to use the signature of relative frequency of extremely common tokens–the equivalent of our thes, ands, buts, and howevers–to group works and authors.

Cynthia Damon discussed her amazing success in getting students, ranging from high school age to undergrad to post bac to graduate, involved in that holiest of inaccessible mysteries of classical scholarship, textual criticism and the creation of the apparatus criticus. First, she teaches them how to read an app crit, leading them through the process of expanding into plain English what the apparatus is saying and what it is trying to do. Then she has teams of students transcribe individual manuscripts (of the Bellum Alexandrinum in this case) and note variants. These variants are placed into spreadsheets of the type Sam Huskey was describing, classifying and describing them, and choosing which should be displayed in the apparatus itself. Then information from existing apparatuses is integrated (in this case those of the Teubner and Bude texts). In addition to creating an entirely new text and apparatus for much of the Bell. Alex., the students identified 30 errors in the apparatuses of the Teubner and Bude editions. The electrifying effect of having students involved in the creation of new scholarly knowledge can be judged by the fact that three of the students made the journey to the Boston Marriott in freezing weather to attend the session. All told, 80 students have been involved so far. In one class, the students came to the final exam with a gift of a t-shirt for their professor: sine apparatu, sine honore

T-shirt made by Cynthia Damon's students at the University of Pennsylvania

Sine apparatu, sine honore: T-shirt made by Cynthia Damon’s students at the University of Pennsylvania

Crane’s vision for OGL is to “make Greek and Latin play the biggest possible role in the intellectual life of human civilization.” OGL aims not just to present Greek and Latin texts in a readable fashion, but to be the focus of communities of readers and citizen scholars like those that Cynthia Damon is cultivating, and like the ones centered around the Holy Cross Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club and its new off-shoot at Tufts. This philology is to be “community driven.” By getting students and others involved in the creation of scholarship through digital projects we prepare them for the future of work, he argues. Above all, philology must show its relevance if it is to survive in the competitive intellectual and institutional landscape of the coming decades. “We live in a world of fake news where truth doesn’t matter. Philology is an answer.”  

During the question period I asked how each presenter thought about their users, how they imagined the audience for their work. In most cases they said variations of “this  will be useful to scholars.” Crane’s answer was strikingly different. Professionals are “the least important audience,” he said. Rather, the proper role of the paid professional is to be the servant, the enabler of the community of citizen scholars and students. This is a vision that is profoundly important for our field, I believe. It motivates the scholars who contribute to DCC and to many other fine digital projects. Indeed, it has long been a part of the ideals of classical scholarship, for example in the late nineteenth century, when top scholars routinely wrote works for beginning students. Now, in what Crane called rather derisively the contemporary “print classics” world, this ideal has been somewhat forgotten. All too often scholars speak only to each other, and strive only to earn each others’ praise. 

This is not a call for “popularization” or “public facing scholarship,” both of which are quite valuable in themselves, but a call to find ways to create the kinds of scholarly and reading communities within and beyond the academy that will ensure the utility and contribution of our discipline in the coming decades. My intuition is that the way to do these things is to strive to broaden access to and understanding of the primary texts we love.