Horace gender-complacent in conviviality with men

Why has abortion coercion, within circumstances of men having no reproductive rights, not been a central issue across decades of high-profile debate about abortion? Why is fundamental gender inequality in parental knowledge not considered at least as seriously as “the male gaze”? Why is women raping men commonly regarded as more of a laughing matter than a crime? Asking such questions isn’t propitious for acquiring intellectual prestige or social advancement. To gain insights into such still-operative discursive gender constraints, consider the revered classical Latin poet Horace. He was a generally genial poet who had a highly successful poetic career. Horace wrote mainly about men and for men. He wrote some shockingly expressive, potentially offensive poetry.[1] But like sophisticated, upwardly striving women and men today, Horace didn’t allow himself to engage thoughtfully and outrageously in representing fundamental gender injustices in men’s lives.

Horace was a poet who believed in the mundane philosophy of “live for today {carpe diem}.” No Stoic, Horace enjoyed wine, women, and song, just as medieval clerics did. He also pandered enough to the rich and powerful to be well-rewarded materially (Sabine farm), to converse among the most influential (Maecenas) and most powerful (Augustus), and to avoid being killed as a traitor. He valued conviviality among men and understood that tolerance sustains social bonds:

Well then let’s call a friend who’s mean, ‘thrifty’. Another
who’s tactless and boasts a bit — he just wants his friends
to think him ‘sociable’. Or perhaps the man’s more fierce
and outspoken. Let’s have it he’s ‘frank’ and fearless.
He’s a hothead? We’ll just count him one of the ‘eager’.
This it is that unites friends, and then keeps them united.

{ parcius hic vivit: frugi dicatur. ineptus
et iactantior hic paulo est: concinnus amicis
postulat ut videatur. at est truculentior atque
plus aequo liber: simplex fortisque habeatur.
caldior est: acris inter numeretur. opinor,
haec res et iungit, iunctos et servat amicos. }[2]

Horace revealed his own infirmities and failings:

black-smeared, pus-filled eyes, sweaty feet, sloppy hair, flapping shoes, farts, warts, moles, runny nose, head-scratching, squinting, clothes stained by a wet dream, exposed genitals, and incontinence on the dinner couch. [3]

Yet the measure of a person isn’t merely her indignities. Horace declared:

No man alive is free of faults. The best of us is he
who’s burdened with the least. If he desires my love,
my gentle friend must, in all fairness, weigh my virtues
with my faults, and incline to the more numerous,
assuming that my virtues are the more numerous.
And by that rule I’ll weigh him in the same scale.
If you really expect a friend not to be offended
by your boils, pardon him his warts. It’s only fair
that he forgives who asks forgiveness for his faults.

{ nam vitiis nemo sine nascitur: optimus ille est,
qui minimis urgetur. amicus dulcis, ut aequum est,
cum mea compenset vitiis bona, pluribus hisce,
si modo plura mihi bona sunt, inclinet, amari
si volet: hac lege in trutina ponetur eadem.
qui ne tuberibus propriis offendat amicum
postulat, ignoscet verrucis illius: aequum est
peccatis veniam poscentem reddere rursus. }[4]

Horace wrote learned poetry about ordinary feelings and experiences. He had a keen sense for tensions between the personal and political. He wrote with deep understanding of the political situation of his time.

Roman men wearing togas

Now consider ‘the position’ of Woman. ‘Woman’ does not constitute just the content of one among several headings for thinking about a culture. Rather, the entire apparatus of thinking, of thinking as a cultural activity, of culture as an agenda of categories and contents has been founded on the category of ‘Woman’. ‘Woman’ plays a role at the heart of the process of differentiation, of kind and (so) of value, out of which societies construct their cosmologies. … No one who studies the culture of a historical society such as Rome can today avoid the embarrassing realisation that on the one hand it was always founded on the privileging of man over woman and on the other that classics has always been blind to that fact. And this is the sort of fact to which you can only be more and less than simply ‘blind’. Perhaps you can only play blind? You have to accept that classics has functioned importantly within the empowering institutions of western patriarchy, ‘cultural power under a masculine sign’. [5]

These solemn, totalitarian claims are endnoted with what’s apparently meant to be understood as authoritative references within the dominant institutions of knowledge professing. Everyone must declare allegiance to the creed of patriarchy, or even better, “western patriarchy” (because Greece and Rome (“the West”) are the source of Original Evil). You have to accept the myth of patriarchy, or you cannot participate in elite discourse. Even worse, you could be banned from Facebook!

Horace's verse, "it's sweet and fitting to die for the fatherland {dulce et decorum est pro patria mori}, engraved at Arlington Memorial Cemetery

At least implicitly honoring the most sacred discursive imperative, Horace scarcely considered fundamental gender injustices that men endure. He confessed that he fled from battle after dropping his shield. That action defied the authoritative teaching of Spartan mothers to their soldier-sons. He confessed to dropping his shield in a poetic effort to rehabilitate a friend, who like he, fought on the losing side in the Roman civil war.[6] Chiding Lydia for saving Sybaris’s life from being a young man training to be a soldier, Horace elliptically referred to the epic violence against men of the Trojan War:

Why does he hide, as they say
Achilles, sea-born Thetis’ son, hid before sad Troy was ruined,
lest his male clothing
had him dragged away to the slaughter among the Lycian troops?

{ quid latet, ut marinae
filium dicunt Thetidis sub lacrimosa Troiae
funera, ne virilis
cultus in caedem et Lycias proriperet catervas? }[7]

To avoid having their bodies disposed in horrific war, men must act like women and hide among women. That’s a major gender injustice.

While rejecting epic, Horace accepted epic violence against men. He celebrated boys enduring painful military training and serving in dangerous military action against the Parthians. He declared: “It is sweet and fitting to die for the fatherland {dulce et decorum est pro patria mori}.”[8] The fatherland might be better called the motherland. Why is it sweet and fitting that only men die for the motherland? Cornelius Gallus, who as a military leader led men into violence against men, associated love and war. Horace complacently reproduced that figure with intimate-partner violence against men:

I sing of banquets, of girls fierce in battle
with closely-trimmed nails, attacking young men:
idly, as I’m accustomed to do, whether
fancy free or burning with love.

{ nos convivia, nos proelia virginum
sectis in iuvenes unguibus acrium
cantamus vacui, sive quid urimur
non praeter solitum leves. }[9]

Tibullus evoked violence against men in a poetic rejection of Gallus’s love elegy. Horace didn’t let thoughts of violence against men trouble his banqueting.

Horace seems to have accepted gender-disparate punishment. Horace wrote matter-of-factly about the risks that men with strong, independent sexuality endured in engaging in consensual, extra-normative sexual affairs:

One man leaps from a roof. Another, flogged, is hurt
to the point of death. Another in flight falls in with
a gang of fierce robbers. A fourth pays gold for his life,
a fifth’s done over by thugs. It’s even happened
that a husband with a sword’s reaped the lover’s
lusty cock and balls. ‘Legal’ all cried, Galba dissenting.

{ hic se praecipitem tecto dedit; ille flagellis
ad mortem caesus; fugiens hic decidit acrem
praedonum in turbam, dedit hic pro corpore nummos,
hunc perminxerunt calones; quin etiam illud
accidit, ut quidam testis caudamque salacem
demeteret ferro. “iure” omnes: Galba negabat. }[10]

Galba, who may have been an illustrious ancestor of Douglas Galbi, was right to dissent. Castration culture has an ancient Greek literary pedigree in Hesiod’s Theogony. Nonetheless, forcibly castrating men is always a grievous wrong. That wrong is a component of brutally disparate punishment of men relative to women. Why is the vastly gender-disproportionate imprisonment of men not regarded as a terrible gender inequality? The penal system discriminates to punish predominately persons with penises. From Horace to the present, punishing men more than women has been accepted as immutable criminal justice beyond just questioning. Horace suggested that men avoid anti-men gender discrimination in adultery punishment by having sex with unmarried women. In short, Horace accepted structural gender injustice.

Horace literally gave the penis a voice, but only in a brutalizing caricature. In particular, Villius was violently victimized because he was having a sexual affair with the consul Sulla’s daughter Fausta. Horace imagined Villius’s penis, speaking hypothetically through his mind in the way of all penises, to say:

What if through the words of his dick, as he saw such evils,
his mind were to say to him: “What’s up with you? Did I ever to you
petition for a cunt, specifying one descended from a great consul
and wrapped in a fancy robe, when my love-rage was boiling?”

{ huic si mutonis verbis mala tanta videnti
diceret haec animus: “quid vis tibi? numquid ego a te
magno prognatum deposco consule cunnum
velatumque stola, mea cum conferbuit ira?” }[11]

Given the history of violently disparaging figures of the penis, penises shouldn’t be condemned to silence. These verses, however, lack the critical insight and irony of Ausonius’s Wedding Cento {Cento nuptialis}. Men tend to be romantically simple. But penises shouldn’t be stereotyped as crude and narrow-minded. Penises do life-creating and life-saving work. Horace wrote his highly sophisticated poetry, which includes keen consciousness of his own penis, with a pen (stylus), a figure of a penis. But the literal voice of the penis in Horace’s poetry is represented as contemptible. Important concerns of the penis have been silenced much more than the voice of a medieval woman who lost an egg.

Lydia embracing Horace

Horace’s poetic dialog with Lydia provides insight into the deep reality of gender privilege. Much like Empress Theodora, Lydia was a powerful woman who dominated her lover Sybaris. Underscoring her power, she was also carrying on an affair with another young man, Telephus. Horace attempted to taunt Lydia with old age, which devastates men as well as women:

Old, in your turn you’ll bemoan coarse adulterers
as you tremble in some deserted alley,
while the Thracian wind rages furiously
through the moonless nights,

while flagrant desire, libidinous passion,
those powers that will spur on a mare in heat,
will storm all around your corrupted heart, ah,
and you’ll complain

that the youths filled with laughter take more delight
in the green ivy, the dark of the myrtle,
leaving the withering leaves to this East wind,
winter’s accomplice.

{ invicem moechos anus arrogantis
flebis in solo levis angiportu,
Thracio bacchante magis sub
interlunia vento,

cum tibi flagrans amor et libido,
quae solet matres furiare equorum,
saeviet circa iecur ulcerosum,
non sine questu

laeta quod pubes hedera virenti
gaudeat pulla magis atque myrto,
aridas frondis hiemis sodali
dedicet Euro. }[12]

No snowflake, Lydia didn’t let Horace intimidate her. There’s no indication that she even responded to these words. Moreover, she probably was less troubled by Horace’s Epodes 8 (“To think that you, who have rotted away {Rogare longo putidam te}…”) than have been modern scholars. With her many young lovers, Lydia apparently lived for today more successfully than Horace himself did.

Horace attempted to win back Lydia from lovely Calais, another of her lovers. Horace lamented to her:

While I was the man dear to you,
while no young man you loved more dearly was clasping
his arms around your snow-white neck,
I lived in greater blessedness than Persia’s king.

{ Donec gratus eram tibi
nec quisquam potior bracchia candidae
cervici iuvenis dabat,
Persarum vigui rege beatior. }[13]

Persia’s king was an enemy to the Romans. After Horace measured himself against the blessedness of an enemy, Lydia echoed his introductory circumstantial phrase and then implicitly blamed him for her fall to Chloe:

While you were on fire for no one
else, and Lydia was not placed after Chloë,
I, Lydia, of great renown,
lived more gloriously than Roman Ilia.

{ donec non alia magis
arsisti neque erat Lydia post Chloen,
multi Lydia nominis
Romana vigui clarior Ilia. }

Chloe is a non-Roman name associated with the relatively low-status people of Thrace. Ilia was the mythic mother of Rome and revered even more than the gender-privileged Sabine women. If Rome were to fall to an enemy, that would be as much of a catastrophe as Horace placing Chloe before Lydia. Horace became an enemy of Roman glory. Lydia’s repetition of her name in addressing her former lover distanced herself from him.

Horace explicitly stated men’s subordination to women. He explained to Lydia:

Thracian Chloe, she rules me now.
She’s skilled in sweet verses, she’s the queen of the lyre,
for her I’m not afraid to die,
if the Fates spare her, and her spirit survives me.

{ me nunc Thressa Chloe regit,
dulcis docta modos et citharae sciens,
pro qua non metuam mori,
si parcent animae fata superstiti. }

Within war institutionalized as violence against men, men die for women. The nominal head rulers in charge usually are men, but women substantially rule men. In ancient Rome, Lydia put forward a pretense of gender equality:

I’m burnt with a mutual flame
by Calais, Thurian Ornytus’s son,
for whom I would die twice over
if the Fates spare him, and his spirit survives me.

{ me torret face mutua
Thurini Calais filius Ornyti,
pro quo bis patiar mori,
si parcent puero fata superstiti. }

Here Lydia even more extensively echoed Horace while insisting on her ideological superiority to him. She cannot in fact die twice over. She cannot love Calais truly equally until Solon’s sexual welfare program successfully equalizes the value of men’s and women’s sexuality. Women cannot be both equal to men and less evil and less toxic than men.

Emphasizing his powerlessness as a man in love, Horace imagined the love-goddess changing his love circumstances. He presented that possibility to Lydia:

What if that forming love returned,
and forced two who are estranged under her bronze yoke —
if golden Chloë was banished,
and the door opened to rejected Lydia?

{ quid si prisca redit Venus
diductosque iugo cogit aeneo,
si flava excutitur Chloe
reiectaeque patet ianua Lydiae? }

Bronze makes a yoke that endures. With his strong, independent sexuality, Horace wasn’t concerned with enduring love.[14] But he had no choice. Lydia responded:

Though he’s lovelier than the stars,
and you’re lighter than cork, and more irascible
than the cruel Adriatic,
I’d love to live with you, with you I’d gladly die!

{ quamquam sidere pulchrior
ille est, tu levior cortice et improbo
iracundior Hadria,
tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam libens. }

For three verses Lydia taunted Horace as being inferior to Calais as her lover. Then, in the final verse, Lydia declared that she prefers Horace. Dragging far backward early nineteenth-century Romanticism, critics have interpreted that final verse as a spontaneous outpouring of desire. Anti-meninist critics insist that Horace dominated Lydia in that last verse, as he of course prepared to rape her.[15] In a more faithful interpretation, the final verse is meant sarcastically. Lydia heartlessly showed no concern for the external forces shaping men’s lives. Blind to gender injustices that men suffer, Lydia sarcastically piled more hurt on Horace.[16]

Modern classicists have tended to treat men as did Lydia, a persona of Horace. One of the most eminent scholars of Horace published an insightful, close reading of the Horace-Lydia dialog ode:

Donec, ‘While’, says Horace, ‘while you still loved me’ and immediately he has tried to wrongfoot his opponent, as though it were her fault that they broke up. … she replies, joining battle. … Horace is routed in the first engagement. ‘As for me’, Lydia replies, and her reply again destroys him point by point. … ‘I will not fear to die for Chloe’, says Horace negatively, with a show of masculine bravado; ‘I will endure to die twice for Calais’, replies Lydia positively, with a show of feminine selflessness. … Reeling under this assault, enter Horace bearing the olive branch of peace. He wants Lydia to love him again, but must not lose face. His approach is devious. … She loftily ignores all this deviousness and moves in for the kill. … The poem is a humorous exposé of the contemptible shifts of man, and the superior perceptions and dialectic of woman, ending with the totality of love offered by the woman to her inferior. [17]

This reading shows the enduring, pernicious effect of Gallus’s figure of love as war. This reading also shows the extent to which women as a gender dominate modern classical scholarship. All literary scholars must be feminists, at the risk of being libeled as anti-feminists. Meninist literary criticism, which could at least provide a broader perspective for women students, a more sympathetic environment for men students, and urgently needed laughter, is strictly policed and fiercely excluded from respectable discourse. The gender problem in classics goes far deeper than philology’s gender failures.

If the future of literary studies is female or gynocentric, that will be a humanistic disaster. Within Latin classics, Virgil and Ovid provide more critical perspectives on gender than does Horace. A man writing for men, Horace, despite his outrageous invective and satire, was fundamentally complacent about gender.[18]

* * * * *

Read more:

Notes:

[1] That an author is a man writing for men isn’t necessarily a fault, nor does such a gender configuration imply that women cannot enjoy and learn from that author’s work. Being open to alternate perspectives on gender is vitally important. Classical scholarship has become sadly narrow-minded with respect to gender:

There have been critics, men and women, to espouse, with varying degrees of warmth, Ovid’s feminism and what might be termed Virgil’s Didonianism. But those interested in resistant or alternative models of gender and desire have found little to attract them in Horace’s poetry.

Oliensis (2008) p. 221. That’s a tellingly limited understanding of “resistant or alternative models of gender.” Moreover, men’s same-sex desire is a significant aspect of Horace’s poetry. Harrison (2018).

Horace vigorously expressed his dislike for having sex with old women. See Epodes 8 and 12. Horace also graphically described brutal punishments that men suffered for having consensual sex with married women. See Satires 1.2. In addition, he wrote poems on his sexual desire for boys. Odes 4.1 and 4.10. On historical suppression of this poetry, Harrison (2012).

[2] Horace, Satires 1.3.49-54, Latin text from Fairclough (1926), English translation from Kline (2003). All subsequent quotes from Horace use the Latin texts of Fairclough (1926) and Rudd (2004) along with the metrical English translations of Kline (2003) (with some minor changes), unless otherwise noted. If the quote is a verse or less, the English translation is mine. On the difficulty of translating Horace, Kates (2016). The phrase “live for today {carpe diem}” is from Horace, Odes 1.11.8.

[3] Gowers (2003) p. 84. Horace’s humble recognition of his fleshly embodiment has echoes in later Christian appreciation for Jesus Christ and his works.

[4] Horace, Satires 1.3.68-75.

[5] Henderson (1989) pp. 51-2, citing in support Douglas (1966), Cameron (1985), Dworkin (1988), Pollak (1985), McCannell and McCannell (1987), all omitted from my reference list for lack of interest. On sexism in defining “man,” see the entries for woman and man in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (1755). Cf. “A man is what a man’s gotta do,” according to Henderson (1989) p. 53. In Henderson’s opining / theorizing, invective against women “means the promise of pornoglossia, the verbal violence which exercises social control over women and founds civic solidarity in sexist discourse.” Id. p. 54. Invective against men is different:

We are to know L {Lucilius} as the epitome, that is, of the Male – who rapes women, buggers boys, repels crones and pathic adult males, and reviles all (else) in his cock-swagger.

Id. p. 56, with endnote citing supporting authority omitted. In other words, you can utter invective against men, but don’t criticize women, or you’ll be in big trouble. Henderson, apparently attempting to preempt men’s sexed protest, cited an authority declaring, “Even to write of the masculine ego is caught in the narcissism it describes.” Id. p. 72, n. 17, citing Easthope (1986), omitted from my reference list for lack of interest.

Henderson caught an intellectual wave that flooded through the humanities in subsequent decades. Scholars imagined that every person and every thing was constructed through work like theirs:

The idea that there are such things as bodily or even chromosomatic data may be but an ideological construction, part of the ordering of the body into a regulated site for the affixing of social meaning.

Henderson (1989) p. 51. According to this theory, if you’re lame and you force others to identify you as not-lame, then you can take up your mattress and parade about campus. In a concluding endnote, Henderson hinted at his article’s “intent to bait mastery.” Perhaps fearing that readers would recognize a punning allusion to masturbation, Henderson or an editor eliminated that note from Henderson (1999).

Henderson’s performance of masculine self-abasement (his “gendersong”) has been quite influential. “Henderson (1999) provides seminal {sic} discussions of gender issues in the Epodes (chapter 4) and Satires (chapter 7),” according to Oliensis (2008) in her section, “Further Reading.” For a solemn citation of Henderson’s masturbatory claim about gender privileging and blindness, Ancona (2010) p. 174.

[6] Horace, Odes 2.7.10. On this ode as Horace’s attempt to help his friend Pompey, Citroni (2000).

[7] Horace, Odes 1.8.13-6. “Lydia, in her urgency to ruin Sybaris, is not trying to destroy his life but to save it.” Dyson (1988) p. 169. Horace also depicted the self-devaluing Roman man Regulus as being ashamed that Roman men weren’t willing to embrace death in war:

Regulus reportedly pushed away his chaste wife seeking to kiss him,
pushed away also his little newborns, so that like a citizen
who had forfeited his rights, he grimly
fixed his manly gaze on the ground.

{ fertur pudicae coniugis osculum
parvosque natos ut capitis minor
ab se removisse et virilem
torvus humi posuisse vultum }

Horace, Odes 3.5.41-4, my English translation.

[8] Horace, Odes 3.2.13. A nineteenth-century students’ toast reportedly adapted Horace’s declaration:

It is sweet and fitting to die for the fatherland, but sweeter still to live for the fatherland, and sweetest to drink for the fatherland. Therefore, let us drink to the health of the fatherland.

{ Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae. }

I haven’t found documentation of this saying’s existence as a nineteenth-century students’ toast.

[9] Horace, Odes 1.6.17-20.

[10] Horace, Satires 1.2.41-6. Horace’s slave Davus taunted him with appearing as a slave in pursing an affair with a married woman. Davus highlighted wives’ privilege in relation to punishment for adultery:

So when you’ve shed your badges of rank, your knight’s ring,
your Roman clothes, so no longer a worthy, and step out
as Dama the servant, hiding your perfumed hair
under a cowl, aren’t you the slave you pretend to be?
Anxious, you gain admittance, body trembling with fear
that vies with your lust. What matter whether you sell yourself
to be seared by the lash, killed by the sword, or are shut
shamefully in her mistress’ chest by a knowing maid,
cowering, with head between your knees? Hasn’t the husband
of a sinful wife, with lawful powers over both, more
power over her seducer? Not for her to forgo
her clothes or rank, and take the lead in sinning, since she’s
a woman, frightened, not able to trust a lover.
It’s ‘wise’ you who goes under the yoke, committing
self, wealth, reputation and life, to her furious lord.

{ tu cum proiectis insignibus, anulo equestri
Romanoque habitu, prodis ex iudice Dama
turpis, odoratum caput obscurante lacerna,
non es quod simulas? metuens induceris atque
altercante libidinibus tremis ossa pavore.
quid refert, uri virgis ferroque necari
auctoratus eas, an turpi clausus in arca,
quo te demisit peccati conscia erilis,
contractum genibus tangas caput? estne marito
matronae peccantis in ambo iusta potestas?
in corruptorem vel iustior. illa tamen se
non habitu mutatve loco peccatve superne,
cum te formidet mulier neque credat amanti.
ibis sub furcam prudens, dominoque furenti
committes rem omnem et vitam et cum corpore famam. }

Horace, Satires 2.7.53-67. Cf. Horace, Odes 2.8.

[11] Horace, Satires 1.2.68-71, my English translation. Given the importance of the penis’s voice, my translation follows the Latin more closely than Kline’s translation. Harrison noted the epic motif of internal address to the hero’s heart and translated animus as heart. Harrison (2007) p. 89. The Satyricon metrically indicated the epic importance of the penis. Nonetheless, here the dick {muto} provides words to the animus, and the animus speaks. The heart in English tends to be associated with love separate from reason, while animus in Latin encompasses working of the mind. Hence I prefer here to translate animus as “mind.”

[12] Horace, Odes 1.25.9-20.

[13] Horace, Odes 3.9.1-4 (stanza 1 of 6). The subsequent five quotes above are seriatum the subsequent stanzas in this ode. It takes the well-established form of an “answer poem {carmen amoebaeum}.” For this ode, here are some Latin reading notes and the teen-aged Rudyard Kipling’s translation. For an extensive teaching / learning guide, Parker (2007).

[14] “The ancient commentators concluded that Horace chose brass for his yoke because something literally metallic would be of long duration.” Putnam (1977) p. 145, n. 13. Consistent with that sense of bronze, Horace declared of his odes:

I’ve finished a monument more lasting than bronze.

{ Exegi monumentum aere perennius }

Odes 3.30.1. A yoke of bronze, however, is incongruous for Horace in love:

Horace is not given to romantic devotion, least of all with the concupiscent Lydia. … Horace stops well short of the heart’s devotion. Love remains a simple natural impulse.

Minadeo (1975) pp. 416, 422; similarly, id. p. 417. Rudd similarly observed:

In writing about love, Horace comments on the concerns of other people, or reflects on his own past affairs; but he rarely speaks of being in love at the moment. When he does, the emotion is not deeply felt, or, if it is, it does not appear to have lasted for long. What the odes do project is a half-tender, half-ironical attitude towards love (including his own), which observes its vagaries and locates it within a general pattern of experience.

Rudd (2004) p. 5. Horace’s Lydia loves with even more irony and less devotion than does Horace. The love poetry of Horace lies midway between elegy and the insouciant and transgressive Greek love epigrams. Konstan (2009).

[15] In the end “Lydia capitulates” and earnestly “produces her declaration of undying love.” West (1995) p. 104, cited as “the majority view” in Johnson (2004), p. 128. According to Johnson, Lydia “surrenders to desire” and Horace “with frightening clarity declares his lyric power and control.” “Horatian lyric has a disconcerting edge — just ask locked-in Lydia.” Johnson (2004) p. 131-2. The phrase “power and control” is ideological cant in sexist domestic violence discourse. Parker’s teaching guide oxymoronically lionized Lydia:

outdoing her ex once and for all, she capitulates entirely, stating explicitly what he only dared to contemplate: tēcum vīvere amem, tēcum obeam libēns.

Parker (2007) p. 7.

Putnam, in apparently an under-appreciated minority view, observed of Horace’s Odes 3.9:

Happy, straightforward stuff… . But such a plot summary remains puzzling insufficient.

Putnam (1977) p. 141. Putnam concluded that the poem’s last verse is “still inconclusive.” Id. p. 146.

[16] In Lydia’s concluding verse, “obire is a solemn word which significantly is common on tombstones.” Nisbet & Rudd (2004) p. 140. In its context here, the solemnity of obire underscores Lydia’s sarcasm. In an alternate interpretation, since obire is also used for celestial bodies, Horace as a lover “has a certain kinship with a sidus after all.” Putnam (1977) p. 146, n. 15.

[17] West (2002) pp. 88-90. Comparing Horace, Odes 3.9 to Catullus, Carmina 45, West with similar imagery of violence against men declared:

Two lovers have parted because of a lapse by the man, who now comes to beg for reconciliation. In each poem the woman agrees to take him back, but not without crushing the guilty party, detail by detail.

Id. p. 91. With no figures of violence against men, Putnam (1977), pp. 150-6, also provides a detailed comparison of the two poems.

[18] With no apparent knowledge of meninist literary criticism, Oliensis observed:

when the topic ‘Horace as a love poet’ is broached, the emphasis typically falls not on gender roles (which the reader finds already distributed, as it were) but on Horace’s characteristic blend of urbane detachment and erotic susceptibility, the chief aim being to defend the (philosophical, emotional, aesthetic) value of the love poems. Thus to write heatedly about gender is to oppose Horace, while to write dispassionately about desire is to identify with him.

Oliensis (2008) p. 221, footnote omitted. Meninist literary criticism doesn’t oppose Horace. It opposes the gender injustices against men that Horace’s poetry and its critics display.

[images] (1) Three Roman men wearing togas. The middle man is a consul in a toga contabulata. Detail from a sarcophagus (“Sarcophagus of the Brothers”) made c. 250 GC. Inv. 6603 in the Farnese Collection, Naples National Archaeological Museum. Source image thanks to Marie-Lan Nguyen and Wikimedia Commons. (2) Horace, Odes 3.2.13, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori {it is sweet and fitting to die for the fatherland},” engraved in 1915 above an entrance to the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, USA. Source image thanks to Tim1965 and Wikimedia Commons. For an alternate perspective on Horace’s verse, see Wilfred Owen’s poem, “Dulce et decorum est,” written in 1917 and first published in 1920. Owen fought as a British soldier in World War I and died in that war in France in 1918. (3) Nude Lydia embracing Horace in bed. Painted by Thomas Couture, probably shortly after 1843. Painting preserved as accession # 37.23 in the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, USA). Slightly cropped from the source image that the Walters generously provides. Couture painted a similar scene in 1843. See Inv. P340 in The Wallace Collection (London, UK).

References:

Ancona, Ronnie. 2010. “Female Figures in Horace’s Odes.” Ch. 9 (pp. 174-192) in Davis, Gregson Davis, ed. A companion to Horace. Chichester, UK: Blackwell.

Citroni, Mario. 2000. “The Memory of Philippi in Horace and the Interpretation of Epistle 1.20.23.” The Classical Journal. 96 (1): 27-56.

Dyson, M. 1988. “Horace, Odes 1.8: The Love of Lydia and Thetis.” Greece and Rome. 35 (2): 164-171.

Fairclough, H. Rushton, trans. 1926. Horace. Satires. Epistles. The Art of Poetry. Loeb Classical Library 194. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gowers, Emily. 2003. “Fragments of Autobiography in Horace Satires I.” Classical Antiquity. 22 (1): 55-91.

Harrison, Stephen J. 2007. Generic Enrichment in Vergil and Horace. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (review by Brian W. Breed)

Harrison, Stephen J. 2012. “Expurgating Horace 1660-1900.” Ch. 6 (pp. 115-125) in Harrison, Stephen J., and Christopher Stray, eds. Expurgating the Classics: Editing Out in Greek and Latin. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Harrison, Stephen. 2018. “Hidden Voices: Homoerotic Colour in Horace’s Odes.” Ch. 9 (pp. 169-84) in Matzner, Sebastian, and Stephen J. Harrison, eds. Complex Inferiorities: the poetics of the weaker voice in Latin literature. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Henderson, John. 1989. “Satire writes ‘woman’: Gendersong.” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society. 35: 50-80.

Henderson, John. 1999. Writing Down Rome: satire, comedy and other offences in Latin poetry. Oxford: Clarendon. Ch. 7 (pp. 173-201) is a slightly revised version of Henderson (1989).

Johnson, Timothy S. 2004. “Locking-in and Locking-out Lydia: Lyric Form and Power in Horace’s C. I.25 and III.9.” The Classical Journal. 99 (2): 113-134.

Kates, J. 2016. “Getting Horace Across.” Harvard Review Online.

Kline, A. S., trans. 2003. Horace. The Odes. The Satires, Epsitles and Ars Poetica. Carmen Saeculare and the Epodes. Freely available online at Poetry in Translation.

Konstan, David. 2009. “Between Epigram and Elegy: Horace as an Amatory Poet.” Pp. 55-69 in Pereira, Maria Helena da Rocha, José Ribeiro Ferreira, and Francisco de Oliveira, eds. Horacio e a sua perenidade. Coimbra: Centro Internacional de Latinidade Léopold Senghor.

Minadeo, Richard. 1975. “Sexual Symbolism in Horace’s Love Odes.” Latomus. 34 (2): 392-424.

Nisbet, R. G. M., and Niall Rudd. 2004. A Commentary on Horace: Odes, Book III. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Review by Lindsay Watson.

Oliensis, Ellen. 2008. “Erotics and Gender.” Ch. 16 (pp. 221-234) in Stephen J. Harrison, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Horace. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Parker, James. 2007. Horace Ode 3.9, Teacher’s Guide: Lesson Plans, Activities, Assessment and Answer Keys. Online.

Putnam, Michael C. 1977. “Horace Odes 3.9: the dialectics of desire.” Pp. 139-157 in J. H. d’Arms & J. W. Eadie, eds. Ancient and Modern Essays in Honor of Gerald F. Else. Institute for Ancient & Modern Studies, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan. Reprinted as pp. 180-194 in William S. Anderson, ed. 1999. Why Horace? A Collection of Interpretations. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy Carducci.

Rudd, Niall, ed. and trans. 2004. Horace. Odes and Epodes. Loeb Classical Library 33. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

West, David. 1995. “Reading the Meter in Horace, Odes 3.9.” Pp. 100-7 in Harrison, Stephen J., ed. Homage to Horace: a bimillenary celebration. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

West, David. 2002. Horace Odes III: Dulce Periculum: text, translation and commentary. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Review by John Quinn.

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