Horace (65-8 B.C.) was born in Venusia in Apulia, southeastern Italy. He
received a formal education, including advanced studies in Athens sometime
after 46 B.C. He was actively engaged in the turbulent politics and military
campaigns of the late 40s, and participated in the Battle of Philippi on
the side of Brutus in 43 B.C. After receiving a pardon in the general amnesty
of 39, Horace obtained a civil service position in Rome's Treasury Department.
He soon became acquainted with Rome's leading poets, including Vergil,
and with Maecenas, Octavian Caesar's influential advisor.
In 35, he published 10 Satires; in 30, 8 additional Satires
and 17 Epodes. The first 3 books of his Odes appeared in
23, followed shortly afterwards by 2 books of Epistles, a fourth
book of Odes, and his famous Carmen Saeculare in 17 B.C.
He died a few weeks after his patron, Maecenas, by whose tomb on the Esquline
hill he was buried.
Horace's latin was studied intensely in the 18th century, grammar school
curriculum and again in the early American college. References to his Satires,
Epistles, and to his lyric poetry, his Odes, abound in early
American letters. Thomas Jefferson, for example, in a letter of February
8, 1786, recommends that the base of the Houdon statue of George Washington,
destined for placement in the Virginia state capitol, be graced with an
inscription (ll. 47-49 & 51) from the Odes,
Bk. 4.14. Jefferson also paints a vivid picture of the esteem in
which he held the integrity of Wythe, Blair and Pendleton, proposed members
of the fledgling United States judiciary department, when he wrote in a
March 15, 1789 letter to James Madison that "on characters like these the
ardor prava jubentium would make no impression (see Odes
3.3)." John Adams likewise was fond of Bk. 3 of Horace's Odes,
in a letter written on September 29, 1774, to a William Tudor, he states:
"The sentiments expressed in your last to me are such as would do honour
to the best of citizens, in the minds of the virtuous and worthy of any
age or country in the worst of times. Dulce et decorum est pro patria
mori. (See Odes