Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace) - The Biography Of A Roman Poet

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Quintus Horatius Flaccus

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Quintus Horatius Flaccus, or Horace as he is more widely known, was a Roman poet. We can confirm his name by looking at his poetry and an inscription on the Carmen Saeculare, of which more can be found later in this biography.

The Poet Is Born

He lived from the eighth of December in 65B.C. to the twenty-seventh of November in 8 B.C. He was born in Venusia, a Roman military colony in south-eastern Italy.

How We Know What We Know

Horace gives us information about himself through his poems. This is how we know that he was the son of an auction broker1 and tax collector2

The Education Of Horace

Horace was educated in Rome3 under L. Orbilius Pupillus. There he studied, among other things, the poetry of Homer. He also went to the Academy at Athens where he met the son of Cicero. While at the Academy, he studied moral philosophy and theory of knowledge.

The Liberator

While Horace was in Greece, Brutus4 arrived at Athens six months after Julius Caesar had been assassinated. He began to attend philosophical lectures, hoping to recruit young Romans to his cause. Horace joined the army of Brutus and before he fought at Philippi, in 42 B.C., Brutus promoted him, without any experience, to the post of military tribune.5 He fought at the Battle of Philippi; in which Brutus’ army routed and both Cassius and Brutus committed suicide. He ran away from the battle and was pardoned by the triumvirate of Octavian, Antony and Lepidus. He eventually found his way back to Rome but he found that his family’s properties had been confiscated.

The Poet Is Born

Horace claimed that having his properties taken away and being plunged into poverty made him write poetry, but he seems to have been wealthy enough to because a clerk6 in the Roman Treasury7 in 39 B.C.

The Poetry And Friends Of Horace

In 39 B.C., after Augustus granted amnesty, Horace became a secretary in the Roman treasury. In 38, Horace met and became the friend of C. Cilnius Maecenas, who accepted him into his circle of friends, and, it is thought, gave him the Sabine farm sometime before 31 B.C.8

Augustus favoured Horace and commissioned him to write the Carmen Saeculare for the Secular Games, in 17 B.C.

The Death Of Horace

Horace died twelve days before his fifty-seventh birthday, on the twenty-seventh of November in 8 B.C. He died of a sudden illness, naming Augustus his heir by dictated will, the sudden onset of the illness preventing him from writing and signing a formal will himself. He was buried on the Esquiline Hill next to the tomb of Maecenas, who had died fifty-nine days earlier.

1"coactor argentarius"2"publicanus".3"The greatest city in the universe", according to Asterix And The Laurel Wreath.4Also known as the "liberator".5Quite a high rank in the Roman Army, usually only held by people like the sons of senators’.6"scriba questorius"7"Vita"8Horace probably had between three and five properties, which gives rise to the theory that the Sabine farm was not given to Horace by Maecenas.

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