Language, libertas and the legacy of Lucilius: Horace and his satiric predecessor in the Sermones
The biting wit and scathing attacks of Roman satire had a fierce and fearless founder in Lucilius. Although he was lauded as the favourite poet of many and was quoted by orators such as Cicero, his satiric successor Horace was not quite so forthcoming with praise of his predecessor. Despite grudging admissions of Lucilius’ talent, the picture Horace presents of the poet is one of a careless composer, content to merely cram words into a line. In this paper I will argue that, although Horace appears to reject Lucilius’ style of poetry, Lucilius’ legacy can be traced through language, themes and allusions throughout the later poet’s satires.
Horace refers to Lucilius several times and explicitly, but it is in the poems where Lucilius is not mentioned directly that his influence can perhaps be felt most strongly as the unstated presence shaping Horace’s work. As well as incorporating subtle literary echoes of Lucilius, Horace often appears to make his work deliberately un-Lucilian. I will show how Horace uses allusions to Lucilius and how he deviates from the Lucilian satirical pattern in order both to create his own, distinct form of satire and to present an updated and reworked form of the genre that is more suited to the poetic tastes and political climate of the late Republic. The reason for this complex intertextual relationship is, I will argue, that Horace wishes both to bring his predecessor to the mind of his audience and to distance himself from him.
My conclusion is that, despite his differences from Lucilius and the qualities frequently associated with him, Horace uses him to show how satire can still survive and thrive against the turbulent political backdrop of his own time.