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LIFE AND WRITINGS
1. We have very little trustworthy information about Juvenal. The only sources from which any facts of his life can be derived are: (1) the ancient biographies; (2) a dedicatory inscription ; (3) three epigrams of Martial; and (4) a few passages in his own writings. · 2. Numerous lives of Juvenal (vitae) are preserved in the manuscripts, at the beginning or end. These are not independent biographies, but have all come from one original, the best representative of which is the one found on an added leaf at the end of the codex Pithoeanus, and written by a later hand. These vitae generally agree that Juvenal was born at Aquinum, that he was the son or foster-son of a wealthy freedman, that he practised declamation till about middle life, and that he was banished in consequence of offense given to an actor by some verses now contained in Satire 7. They differ chiefly as to the time and place of his banishment, and the circumstances of his death. The statements regarding his birthplace, his rhetorical studies, and the position of his father are not inconsistent with anything found in the satires, and have probably been derived from a reliable source.
1 Twelve are printed by J. Dürr in Das Leben Juvenals, Ulm, 1888, pp. 22–25.
3. A tablet 1 dedicated to Ceres by some person whose name was Juvenal was found at Aquinum. The original stone is now lost, and the inscription, defective in some parts, is preserved by copies only. As the praenomen of the person
ho made the dedication wanting, it is uncertain whether the tablet was put up by the poet or by some other member of his family. But as it was discovered at Aquinum, which Juvenal often visited (3. 319), and was consecrated to Ceres, whom he honored (3. 320) and everywhere speaks of with respect (14. 219; 15. 141), and that evidently not long after the death of Vespasian; and moreover since the tablet contains nothing that contradicts what is known about Juvenal from other sources, it is a reasonable inference that the Juvenal of the inscription is the poet. If this be admitted, we learn from this source that, at the time when the dedication was made, Juvenal had served as tribune of a Dalmatian cohort, had been duumvir quinquennalis at Aquinum, and was flamen of the deified Vespasian.
4. The references to Juvenal in the epigrams of Martial ? show that the two poets were friends, and that in or shortly before the years 92 and 101 Juvenal was living in Rome, where at the latter date he was busily engaged in the wearisome duties of a client. Martial (VII. 91. I) calls him facundus, an epithet probably given to him in recognition of his rhetorical skill, since it is unlikely that he had become known as a poet four years before the death of Domitian.
5. From his own writings the period to which his literary career belongs can be approximately fixed. The sixteen satires are divided into five books, and it is quite certain that the books are arranged in the order of their publication. Book I (Satires 1-5) contains mention of the conquest of the Orcades by Agricola in 84 (2. 161), of the death
of Domitian in 96 (4. 153), and of the trial of Marius Priscus in 100 (1. 49). It represents society as it existed under Domitian, and many of the illustrations are taken from that period, but it does not follow that any of the satires of this book were written during the lifetime of that emperor, and the book could not have been published before 100. It probably was not finished till several years after that date, as no reason is known for assuming any considerable interval between Books I and II. Book II (Satire 6) was not published before 116. Friedländer has proved that the comet that forboded destruction to the Armenian and Parthian kings (vs. 443) was visible at Rome in November 115, and the victories of Trajan over the Armenians and Parthians, said to have been portended by it, were not completed till the spring of 116. The earthquake which destroyed Antioch in 115 is likewise referred to in vss. 445-447.
Book III (Satires 7-9) appeared in the early years of the reign of Hadrian, whose praise is celebrated in the beginning of Satire 7, and evidently before 121, when the emperor set out from Rome to make his journey through the provinces. The mention in 8. 120 of Marius Priscus as having lately robbed the province of Africa does not necessarily show that this satire was written before the publication of Book II, as a man already nearly sixty could easily use nuper of an event that had occurred from eighteen to twenty years earlier. Two passages in Book V (Satires 13–16) fix its date after the year 127. In 13. 16-17 Calvinus, now sixty years old, is said to have been born in the consulship of Fonteius, i.e. of Fonteius Capito, consul in 67. Again, the events described in Satire 15 are said (vs. 27) to have been enacted lately in the consulship of Juncus, i.e. of Aemilius Juncus, consul
There is nothing in Book IV (Satires 10-12) to determine its date, but it was probably produced between
Books III and V, i.e. between the years 121 and 127. The satires therefore belong to a period covering about thirty years included in the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian.
DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH
6. The exact date of Juvenal's birth is unknown. According to the tradition of the vitae he practised declamation till about middle life, and did not give his satires to the public till somewhat later. The earliest seem to be the productions of a man of maturity and experience. A short vita-attached to a MS. of the fifteenth century, in the library of the Barberini palace at Rome, places his birth in the consulship of Claudius Nero and L. Antistius, i.e. in the year 55. This biography bears evidence of being a late production and may not go back to an authentic source, but the date of birth given in it cannot be far wrong.
Friedländer thinks that Juvenal did not begin to write before about 110, and that he was born not long before or not long after 60. Aquinum has been generally accepted as his birthplace. Umbricius (3. 319), addressing Juvenal, uses the expression tuo Aquino. This may mean only that Juvenal was fond of the place and often visited it, but the tablet put up by the poet was found at Aquinum, and the vitae generally agree that he was born there.
FAMILY AND CIRCUMSTANCES
7. Whether Juvenal's father was or was not a wealthy freedman, he was evidently in easy circumstances. He owned an estate at Aquinum (6. 57) and was able to give
1 See Dürr, p. 28.
his son the usual education of a Roman boy of good family. This included training in the schools of the grammaticus and the rhetor (1. 15-17). In rhetoric Juvenal probably had the instruction of Quintilian, who taught in Rome from A.D. 70 to go and whom he mentions several times with great respect. That he kept up his rhetorical studies for many years is shown both by the statement of the vitae and by the rhetorical style of the satires.
8. Juvenal belonged to the middle class. Any expressions in his writings that seem to imply that he was of low rank (as 1. 101 ; 4.98; 8. 44-46) evidently mean no more than that he was connected with the client class and not with the wealthy aristocracy. He had a house in the city (11. 190 ; 12. 87), an ancestral estate (6. 57) at Aquinum, and a farm at Tibur (11. 65) from which his table at Rome was well supplied (11. 65-76). Though he lived frugally (11. 131-148), he does not anywhere imply that he had not enough to satisfy his wants, or that, in his later years at least, he was not contented with what he possessed. Moreover, he could not have held high civil and priestly office in his native Aquinum if he had not had, for a country town, a large income.1
9. The inscription, if it was put up by the poet, furnishes evidence of his military experience, and there are passages in the satires that make such service seem probable. He criticises (1.58; 7.92) the elevation of unworthy men to high position in the army through the influence of powerful friends, and laments (14. 197) the slow advancement of
1 The duoviri quinquennales were the highest officials in a municipium. They were elected every fifth year, and their duties corresponded to those of the censors at Rome.