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ON SOCIAL AND POLITICAL AMBITION
This Satire, addressed to the poet's patron, is mainly autobiographical. Horace, now an intimate friend of Maecenas, has become an object of suspicion and envy to many people whose social and political aspirations were unsatisfied. He therefore disclaims such ambition for himself, sets forth the principles upon which Maecenas chooses his friends, and pays a noble tribute to his own father, to whom he is indebted for all that he is, both in character and education. Himself the son of a freedman, he has no wish to change places with a man of patrician birth. As it is, he lives a simple and care-free life, and is far more happy than if he had the burden of noble ancestry on his shoulders.
As this interesting Satire contains no allusion to the Sabine farm, it was probably composed before 33 B.C., the year when Maecenas presented him with the estate. In its subject and treatment it is to be grouped with the third, fourth, and tenth Satires. It is at once a defence of Maecenas, who did not look down upon men of lowly birth, and of the poet himself, who is not ashamed of his humble origin, but is proud of his freedman father, who had given him the intellectual and moral training which won for him a place in the circle of his patron.
For the influence of Lucilius upon this Satire see Introduction C.
Non quia, Maecenas, Lydorum quidquid Etruscos incoluit finis, nemo generosior est te, nec quod avus tibi maternus fuit atque paternus, olim qui magnis legionibus imperitarent, ut plerique solent, naso suspendis adunco ignotos, ut me libertino patre natum.4
Cum referre negas quali sit quisque parente natus, dum ingenuus, persuades hoc tibi vere, ante potestatem Tulli atque ignobile regnum multos saepe viros nullis maioribus ortos
10 et vixisse probos, amplis et honoribus auctos ; contra Laevinum, Valeri genus, unde Superbus Tarquinius regno pulsus5 fugit, unius assis non umquam pretio pluris licuisse, notante iudice quo nosti populo, qui stultus honores 15 saepe dat indignis et famae servit ineptus, qui stupet in titulis et imaginibus. quid oportet nos facere a volgo longe longeque remotos? Namque esto, populus Laevino mallet honorem
1 imperitarint, I, accepted by Vollmer. ? ignoto Palmer. 8 ut D: aut aM, II; aut ut C: at ut E.
4 natus or natos aCDE. 6 pulsus regno CK.
lateque Goth. Cf. Odes, i. 1. 1. The Etruscans, according to the tradition commonly accepted in antiquity, came from Lydia.
b The reference is to Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome, said to have been the son of a female slave. See, however, Livy, i. 39. 5.
Though of all the Lydians that are settled in Tuscan lands none is of nobler birth than you,a and though grandsires of yours, on your mother's and father's side alike, commanded mighty legions in days of old, yet you, Maecenas, do not, like most of the world, curl up your nose at men of unknown birth, men like myself, a freedman's son. 7 When
you say it matters not who a man's parent is, if he be himself free-born, you rightly satisfy yourself of this, that before the reign of Tullius and his lowly kingship, numbers of men, sprung from ancestors of no account, often lived upright lives and were honoured with high office ; that Laevinus, on the other hand, descendant of that Valerius through whom Tarquin the Proud was driven from his throne to exile, was never valued higher by the price of a single penny, even when rated by the people—the judge you know so well, who in folly often gives office to the unworthy, is stupidly enslaved to fame, and dazzled by titles of honour and waxen masks.) What, then, should wed do, we who are set far, far above the vulgar?
19 For let us grant that the people would rather
• Waxen masks of ancestors with accompanying inscriptions would imply the antiquity and nobility of one's family.
& The plural is generic, meaning intelligent and educated people.
quam Decio mandare novo, censorque moveret 20 Appius, ingenuo si non essem patre natus : vel merito, quoniam in propria non pelle quiessem. sed fulgente trahit constrictos Gloria curru non minus ignotos generosis. quo tibi, Tilli, sumere depositum clavum fierique tribuno ? 25 invidia accrevit, privato quae minor esset. nam ut quisque insanus nigris medium impediit crus pellibus et latum demisit pectore clavum, audit continuo: “quis homo hic est3 ?” quo patre
natus ? uto si qui aegrotet quo morbo Barrus, haberi 30 et cupiat formosus, eat quacumque, puellis iniciat5 curam quaerendi singula, quali sit facie, sura, quali pede, dente, capillo : sic qui promittit civis, urbem sibi curae, imperium fore et Italiam, delubra deorum, 35 quo patre sit natus, num ignota matre inhonestus, omnis mortalis curare et quaerere cogit.
tune, Syri, Damae, aut Dionysi filius, audes deicere de saxo civis aut tradere Cadmo ? “ at Novius collega gradu post me sedet uno : 40 1 impediit Porph. : impediet mss. 2 dimisit DEK.
3 est aDE : et CK: aut Bentley. 6 inliciat CK Goth.
cogit K : cogat mes. a A reference to the well-known fable of the Ass in the Lion's Skin. P. Decius Mus, first of a plebeian family to become a consul, sacrificed himself in the Latin war (Livy, viii. 6).
o The laticlave or broad stripe (cf. Sat. i. 5. 36) of purple on the tunic was a mark of the senatorian order. Tillius, according to the scholiasts, was removed from the senate
4 et 0.
give office to a Laevinus than to an unknown Decius, and that an Appius as censor would strike out my name if I were not the son of a free-born fatherand quite rightly, for not having stayed quiet in my own skin. The truth is, Vanity drags all, bound to her glittering car, the unknown no less than the well known. What good was it to you, Tillius, to assume the stripe once doffed and become a tribune ? Envy fastened on you afresh, but would be less, were you in a private station. For as soon as any man is so crazy as to bind the black thongs half way up his leg, and to drop the broad stripe down his breast, at once he hears : What fellow is this? What was his father ? Just as, if one should suffer from the same malady as Barrus, and long to be thought handsome, then' wherever he went he would make the girls eager to ask about details what his face was like, his ankle, his foot, his teeth, his hair : so he who takes it upon himself to look after his fellow-citizens and the city, the empire and Italy and the temples of the gods, compels all the world to take an interest, and to ask who was his father, and whether he is dishonoured through an unknown mother.
you, the son of a Syrus, a Dama, a Dionysius, dare to fling from the rock or to hand over to Cadmus citizens of Rome ?
But,” you say, “ Novius, my colleague, sits one row by Julius Caesar, but after the Dictator's death resumed this dignity and also became a military tribune.
• Senators wore a peculiar shoe, fastened by four black thongs bound about the leg.
d These are common slave-names.
e i.e. the Tarpeian rock from which criminals were sometimes thrown by order of a tribune. Cadmus was a public executioner.