Horace Carmen Saeculare

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Horace Carmen Saeculare

Post by Ghermanius »

Last Sunday I reread Horace's Carmen Saeculare, the much-derided poem Augustus had commissioned for the 17 BC Secular Games.

A lot of scholars scoff at this poem because it was made to order, and because of the mundane subject matter, and I have to admit it becomes something of a political shopping list towards the end, from 'iam mari terrasque' and when 'priscus virtus' is said to make a return.

However the first half is just fine to my mind, and I cannot help but be touched by the stanzas dedicated to the plans on helping motherhood, so that, 'undenos deciens per annos' new generations can sing and dance at a next Secular Games. For some folks this may be a little hard to square with the persona Horace presents in most of his poetry.

As a backup I used Michael Putnam's little book on this poem. Occasionally he goes a bit overboard, as when he's saying 'impetret' (51) is a figura etymologica with 'patrum' (17) and 'patriae' (42). I doubt many Romans were aware these were cognates. Otherwise he makes a good case for this poem.


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