Satire is a Roman literary creation, and Juvenal (fl. early 2nd century CE) is clearly the satirist par excellence. After all, in times like these, he says, “It’s difficult not to write satire.” Whether he is excoriating emperors (only dead ones, of course) or lambasting lowly slaves, his 16 satires expose the sins and foibles and moral failures of those living in an international metropolis wherein honest, hardworking, native Romans are few and far between. Social boundaries are blurred, the Roman elite corrupt, the wealthy selfish, the poor wanting only “bread and circuses,” and Juvenal describes it all in his always witty, sometimes harsh, and often imitated verses. He is the master of the memorable one-liner, e.g., “a sound mind in a sound body” and the famous query “who will guard the guards themselves.” Yet he wrote in a time once described as “the happiest era known to man.” So our author exaggerates, as all satirists do, but he also invites his readers to examine critically the society in which they are living and thereby addresses us moderns as well as his fellow Romans. Our discussions are sure to be lively and will focus on Roman society—and maybe our own--as well as Juvenal’s remarkable and vivid “take” on it. Either Niall Rudd’s or Peter Green’s translation (both have notes) will provide us with an eminently readable, enjoyable, and educational experience.
Required Reading: Juvenal, The Satires, translated by Niall Rudd. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN: 978-0199540662 OR Juvenal, The Sixteen Satires, translated by Peter Green. Penguin Classics, 1998 (reprinted 2004). ISBN: 978-0140447040
Daniel Taylor ‘63 is the Hiram A. Jones Professor and Chair Emeritus of Classics at Lawrence University. He is the author of three books and dozens of articles. He was named Lawrence’s Outstanding Teacher in 1998, Wisconsin’s Distinguished Foreign Language Educator in 1990, and was nationally acclaimed for Excellence in Teaching the Classics in 1983. He is a two-time yearlong National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellow and a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Italy. Now retired, he and his wife Donna live in Summit County, CO, and have organized and led four Björklunden Seminars Abroad to Greece and Italy. “Dr. Dan” revels in the Björklunden experience and is looking forward to his 29th Björklunden seminar.