Open main menu

Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology/Juvenalis, Decimus Junius

< Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology

JUVENA′LIS, DE′CIMUS JU′NIUS. The small amount of direct information which we pos- sess with regard to the personal history of Juvenal is derived almost exclusively from a very meagre memoir, which bears the name of Suetonius, but which is by most critics ascribed, with greater pro- babilit}^ to Valerius Probus, or some later gram- marian. We are here told that the poet was either the son or the " alumnus'" of a rich freedman ; that he occupied himself, until he had nearly reached the term of middle life, in declaiming, more, however, for the sake of amusement than with any view to professional exertion ; that, having subsequently composed some clever lines upon Paris the panto- mime, he was induced to cultivate assiduously satirical composition ; that for a considerable period he did not venture to publish his essays ; but that having eventually attracted numerous audiences, and gained great applause, he inserted in one of his new pieces the verses which had formed a portion of his first effort, those, namely, which we now read in Sat. vii. 86 — 91, where, speaking of the popularity of Statius, he adds :

" sed quum fregit subsellia versu Esurit, intactam Paridi nisi vendat Agaven. Hie et militiae multis largitur honorem, Semestri vatum digitos circumligat auro. Quod non dant proceres, dabit histrio ; tu Ca- merinos Et Bareas, tu nobiliura magna atria curas ! "

That tlie actor (or an actor) being at that time in high favour at court, and enjoying extensive influ- ence, Juvenal became an object of suspicion, as one who had indirectly {figurate) censured the corrupt practices of the day ; and although now an old man of eighty, was forthwith, under the semblance of [ honourable distinction, appointed to the command of a body of troops quartered in a remote district of Egypt, where he died within a very brief space, the victim of disgust and grief. The account of the banishment to Egypt is supposed to be corroborated by the general tenor of the fifteenth satire, and especially by the words (44 — 46)

" Horrida sane Aegyptus, sed luxuria, quantum, ipse notavi, Barbara famoso non cedit turba Canopo,

which are interpreted to imply personal observa- tion, while Sidonius ApoUinaris is believed to refer to the same personages and the same events, when he says (Cann. ix. 270— 274.),

" Non qui tempore Caesaris secundi Aeterno coluit Tomos reatu. Nee qui consimili deinde casu Ad vulgi tenuem strepentis auram Iratifuit histrionis exstd.'

Several other biographies are found in the MSS., but all certainly of a later date than that of which we have given an abstract. These agree, in many points, almost word for word, with the above nar- rative, but differ much from it and from each other in various details connected with the misfortune and fate of the satirist. Thus one of these declares that the events happened in the reign of Nero ; and in this it is supported by the scholiast on Sat. vii. .92 ; that Juvenal returned to the city, and, being filled with grief in consequence of the absence of his friend Martial, died in his eighty-first year. In another we are told, that having been exiled to- wards the close of Domitian's career, and not re- called by the successors of that prince, he died of old age, under Antoninus Pius. In a third it is stated that Trajan, incensed by an attack upon his favourite, Paris, despatched the author of the libel upon an expedition against the Scotch. Joannes Malelas of Antioch, who is copied by Suidas, re- cords {Chronogr. lib. x. p. 262. ed. Bonn) the banishment of Juvenal by Domitian to the Penta- polis of Libya, on account of a lampoon upon " Paris the dancer," whom, it is evident from what follows, the Byzantine confounds with some other individual ; and, finally, the old commentator on the fourth satire ignorantly imagines that the lines 37, 38,

" Quum jam semianimera laceraret Flavins orbem Ultimus et calvo serviret Roma Neroni,"

were the cause, and the Oasis the place of exile.

Before going farther, we must remember that there were two famous pantomimes who bore the name of Paris, one contemporary with Nero, the other with Domitian, and that each was put to death by the emperor, under whom he flourished (Dion Cass. Ixiii. 18, Ixvii. 3; Sueton. A^er. 54, Dom. 3, 10) ; but it is evident, from the transactions with Statins alluded to in the lines quoted above, that the second of these is the Paris of the seventh satire. This being premised, we shall find that the older annotators, taking the words of the pseudo-Sueto- nius in what certainly appears at first sight to be their natural and obvious acceptation, agree in be- lieving that Juvenal, on account of his insolent animadversions on the all-powerful minion of the court, was banished at the age of eighty by Do- mitian to Egypt, where he very soon afterwards Bunk under the pressure of age and sorrow. But a careful examination of the historical notices in the satires tiiemselves will at once prove that this opinion is untenable, although we must carefully separate what is certain from what is doubtful. Thus it is often asserted that the thirteenth satire belongs to a.d. 119 or even to a.d. 127, because written sixty years after the consulship of Fonteins (see V. 17), as if it were unquestionable that this Fonteius must be the C. Fonteius Capita who was consul A.D. 59, or the L. Fonteius Capita who was consul A.D. 67, while, in reality, the individual indicated is in all probability C. Fonteius Capita,, who was consul a.d. 12, since we know, from Statins, that Rutilius Gallicus (see v. 157) was actually city praefect under Domitian. Again, the contest between the inhabitants of Ombi and of Tentyra is said (xv. 27) to have happened "■ nuper consule Junio ; " but even admitting this name to be correct, and the MSS. here vary much, we can- not tell whether we ought to fix upon Appiiis Junius iSabinus,, consul a. d. 84, or upon Q. Junius RusticuSf consul a.d. 119. We have, however, fortunately evidence more precise.

1. We know from Dion Cassius (Ixvii. 3) that Paris was killed in a.d. 83, upon suspicion of an intrigue with the empress Doraitia.

2. The fourth satire, as appears from the con- cluding lines, was written after the death of Domi- tian, that is, not earlier than a.d, 96.

3. The first satire, as we learn from the forty- ninth line, was written after the condemnation of Marius Priscus, that is, not earlier than a.d. 100. These positions admit of no doubt or cavil, and hence it is established that Juvenal was alive at least 17 years after the death of Paris, and that some of his most spirited productions were com- posed after the death of Domitian. Hence, if the powerful " histrio " in the biography of the pseudo- Suetonius be, as Ave should naturally conclude, the same person with the Paris named in tlie preceding sentence, it is impossible that Juvenal could have been banished later than a.d. 83 ; it is impossible that he could have died immediately afterwards, since he was alive in a.d. 100 ; and it is incredible that if he had pined for a long series of years at a distance from his country his works should contain no allusion to a destiny so sad, while, on the other hand, they bear the most evident marks of having been conceived and brought forth in the metropolis amid the scenes so graphically described.

Salmasius was much too acute not to perceive this difficulty ; but clinging to the idea that Ju- venal actually was banished to Egypt at the age of 80 and there died, he endeavoured to escape from the embarrassment by supposing that the seventh satire, containing the lines composed originally against Paris, was not published until the accession of Hadrian ; that the word " histrio " does not refer to Paris at all, but to some player of that epoch protected by the sovereign, who, taking offence at the passage in question, disgraced the author of what he considered as a scarcely hidden attack upon his abuse of patronage. This notion is fol- lowed out by Dodwell (Annal. Quintil. § 37), who maintains that all the satires were published after the elevation of Hadrian, whom he supposes to be the object of the complimentary address, " Et spes et ratio studiorum in Caesare tantum," expressions which Salmasius refers to Trajan, and the scholiast to Nero ! But although the words both in the satire and in the memoir might, without much vio- lence, be accommodated to some such explanation, yet tl-e h^'pothesis, taken as a whole, is so fanciful and 80 destitute of all external support, that it has been adopted by few scholars, while Frniike has written two elaborate pamphlets for the pui-pose of demonstrating that the whole tale of the banish- ment to Egypt is a mere figment of the gram- marians; that the ignorance of topography displayed in the 15th satire, by placing Ombi in the imme- diate vicinity of Tentyra, is such as to render it highly improbable that the author had at a§y time visited the country of wliich he speaks, and that the whole paragraph containing the words " quan- tum ipse notavi," is palpably a gross interpolation.

Without pretending to embrace the views of this or of any previous critic to their full extent, we may safely assume a sceptical position, and doubt every point which has been usually assumed as true. The narratives contained in the different ancient bio- graphies are so vague and indistinct that they could scarcely have proceeded from a contemporary or from any one who drew his knowledge from a clear or copious source, while the contradictory character of many of the statements and the manifest blun- ders involved in others, prevent us from reposing any confidence in those particulars in which they agree, or are not confuted by external testimony. The only facts with regard to Juvenal upon which we can implicitly rely are, that he flourished to- wards the close of the first century, that Aquinum, if not the place of his nativity, was at least his chosen residence {Sat. iii. 319), and that he is in all probability the friend whom Martial addresses in three epigrams.

There is, perhaps, yet another circumstance which we may admit without suspicion. We are told that he occupied himself for many years of his life in declaiming ; and assuredly every page in his writings bears evidence to the accuracy of this assertion. Each piece is a finished rhetorical essay, energetic, glowing and sonorous; the succes- sive attacks upon vice are all pl.anned with sys- tematic skill ; the arguments are marshalled in imposing array ; they advance supported by a heavy artillery of powerful and well-aimed illustrations, and sweeping impetuously onward, carry by assault each position as in turn assailed. But although the impression produced at first is overwhelming, the results are not permanent. The different poems are too obviously formal works of art ; and while the figures in each picture are selected with anxious care, grouped with all attention to effect, and rich with the most brilliant colouring, the composition as a whole is deficient in the graceful ease and reality which impart such a matchless chann to the less regular and less elaborate sketches of Horace. The means by which the two great satirists seek to achieve their object are as widely different as the tempers and habits of the men. It is impossible to imagine a contrast more strik- ing than is presented by the playful, good-hu- moured gaiety with which the one would laugh his hearers out of their follies and their guilt, and by the uncompromising sternness with which the other seeks to scare them, calling to his aid frightful images and terrific denunciations. In the one case, however, we are fully convinced of the absolute sincerity of our monitor; we feel that his precepts are the fruit of long experience, proceeding from one who, having mingled much with the world, and encountered its perils, is filled with kindly sympathy for the difficulties and dangers of those whom he warns to avoid the rocks and shoals on which he had himself well nigh been wrecked , while the stately well-measured indignation of the other belongs to the eloquence of the head rather than of the heart ; .and the obvious tone of exag- geration which pervades all his thundering invec- tives leaves us in doubt how far this sustained passion is real, and how far assumed for show. But while the austere and misanthropic gloom of Juvenal touches less deeply than the warm-hearted social spirit of his rival, we must not forget the dif- ference of their position. Horace might look with admiration upon the high intellect of his prince, and the generous protection extended by him to literature; and he might feel grateful to the prudent firmness which had restored peace after long years of civil bloodshed, while a decent show of freedom was still left. But the lapse of half a century had wrought a fearful change. Galling to the proud spirit filled with recollections of ancestral glory, must have been the chains with which the coarse tyranny of Nero and Domitian ostentatiously loaded their dependents ; deep must have been the humiliation of the moralist who beheld the utter degradation and corruption of his countrymen : the canker was perchance too deeply-seated even for the keenest knife, but delicate and gentle pallia- tives would have been worse than mockery.

The extant works of Juvenal consist of sixteen satires, the last being a fragment of very doubtful authenticity, all composed in heroic hexameters, and divided, in several MSS., into five books, an arrangement which, although as old as the time of Priscian, is altogether arbitrary and unmeaning. According to this distribution, the first book com- prehends Sat. i. ii. iii. iv. v. ; the second Sat, vi. ; the third Sat. vii. viii. ix. ; the fourth Sat. x. xi. xii. ; and the fifth the remainder.

Not less than six very early impressions of Juvenal have been described by bibliographers, each of which may claim the distinction of being the Editio Frinceps, but the honour would seem to be divided between the three following : —

1. A folio, in Roman characters, containing 68 sheets, with 32 lines in each page, without date and without name of place or of printer. See Maittaire, Annul. Typog. vol. i. p. 296.

2. A quarto, in Roman characters, containing 80 sheets, with 25 lines in each page, without date and without name of place, but bearing the name of Ulric Han, and therefore printed at Rome.

3. A quarto, in Roman characters, containing 71 sheets, with 30 lines in each page, Avithout name of place or of printer, but bearing the date 1470, and supposed to be the work of Vindelin de Spira.

The text, as first exhibited, underwent a gradual but slow improvement m the editions of Jac. de Rubeis, fol. Venet. 1475; of G. Valla, fol. Venet. I486 ; of Mancinellus, fol. Venet. 1492 ; of Aldus, 8vo. Venet. 1501, 1535, and another without date ; of Junta, 8vo. Florent. 1513; of Colinaeus, 8vo. Paris, 1528, 1535, 1542; of Gryphius, 8vo. Lugd. 1534, 1535, 1538, 1545, 1560, 1576; of R. Ste- phanus, 8vo. Paris, 1544, 1549 ; of Pulmannus, 8vo. Antv. 1565, 24mo. 1585; and was at length reduced to a satisfactory form by P. Pithoeus, 8vo. Paris, 1585, Heidelb. 1590; and above all, by Nic. Rigaltius, 12mo. Paris, 1613, 8vo. 1616, whose readings were adopted almost implicitly for nearly two centuries, until the labours of Ruperti, vo. Lips. 1801'; Gott. 1808, Lips. 1819; of Achaintre, 8vo. Paris, 1810; of Weber, 8vo. Weimar, 1825; and of Heinrich, 8vo. Bonn, 1839, effected probably everj-thing that our present re- sources will permit us to accomplish.

Our author appears to have been studied with extreme avidity upon the revival of letters, and the presses of the fifteenth century teemed with com- mentaries. The earliest were tliose of Angelus Sabinus and Domitius Calderinus, both published in fol. at Rome in 1474; followed by those of Georgius Merula, fol. Venet. 1478, and Tarvis, 1478; of Georgius Valla, fol. Venet. 1486; of Antonius Mancinellus, fol. Venet. 1 492 ; of Badius Ascensius, 4to. Lugd. 1498; of Joannes Britan- nicus, fol. Venet. 1499. To these may be added the annotations of Pulmannus, Pithoeus and Rigal- tius, attached to their editions, as specified above ; of Lubinus, 8vo, Rostoch. 16"()2, 4to. Hanov. 1603; of Famabius, 12mo. 1612, very often reprinted ; of Prateus, the Dolphin editor, 4to. Paris, 1684 ; of Heninnius, 4to. Ultraj. 1685, 4to. Lugd. Bat. 1696; and of Marshall, 8vo. Loud. 1723. The brief remarks of Coelius Curio, which were first ap- pended to the edition of Colinaeus, 8vo. Paris, 1528, and afterwards in a much enlarged and im- proved shape to that of Frobenius, fol. Basil, 1551, possess much merit. The old scholia were first printed in a complete form in the edition of Pithoeus, 8vo. Paris, 1585. The whole of the above have been repeatedly reprinted both entire and in selec- tions.

The student who provides himself with the edi- tions of Heninnius, 4to. Lugd. Bat. 1695; of Achaintre, of Ruperti, and of Heinrich, will possess every thing he can require. The commentary of Heinrich, written in German, is the best that has yet appeared.

The earliest English versions are those of Barten Holyday (best ed. fol. Oxford, 1673), and of Sir Robert Stapylton (best ed. fol. London, 1660), both of which enjoyed considerable popularity during the seventeenth century. Although the lines in Holyday are ludicrously quaint and rugged, the meaning of the original is for the most part re- presented with great fidelity, and the commentary attached may still be consulted with advantage. Dryden has rendered the first, third, sixth, tenth and sixteenth satires, in language full of genius and spirit, but always paraphrastic, and often inaccurate. The most faithful and scholarlike translation which has yet appeared is that of GifFord, 4to. Lond. 1 802 ; and much praise is due to that of Badham, at least to the second edition, published in Valpy's Family Classical Library.

All the ancient documents regarding the life of Juvenal will be found collected and arranged in the edition of Ruperti, and the various inferences de- duced from them have been fully discussed by Franke in his two dissertations, the first published at Altona and Leipzig, 8vo. 1 820 ; the second at Dorpat, fol. 1827; by C. Hermann, in his Dispvr tatio de Juvencdis Satirae Septimae Temporihus^ 4 to. Gott. 1843 ; by Pinzger, in Jahn's Jahrbueher fur PhUologie, vol. xiv. p. 261 ; and by Dlintzer, in the sixth supplemental volume to the same work, p. 373. [W. R.]