Persius
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Aulus Persius Flaccus (; 4 December 3424 November 62 AD) was a
Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle to the Romans'', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in ...
poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform their art to an audience. Image:Janko Kral.jpg, 200px, Postmortal fictional ...

poet
and
satirist This is an incomplete list of writers, cartoonists and others known for involvement in satire Satire is a genre of the visual arts, visual, literature, literary, and performing arts, usually in the form of fiction and less frequently Nonfi ...
of
Etruscan__NOTOC__ Etruscan may refer to: Ancient civilisation *The Etruscan language, an extinct language in ancient Italy *Something derived from or related to the Etruscan civilization **Etruscan architecture **Etruscan art **Etruscan cities **Etruscan ...
origin. In his works, poems and
satire Satire is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, ...
s, he shows a
Stoic STOIC (Stack-Oriented Interactive Compiler) is a 1970s programming language A programming language is a formal language comprising a Instruction set architecture, set of instructions that produce various kinds of Input/output, output. Progr ...
wisdom and a strong criticism for what he considered to be the stylistic abuses of his poetic contemporaries. His works, which became very popular in the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th to the late 15th centuries, similarly to the Post-classical, Post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roma ...
, were published after his death by his friend and mentor, the Stoic philosopher
Lucius Annaeus Cornutus Lucius Annaeus Cornutus ( grc, Ἀνναῖος Κορνοῦτος), a Stoicism, Stoic philosopher, flourished in the reign of Nero (c. 60 AD), when his house in Rome was a school of philosophy. Life Cornutus was a native of Leptis Magna in Ancien ...
.


Life

According to the ''Life'' contained in the manuscripts, Persius was born into an equestrian family at
Volterra Volterra (; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Rep ...

Volterra
(Volaterrae, in Latin), a small Etruscan city in the province of
Pisa Pisa ( , or ) is a city and ''comune'' in Tuscany, central Italy, straddling the Arno just before it empties into the Ligurian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its Leaning Tower of Pisa, ...

Pisa
, of good stock on both parents' side. When six years old he lost his father; his stepfather died a few years later. At the age of twelve Persius came to Rome, where he was taught by
Remmius Palaemon Quintus Remmius Palaemon or Quintus Rhemnius Fannius Palaemon. was a Roman grammarian and a native of Vicentia. He lived during the reigns of Emperors Tiberius and Claudius Claudius ( ; Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 1 August ...
and the
rhetor Rhetoric () is the art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas. There is no generally agreed defini ...
Verginius Flavus. During the next four years he developed friendships with the
Stoic STOIC (Stack-Oriented Interactive Compiler) is a 1970s programming language A programming language is a formal language comprising a Instruction set architecture, set of instructions that produce various kinds of Input/output, output. Progr ...
Lucius Annaeus Cornutus Lucius Annaeus Cornutus ( grc, Ἀνναῖος Κορνοῦτος), a Stoicism, Stoic philosopher, flourished in the reign of Nero (c. 60 AD), when his house in Rome was a school of philosophy. Life Cornutus was a native of Leptis Magna in Ancien ...
, the lyric poet
Caesius Bassus Gaius Caesius Bassus (d. AD 79) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle to the Ro ...
, and the poet
Lucan Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (3 November 39 AD – 30 April 65 AD), better known in English as Lucan (), was a Roman poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may ...
. Lucan would become a generous admirer of all Persius wrote. He also became close friends with Thrasea Paetus, the husband of
Arria 250px, ''Arria et Paetus'', sculpture by Pierre Lepautre (1659-1744), Pierre Lepautre and Jean-Baptiste Théodon, Musée du Louvre Arria (also Arria Major) was a woman in ancient Rome. Her husband, Caecina Paetus, was ordered by the emperor Clau ...
, a relative of Persius's; over the next ten years Persius and Thrasea Paetus shared many travels together. Later, he met Seneca the Younger, Seneca, but was not impressed by his genius. In his boyhood, Persius wrote a tragedy dealing with an episode in Roman history, and another work, probably on travel (although this would have been before the travels with Thrasea Paetus). Reading the satires of Lucilius made Persius want to write like him, and he set to work on a book of his own satires. But he wrote seldom and slowly; a premature death (''uitio stomachi'') prevented him from completing the book. He has been described as having "a gentle disposition, girlish modesty and personal beauty", and is said to have lived a life of exemplary devotion towards his mother Fulvia Sisennia, his sister and his aunt. To his mother and sister he left his considerable fortune. Cornutus suppressed all his work except the satires, to which he made some slight alterations before handing it over to Bassus for editing. It proved an immediate success.


Doubts over his biography

The ''scholia'' add a few details—on what authority is, as generally with such sources, very doubtful. The ''Life'' itself, though not free from the suspicion of interpolation and undoubtedly corrupt and disordered in places, is probably trustworthy. The manuscripts say it came from the commentary of Marcus Valerius Probus, Valerius Probus, no doubt a learned edition of Persius like those of Virgil and Horace by this same famous "grammarian" of Beirut, Berytus, the poet's contemporary. The only case in which it seems to conflict with the ''Satires'' () themselves is in its statement as to the death of Persius's father. The declaiming of a ''suasoria'' in his presence (Sat. 3.4 sqq.) implies a more mature age than that of six in the performer. But ''pater'' might here mean "stepfather," or Persius may have forgotten his own autobiography, may be simply reproducing one of his models. The mere fact that the ''Life'' and the ''Satires'' agree so closely does not of course prove the authenticity of the former. One of the points of harmony is, however, too subtle for us to believe that a forger evolved it from the works of Persius: the ''Life'' gives the impression of a "bookish" youth, who never strayed far from home and family. This is also the picture drawn by the ''Satires''; many of the characters that Persius creates have the same names as characters found in Horace. A keen observer of what occurs within his narrow horizon, Persius did not shy away from describing the seamy side of life (cf. e.g. such hints as ''Sat.'' iii.110), especially the relationship between excesses of consumption and moral failure; he shows little of Horace's easy-going acceptance of human weaknesses. Perhaps the sensitive, homebred nature of Persius can also be glimpsed in his frequent references to ridicule, whether of great men by street gamins or of the cultured by philistinism, philistines. Montaigne mentions Persius several times.


Work

The chief interest of Persius's work lies in its relation to Roman satire, in its interpretation of Roman Stoicism, and in its use of the Latin tongue. The influence of Horace on Persius can, in spite of the silence of the ''Life,'' hardly have been less than that of Lucilius. Not only characters, as noted above, but whole phrases, thoughts and situations come direct from him. The resemblance only emphasizes the difference between the caricaturist of Stoicism and its preacher. Persius strikes the highest note that Roman satire reached; in earnestness and moral purpose he rises far superior to the political rancour or good-natured persiflage of his predecessors and the rhetorical indignation of Juvenal. From him we learn how that philosophy could work on minds that still preserved the depth and purity of the old Roman ''gravitas.'' Some of the parallel passages in the works of Persius and Seneca are very close, and cannot be explained by assuming the use of a common source. Like Seneca, Persius censures the style of the day, and imitates it. Indeed, in some of its worst failings, straining of expression, excess of detail, exaggeration, he outbids Seneca, whilst the obscurity, which makes his little book of not seven hundred lines so difficult to read and is in no way due to great depth of thought, compares poorly with the terse clearness of the ''Epistolae morales''. A curious contrast to this tendency is presented by his free use of "popular" words. As of Plato, so of Persius, we hear that he emulated Sophron; the authority is a late one (the Byzantine John of Lydia, Lydus, ''De mag.'' I.41), but we can at least recognize in the scene that opens ''Sat.'' 3 kinship with such work as Theocritus' ''Adoniazusae'' and the ''Mimes'' of Herodas. Persius's satires are composed in hexameters, except for the scazons of the short prologue above referred to. The first satire censures the literary tastes of the day as a reflection of the decadence of the national morals. The theme of Seneca's 114th letter is similar. The description of the recitator and the literary twaddlers after dinner is vividly natural, but an interesting passage which cites specimens of smooth versification and the languishing style is greatly spoiled by the difficulty of appreciating the points involved and indeed of distributing the dialogue (a not uncommon crux in Persius). The remaining satires handle in order (2) the question as to what we may justly ask of the gods (cf. ''Second Alcibiades''), (3) the importance of having a definite aim in life, (4) the necessity of self-knowledge for public men (cf. Plato's ''First Alcibiades''), (5) the Stoic doctrine of liberty (introduced by generous allusions to Lucius Annaeus Cornutus, Cornutus' teaching), and (6) the proper use of money. The ''Life'' tells us that the ''Satires'' were not left complete; some lines were taken (presumably by Cornutus or Bassus) from the end of the work so that it might be ''quasi finitus.'' This perhaps means that a sentence in which Persius had left a line imperfect, or a paragraph which he had not completed, had to be omitted. The same authority says that Cornutus definitely blacked out an offensive allusion to the emperor's literary taste, and that we owe to him the reading of the manuscripts in Sat. i.121,—"''auriculas asini ''quis non'' (for ''Mida rex'' ) habet!''" Traces of lack of revision are, however, still visible; cf. e.g. v.176 (sudden transition from ambition to superstition) and vi.37 (where criticism of Greek ''doctores'' has nothing to do with the context). The parallels to passages of Horace and Seneca are recorded in the commentaries: in view of what the ''Life'' says about
Lucan Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (3 November 39 AD – 30 April 65 AD), better known in English as Lucan (), was a Roman poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may ...
, the verbal resemblance of ''Sat.'' iii.3 to ''Pharsalia, Phars.'' x.163 is interesting. Examples of bold language or metaphor: i.25, ''rupto iecore exierit caprificus,'' 60, ''linguae quantum sitiat canis''; iii.42, ''intus palleat,'' 81, ''silentia rodunt''; v.92, ''ueteres auiae de pulmone reuello.'' Passages like iii.87, 100 sqq. show elaboration carried beyond the rules of good taste. "Popular" words: ''baro'', ''cerdo'', ''ebullire'', ''glutto'', ''lallare'', ''mamma'', ''muttire'', ''obba'', ''palpo'', ''scloppus''. Fine lines, etc., in i.116 sqq., ii.6 sqq., 61 sqq., 73 sqq., iii.39 sqq.


Authorities

The manuscripts of Persius fall into two groups, one represented by two of the best of them, the other by that of Petrus Pithoeus, so important for the text of Satires of Juvenal, Juvenal. Since the publication of J. Bieger's ''de Persii cod. pith. recte aestimando'' (Berlin, 1890) the tendency has been to prefer the tradition of the latter. The first important editions were: (1) with explanatory notes: Isaac Casaubon (Paris, 1605, enlarged edition by Johann Friedrich Dübner, Leipzig, 1833); Otto Jahn (with the ''scholia'' and valuable ''prolegomena,'' Leipzig, 1843); John Conington (with translation; 3rd ed., Oxford, 1893), etc.; but there are several modern editions.


Editions

* Braund, Susanna M. (2004) ''Juvenal and Persius''. Loeb Classical Library. Harvard University Press.


Notes


References

* Bartsch, Shadi. ''Persius: A Study in Food, Philosophy, and the Figural.'' (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015). * Hooley, D. M. ''The Knotted Thong: Structures of Mimesis in Persius'' (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997). * Reckford, Kenneth J. ''Recognizing Persius'' (Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2009) (Martin Classical Lectures).


External links

* * * * * *
Online Galleries, History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries
High resolution images of works by Persius in .jpg and .tiff format. *
Auli Persii Flacci satirarum liber, cum scholiis antiquis
', Otto Jahn (ed.), Lipsiae, typis et impensis Breitropfii er Baertelii, 1843. *
The Life of Aulus Persius Flaccus
' from Suetonius's ''De Viris Illustribus'' {{DEFAULTSORT:Persius Flaccus, Aulus 34 births 62 deaths 1st-century Romans Latin-language writers Roman-era poets Roman-era satirists Silver Age Latin writers Etruscans