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Horace: Odes and Satires

1. Horace’s Lyric Poetry

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In this module, we think about the nature of Horace’s lyric poetry, focusing in particular on: (i) what Horace is trying to achieve with his Odes, i.e. an encapsulation (in Latin) of the full richness and diversity of Greek lyric poetry; (ii) the importance of the 6th-century poet Alcaeus in particular; (iii) the atypicality of the so-called ‘Roman Odes’ (= the first six odes of Book 3), which are more overtly moralising, more political, and more nationalistic than the rest of the collection; and (iv) the ‘serious’ literary personages that cast their shadows over Odes 3.3 (Ennius) and 3.4 (Pindar), and the ways in which Horace undercuts this seriousness in both form and content (“Stop … reducing great matters to small measures”, 3.3.71-2).


In this course, Professor Llewelyn Morgan (University of Oxford) explores Horace’s Odes and Satires. The first two modules focus on the Odes. In the first, we think about the nature of Horace’s lyric poetry, focusing in particular on what Horace is trying to achieve with his Odes. In the second, we think about the precision of Horace’s composition – what Petronius referred to as his curiosa felicitas – looking at three examples from the set text. The next two modules focus on the Satires. In the first of these, we think about the origins of satire as a literary genre, while in the second we consider how satire positions itself as a genre in opposition to (but also in tension with) epic poetry. The last two modules consider Horace’s work as a whole. First, we think about the ways in which Horace’s poetic persona changes from the Satires to the Odes, but also the centrality of the theme of friendship (amicitia) in both collections. And finally, we think about an appeal Horace makes in both the Odes (3.6) and the Satires (2.2) and what it can tell us about Roman attitudes to the gods.


Llewelyn Morgan is a Classicist, a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford. The focus of most of his research is Roman literature and culture, and he is the author of the well-received study of Roman poetic form, Musa Pedestris: Metre and Meaning in Roman Verse (Oxford, 2010).

But he also has a longstanding fascination for Afghanistan, contemporary and historical, which he traces to his discovery, at an impressionable age, of a Russian samovar inscribed “Candahar 1881”. He has made several visits to Afghanistan in recent years, and his most recent book, The Buddhas of Bamiyan (Profile Books and Harvard University Press, 2012), traces the history of these remarkable monuments from their Buddhist origins 1,400 years ago, through their celebrity in Islamic wonder literature and European travel writing, up until their destruction in 2001.

Morgan is a regular public speaker, on many aspects of Classics and Afghanistan, appears occasionally on BBC Radio 4, and writes slightly less occasionally for the Times Literary Supplement.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Morgan, L. (2019, December 23). Horace: Odes and Satires - Horace’s Lyric Poetry [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Morgan, L. "Horace: Odes and Satires – Horace’s Lyric Poetry." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Dec 2019,

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