Perhaps more than any other writer, Juvenal (c. AD 55-138) captures the splendour, the squalor and the sheer energy of everyday Roman life. In The Sixteen Satires he evokes a fascinating world of whores, fortune-tellers, boozy politicians, slick lawyers, shameless sycophants, ageing flirts and downtrodden teachers. A member of the traditional land-owning class that was rapidly seeing power slip into the hands of outsiders, Juvenal also creates savage portraits of decadent aristocrats - male and female - seeking excitement among the lower orders of actors and gladiators, and of the jumped-up sons of newly-rich former slaves. Constantly comparing the corruption of his own generation with its stern and upright forebears, Juvenal's powers of irony and invective make his work a stunningly satirical and bitter denunciation of the degeneracy of Roman society
Juvenal's sixth Satire is a masterpiece of comic hyperbole, an outrageous rant against women and marriage which, in its breadth and density, represents the high point of the misogynistic literature of classical antiquity. The Introduction situates Juvenal within the wider tradition of Roman satire, interrogates afresh the poem's architecture and recurrent themes, shows how Juvenal systematically attributes to his monstrous women the inverse of the Roman wife's canonical virtues, traces the various literary currents which infuse the Satire, and lastly addresses the much-discussed issue of the poetic voice or persona from a sociohistorical as well as a theoretical perspective. Above all, the commentary strives to locate Juvenal in his historical, literary and cultural context, while simultaneously affording assistance with the nuts and bolts of the Latin, and always keeping in view two key questions: what was Juvenal's purpose in writing the Satire? How seriously was it meant to be taken?
The Satires of Horace (65-8 BC), written in the troubled decade ending with the establishment of Augustus' regime, provide an amusing treatment of men's perennial enslavement to money, power, glory and sex. Epistles I, addressed to the poet's friends, deals with the problem of achieving contentment amid the complexities of urban life, while Epistles II and the Ars Poetica discuss Latin poetry - its history and social functions, and the craft required for its success. Both works have had a powerful influence on later Western literature, inspiring poets from Ben Jonson and Alexander Pope to W. H. Auden and Robert Frost. The Satires of Persius (AD 34-62) are highly idiosyncratic, containing a courageous attack on the poetry and morals of his wealthy contemporaries - even the ruling emperor, Nero.