Recognizing Persius is a passionate and in-depth exploration of the libellus--or little book--of six Latin satires left by the Roman satirical writer Persius when he died in AD 62 at the age of twenty-seven. In this comprehensive and reflectively personal book, Kenneth Reckford fleshes out the primary importance of this mysterious and idiosyncratic writer. Reckford emphasizes the dramatic power and excitement of Persius's satires--works that normally would have been recited before a reclining, feasting audience. In highlighting the satires' remarkable honesty, Reckford shows how Persius converted Roman satire into a vehicle of self-exploration and self-challenge that remains relevant to readers today.
The book explores the foundations of Roman satire as a performance genre: from the dinner-party recitals of Lucilius, the founder of the genre, through Horace, to Persius's more intense and inward dramatic monologues. Reckford argues that despite satire's significant public function, Persius wrote his pieces first and mainly for himself. Reckford also provides the context for Persius's life and work: his social responsibilities as a landowner; the interplay between his life, his Stoic philosophy, and his art; and finally, his incomplete struggle to become an honest and decent human being. Bringing the modern reader to a closer and more nuanced acquaintance with Persius's work, Recognizing Persius reinstates him to the ranks of the first-rate satirists, alongside Horace and Juvenal.