Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

The second source of information is a group of twelve vitae, appended to various manuscripts. They are, in the main, untrustworthy. The first one, found at the end of the codex Pithoeanus (and appearing in some other manuscripts), and published by Valla in his edition of Juvenal (Venice, 1486), appears to have inspired all the rest. In this edition there are voluminous quotations from a manuscript now lost, including "commentaries upon Juvenal by Probus the grammarian," probably of the fourth or fifth century. The vita in question is supposed originally to have been prefixed to Probus' commentary, and reads as follows:

Life of Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis. Iunius Iuvenalis, the son or fosterson of a rich freedman, practised declamation up to middle life, more because of his fondness for it than from any desire of a scholastic or forensic career. Then, after having composed with some skill a short satire upon Paris, an actor and poet, who was all puffed up with pride because of a piddling six months' military career, he eagerly pursued this form of literary endeavor. But for a long time he did not dare submit any of his verses even to a small company. At last, however, he was heard two and even three times by a large and enthusiastic audience, so that he found courage to insert in his most recent poem those first lines [on Paris): 'An actor will vouchsafe to you what the chief men of the state can not give. What? Do you waste your time hanging about the Camerini and the Bareae and the wide halls of the nobility? Pelopea creates prefects; Philomela, tribunes.' There happened to be at that time an actor in great favor at court, and daily many of his flatterers were being advanced in rank and station. Juvenal, therefore, was suspected of having satirized, albeit figuratively, those very times; and so he was immediately hustled out the city on a sort of specious military assignment, though he was eighty years of age, and was ordered to take command of a cohort encamped in the farthest corner of Egypt. This type of punishment was determined upon because it appeared to suit the inconsequential and playful fault of the poet. But in a very short time he died of vexation and boredom.

This vita is superior to the others in style and subject matter, and, as has been said, appears to be the authority for most of the statements found in them.

The third source of information about the poet is Martial. He mentions Juvenal in three epigrams: 7. 24, 7. 91, 12. 18. In the first of these he employs the phrase Iuvenale meo, from which it appears that the two men were on terms of intimacy. Inasmuch as the dates of the epigrams are known, we are afforded a little light upon our problem. The meagre references to Juvenal in later writers (e. g., Sidonius Apollinaris, Ammianus, and Rutilius Namatianus) give us no assistance whatever.

The fourth and least important source of information is the satires themselves.

As may be readily seen, all these sources are extremely unsatisfactory. The inscription is most valuable, if it really refers to the poet, which is not at all certain. The vitae are anonymous, and the authenticity of their statements can not possibly be established. The epigrams of Martial, really, are of comparatively slight importance; while internal evidence yields almost nothing.

I, therefore, find myself somewhat in the predicament of the scientist who sets out to reconstruct some fearsome prehistoric monster from a single bone; and my results may quite possibly appear to be just as terrible as his.

Let us divide our inquiry into the following heads: Birth and parentage, early life, military life, municipal career, composition of satires, banishment; death.

First, then, Birth. If the inscription was set up by the poet, Aquinum was unquestionably his birthplace. All the vitae save the one quoted above refer to him as Aquinas. But in the third Satire (1l. 318-321) we find one of the few bits of really helpful internal evidence. The malcontent Umbritius, leaving in disgust urban perils for peaceful Cumae, addresses his city friend (the poet, of course) thus: “Good-bye; don't forget me; and whenever Rome speeds you on your way to your Aquinum, summon me also from Cumae to Helvine Ceres and your goddess Diana.” Ceres must have been worshipped at Aquinum under the surname Helvina, possibly because her temple was built by some member of the gens Helvia; and it is significant, in this connection, that the inscription is dedicated to this goddess. Pearson (Introd., p. 9) says that a single scholiast reports that some person thought Juvenal must be a Gaul, on account of his great size. This anonymous gentleman, however, finds posterity a unit against him; for, however widely they may and do differ on other Juvenalian questions, scholars are agreed that the poet was born at Aquinum.

In striking contrast to the unanimity of view with regard to the place at which Juvenal was born, the time of his birth is one of the most difficult of the many problems of his life. Estimates of scholars cover a period of forty-five years, that is, from 27 to 72. In order to arrive at a possible date, it is necessary to make a backward calculation from the date of the beginning of the poet's literary activity. The point of departure in nearly every estimate is the statement of the first vita that he practised declamation till middle life. On the supposition that forty to fifty represents the usual media aetas, scholars have made their conjectures. Bähr's guess (Gesch. der Röm. Lit., p. 621) is 42-47, and he quotes the estimates of Pinzger, Bauer, and Francke as 27, 28 and 39, respectively. Teuffel suggests 47. Pearson offers 48, on the ground that he was not alive after 128. The year 55 is favored by Hardy and others, while Wilson and Friedländer prefer 60. Duff suggests 60-72.

There are two manifest difficulties in fixing the year of the poet's birth by this method of retrogression. The first is the varying ideas as to the exact time of the media aetas. Some commentators reckon it as 40, others as 45, still others as 50. The second difficulty is that there is considerable difference of opinion regarding the dates of publication of the satires.

Of Juvenal's parentage nothing definite is known. The vita cited above states that he was either the son or foster-son of a rich freedman, and this statement has been accepted by the majority of the editors. Weidner, however, argues (Introd., p. x) that the poet's very names go to show that he was the son of a freeborn Roman citizen. A vita of the fifteenth century, published by J. Dürr (Das Leben Iuvenals, Ulm, 1888), gives the names of his parents, his sister and her husband. Duff disposes of this interesting information as follows (Introd., pp. x-xi): “The inference to be drawn from this unsupported statement in a Ms. of the fifteenth century is not that the writer had access to any special information, but that he felt the need of it and was willing to invent it himself."

Professor Merchant (A. J. P. XXII, 1901, p. 58) attacks the problem of the poet's parentage as follows: "If, now, as we are told in the memoir [the first vita], he was the son of a rich freedman, or the foster-son, in which case he may have been a freedman himself, we encounter the startling anomaly, that he looked with special aversion upon the very class from which he sprang, or to which he belonged, and to a member of which he owed his education, and, in the view of the biographer, easy circumstances for half his life." Merchant quotes the bitter lines from the first satire (99-116), in support of his statement that Juvenal looked with special aversion upon freedmen as a class. His conclusion is that the poet was the son of freeborn parents, who, however, by no means belonged to the aristocracy.

Early Life. From lines 15-17 of the first Satire, scholars have felt justified in affirming that Juvenal spent his boyhood in Rome, where he received the usual training in the schools: “We too," says the poet," jerked our hand from the ferule, and advised Sulla that the surest cure for insomnia was retirement from public life.” The fifteenth century vita, referred to above, gives a list of his teachers. Of the men mentioned in this list, Juvenal refers in the satires to three: Palaemon (6. 452; 7. 215, 219), Fronto (1. 12) and Volusius Bithynicus (15. 1), without connecting them in any way with his own scholastic experiences. References to Quintilian are found in 6. 75, 280; and in 7. 186, and some have entertained the supposition that Juvenal numbered that great master among his instructors. At any rate, if we may believe the statement of the first vita, he practised declamation till middle life, because he loved it; and thereby, no doubt, brought an unaccustomed glow of satisfaction to the lean countenance of some underpaid professor !

Military Life. A few scholars, notably Duff, do not believe Juvenal ever served in the army. These men maintain that the Aquinum inscription does not refer to the poet, but to some member of his family or to some relative. It is, of course, possible that no one would have supposed the poet was ever a soldier, had not the inscription been found; but, in the light of its information-if it be trustworthy—we can understand more clearly and explain more satisfactorily the references to military life found in the satires (e. g., l. 58 ff.; 2. 165; 14. 193, 197; 16. passim). That he experienced actual service outside of Italy seems extremely probable from the knowledge he exhibits of various provinces, especially Britain (cf., e. g., 2. 161; 4. 126-127, 141; 10. 14; 11. 124 ff.; 113. 163; 14. 196; 15. 45 ff.).

The question of the time and place of Juvenal's service in the army is an exceedingly involved one, and can not be answered with entire satisfaction. The statement of the vitae that he practised declamation till middle life might be construed as excluding the possibility of a military career until he had passed that period. But this statement does not necessarily imply that he practised declamation and did nothing else. It may signify, simply, that he did not cease the practice of declamation till after middle life.

The inscription informs us that Junius Juvenalis was an officer in a cohort of Delmatians. Ten years of service in the ranks was usually required before advancement to a prefecture or a tribunate could be expected. Duff, as has been noted, rejects the authority of the inscription and interprets the passages in the satires which refer to military matters as the utterances of a man who lived in peace at Rome all his adult life, and who was entirely out of sympathy with the business of war. Friedländer and Wilson, on the other hand see in the lines de rebus militaribus the retrospective observations of one who knew thoroughly the dangers and hardships of the camp and the battle field.

It was possible for young men to pass through the various grades of military advancement sooner than was regularly allowed, if they could enlist the services and influence of some person high in the favor of the emperor. This, Juvenal may have done; although, as Pearson points out, if the poet had really offended the prince by his verses against Paris, he would hardly have been selected for special preferment. Hardy thinks it probable that Juvenal commanded one of the Delmatian cohorts in the campaign of 78-84, under Agricola.

We learn, from a military diploma (C. I. L. 7. 1194) that in 103 the fourth Delmatian cohort was in Britain. In 14. 196-198, the poet exclaims: “Destroy the hovels of the Moors and the fortresses of the Brigantes, that your sixtieth year may bring you the eagle that confers wealth.” Pearson regards this as a remarkable coincidence. It may mean, says he, that Juvenal, finding political life flat, stale and unprofitable, had fled to the army after he became forty, and spent two or three years in service. This view, of course, makes it necessary to throw out the evidence of the inscription as to Juvenal's prefecture or tribunate, unless the lines refer to some unfortunate comrade of the satirist and not to himself, as is quite possible.

We know from Martial 12. 18 that Juvenal was in Rome in 102. In this connection, it may be remarked as a significant fact that Martial makes no mention of military activity in the three epigrams in which Juvenal's name occurs.

« VorigeDoorgaan »