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Quote for the Week of December 5, 2005

posted December 5, 2005 @ 4:30 AM  |  Quote for the Week category

"Don't think, just do." ~Horace

Quintus Horatius Flaccus was born on the 8th of December, B.C. 65 at Venusia, a Roman colony on the confines of Apulia and Lucania. His father was a libertinus (former slave), or freed man. Horace was technically ingenuus, having been born after his father's emancipation. He never mentions his mother. In the exercise of this profession as collector of taxes, and from the proceeds of public sales, his father acquired a small estate near Venusia, and a competence that enabled him to give his son the best education that Rome could afford. In Rome, Horace pursued the usual courses in grammar and rhetoric, reading the older Latin poets under the famous teacher L. Orbilius Pupillus. He also read Homer at this time, and apparently pushed his Greek studies so far as to compose Greek verses. At the age of twenty he went to study in Athens, at the time a university town and finishing school for young Romans of the better class. He attended the lectures of Cratippus the Peripatetic, and Theomnestus the Academician, the chief figures in the schools at that time. In later years, after the publication of the first three books of the Odes, the Greek moral philosophers became his favorite reading.

Among his fellow-students were Marcus Cicero, son of the orator, M. Valerius Messalla, and many other sons of distinguished houses. His studies were interrupted after the assassination of Caesar in B.C. 44, during the civil war, in which, with other members of the young Roman nobility, joined the party of Brutus and Cassius against the triumvirs. Plutarch relates that Brutus, while preparing for the campaign, attended the lectures of Theomnestus at Athens. He met Horace, to whom, in spite of his youth and humble birth, gave the position of military tribune. In this capacity Horace accompanied Brutus in his progress through Thessly and Macedonia, and in the next year crossed to Asia with him. Returning to Macedonia in the autumn of B.C. 42, he took part in the battle of Philippi, from which he escaped to Italy to find his father dead and his estate confiscated for the use of the veterans of the triumvirs. Many passages of his works referred to these experiences of war and travel.

The next few years were the hardest of Horace's life. He supported himself by means of a clerkship in the quaestor's office, which he bought with borrowed money and the influence of his father's friends. This period of hardship, however, did not last long. His 'dash at the bersemonger's craft,' won him the friendship of Vergil and Varius, the rising poets of the age, who, in B.C. 29, introduced him to Maecenas, the great minister of Augustus.

The rest of Horace's life was deemed to be easy and uneventful until his death in 8 B.C.

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