The implications of the persona theory pose a problem for the interpretation of Juvenal's early satires, because it presents the satirist as intent on nullifying his didactic stances. This leaves us with an unsatisfactory conclusion that excises Juvenal's persistent treatment of themes consistent with contemporaneous authors who were similarly engaged in blackening the reputations of the famous dead. This article argues that a strict application of persona theory isolates Juvenal's satirist from his volatile contemporary climate by excluding him from the reality that these authors—similarly directing their works to the past—were unabashedly writing only after the tyrant was safely dead. Tacitus and Pliny had lamented the servility and silence that predominated during Domitian's reign, in which the Roman world endured fifteen years of terror without uttering a word. Into this literary milieu Juvenal announces his satirist, who begins with an echo of that silence: semper ego auditor tantum? With the death of Domitian and a new atmosphere that permitted the defamation of the deceased, Juvenal injects his venomous voice into the mix, taking advantage of contemporary literary appetites that allowed for the punishment, no matter how belated, if not of the person then of the guilty one's memory. Any evaluation of Juvenal's satiric project must be firmly rooted in this, his most immediate, context.
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Michael Ritter; Historicizing Satire in Juvenal. Classical Antiquity 1 October 2019; 38 (2): 250–274. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ca.2019.38.2.250
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