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Tacitus says at the beginning of the Histories (i. 3), “Non adeo virtutum sterile saeculum ut non et bona exempla prodiderit. Comitatae profugos liberos matres, secutae maritos in exilia coniuges," and in opposition to the instances of Juvenal we may fairly take the case of Artoria Flaccilla and Egnatia Maximilla (Tac. Ann. xv. 71); of Annia Pollitta (xvi. 10); of Servilia, wife of Asinius Pollio (ib. xvi 30); of Paulina, wife of Seneca (ib. xv. 64); of Arria, who showed her husband Caecina Paetus the way to die (Plin. Ep. iii. 16); of the younger Arria, Thrasea's wife (Tac. Ann. xvi. 34); of Fannia, wife of Helvidius Priscus, and of the married happiness of Pliny himself and his young wife Calpurnia. Among the lower classes, too, numerous inscriptions both in Rome and the provinces testify, often very pathetically, to an affectionate domestic life quite sufficiently to disprove absolutely Juvenal's indictment against women as a class.
Sat. vii. professes only to deal with the discouragement of literary men, but even so the picture is surely much exaggerated. Pliny's Letters show that there was a large senatorial circle of literary men, who not only listened to one another's recitations, but were always ready to patronise poorer men. At the same time the supply of needy poets and sophists was probably far in excess of the demand, and the result was no doubt discontent and distress on the part of many. With regard to rhetoric and declamation we may note that Pliny expressly mentions the encouragement these studies received from Trajan, while the Flavian emperors had all pursued the policy of establishing salaried chairs of rhetoric in various parts of the empire. When Juvenal
and Martial complain that these are no Maecenases, we may reply that men like Pliny did what Maecenas never dreamt of doing-founded schools, established municipal libraries, and provided endowments for the bringing up of free-born children.
Sat. viii, is a general impeachment of the nobles, who are represented as degenerate and unworthy, men of high-sounding names but disreputable lives—Rubellius Blandus, Lateranus, and Gracchus serving as types. Of course there is much truth in this picture. Under the empire there was no longer in reality a carrière ouverte aux talents, and the nobles, debarred from political activity, many of them spent their time in frivolity and dissipation. On the other hand, as far as individual examples go, we can get just as many of the opposite kind from Pliny, men like Verginius Rufus, Vestricius Spurinna, Corellius Rufus, etc., while many of the senatorial order went through the military career; and a long series of provincial governorships, such as we see in numerous inscriptions, with their varied experience and responsibility, must have turned out men, if not of the old and somewhat shadowy type which it was the fashion to ascribe to the old Romans, yet far removed from the empty-minded and frivolous being who for Juvenal represents the class. With regard to the state of the provinces, Juvenal is particularly unfair. To take the case of Cossutianus Capito or Marius Priscus as a type is to confuse almost wilfully the exception with the rule. Both had been punished for their misgoverment, and a glance through the cases under the lex repetundarum shows that provincial misgovernment under the empire was not frequent, and was sternly checked even
by emperors like Nero, while of Tiberius and Domitian not even their worst enemies can deny that they were good administrators and strict in their supervision of the provinces.
Sat. xi. deals with luxury, and here no doubt was one of the weak points in the imperial times. Access to and communication with all parts of the empire, and the peace which existed within the frontiers, gave an immense stimulus to commerce, and among the rich and successful to luxury. But still this is common to all city life on a large scale, and it was probably very much confined to Rome. In the municipal towns of Italy and the provinces there was still much of simplicity and frugality. Even in Rome it is possible, as Friedländer thinks, that there was less luxury, though what there was was more banal, than in such cities as London, Paris, and Vienna.
On Sat. x., xii., xiii., xiv. it is not necessary to dwell, as they are more declamations on moral subjects than satires on contemporary life. The foregoing very brief analysis of the Satires is, I think, sufficient to depose Juvenal from the lofty pedestal, as the scourger of vice, on which he has been sometimes placed. Satire with him was not primarily, any more than it was with Horace, an attack on vice; it was something much more entertaining, and perhaps quite as useful, a sketch of life and manners—" quidquid agunt homines, votum, timor, ira, voluptas, gaudia, discursus, nostri est farrago libelli.” Before all things Juvenal writes from the point! of view of a client, and of a client at Rome; for him the world is the capital, and the social conditions of the capital are all wrong, full of vice and corruption, and, more important still, full of upstarts and foreigners; the
rich parvenu has no generosity for clients; the Greek interloper ousts them from their position; the degenerate nobles no longer have the power or the will to help them. Juvenal is a thorough pessimist, having become so perhaps from a disappointed career; for some reason he seems to have failed in his search for promotion ; he is, therefore, a disappointed man, a man with a grievance, and this warped his views of men and things. The indignation which induced him to write was probably quite sincere, but it was a personal, not a moral, indignation. Then, again, Juvenal was by training and predilection a rhetorician, and worked up his materials with the methods and colouring of a declamator. From this arises exaggeration and overstatement of his
from a few examples, too sweeping deductions are drawn. Thus in Rome there are a great many Greek slaves, therefore it is “Graeca urbs”; Virro and others are mean to clients, therefore all patrons are ; Gracchus and Lateranus are degenerate nobles, therefore the aristocracy is corrupt; Messalina and others are profligate women, therefore all women are bad, and marriage an evil.
In point of fact Juvenal is the reflection of one side only of his times, and that the seamy side. The divorce court and the police intelligence do not reflect the state of morality in England. No more do Juvenal's Satires give us a complete or impartial picture of Roman society. We must read side by side with them the contemporary letters of Pliny, which give a very different picture, and also weigh the evidence offered by inscriptions.
Such a comparison and sifting of evidence would probably result in bringing out, among other features,
the following balance sheet of good and evil tendencies in Juvenal's time.
1. An imperial court, often luxurious, and too prone to be permeated with the intrigues of favourites, etc.
2. A nobility weakened with and cowed by the suspicions and jealousies of the emperors, and frequently from one cause or another degrading itself by playing the part of informers, or, worse still, figuring as actors, charioteers, or gladiators.
3. A class of nouveaux riches, composed of merchants and adventurers, often Greek and Oriental, not too moral in life, and spreading a pernicious example of luxury.
4. Crowds of slaves from all nations, who exercised a deeply corrupting influence in a number of ways.
5. A number of literary adventurers attracted to Rome, and, disappointed of their first hopes, attaching themselves to the most depraved as patrons. Martial hardly escapes belonging to this class, and even Juvenal himself has some of its less disgraceful features.
6. The city mob, caring for nothing but "panem et Circenses,” could not but have lowered the morals of Roman society in general.
7. The various vices and crimes which a complex civilisation and city life always and everywhere give rise to.
GooD TENDENCIES 1. The emperors were frequently good administrators, and even, when tyrants themselves, chose, as Domitian notoriously did, good and efficient assistants.