Figuring Out Roman Nobility
Juvenal's Eighth 'Satire'
Juvenal is a central author on courses in Classical Studies and has an important place on courses in comparative literature, both in the UK and USA. This new book by John Henderson shows how the eighth Satire, a brilliant piece of writing, makes fun of traditional Roman family values, and in the process displays the core of ideas and practices with which aristocratic culture at Rome enshrined itself - the display of geneologies, ancestral busts, proliferating names, the cult of exemplary legends - in all seriousness. Virgil and Horace are Juvenal's prize scalps in his spoof of the Roman fame-machine.
The book is aimed at undergraduate students of Roman Satire, and advanced school students of Classical Civilisation; but the notes and Appendices also address scholars and advanced readers of Latin poetry and Roman cultural politics, supporting a new close-reading and engaging with literary theory. All Latin is translated.
Contents: Introduction - which of your relatives need you to exist?; on the way in - text and translation of Juvenal, "Satire 8", 1-38; "Noblesse oblige" - what are pedigrees?; Rome in the "Nomen" - naming in Latin; pedigree chums - the poetics and politics of Roman names; it's no good calling people names - vv.1-5; "Canst thou not remember Quintius, Fabricius, Curius, Regulus?" - the "generalizing plural" in Latin; why the little boy was glad everyone called him Cyril - v.3; curiouser and curioser - v.4; fallen idols - vv.6-9; the fame of the name - vv.6-9; that for a game of soldiers - vv.9-12; absolutely Fabius - vv.13-8; "Courage, mon brave" - vv.19-20; Lloyd's names - vv.21-38; all the way, all ways - translation of Juvenal, "Satire 8", 39-275; off you go and make a name for yourself - vv.39-275; on your way out, if you wouldn't mind... - Juvenal, "Satires, Book 3". Appendices: Horace, "Odes" 1.12 and the generalizing plural - discussion (with texts and translation); Virgil's roll-call of Roman "Exempla: Aeneid" 6.808-86, synopsis, text and translation; Fabius Maximus in Virgil, Livy, Ovid - discussion (with texts and translations); glossary of Roman "Cognomina" - why is a Roman Emperor like P?
“Sustained literary and cultural criticism from one of the cleverest classicists currently active.” Greece and Rome ". . . Its verve, along with H.'s impressive scholarship, sets this work apart from the drear, scripted prose endemic to culture criticism. H. writes with committed energy rather than dogmatism, with an eye to the words on the page as well as the ideologies subtending them. These are two brilliant, tough and valuable books."
(The Classical Review, XLIX, 1, 1999)
"John Henderson's witty and provocative study of Juvenal's excoriating satire on noble family trees, sets out, as it were, to hunt for the unpatched arse-holes of the Roman aristocracy. That Juvenal's Eighth Satire exposes the pretensions of the disreputable descendants of the great and the good is evident. The only true nobility, proclaims the satirist, is virtue. But for Henderson, in Figuring Out Roman Nobility: Juvenal's Eighth Satire, the attack is broader still. Not only are the ancestors systematically ridiculed, but the entire culture of deference to the dead is demolished, taking with it the classics of Latin literature and the whole edifice of Roman education that was based on them. Even the reader is not immune to the satirist's attack, since the capacity to make any sense of this densely allusive poem betrays all too close an acquaintance with the subject of all those eulogies. The poem, in Henderson's reading, turns the tables on the ancestors, subjecting them to scrutiny, making their deeds and reputations the object of the critical and shaming gaze of the living."
(Times Literary Supplement, 12 September 1997)
"The book belongs to a series designed to make 'the latest research . . . Accessible . . . To a student and general readership'. I hope that students and others will make the effort needed for this, like any interaction with a piece of Hendersonese (though this is much 'easier' than some of his tours de force), and will be attracted by the punning, playful, allusive style. Hardened academics should check it out, for this is sustained literary and cultural criticism from one of the cleverest classicists currently active."
(Greece and Rome, 44.2 (October 1997))
"This book is . . . Well grounded in solid literary scholarship, displaying the author's indisputably wide and detailed knowledge of Latin literature. It is well buttressed by a supportive structure of appendices (36 pages compared with 96 pages of the main body of the book) and endnotes, in which the author's erudition is apparent. It is also grounded in a detailed examination of the Roman social and cultural history of the period of which the satire is a product. The text is firmly placed in context in the world, both material and mental, from which is comes and to which it was first directed . . . Instead of taking the text merely as an example of . . . Commonplace performance, Henderson in this deftly articulated book invites us to read Juvenal Satires 8 as a distanced comment of contemporary Roman educational practice, the place of tradition in Roman life, and on 'Romanness' itself, as created, recreated and transmitted."
(Scholia, 6 (1997) 19)
John Henderson is Professor of Classics, University of Cambridge and Fellow and Director of Studies in Classics of King's College, Cambridge. He is co-author (with Mary Beard) of Classics: A very short introduction (Oxford, 1995) and is the author of many books, including Figuring Out Roman Nobility: Juvenal's Eighth Satire (1997) and A Roman Life: Rutilius Gallicus on Paper and In Stone (1998), both published by University of Exeter Press.