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Title:Wine, song, and the potens vates: The sympotic structure of Horace's "Odes"
Author(s):Johnson, Timothy Scott
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Newman, John Kevin
Department / Program:Classics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Language, Ancient
Literature, Classical
Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:Horace's sympotic odes dispel two assumptions that have captivated Horatian studies: (1) There is no linear thematic progression from one book of Odes to another, and (2) book IV represents a decline in Horace's lyric expression.
Much to the contrary, the symposia are placed within the individual books according to type. The most serious of the symposia, coupled with themes such as death, moderation, and the commonness of the human condition, and reminiscent of the sympotic tenor of Theognis, Alcaeus, and Xenophanes, occur in Odes I-II. Even the few exceptions that depict drunken revelry must be understood against the backdrop of more moderate symposia. The symposia of Odes III dismiss restraint and, in the fashion of Anacreon, invite the participant to lose himself in enjoyment. Yet, in spite of their distinctiveness, the final sympotic odes of both books I-II and book III end with warnings to those who refuse the invitation. Book IV opens with Horace doing exactly that, attempting to refuse the invitation of Venus to a love-symposion because he is too old. The wine and women of Odes III evaporate and all that remains in IV is the song.
The sympotic odes, then, form a thematic thread that develops throughout all four books, and that weaves them into a whole. The symposia of Odes I-II symbolize the need to abandon life's concerns and revel in the moment. Odes III expands the description of the drinking party and portrays in full its pleasures--wine, women, dance, and song. Odes IV, however, rejects the momentary pleasures of the symposion, and transforms it into a symbol of the power of poetry, which alone wins immortality for the poet. Further, the poetry of Horace cannot be studied piecemeal, because this thread appears not only in the Odes, but also finds support in the Epodes, Epistles, and to a smaller degree in the Satires.
Issue Date:1993
Rights Information:Copyright 1993 Johnson, Timothy Scott
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9329072
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9329072

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