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Horace's "Carmen Saeculare"

Horace's "Carmen Saeculare": Ritual Magic and the Poet`s Art

Michael C. J. Putnam
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Horace's "Carmen Saeculare"
    Book Description:

    This is the first book devoted to Horace'sCarmen Saeculare,a poem commissioned by Roman emperor Augustus in 17 B.C.E. for choral performance at theLudi Saeculares, the Secular Games. The poem is the first fully preserved Latin hymn whose circumstances of presentation are known, and it is the only lyric of Horace we can be certain was first presented orally.Michael C. J. Putnam offers a close and sensitive reading of this hymn, shedding new light on the richness and virtuosity of its poetry, on the many sources Horace drew on, and on the poem's power and significance as a public ritual. A rich and compelling work, this poem is a masterpiece, Putnam shows, and it represents a crucial link in the development of Rome's outstanding lyric poet.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13045-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    TheCarmen Saeculareis unique in the corpus of Horace’s writing and in the remains of classical Latin literature because it was written for, and performed at, a public ceremony. The occasion itself was far from ordinary. In 17 B.C.E. the emperor Augustus had chosen to resuscitate, after the lapse of some one hundred and thirty years, theLudi Saeculares,‘‘games’’ to honor the end of onesaeculum,defined as the span of a generous lifetime, and to initiate auspiciously the next era. The tradition of their performance was ancient, and the honor given to the poet, to write the...

  5. 2 Horatian Background
    (pp. 8-50)

    In the continued outpouring of books that look closely at the poet’s art, theCarmen Saeculareof Horace remains still a neglected masterpiece. One of the reasons for this relative disregard, especially given the ode’s prominent position in the Horatian corpus and in Latin letters generally, is its public nature, which allows it to be perceived as an example of political propaganda. Horace, whose independence of spirit in all his previous work, be it satires or epistles, epodes or odes, has been justly lauded, has here, such is the implication, surrendered his freedom of mind in order to write an...

  6. 3 The Carmen Saeculare
    (pp. 51-95)

    The poem begins with the gods to be celebrated (I-8)¹

    Phoebe silvarumque potens Diana, lucidum caeli decus, o colendi semper et culti, date quae precamur tempore sacro,

    quo Sibyllini monuere versus virgines lectas puerosque castos dis, quibus septem placuere colles, dicere carmen.

    Phoebus and Diana, mistress of forests, brilliant grace of the heavens, O [you] worshipped and to be worshipped always, grant what we pray for at this holy time when the Sibyl's verses have advised that chosen maidens and chaste youths sing a hymn for the gods to whom the seven hills have given pleasure.

    Horace’s chorus begins by...

  7. 4 Horatian Hymn and the Carmen Saeculare
    (pp. 96-103)

    Let us turn now to Horace’s poetic output before and after theCarmen Saeculare.In this chapter I will first survey the hymns or hymnlike odes in the first three books, in particularc. I. 2I, and then examine Horace’s reaction to the presentation of theCarmen,especially as documented in the extraordinary sixth ode of the fourth book.

    A comparison of theCarmen Saecularewith the dozen or so complete, partial, or parodic hymns in the initial collection of odes confirms the several special qualities of theCarmen,not least the uniqueness of its final sextet of quatrains. In...

  8. 5 Horace and the Hellenic Heritage
    (pp. 104-112)

    We now turn to the Hellenic heritage on which Horace drew as he composed theCarmen.It is Pindar who looms largest in this background, in particular his fragmentary sixthPaean,which was a principal model forc. 4. 6.

    Pindar’sPaean6 has in common withc. 4. 6 and theCarmenthe fact that it is addressed to Apollo and, with theCarmenspecifically, its presentation by a chorus that speaks in the first person singular as if it stood for Pindar himself, just as the chorus of theCarmendoes, and does not, serve as a surrogate...

  9. 6 The Carmen Saeculare and Latin Poetry
    (pp. 113-129)

    The influence of Horace’s Roman poetic heritage, in particular the work of Catullus, Virgil, and Tibullus, is also apparent in theCarmen.In my discussion I will follow this order chronologically.

    The most salient example of Catullus’ presence in Horace’s ode is as obvious as the work itself is anomalous within the earlier poet’s corpus, namely, poem 34, his hymn to Diana:

    Dianae sumus in fide

    puellae et pueri integri:

    [Dianam pueri integri]

    puellaeque canamus.

    o Latonia, maximi

    magna progenies Iovis,

    quam mater prope Deliam

    deposivit olivam,

    montium domina ut fores

    silvarumque virentium

    saltuumque reconditorum

    amniumque sonantum:

    tu Lucina dolentibus...

  10. 7 The Carmen Saeculare and Carmina
    (pp. 130-150)

    To conclude my discussion of Horace’sCarmen,I will examine more specifically the wordcarmenand especially the situations wherecarminawere sung as part of ritual ceremonies in an attempt to determine the originality of theCarmen Saeculare.I will look first at the meaning and usage of the word itself and then examine the connection betweencarmen/carminaand poetic genre. Finally, I will review the history of public performance ofcarminaand, in particular, their connection with Augustus’Ludi.

    Horace’s last reference to theCarmencomes in what was certainly among his final works, the great letter to...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 151-174)
  12. Select Bibiliography
    (pp. 175-178)
  13. Index
    (pp. 179-182)