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were trampling upon the rights and liberties of his country, to pass with but slight castigation. · Satirical poems, in general, lose much of their interest, by the lapse of time and ignorance of the particular circumstances that occasioned them; thus many of the satires of Persius and Juvenal, and the epigrams of Martial, appear to us obscure and almost unintelligible, when to their contemporaries, they exhibited much biting sarcasm, and were read with avidity, because they were conversant with the characters alluded to, and the errors and vices censured. Persius died in the thirtieth year of his age.
Juvenal was born about the year 38, A. D., at Aquinam, a town of the Volsci. He first intended to pursue the profession of law, and much of his time was, therefore, employed in declamatory exercises, and such other studies and preparations as were deemed necessary to attain distinction at the bar. Possessing a talent for poetry, he abandoned the law, and applied himself to that particular species for which he was afterwards so distinguished, namely, satire. He appears to have possessed the essential requisites of a satirist; among others, a fearless and independent spirit, which refused to sing the praises of such despicable tyrants as Nero and Domitian. Regardless of consequences, he boldly attacked Paris, a celebrated player, the favorite of Nero and Domitian, who first felt his shafts. Through the influence of Paris, he was sent by Domitian into Egypt, as a kind of banishment, from which he was recalled by Nerva. He lived to the advanced age of eighty years, and died under the reign of Trajan. The satires of Juvenal that have reached the present time, amount to sixteen in number, and have been translated by Gifford, who has transfused into his translation all the lofty and independent spirit of the original, avoiding the low and indecent language in which Juvenal sometimes indulged, and which indeed, disarmed some of his satires of their sting. As a poet, in the particular species which he chose for the exercise of his talents, he holds an elevated rank, which ancient and modern critics have united to assign him.
His shafts were chiefly directed against the vices of the degenerate age in which he lived, and were, in general, sufficiently keen and pointed to produce the desired effect.
Martial was a native of Spain, and went to Rome about the twentieth year of his age, for the purpose of studying law. Like
Juvenal and Persius, he deserted the courts of law for the court of the muses, and possessing a pliant temper, by which he became all things to all men,” he gained the favor of the great by
3 gross flattery and indiscriminate pánegyrics. The profligate Domitian, the degenerate son of Vespasian, was the peculiar subject of his praise. The first book of his epigrams is nearly one continued strain of adulation. Although Martial extolled this despicable and worthless tyrant while he wielded the sceptre, as a pattern of public and private virtue, when dead be represented him as the most vicious of men. The virtuous Tra. jan treated him with deserved neglect, in consequence of which he retired to his native country, where he passed the remainder of his days, neglected and forgotten.
The epigram, for which Martial was distinguished, is a species of poetic composition, approaching nearly to the satire, having in view the same object, the censure and ridicule of vice and folly. In satire, the subject matter is sometimes much amplified and extended, whilst in the epigram, the great object of the author is to compress, and bring the subject to a point in a few lines. Fourteen books of his epigrams are still extant; and although they have lost much of their force, in consequence of the length of time that has elapsed, and our ignorance of the particular transactions to which they allude, yet they are remarkable for that tartness of expression and peculiar turn, which constitute the chief merit of epigrammatic writing. The following, in which he contrasts a retired life, with life in Rome, was probably written about the time of his retirement into Spain. It is the 96th epigram of the tenth book:
Me, who have liv'd so long among the great,
One suit does there three or four winters last.
Contemporary with Juvenal, Persius and Martial, were Silius Italicus and Statius. Silius was also originally designed for the bar, and was, for some time, a distinguished member of it, but after the death of Nero, in whose reign he was one year consul, he retired from Rome and fixed his residence near Naples, where he devoted himself to literary pursuits. He was a great admirer of Virgil, and every year celebrated his birthday with great pomp. In his writings he endeavored to imitate the style and manner of Virgil, but was not very successful. Of the works of Silius there remains only an historical poem in seventeen books, the subject of which is the second Punic war. In the construction of his poem he has displayed very little invention, contenting himself with scrupulously following the order and details of events as they occurred from the siege of Seguntum to the defeat of Hannibal and the subjection of Carthage to the victorious Scipio. Silius died in the 75th year of his age.
Statius was born at Naples in the reign of Domitian. He was the author of many works, the most celebrated of which is, the Thebais, in twelve books, the subject of this poem is, the uphappy quarrel between Etrocles and Polynices, the sons of Edipus, who, on the death of their father, agreed to sway, by turns, the sceptre of Thebes. His poem was dedicated to Domitian, whom the poet, with servile flattery, ranked among the gods. Statius was very popular as a poet at Rome, and Martial informs us, that vast crowds were accustomed to attend when any part of his Thebais was to be recited in public. Modern criticism has not, in this instance, confirmed the judgment of his contemporaries, but has pronounced his poem to be without interest, and his style bombastic and affected. Laharpe, whose opinions we have frequently adopted, because we believe them to be the result of correct taste and sound judgment, speaks of Statius in a tone of contempt, and regards his works as scarcely worth
preservation. Statius was the author also of several dramatic works, which he is supposed to have written to procure bread. He died about 100 years after Christ.
We will conclude our notice of the Roman poets with Phoedrus, the fabulist, who was by birth a Thracian, and was one of the freedmen of Augustus. Fables were pieces of wit that made their appearance in very early ages of the world, and were used to inculcate some useful and instructive moral lesson, in language familiar and easily to be comprehended by all to whom they were addressed. As an original and inventive genius we know nothing of Phædrus; he is only known to us as the translator of Æsop's fables into iambic verses. The works of Phædrus escaped the observation of the moderns, until about the close of the sixteenth century, when a copy was accidentally discovered in the library of St. Remi, at Rheims.
Notwithstanding the great improvements introduced into theatrical representations by the genius and talents of Plautus and Terence, and the taste that many of the Roman people imbibed for such amusements during the reign of Augustus, it is a remarkable fact, that Rome produced no dramatic writer of any reputation after Terence; at least none whose fame has been transmitted to modern times. The dearth of dramatic talent may be accounted for in the despotic nature of the government after the demise of Augustus, and in the increasing attachment of the Roman people, to the cruel and inhuman spectacles exhibited in the ampitheatres, where slaves and criminals were made to contend with the most ferocious wild beasts, and where gladiators, regularly trained to the arts of attack and defence, exhibited their skill and prowess in deadly contests with each other. Although theatrical amusements, in which were united intellectual pleasure and the gratification of the senses, restrained, in a considerable degree, under Julius Cæsar and Augustus, the combats of gladiators, yet, under those monsters of iniquity and cruelty, Nero and Domitian, they were revived with full force, and continued to amuse an assembly of Romans, until finally abolished by the emperor Honorius, A. D. 403. Honorius was induced to take this step in consequence of the death of Telemachus, a christian hermit, who, inspired by a holy zeal, left his cell among the mountains of Syria, to put a stop to such cruel exhibitions, and throwing himself amidst the combatants in the
arena, with that benevolent, intent, was stoned to death by the spectators. In these cruel exhibitions, so revolting to our feelings, and so repugnant to all our ideas of amusement, some of the emperors, particularly those we have named, greatly delighted, because they gratified that thirst for blood, for which they were more distinguished, than for any great or useful quality; and, as in monarchical governments, the people are apt to imitate the manners of the great, and even follow their tastes, the genuine drama, which unites the charms of poetry and music, and which has a tendency to soften the heart and refine the manners, was forced to yield to the supremacy of gladiatorial combats. Thus it was, that in the temples of the muses, the shrines of Melpomene and Thalia were abandoned and forgotten, and dramatic poetry was neglected and uncultivated.
The shows of gladiators, which took such hold upon the Roman people, and, as we think, had a considerable influence in preventing the cultivation of dramatic poetry, were first exhibited about 400 years after the foundation of the city, by the, sons of Brutus, at the funeral of their father, and for many years were only exhibited on such occasions. The magistrates at length exhibited them at the Saturnalia, or feasts in honor of Saturn, and “though calculated rather to move pity and cause horror, than to give pleasure, yet, like other scenes which excite hopes and fears, and keep the mind in suspense, they were admired by the multitude, and became frequent on all solemn occasions and festivals.". We can form a pretty correct opinion of the attachment of the people to such exhibitions, when we find the virtuous Trajan, on whom a whole people conferred the title of Optimus, or Most Excellent, yielding to the predilections of his countrymen, and, on his triumph after the Dacian war, exhibiting games which continued one hundred and twentythree days, and during which, ten thousand gladiators engaged in mortal fight for the amusement and gratification of a depraved populace:
I see before me the gladiator lie;