Introduction to Roman Satire
What is Satire?
Encyclopedia Britannica says
that satire is
the expression in
adequate terms of the sense of amusement or disgust, excited by the
ridiculous or unseemly, provided that humor is a distinctly
recognizable element, and that the utterance is invested with literary
form. Without humor, satire is invective; without literary form,
it is mere clownish jeering.
Satire, in other words, is
the combination of humor and criticism to point out human follies.
But where did it originate?
Where did Satire Begin?
Many forms of literature
find their origin in ancient Greek genres. However, Satire may be
the only genre that was purely Roman. Quintilian, professor of
rhetoric and grammar in the first century A.D. (C.E.) wrote a book
entitled Institutio Oratoria in which he compared Greek and Roman
literary genres. However, the book included no Greek equivalent of
Roman Satire. He claims that Lucilius, a writer of the second
century B.C. (B.C.E.), was the inventor of Satire. He also briefly
mentions Ennius, a later author, as a satirist.
Characterizes Roman Satire?
According to Michael Coffey
(Roman Satire, 1989) in order for writings to be classified as a
literary genre, two qualifications must be satisfied:
There must be an
archetype - one that claims to be the first of its kind
It must follow the lex
operis - "rules" of the genre must be followed and applied
Roman Satire does
qualify. Ennius was the first author to use the term satura.
He compiled all of his works into a book which he entitled Saturae
(literally meaning sausage, something stuffed with different ingredients)
because it was a collection of all different kinds of works in different
meters. Lucilius, however, was the writer who set the standard for
satire. His successors followed these standards which were
generally (as mentioned above in the definition of satire) to combine
humor and criticism in the ridicule of human flaws.