By his own account Quintus Horatius Flaccus was a rotten soldier. He fought for the losing side in the civil wars; when the order came to “Charge!” he dropped his shield and ran like mad in the wrong direction.
Back in Rome he landed a post as a petty bureaucrat, a quaestor’s clerk — not much of a job but one that left time for writing poetry on the side. He came to know great architects and builders, judges, sculptors, and political leaders. And Quintus Horatius Flaccus himself never governed a province, never built an aqueduct or temple, never created a striking bronze sculpture.
Still, when this Roman sat down in 23 B.C. to review his life’s accomplishments, he concluded that his contributions in poetry would outlast whatever the soldiers and builders had achieved:
Exegi monumentum aere perennius
Regalique situ pyramidum altius …
Non omnis moriar.
(I have erected a monument more lasting than bronze
And taller than the regal peak of the pyramids …
I shall never completely die.)
That famous epilogue from the third book of Odes has been endlessly quoted as testament to the immortality of literature and, most of all, its writer.
It was written by a man named in the entire known world as Horace. Read the rest of this entry