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Horace (65-8 B.C.E.)  
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The Odes are an astonishing technical and poetic achievement. They are characterized by an extremely careful organization of words in brilliant rhetorical patterns (impossible to reproduce in English translation), as well as a masterly handling of verbal sonority, imagery, and theme.

Notable, too, is the extreme subtlety of thought and feeling that pervades these poems, the humor that is often missed on first reading, and the ingenious allusiveness that is simultaneously literary and autobiographical.

Finally, among his later works are to be found two books of Epistles, dealing principally with philosophical and personal subjects, especially the subject of friendship (again in its extended sense), and with literary criticism (especially the epistle known as the Ars Poetica, or "Art of Poetry"). The Epistles also reflect Horace's weariness of the politics and careerism of the Roman scene, and express his desire for a life of rural retirement and solitary contemplation.

Horace lived and died a bachelor. He was short and fat and complained of premature baldness. After his death on November 27, 8 B.C.E., he was buried beside the tomb of Maecenas.

The erotic environment assumed in Horace's poetry is characterized by an easy-going, matter-of-fact bisexuality. Love affairs are frequently visualized as being light, transitory, and not very serious though a deeper emotional disturbance is often suggested and sometimes explicitly described.

Horace often appears indifferent to the sex of a love partner, whether his own or a friend's. He refers to his own "thousand passions for girls, thousand passions for boys" (Sat. 2.3.325). He asks a friend why he would burst with sexual frustration when a slave girl or a slave boy is at hand to provide instant gratification (Sat. 1.2.116-118). He warns another friend of the trouble that might arise should he develop a strong passion for a slave girl or a boy (Ep. 18.72).

In referring to these bisexual attractions, Horace almost invariably mentions the female partner first and then the male. In a series of three, the male appearing last seems to hold a climactic position, as in Odes 2.5, where Horace, describing a friend's amatory history, refers first to Chloris, then to Pholoe, and finally to the boy Gyges.

Horace normally describes the object of homosexual love as a pubescent boy, frequently (perhaps always) a slave. In Odes 1.4, he assumes that so young a male will be of interest chiefly to other males, women generally preferring older boys.

Encouraging his friend Sestius to enjoy the pleasures of life while there is yet opportunity, Horace reminds him that, after death, he shall not be able to admire the beautiful Lycidas, "for whom all the young men are hot, and to whom the girls too will soon warm up."

Ligurinus is described as having the long hair and beardless cheeks of a young adolescent (Odes 4.10). A sexually ambiguous appearance is prized in the slave Gyges, whose sex cannot be determined even by the most experienced observers (Odes 2.5).

Whether or not there is an explicit erotic interest, the handsome slave boy, especially when employed, like Zeus's Ganymede, as a wine steward, frequently symbolizes the good life. Thus Odes 1.38, Horace's subtle comment on life, death, and Epicurean joy, is addressed to his young male slave. An athletic, royal youth with oiled hair represents money and success for the upwardly mobile Iccius in Odes 1.29. The loss of such a slave is the occasion for a consolatory poem to his friend Valgius Rufus (Odes 2.9).

Horace's poetry evinces as strong a sensitivity to male as to female beauty. He commemorates his lyric predecessor Alcaeus's celebration of his lover Lycus, "beautiful with his dark eyes and black hair" (Odes 1.32).

Sometimes the youth in question is involved in a heterosexual relationship, in which case Horace's comments seem to take on a voyeuristic character. Pyrrha is being courted by a "slender boy, his hair steeped in fragrant oils" (Odes 1.5). Neobule is in love with Hebrus, who bathes his oil-glistening shoulders in the Tiber and is an admirable athlete (Odes 3.12). Telephus, who is being pursued by the girl Rhode, is addressed as "radiant with thick hair and as bright as the evening star"(Odes 3.19).

Sometimes these heterosexual affairs are complicated by a little extracurricular homosexuality on the part of the male partner. Thus in Odes 3.20, Nearchus has been seduced away from his female paramour by another male, Pyrrhus, whom Horace warns against his rival's vengeance.

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