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The Sixteen Satires Summary & Study Guide Description
The Sixteen Satires Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
Juvenalappears in Satires 1-16
Juvenal is the narrator of all of the satires. He complains about bad playwriting, stating that the immoral activities of the world are much more interesting than rewrites of mythology. Although his talent is wanting, indignation compels Juvenal to write poetry; he decides to write about the famous dead. Juvenal condemns homosexuals and adulterous men and women. He prefers an honest eunuch. He is disgusted with cross dressing as well. He believes the rest of the world mocks Rome for breeding "pansies." Juvenal applauds Umbricius' decision to move to Cumae because the only way to remain a true Roman is to leave Rome. Juvenal condemns Crispinus as a monster without a single redeeming virtue. He also criticizes Emperor Vespasian for using the Privy Council for frivolous reasons. Juvenal is angry at Trebius for enduring Virro's insults; he misses the courteous relationship that used to exist between patrons and clients.
Juvenal condemns the institution of marriage, stating that it is pure insanity to marry. He condemns the behaviour of wives and states that it is better to sleep with pretty boys than submit to marriage. Juvenal complains about the lack of respect that people have for artists and the Muses; it is hard to revel in inspiration with an empty belly. He believes that virtue, not pedigree, is the only test of true nobility. He encourages Rebellius Blandus to show his virtue to gain respect. Juvenal converses with Naevolus about Naevolus' way of life and advises him to find new clients. He condemns humanity for their greed and obsession with money. He disparages the things that people normally pray for and encourages them to pray for a healthy mind and body, a valiant heart and the strength to handle life's oppressions.
Juvenal condemns men who live above their means and demonstrates his ability to live within his means. He offers an impressive sacrifice to the gods to celebrate the safe return of his friend, Catullus, but he emphasizes that Catullus has three heirs; Juvenal is not a legacy hunter. Juvenal chides Calvinus' anger over a friend's refusal to repay a debt and encourages Calvinus to gain some proper perspective on the wrongs done to him. He warns Fuscinus against setting bad examples for his children. Juvenal tells the story of the Egyptians' cannibalism, condemning it as a crime for which no punishment is too severe. Juvenal addresses Gallius about the rewards of a successful army career.
Wivesappears in Satire 6
Juvenal states that getting married is insanity because wives are not chaste. Wives will make other men fathers but pass the children off as their husband's. Wives are willing to cross the sea with their lovers but not their husbands. Wives are vain. Some adore male violence, such as the female fencers. A marriage bed is always hot with quarrels. Luxury spurns avarice in wives who will call a lover's brother or slaves if their lover is asleep. Husbands need to hire guards to keep their wives chaste, but Juvenal wonders who will guard the guards. Wives love eunuchs because there is no chance of pregnancy.
No musician can resist a wife with musical tastes. Juvenal especially finds gossips, drunks and well-read menaces distasteful. Wives punish slaves when the slaves cannot make her appearances as graceful or beautiful as she desires. Wives pass off bastards as nobly-born children. They sue for absolution and go to soothsayers for charms to make their husbands forget things. Women loathe the children of concubines and murder their stepsons.
Homosexualsappears in Satire 2 and 6
Homosexuals disgust Juvenal. They dress as women but hesitate at curring off their penis, and their fertility rites exclude women. Juvenal considers them a shame to their families. He imagines how the dead heroes in Hades would react to men marrying other men. The rest of the world mocks Rome for breeding "pansies." In satire six, Juvenal shows his greater disdain for marriage by his comment that it is better to sleep with pretty boys than endure the insanity of marriage.
Umbriciusappears in Satire 3
Umbricius is the narrator for most of satire three. He decides to move to Cumae because he is unable to make a decent living in Rome since he is a moral and honest man. He disdains lies and homosexuality, as well as the mockery of the poor. Umbricius is a poor, native-born Roman. He must end his conversation because it is late, but he tells Juvenal to visit him when in Aquinum and he will read Juvenal's satires.
Vespasianappears in Satire 4
Vespasian is the emperor referred to in the anecdote in satire four. He receives a large fish from a fisherman but cannot find a dish large enough to hold the fish. He calls the Privy Council to solve his dilemma. Vespasian follows Montanus' advice to have a dish made that will hold the fish. Juvenal criticizes Vespasian for summoning the Privy Council for such a trivial matter and for robbing Rome of its most illustrious and noble sons. When the commons began to fear Vespasian, he was done for.
Trebiusappears in Satire 5
Trebius is Virro's client. He rushes to dinner at Virro's house when invited, only to be treated poorly. Juvenal tells Trebius that he should be ashamed of his lifestyle because dinner is not worth the insults that accompany it.
Virroappears in Satire 5 and 9
In satire five, Virro is Trebius' unpleasant, rude patron. In satire nine, he is Naevolus' lover who treats Naevolus poorly after revealing his secrets to him.
Teachersappears in Satire 7
Parents expect teachers to teach children everything though they are paid little and disrespected by their students. Teachers are expected to know everything and keep the students in perfect order. They take what they can get because they cannot get what they deserve.
Rebellius Blandusappears in Satire 8
Rebellius Blandus likely is Valerius Ponticus. Juvenal address satire 8 to him, advising him not to lean on his lineage because the only true nobility is virtue.
Naevolusappears in Satire 9
Satire nine features a conversation between Naevolus and Juvenal. Naevolus appears grim every time he meets Juvenal. He has lost weight and there are lines in his face. He has transformed his way of life because it never brings him a fair return. Naevolus gives his lover, Virro, two children and asks for a piece of land to retire on. Virro ignores Naevolus and acts as if he has betrayed Virro's secrets. Naevolus complains that Fate ignores his pleas.
Rutilusappears in Satire 11
Rutilus is a well-known gourmandize who sells everything for spices and is reduced to the gladiators' ring.
Catullusappears in Satire 12
Catullus is Juvenal's friend for whose safe return Juvenal offers sacrifices. When Catullus' ship is sinking, he throws his belongings overboard because he values his life over his wealth, which is rare. He returns safely to the harbor at Ostia.
Calvinusappears in Satire 13
Juvenal addresses satire thirteen to Calvinus, chiding his anger at a friend for refusing to repay a debt. Juvenal reminds Calvinus that his situation could be worse and attempts to dissuade him from seeking vengeance.
Fuscinusappears in Satire 14
In satire fourteen, Juvenal advises Fuscinus against allowing his children to see immoral because because they will mimic their father's example.
Egyptiansappears in Satire 15
The Egyptians worship cats, dogs and crocodiles. They also practice cannibalism without just cause.
Galliusappears in Satire 16
Juvenal addresses satire sixteen to Gallius, praising the rewards of a successful army career.
This section contains 1,234 words
(approx. 5 pages at 300 words per page)