Like Virgil, Quintus Horatius Flaccus came from undistinguished provincial stock. He was born in 65 BC to a freedman in Venusia, southern Italy, who gave his son the best education his limited means could aspire to, sending him to Rome at the age of twelve and then to Athens. When twenty-one, without a day's military training, the young man enlisted as an officer in the Republican army, apparently serving without disgrace until the defeat at Philippi. With the general amnesty that followed, Horace returned to Rome and took a modest post in the Treasury, which he retained for seven years. In the spring of 38 BC Horace was introduced by Virgil to Maecenas, and was nine months later admitted into his celebrated circle of writers. Horace was otherwise unknown, but seems to have divided his time between his Treasury duties, love affairs, reading widely, lampooning the famous, and wandering round the poorer and more colourful parts of Rome. Around 35 BC he collected his compositions in a first book of Satires, which exhibits the urbanity, quiet humour and common sense that distinguish his best work. A second book of Satires was just as accomplished, employing lively hexameters for easy dialogue with himself and his own affairs. The following Epodes (c. 29 BC), criticising the lack of civic duty among contemporaries, was marred by flatness and artistic vulgarity, however, perhaps in an effort to flatter Maecenas, who had given him a farm in the Sabine Hills some fourteen miles from Rome. It was a substantial affair, with eight slaves and five tenant properties attached, and the financial independence allowed Horace to work in his own manner. Seven years later, in 23 BC, when he was forty-two, Horace collected nearly one hundred pieces in three books or scrolls of what he will always be remembered for: the Odes.
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