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Sixteen Satires (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 1, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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About the Author

Less is known about the life of Juvenal (D. Iunius Iuuenalis) than was once believed - a key source, an inscription naming one Iunius Iuuenalis, refers to a later descendant, not the satirist - and such evidence as there is remains sadly inadequate. Much of it comes from Juvenal's own work. We know that the family was from Aquinum in Latium near modern Monte Cassino. One ancient Life offers a plausible birth date of AD 55. Another states that till middle-age Juvenal practised rhetoric, not for professional reasons but as an amusement, which implies a private income. Book I of the Satires was not published till c. 110-12, when the poet was in his fifties, and is clearly the work of an impoverished and embittered man who has come down in the world - a hanger-on of wealthy patrons with a chip on his shoulder - but the precise circumstances of Juvenal's fall from grace are unclear.

The Lives all agree that he was exiled for an indiscreet lampoon of the jobbing of appointments by a Court favourite. But they do not agree as to where he was sent or which emperor was responsible, and Juvenal never refers to the matter. Many doubt whether he was exiled at all. If he was, it was almost certainly by Domitian, c. 93, to Egypt. In any case he must have lost his patrimony. It is reasonable to assume that he was recalled after Domitian's assassination in 96. After Hadrian's accession he seems to have acquired a small farm at Tivoli and a house in Rome. His last and unfinished (or partially lost) collection appeared c. 128-30. He may have died then: at the latest he is unlikely to have survived long after Hadrian's death in 138.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 3rd edition (February 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447040
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Peter Green's latest revision to his earlier translations of Juvenal's satires is an absolute joy to read! In the Introduction he recounts the changes he has made with a refreshing candor. In addition, he neatly summarizes the various viewpoints about the problematic portions of the Satires -- possible lacunae (gaps), possible line shuffling, possible transcription errors, etc. While such problems occur with any ancient text (such as the Bible), it is rarely that a translator will discuss the problems, the solutions the translator has employed, and the reasons for his or her choices outside of scholarly works. Peter Green's clear and persuasive arguments are a welcome change from the usual practice.

The translations themselves preserve the sense of the original Latin, with little or no modern colloquialisms. As the translator noted in his Introduction, he was aghast to note in the first edition the extent to which he had both varied from the original line structure of Juvenal's works and the extent to which he had employed contemporary language, which now seemed dated. As a result, Peter Green retranslated most of the Satires to correct these errors. The latest edition of this work thus is far truer to the original work. The resulting text provides fascinating insights into Roman life duriung Juvenal's lifetime.

Another wonderful aspect of this edition are the clear and self-contained footnotes. The reader is not left having to scramble to find some obscure text in order to understand the footnote. Peter Green puts all the information necessary into each footnote, and also provides external references as necessary.
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Format: Paperback
Juvenal, is by far one of the greatest writers of the Roman era. His biting style and keen insight is a pleasure to read, and has not lost its appeal after the long years since it was written. Many of the subjects that Juvenal lashes at with his sharp wit are still apply today (government corruption and decadence among others).
However, Juvenal clearly wrote his satires for the era of the roman empire, not the 21st century, and his refferences often fly over the reader's head. The translator has done a fabulous job in explaining these details in the copious notes at the back of the book. It is highly suggested that one reads sections of the notes before reading those sections in the satires to gain the greatest understanding.
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Yes, Dr Jones may well be right in suggesting that there are better editions than this (although it would have been useful if he'd told us exactly which ones and why!). However, Peter Green arguably offers the best introduction to Juvenal's Satires. After all, Green is not writing for the specialist but for the average, intelligent reader - the kind of reader that Penguin Classics habitually caters for. Jones probably has scholars like Susanna Braund in mind and I'd imagine that her editions are those that professional classicists like him find most valuable. She offers an extremely perceptive commentary, full Latin text and a translation that is, I suspect, closer to the letter than Green's. But Braund comes at a hefty price - £18 for Volume I alone.

In any case, this Penguin edition has lots to offer besides value. Green captures the spirit and vitality, as well as the sharply ironic humour, of the original at least as well as Braund or Rudd, the two main competitors. His Juvenal sounds fresh, witty and modern (as well as occasionally loathsome, misogynistic and xenophobic). His Introduction, moreover, is extensive and engaging. It may well be 'old-fashioned' in its lack of enthusiasm for the 'persona theory' (ie the view that the poet is donning a mask and not voicing his own opinions, thereby preventing us from reading the satires as self-revelation). But Green does at least address 'the much-vexed question of Juvenal's satirical persona', and gives us an alternative approach. He inclines to the view that Juvenal's savage indignation resulted from humbling personal experience. According to long-held tradition, he was exiled - probably to Egypt.
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Juvenal was a misanthrope who looked around at the people he saw in ancient Rome and decided that most people were dishonest, corrupt, obsessed with sex, stupid, cheaters, etc. It's an ugly picture but hard to argue with as people are pretty much the same now. There are some masterly depictions here and some very good common sense, too. Not a pick me up. More like a "pull you down". Still worth reading to confirm your worst suspicions and also as an antidote to much positive thinking nonsense.
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Juvenal is hilarious, but in this translation, there are more "new" (to me) words than in the satire in the book we read when I studied at the university. This is probably because the translator chooses words with the most correct meaning, if you compare them with Juvenals choice of words? In that case, that is good, but it's more challenging to read.
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