(65 BCE - 8 BCE)
Quintus Horatius Flaccus, better known as Horace, grew up in Venusia in the south of Italy during the last days of the Roman Republic. His father was a formerly enslaved person who achieved career prominence after gaining his freedom. He invested heavily in the schooling of his talented son, including education in the academic hubs of Rome and Athens. Horace joined Brutus’s pro-Republic army as an officer and was present for its defeat by Octavian and Mark Antony’s legions. Faced with the loss of his family estate, he returned to Rome under the aegis of Octavian’s amnesty, where he acquired a comfortable job in the treasury and embarked on his career as a poet.
A friend of the famed poet Virgil, Horace wrote lyric poetry, as seen in his much-read Odes, as well as satire, epodes, and epistles. As well as themes of politics, love, art, and morality, his poems also explore the mundane details of his life, making him one of the first autobiographical writers. Horace’s straightforward, insightful poetry has earned him followers and imitators over much of the past two millennia, from peers like Ovid through English Renaissance greats and modern poets including W. H. Auden and Robert Frost.