n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - Saturnalian Satire : proto-carnivalesque reversals and inversions in Horace, 2.7

Volume 48, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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In 2.7, on the occasion of the Saturnalia, Horace's domestic slave Davus is invited to take the floor and lecture Horace himself in accordance with the traditions of this December festival. With the aid of the Stoic paradox 'Only the wise man is free and every fool is a slave', the servile speaker Davus turns the tables on his master Horace and accuses the satirist of the very vices that he has seen fit to criticise in others. Drawing together many of the trends of the second book of , the penultimate 2.7 occasions a thoroughgoing reversal of roles not only social but also literary : author becomes audience, speaker turns addressee, and satirist is made target. The poem provokes contemplation as to the nature of moralising and the moralist, satire and the satirist. Although many scholars have tried to dismiss Davus as a 'doctor ineptus' because of this servile speaker's errors and infelicities of both a logical and ideological nature, the present paper argues that on the occasion of the Saturnalia, Davus and Horace are involved in a ritual rather than a court case. It is suggested that the Saturnalian satire of 2.7 is best understood in the light of some of the theories of carnival and carnivalised literature put forward by the modern Russian thinker Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (1895-1975).

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