MA Classics and Ancient History

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Advice & Abuse: Horace's Satires and Epistles

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE60022
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Horace is one of the greatest Latin poets of any age, as well as one of the most significant Augustan poets. He is a master of the pithy expression: several quotations or part-quotations from his poems have become proverbs or mottoes which persist to this day: carpe diem, nunc est bibendum (‘now is the time to drink’), sapere aude (‘date to be wise’); the Royal Society’s motto Nullius in verba is adapted from Horace’s Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri (‘bound to swear to the words of no master’), from Epistle 1.1. Horace is also the first Roman satirist whose works are fully preserved. His satires and epistles are of profound influence on the tradition of satire, both in Rome (e.g. Juvenal, Persius) and in later European literature (e.g. Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson).

We study Horace’s hexameter poetry, beginning with his two books of Satires. Topics include Horace’s presentation of himself and his satiric voice, the relationship of his Satires to earlier satire, Horace’s portrayal of the political upheavals of the late Republic. We then examine Horace’s Epistles 1, which is the first poetry-book to take the form of a letter collection. Topics include its use of the letter-form, including philosophical letters, its portrayal of the addressees, and of Horace himself.

No prior knowledge of Latin required: all texts are studied in translation.


  • To study one of the most interesting and influential poets of Latin literature.
  • To develop a broad knowledge of central texts of Latin poetry.
  • To increase students’ awareness of current debates on a wide variety of relevant critical and theoretical topics.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Knowledge and critical understanding of the content, form, conventions, and background of Horace’s Satires and Epistles.
  • Deeper appreciation of Horace’s place within the tradition of hexameter satire, including his relationship to Lucilius and his later influence (e.g. on Juvenal).
  • Understanding of the exploitation in Horace’s hexameter poetry of models ranging from Greek iambos to philosophical epistolography.

Intellectual skills

  • The ability to construct an argument in written and oral form;
  • The ability to assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence, and to engage critically and analytically with this evidence;
  • The ability to conduct independent research, and to present the results in a professional manner with appropriate and detailed reference to sources and modern published scholarship.

Practical skills

  • Time-management
  • The ability to work co-operatively in small groups, and to engage in critical discussion and debate.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • The ability to analyse and examine complex information, as exemplified by the complex poems of a major Roman satirist.
  • An ability to synthesise an argument in a cogent form, as exemplified by the writing of essays on Horace’s Satires and Epistles.
  • The ability to retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion, as exemplified by engaging at a sophisticated level with difficult primary and secondary material.
  • Development of presentation and discussion skills (including confidence) through face-to-face discussion of difficult topics in class. 

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and examine complex information, an ability to synthesise an argument in a cogent form, the ability to retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion.

Assessment methods

Summative 4,000 word essay 100%
Formative 1,000 word essay 0%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback

Formative and summative

Class discussion, oral feedback



Recommended reading

Braund, S. 1992. Roman Verse Satire (Greece and Rome New Survey 23). Cambridge.

Davie, J. 2011. Horace: Satires and Epistles. Oxford.

Freudenburg, K. 1993. The Walking Muse: Horace on the Theory of Satire. Princeton.

Harrison, S.J. 2012. Horace (Greece and Rome New Survey 42). Cambridge.

Harrison, S.J. (ed.) 2007. The Cambridge Companion to Horace. Cambridge.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 3
Project supervision 3
Seminars 14
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Additional notes

  • Seminars (14 hours)
  • Introductory and essay-planning sessions (3 hours)
  • 3 dedicated consultation hours.
  • Independent Study: 130 hours.

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