Food: A Suitable Subject for Roman Verse Satire
thesisposted on 16.07.2010, 13:09 by Nicola Anne Hudson
This thesis looks in particular at a number of satires by the Roman poets Horace and Juvenal in which food is prominent: Horace's Satires 2.2, 2.4 and 2.8 and Juvenal's satires 4, 5, 11 and 15. Where relevant the works of Lucilius and Persius have also been brought into the scope of the study. It begins with a discussion of the reasons why food might be considered a suitable subject for Roman verse satire (considering the nature of food and of eating, and the nature of the genre), and a brief survey of the forms which food takes in the genre. This is followed by an analysis of the gastronomic terminology which the satirists use to achieve a satirical rather than a gastronomic effect. The body of the study is taken up with the specific areas which interest the satirists when they deal with food: the antithesis of town and country diet, gastronomy, the dinner party ('cena'), gluttony and cannibalism. For the most part these are dealt with on a satire by satire, chapter by chapter basis. In the case of the town versus country antithesis, however, Horace's Satire 2.2 is used as a starting point for the discussion of the subject in Persius' and Juvenal's satires. The thesis suggests that the satirists create for the reader's entertainment a number of 'perfect' misinterpretations of the proper role of food: the failure to see food as nutrition, the over-intellectualisation of the subject, and the abuse of conviviality, among others. Roman verse satire does not, therefore, provide a comprehensive or accurate picture of eating habits during the period in which the satirists wore writing. it does, however, offer the satirically attuned reader a sophisticated and literary discussion of diners, 'cooks' and cannibals in the broader moral, social and cultural context.