All Hope Lies in Caesar: An Ironic Appeal in Juvenal 7

Jeremy Huff

University of Minnesota

The opening address to Caesar in Juvenal 7 (1-3, 17-21) has often been discussed, but readings of these lines have varied considerably. Upon closer inspection, the opening address acts as a programmatic statement by introducing a tone of irony that is prevalent throughout Juvenal's Third Book of satires (as Braund has previously demonstrated). With this ironic address, Juvenal is not appealing to the emperor for patronage but in fact is suggesting that such patronage is not readily available. In this paper, I will explore the ironic function of the address through a close lexical analysis of the passage itself as well as a brief structural analysis of the satire as a whole. I will also examine the identity of Caesar along with the kind of potential literary patronage that he was likely to have offered.

The opening address uses language that is noticeably panegyric in nature and reflects the standard language and imagery of a conventional captatio benevolentiae aimed at addressing an emperor. When we examine the words respexit (3), circumspicit and stimulat (20), and indulgentia (21) in light of Juvenal's various uses of them elsewhere, we can see that they must be used ironically here. Another important aspect of irony in the Seventh Satire can be demonstrated through an examination of the structure of the poem as a whole. Each literary figure in the poem is introduced by language that initially elicits the reader's sympathy only to dispel that sympathy through subsequent condemnation of that figure. Most scholars agree that the Caesar mentioned in Satire 7 is Hadrian and believe the tone of the passage is one of gratitude. As this paper will argue, however, Roman satire was not likely to be high on Caesar's list of priorities, as Juvenal was well aware. By focusing attention on ironic strategies throughout Satire 7, we will see that Juvenal is suggesting that literary patronage will not be fully available under Hadrian despite appearances to the contrary.

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