Odi / hanc ego quae … : Juvenal's Voice and the Problematic Persona

Laura Van Abbema

University of Wisconsin-Madison

In Juvenal's entire body of satires the author uses the first-person singular form of odi (to hate) only once.  In the Sixth Satire on women, Juvenal says, in his reference to a presumably educated woman (lines 434-56) who discourses on the merits of Homer and Vergil, "I hate the woman who consults and pores over the 'Grammar' of Palaemon," who continually corrects not only her female friends for slips of speech but her husband as well.  Given the length of this satire and Juvenal's other concerns – adultery is ostensibly the theme of this work – should we not read this passage as a reflection of Juvenal's own voice?  If we accept the idea and importance of persona in satire, does such an approach presume an unnecessary and even dangerous divorce from historical reality?  As an educated author himself, might Juvenal feel threatened by the authority of such a woman?  Rather than discuss Juvenal's own life and adopt a psychological perspective of a possible failed marriage (which, barring any revelations from newly discovered inscriptions, is a dead-end), I propose to raise some questions on the validity of persona as an interpretational tool and to argue for a more historical analysis of Juvenal's Sixth Satire.

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