Sexual personae in Horace's erotic poetry




Hay, Paul Jerome

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The application of persona theory to the poetry of Horace is a well-established method of critical analysis, but in Horace’s love poems we can also distinguish various erotic voices. The Odes and Epodes of Horace feature several distinct sexual personae as the speakers of the poems. Horace the Lothario is a witty, didactic, slightly detached expert on love and erotic behavior. Horace the Excluded Lover is a gloomy failure at love who desires someone he cannot have. Horace the Ephebophile seeks as the object of his erotic desire a young man generally older than traditional Roman pederasty would suggest, but this desire is coded and suppressed. Horace the Moralist, possibly in ironic relation to the other three, attacks loose sexual morals and praises Augustus for returning chastity and monogamy to Rome. Finally, the sexual personae of some of Horace’s poems defy simple categorization and must be analyzed more closely in order to explain the nature of the speaker. This methodology, the division into sexual personae, allows us to give a fresh critical appraisal to Horace’s erotic poetry.