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A Pastoral Pathicus? Juv. Sat. 9, Verg. Ecl. 2, and Patronage at Rome

Cait Monroe Mongrain

Princeton University

In this paper, I will present a new reading of Juvenal 9, in which I argue that the quotation of Vergil’s second Eclogue in line 102 (o Corydon, Corydon) is not an isolated reference but rather indicates a larger engagement with Eclogue 2, Vergilian pastoral, and ties into the satire’s concern with patron-client relationships. While previous scholarship has noted the link to Vergil in Satire 9, this borrowing has most often been taken at face value as a well-known literary reference to a homosexual relationship in a satire focused on male homoeroticism. This paper will suggest that by mentioning Corydon, Juvenal not only reworks Eclogue 2’s narrative about Alexis and Corydon but also sharpens his critique of patron-client relationships in the Rome of his own day.

Previous scholarship on Juvenal has noted the satirist’s engagement with pastoral (cf. e.g. Witke 1962, Grandsen 1970), as well as his frequent play with the Vergilian corpus (cf. e.g. Jenkyns 2012). In analyzing Satire 9 in particular, however, Braund (1988, 157-8) is in the minority in seeing greater significance in the reference to Corydon, arguing that this inclusion is an ironic comment on Naevolus’ urbanitas. Expanding upon Braund’s work, this paper argues that Satire 9 alludes to and plays with Vergilian pastoral throughout, functioning as a creative inversion of the pastoral, moving from pastor to pathicus, rus to urbs. The very format of the satire, unique in Juvenal’s corpus as a dialogue, hearkens back to the amoebean exchange of pastoral, while the opening comparison of Naevolus to Marsyas foregrounds song competition in the poem. By calling Naevolus ‘Corydon’, the satiric speaker pokes fun at Naevolus’ essentially urban character, mocking his glorification of a rural life (9.54-58), and ironizes Naevolus’ laments about his capricious patron, casting the patron as a crudelis Alexis. I argue that this characterization of Naevolus as Corydon serves as a further ironic reworking of Vergil’s narrative by picking up on the ending of Eclogue 2, in which Corydon urges himself to let go of his affection for Alexis and find alium Alexin (2.73). Although Naevolus sees himself as a Corydon, it is he who has been replaced. His patron has found his alium Alexin, and left Naevolus behind, despite the numerous services he has rendered.

This satiric engagement with the characters of Eclogue 2 underscores the satire’s biting commentary on the destabilization and corruption of the patron-client relationship in Rome. Naevolus as Corydon/Alexis straddles categories whose roles are no longer discrete: puer and pater, penetrated and penetrator, client and patron.

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Roman Cultural History

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