Skip to main content

This paper explores the programmatic implications of a double allusion to Ibycus 287 PMG and Ennius’ Annales in Horace, C. 4.1.1-8. While Hardie, Hill, and Suerbaum have noted Ennius’ influence upon this passage, no attempt has been made to analyze its implications or to examine how the double allusion functions as a whole. I argue that it allows the opening of Odes IV to be read as an expression of anxiety over Horace’s obligation to praise Augustus (Thomas 19-20, Feeney 54), and well as a blueprint of a solution to the difficulty Horace faces, as a lyricist and Callimachean, in not being able to write epic, Rome's traditional genre of encomium.

At C. 4.1.6-7, Horace illustrates his erotic (and literary) weariness by representing himself as an old, jaded racehorse no longer responsive to goads: circum lustra decem flectere mollibus | iam durum imperiis (with flectere implying the action of reins). These lines allude to Ibycus’ simile comparing the aged lover to a retired racehorse forced back to the ring (ἦ μá½°ν τρομέω νιν ἐπερχÏŒμενον | á½¥στε φερέζυγος á¼µππος á¼€εθλοφÏŒρος ποτὶ γήρá¾³ | ἀέκων σὺν ὄχεσφι θοοá¿–ς ἐς á¼…μιλλαν á¼”βα, 287.5-7) as well as to an earlier adaptation of Ibycus’s simile in Ennius, Annales 16 (sicuti fortis equos spatio qui saepe supremo | vicit Olympia nunc senio confectus quiescit, frr. 522-3 Skutsch). Whereas Ibycus' simile expresses erotic weariness, Ennius' communicates literary weariness --specifically, his reluctance to return to writing epic (Skutsch ad loc) -- and I suggest that Horace alludes to this Ennian adaptation of Ibycus, in addition to Ibycus' original simile, to underline the parallels between Ennius' biographical situation and his own at the time of the writing of Odes IV. Pliny NH 7.101 and Cicero prov. cons. 20 claim that Ennius added Books 16-18 to the original 15-book Annales after a hiatus for encomiastic purposes; Horace, resuming his lyric career after some years of retirement (cf. Epist. 1.1-12) and possibly under pressure to praise Augustus (implied by Suetonius E Vita Horati 20-25 Klingner), would have found himself in a position similar to Ennius’.

Horace’s allusion to Ennius, however, is also ironic: as a lyricist, he cannot go on to write encomium the way Ennius did, in epic. In view of this, Horace’s faithfully erotic adaptation of Ibycus’ simile can be read as correcting Ennius’ adaptation, which divests the simile of its eroticism. I suggest that this illustrates Horace’s intention to lyricize epic encomium, and that Horace confirms his intention by alluding in rursus bella moves (4.1.2) to another fragment from the beginning of Annales 16, quippe vetusta virum non est satis bella moveri (fr. 403 Skutsch). For Ennius, bella moveri means to recount wars, i.e. write martial epic; for Horace, however, bella moves is an ironic reference to love’s untimely onslaught and, significantly, a phrase that implies genre-switching. In Ode 1.6, Horace employed the militarized portrayal of love (militia amoris) to draw an ironic contrast between epic (the genre of real wars) and lyric (the genre of proelia virginum | sectis in iuvenes unguibus acrium, C. 1.6.17-8) and to signal his rejection of the former in favor of the latter (Davis 33-6; Lyne (1997) 77-8). Here, rursus bella moves signals a similar generic shift from epic to lyric: Horace is re-appropriating Ennius’ horse back to its original lyric context, and that re-appropriation models and anticipates how he will lyricize epic encomium in subsequent odes.

The final section of my paper briefly outlines how Horace deploys his solution in Odes 4.4 and 4.14, which present epic material, including allusions to the Annales and Vergil’s Aeneid, in Pindarizing fashion. I conclude by noting how C. 4.1.1-8, when read as a programmatic passage for lyricizing epic in Odes IV, creates a ring composition with Ode 4.15, which celebrates lyric’s ascendancy over epic as the most fitting means of lauding Augustus in the age of the Pax Augusta (Putnam 272-3, pace Breed).