Classics Horace’s Odes
Roland Mayer
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0267


Though earlier Roman poets, for example, Catullus, had dabbled with lyric meters from the Greek poetic tradition, Horace was the first to publish books of poems composed exclusively in Greek lyric meters. His first three-book collection of odes was published in 23 BCE He was commissioned to write a hymn, the Carmen Saeculare, performed at the “centennial” games of 17 BCE. A fourth book of odes was then published a few years later. Horace’s achievement was virtually unique, since he had no followers who mattered to Roman readers until the 4th-century Christian poet Prudentius. With the revival of learning, Horatian lyric was widely imitated by neo-Latin poets and was even appropriated in some vernacular languages. Published scholarship on this most admired of Roman poets is immense, so in the bibliographical guide which follows only the most important of recent works is listed. It should be noted that all of them, especially the commentaries and “companions,” contain ample and up to date bibliographies which provide coverage of individual poems and particular issues.

General Overviews

Mariotti 1996–1998 is indispensable for its extraordinary range and outstanding scholarship. McNeill 2009 provides a concise bibliographical overview of Horace’s complete output. A number of general companions or handbooks, Davis 2010, Günther 2013, Harrison 2007, and Harrison 2014 now serve as user-friendly introductions to the whole of the poet’s work; they all contain chapters written by scholars of international repute on the lyrics as well as chapters which address broader issues that crop up throughout Horace’s poetry. Likewise monographic studies of the poet by Fraenkel 1957, Maurach 2001, Hills 2005, and Holzberg 2009 also devote chapters to the different genres in which he worked as well as to recurrent themes and issues. Harrison 2007 demonstrates the flexibility of form in the lyrics.

  • Davis, Gregson, ed. 2010. A companion to Horace. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

    Covers Horace’s biography and social milieu, poetic works, and reception, in nineteen chapters. Part 2 contains six chapters on the lyric poems, Part 3 is one chapter on their reception. At the end of each chapter there is a guide to further reading. The bibliography on pp. 414–443 is followed by a general index, which is also an index locorum.

  • Fraenkel, Eduard. 1957. Horace. Oxford: Clarendon.

    Still regarded as fundamental: translated into a number of languages, and reprinted in 2002. Erotic themes are neglected, focus is rather on the public persona of the poet and, for the lyrics, his engagement with the Greek tradition. Appreciation of Odes Book 4 is unusual for the time.

  • Günther, Hans-Christian, ed. 2013. Brill’s Companion to Horace. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill.

    An idiosyncratic “companion” which nonetheless covers Horace’s biography and works, chapter by chapter. The bibliography on pp. 561–579 is followed by two indexes, the first of names, subjects, Greek and Latin words, the second (very usefully) of passages cited for discussion.

  • Harrison, Stephen J., ed. 2007. The Cambridge companion to Horace. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Life and general contextualization of the poetry occupy Part 1, and works are treated genre by genre in Part 2. Part 3 is dedicated to poetic themes, Part 4 to reception. A number of the chapters necessarily discuss individual odes as appropriate, but there is no full index of specific poems or passages treated. The bibliography runs from pp. 349–378, and each chapter provides a guide to further reading.

  • Harrison, Stephen J. 2014. Horace. Greece & Rome. New Surveys in the Classics 42. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Indispensable brief guide to recent scholarship on the poet’s life, work, and reception. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on the Odes and Carmen Saeculare.

  • Hills, Philip D. 2005. Horace. London: Duckworth for Bristol Classical Press.

    Treats the Odes chiefly as works of literature. This accessible work is designed for the general reader.

  • Holzberg, Niklas. 2009. Horaz: Dichter und Werk. Munich: C. H. Beck.

    The four books of odes are dealt with in the fourth section, pp. 114–186; they are read with an eye to their literary, historical, and intellectual contexts. The index locates discussion of individual poems. In German.

  • Mariotti, Scevola, ed. 1996–1998. Orazio: Enciclopedia oraziana. 3 vols. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana.

    A monumental and comprehensive resource, drawing on the expertise of numerous front-rank international scholars. In Italian.

  • Maurach, Gregor. 2001. Horaz, Werk und Leben. Heidelberg, Germany: C. Winter.

    A very learned and personal account of the poet’s life and poetry, designed chiefly to rescue the poems from faulty interpretation. Chapter 6 provides an overview of the first collection of odes, followed by six chapters on individual poems. Chapter 14 is on the Carmen Saeculare and chapter 15 on the final book. Poorly printed and difficult to navigate, but undeniably valuable. In German.

  • McNeill, Randall. 2009. Horace. In Oxford Bibliographies in Classics.

    This Oxford bibliography surveys the poet’s life and all of his poetry.

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