Horace, Odes I.12.49-60

Augustus and Jupiter

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1st BCE
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This passage from Horace’s first book of Odes offers a prayer to Jupiter, the son of Saturn as the protector of humanity, and praises Augustus as his earthly counterpart (Gordon Williams, “Horace “Odes i.12” and the Succession to Augustus,” p. 148). This echoes Ovid’s claim in Metamorphoses XV.858 that while Jupiter reigns in the heavens, Augustus, as Julius Caesar’s (adopted) son, will rule over the earth (Julius Caesar is referred to as magnus Caesar, while Augustus is referred to as Caesar secundus) The comparison between the two in both Horace and Ovid nods to the supra-humanity of Augustus as the heir of the deified Julius Caesar. It should be noted that Augustus, not Jupiter, is the climax not only of this prayer, but also of this twelfth Ode (the repetitive use of  “you” used to refer to Jupiter in verses 57-59 makes clear that Augustus acts under Jupiter). Horace uses anticipated military conquests in the East against the Persians, Seres, and Indians in order to illustrate the vast military power that Augustus commands – these campaigns, bringing to mind Alexander, serve to emphasise the absolute authority (which is legitimate, iusto triumpho, “well-earned triumph,” and beneficial) that Augustus (and therefore Rome) has over the world.

Significant debate has traditionally taken place as to whether this Ode represents an attempt by Horace to imitate Pindar (the great Theban lyrical poet). More recently Alex Hardie has attempted to reassess the case for Pindar’s presence in Ode XII, something which he sees particularly reflected in the comparison between Jupiter and Augustus, mirroring the opening of Pindar’s fourth Olympian (IV.1), where Zeus likened to a charioteer in much the same way as Jupiter and Augustus here in Horace’s Ode. Horace makes an implicit comparison between Jupiter and Augustus as chariot drivers – the former driving his through Olympus (58), and the latter in his triumphal procession (54). Hardie argues that Horace implies an equivalence between Greek victory in chariot racing at the games, and Roman military victory, represented by the image of Augustus in his triumphal chariot. The superiority of Roman power is thereby subtly hinted at (see Alex Hardie, “Pindaric Source,” p. 373-374).

The juxtapositioning of driving and justice is also indicative of influence from Greek material with possible Pindaric influences, as it also appears in Callimachus’s first hymn to Zeus (3) (see Hardie, “Pindaric Source,” p. 396). Hardie argues that Horace’s address to Jupiter mimics the Aristotelean model of a king as a protective guardian (Aristotle, Politics V.1311a.1), which the term custos (49) embodies with its protective connotations (indeed, the term custos becomes an epithet for the emperor in the Flavian period). Verses 49-52 describe the combination of divine and human rulership, whereby Jupiter’s role is to provide protection for the divinely sanctioned human governor. Ovid’s logic, Hardie suggests, reflects the theories of cyclical constitutional change that Polybius describes as characteristic of Rome (Histories VI.4.7-9.1), as Augustus is to follow the ruling example of Jupiter - Roman rule must be reflective of the universal cosmic order. However, this also reminds that with the onset of the Principate, Rome will revert to one ruler (Hardie, “Pindaric Source,” p. 401). This idea of the Roman ruler, in this case the first emperor, effectively as a representative of Zeus is something new, and stems from a Hellenistic model of kingship (see Roland Mayer, Horace: Odes Book I, p. 127).


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Sylvie Franchet d'Espèrey
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