THE Romans liked to think that satire was a Roman invention. The claim cannot be allowed without some qualification, but it contains enough truth to make it natural and up to a point justifiable. For the kind of satire which has influenced the history of literature was the work of Roman poets. They may be named at once: Lucilius, Horace, Persius, Juvenal. No Greek will be mentioned in this chapter.
Of Lucilius extremely little is known, his voluminous works having all but completely perished. It is evident from ancient testimony that he possessed vigour, learning and originality, with a sense of humour (perhaps rather hearty than fine) and a taste and talent for invective. He wrote the Latin of his time (the end of the second century before Christ) with idiomatic purity except where it was variegated with Greek words, their Latin equivalents not yet existing. Lucilius wrote on a wide variety of subjects, but much too rapidly, so that he was often prolix and careless. These were grievous defects in the eyes of Horace, who from the very beginning of his literary career was animated, like the youthful Pope, with a passion for what the latter called 'correctness'. It meant not only the refusal of any licences in grammar or metre, but a love of artistic finish for its own sake. When Horace, for reasons that need not be considered at this time, decided to continue the Lucilian tradition, he could not radically alter it, because it was a genre, and every genre had its own style, that being one of the great principles of classical art. At the same time Horace thought it possible to retain much of the native force and savour of Lucilius' verse while purifying it of its faults in expression and in metre. On the other hand it was not a possible course for a young man--Horace began his career as