Saturday, April 7, 2012

an analysis of Juvenal's "On the City of Rome"

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An Analysis of Juvenal’s “On the City of Rome”

Decimus Junius Juvenalis’ Third Satire is a poem describing the negative aspects of life in Rome. As all satire is written with an intent to reform, this poem is written in such a way that it lists a host of negative features about the city of Rome, as reasons why Juvenal’s friend Umbricius is leaving the city to live in the country as a farmer. Juvenal’s choice to write satire instead of using direct language demonstrates that some degree of censorship was exercised at the time the work was written (early 1st and late nd Century CE). From Juvenal’s descriptions, one can deduce that costs of living were high, poverty was wide-spread, class prejudice was largely visible, there was limited to no policing in the streets of Rome, and citizens discharged their waste onto the street from their windows. It also shows the reader that satire was a popular form of writing, that there was a strong literary tradition whereby the writers thought they could influence the lives of people.

Juvenal provides us with a picture of the poor having “food/[r]otting undigested in their burning guts” and unable to fall sleep. He asks “when does sleep come to rented rooms?” These lines suggest that the commoners of Rome can afford only rotten food, and struggle to pay their rent. Furthermore the noise made from construction at night, and the fact that some of the commoners work on loading and off-loading building equipments at night, suggest that these people get very little rest at nights. Later on the poet contrasts this image of poverty and misery with the life of the affluent. The following passage describes the passing of a litter in the street “When duty demands it, crowds fall back to allow/ [t]he wealthy to pass… while on the way/ [t]hey read or write or even take a nap

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