Within Odes 1-3 Horace consistently locates an idealized version of Rome in Sabinum and Italia. The former had long been a moral foil for Rome. The latter consisted of the regions of Italy that rebelled against Rome during the Social War and fought on the side of Marius in the civil wars that followed. Horace joins these two groups with the term Sabellians and places them together in moral opposition to the corruption and decadence of the late first century BC. Thus Horace elevates the formerly rebellious and still foreign Italici into Roman politics in the lofty position of virtuous outsider, a post formerly exclusive to the Sabines. This dialogue of Italian morality can be seen in Horace's geography. Almost without exception, whenever Horace locates a poem within Sabinum or Italia he does so within the context of ideal Roman values. In contrast, his geographical references to the city of Rome and the areas of Italy that sided with Rome in the Social War and Sulla thereafter are almost all in the context of luxury, excess, and general moral bankruptcy. Horace's use of Roman individuals and families divides Rome along the same lines. Odes 1.12 features a list of excellent Romans. Of the many possible and usual individuals, Horace chooses only the Sabellians. Throughout the Odes, Horace contrasts the proverbial luxury of the Etruscans with Sabellian simplicity and implicit moral superiority. His patron Maecenas is frequently the representative Etruscan for these sermons. It has long been assumed that Horace wrote about Sabinum in such laudatory language because his famous Sabine farm was a gift from Maecenas. But, Horace's praise extends beyond the Sabine hills into Italia as well. He sees himself and his fellow Italici—Horace's hometown of Venusia sided with the rebels—as virtual Sabines. Thus his true motivations are the elevation of the formerly rebellious parts of Italy to the status of ideal Romans and the subsequently easier integration of the recently enfranchised Italici into Roman politics as virtuous examples for Rome to follow.
College and Department
Humanities; Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Fairbank, Keith R., "Horace's Ideal Italy: Sabines and Sabellians in Odes 1-3" (2012). Theses and Dissertations. 3343.
Horace, Social War, Sabellians, Sabines, Ethnography