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Form: Lat. satira, older form satura
The word properly denotes a medley of heterogeneous things, and in particular a kind of dramatical farce, which consisted of a mixture of speech, song, music, and dancing. (See FESCENNINI.) Before the rise of an artistic type of Roman drama, these farces were performed on festive occasions by itinerant minstrels, the representation taking place upon the public stage erected at Rome in 390 B.C. After the introduction of the Greek drama by Livius Andronicus, 240 B.C., the saturae sank to the position of after-pieces (exodia) which were improvised by masked Roman youths after the conclusion of the performance proper; in this shape they lasted until they were entirely supplanted by the Atellanae. As an artistic composition the satura is wholly undramatical, and designates in the first instance a collection of miscellaneous pieces of poetry of heterogeneous contents and metres; in this form it seems to have been first introduced into literature by ENNIUS. A definite impress, fixing its character for all future time, was given to the satura in the 2nd century B.C. by LUCILIUS, who made it essentially what we now understand by satire, and is therefore designated by Horace [Sat. ii 1, 62] as the inventor of this branch of literature. Even his satires, as may be gathered from the fragments that survive, were of a very miscellaneous character, as regards matter and as regards form. All possible aspects of the life of the time were made the objects of a discussion, which might be serious, jocular, or censorious, as occasion required. It was composed in the form sometimes of an essay, sometimes of a letter, sometimes of a dialogue, and in the conversational style in vogue at the time. In his earlier poems he made use of various metres, afterwards almost exclusively of the hexameter. The significant example of Lucilius invited emulation all the more, because the prosaic and didactic element in satire was in the most thorough accordance with the Roman character and poetical capacities. Accordingly a number of imitators are mentioned reaching down to the end of the Republic, though, in the judgment of Horace, their endeavour to attain the level of their model was a vain one [Sat. i 10, 47]. A revival and development answering to the more refined taste of the time was given to the Lucilian saturo by Horace, who, however, confined himself to social and literary life, and used the hexameter alone. In the, latter respect his example was followed by PERSIUS and JUVENAL; but these treated the contrast between the ideal and the actual, which provokes the satire, not with the humour of Horace, but with bitterness and severity. An ancient (or pre-Lucilian) style of satura was revived towards the end of the Republic by the "most learned of the Romans," Terentins VARRO, with his Menippean Satires, in which, following the example of the Cynic Menippus of Gadara, he treated serious subjects in humorous fashion and in a mixed form of prose and poetry. This mixed form was also adopted in the time of Nero by PETRONIUS in his satirical romance of manners, and by SENECA in his satire on Claudius, as well as in later times by the emperor JULIAN in his Caesares, written in Greek. The satire is a thoroughly Roman species of poetry [Quintilian, x 1 § 93: Satura quidem tota nostra est]; for though there is much in the poetry of the Greeks which, in regard to subject-matter, corresponds in some degree to the satire, still they were never able to produce a literature of this kind stamped with a definite character of its own, and described by a distinctive name.
Type: Standard
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