Horace's "Carmen Saeculare"


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Ritual Magic and the Poet`s Art

Michael Putnam

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This is the first book devoted to Horace’s Carmen Saeculare, a poem commissioned by Roman emperor Augustus in 17 B.C.E. for choral performance at the Ludi Saeculares, the Secular Games. The poem is the first fully preserved Latin hymn whose circumstances of presentation are known, and it is the only lyric of Horace we can be certain was first presented orally.

Michael C. J. Putnam offers a close and sensitive reading of this hymn, shedding new light on the richness and virtuosity of its poetry, on the many sources Horace drew on, and on the poem’s power and significance as a public ritual. A rich and compelling work, this poem is a masterpiece, Putnam shows, and it represents a crucial link in the development of Rome’s outstanding lyric poet.

Michael C. J. Putnam is W. Duncan MacMillan II Professor of Classics and professor of comparative literature at Brown University. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Virgil’s Epic Designs: Ekphrasis in the Aeneid, published by Yale University Press.

"This is a book that will change the conversation about Horace by forcing readers to take seriously, and by enabling them at long last to enjoy, one of Horace’s most significant lyric productions."—Ellen Oliensis, University of California, Berkeley

"In this lucid, appreciative study, Putnam revindicates the Carmen Saeculare as a ’neglected masterpiece’ of Augustan literature. Sensitive as ever to poetic detail, nuance, and connection, he reads the Carmen Saeculare with cumulative attention to Horace’s earlier visions of divine protection; to Greek and Roman antecedents from Pindar and Sappho to Catullus, Virgil, and Tibullus; and finally, to the tradition of Roman religious carmina or magical songs. The reader is made welcome—is invited to concelebrate with poet and scholar this generous, optimistic and ennobling vision of what, in a brief incantatory moment, Rome once became."—Kenneth Reckford, Kenan Professor of Classics, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  may edit for space, "if you must" 

“Putnam shows once again why he ranks as one of the most powerful and persuasive readers of Latin poetry of the last half century. . . . [A] finely wrought book.”—Paul Allen Miller, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“Michael Putnam’s book is a statement long needed to begin an informed discussion of Horace’s Carmen Saeculare for the twenty-first century, marking and defining (at last, seventeen years after its own bimillennium) the magnus annus of that achievement.”—Ross Kilpatrick, Phoenix

“Putnam’s book is a model of clarity, rigor, and grace. Horace will never be the same again.”—Tom D’Evelyn, Providence Sunday Journal

“A welcome addition to the scholarship on the Carmen Saeculare. . . . The analysis of the hymn is full, rich, and detailed, and will be the standard for the interpretation of the Carmen Saeculare for years to come. . . . Putnam’s latest book is a worthy addition to the body of his work, and ably and gracefully demonstrates that Horace could view his Carmen Saeculare in the same way.”—Carol U. Merriam, The Classical Outlook

"This book, through its outstanding close reading of Horace's Carmen Saeculare and through its placement of it in the broadest of contexts, will make it impossible for this singular poem to be ignored ever again."—Vergilius

ISBN: 9780300182668
Publication Date: February 1, 2001
190 pages, 5 1/4 x 8
Virgil's Epic Designs

Ekphrasis in the Aeneid

Michael Putnam

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