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Juvenal: Zealous Vindicator of Roman Liberty

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Chapter Summary

Evidence in the poems indicates that Juvenal wrote and published his sixteen satires, divided into five books. A satirist who tirelessly attacks vice and folly and runs afoul of a powerful monarch who was then and is still today considered a despot can turn into an inspiring symbol of the perils inherent in the exercise of free speech in an unfree society. So Juvenal became, in Dryden's phrase, "a Zealous Vindicator of Roman Liberty". Juvenal and Tacitus may be regarded as kindred spirits critical of the system of government which had replaced Rome's republic. Parallel to the substance of their condemnation of imperial system is the rhetorical and stylistic sharpness with which they present their themes, notwithstanding the difference of the one writing in verse, the other in prose. This chapter outlines the facts and inferences concerning Juvenal's life. It then attempts a new vindication of Dryden's assessment of Juvenal.

Keywords: imperial system; John Dryden; Juvenal; Roman liberty; satires; Tacitus; zealous vindicator

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