Phoebus volentem proelia me loqui: The Apollo of Callimachus in Horace


  • Kristina Tomc



ancient literature, ancient poetry, Callimachus, Horace


The Augustan poets often modelled their recusationes on Callimachus’ portrayal of Apollo in theAetiaPrologue. The paper discusses parallel passages in Horace’s oeuvre, illustrating some typical characteristics of Horace’s poetry and of his attitude to his poetic models.
After a brief introduction, the paper first touches on three poems by Horace where the role of Callimachus’ Apollo is taken over by another deity: the Muse in C. 1.6.10-12, Venus in C. 1.19.9-12, and adeus (presumably Cupid) in Epod. 14.6-8. The three examples display similarities to, rather than identity with, the Callimachean situation: instead of supplying a direct quote, Horace merely reports the words of a ῾higher power’ which allegedly prevented him from writing what he wanted or what was expected of him. In the two Odes Horace thus refuses to compose an epic, while Epode 14 is not a typical recusatio: Horace’s polished iambics paradoxically profess his inability to compose iambic poetry, and his preference for erotic lyric poetry.
The next section focuses on Satire 1.10.31-35, which portrays the Roman god Quirinus warning the young poet in a dream that writing Greek verse is pointless. An analysis of this complex programmatic satire reveals continual departures from, and approximations to, Callimachean poetic, as Horace interweaves several, at times clearly irreconcilable, traditions. Indeed, Callimachean poetic itself is not unequivocal or monolithic but contains many tensions. 
The short fourth section discusses Horace’s prayer to Mercury in Satire 2.6.13-15. Although superficially lacking a ῾programmatic’ dimension, the satire in fact contains several allusions to Callimachus. It serves to show that Horace’s images function at several levels at once, and that his satires closely interweave ethics with aesthetics.
The final and longest section focuses on Horace’s last poem, C. 4.15. In the first strophe, Horace is finally given a warning by Apollo himself. Of all the passages discussed, this one comes closest to the description of Callimachus’ Apollo in the Aetia Prologue. Besides a detailed analysis of the similarities and contrasts between the two poets’ portrayals of Apollo, the fifth section includes a comparison with Vergil’s sixthEclogue and Propertius’ third book of elegies, which undoubtedly served as Horace’s models as well. A prominent function is given to the metaphor of seafaring, which is linked by all three Roman poets to the composition of epic poetry. The paper, moreover, underlines the surprising continuation of Ode 4.15: rather than retreat into bucolic or erotic poetry, as might be expected, Horace openly launches into an ode heralding a new Aeneid and evoking ancient hymnic poetry. Even in the final poem, Horace’s Apollo thus testifies to Horace’s originality in reworking his models.


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24. 07. 2010



Scholarly Articles

How to Cite

Tomc, Kristina. 2010. “Phoebus Volentem Proelia Me Loqui: The Apollo of Callimachus in Horace”. Keria: Studia Latina Et Graeca 12 (1): 161-73.