BMCR 2022.02.02

Juvenal. Satiren

, Juvenal. Satiren. Sammlung Tusculum. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. 545. ISBN 9783110405873. €59,95.


This new bilingual edition has the ambitious aim to replace the highly esteemed translation in the same series by J. Adamietz (1993). Lorenz justifies this in part by a considerable change in Juvenal scholarship since then, but primarily by the need for a new and more readable translation. In contrast to Adamietz, who, as Lorenz argues, sought an accurate rendition of the Latin wording (to better understand the original), this new translation seeks to convey the meaning not the letter of the text. Consequently, the book is not primarily aimed at Juvenal scholars but at undergraduate students who want to understand the poems without constantly comparing it to the Latin original (p.10). Although the price of the book (about 60€) might be an obstacle in reaching such readers, it is nevertheless accessible to students at universities with an online access to De Gruyter.

A welcoming addition is the extensive introduction (pp. 12–105) which not only gives an accessible overview of the poems and its main themes, but also of scholarship. It consists of four parts: I. (“Juvenal und die Juvenal-Forschung”, pp. 12–39) a survey of the main discussions in Juvenal scholarship, notably the persona theory (pp. 12–22), and Juvenal’s relation to other genres, especially to Martial’s epigrams (pp. 22–39); II. (“Zur Interpretation der einzelnen Satiren”) short summaries with interpretation of all 16 satires (pp. 39–94); III. a short survey of reception (“Rezeption und Nachleben”, pp. 94–96). The introduction concludes with some general thoughts on textual transmission and a list of different readings in Clausen’s, Adamietz’ editions and the new edition. (“Zum Text dieser Ausgabe”, pp. 96-105).

Lorenz characterizes the debate on the persona theory as the central issue of Juvenal scholarship (p. 13 “das zentrale Thema der Juvenalforschung”) and gives a brief introduction and a summary of the major arguments and counter arguments. Whereas Lorenz is certainly right to emphasize the (somewhat used up) persona-theory as the main debate for the past 50 years that all student should know about, he misses the opportunity to indicate other current issues and directions that future scholars might follow.[1] In the case of Juvenal, Lorenz’ disproportionate focus on the author is even more surprising, especially as Juvenal gives very little biographic information; so much so that recent scholarship even came to the conclusion that the invisible author vanishes behind a poetics of anonymity.[2] Critically evaluating the persona theory (by Anderson/Braund) as a reaction to (radical) biographism (Highet), Lorenz identifies two contrasting positions in the debate: the name “Juvenal” either refers to a real conservative satirist or to a ridiculous parodic satirist persona. Thus, in the first case, the satiric critique is taken seriously, and in the second, the satirist himself is the target of derision. Lorenz rightly points to the problem that the persona theory is, in part, driven by the desire to detach all the morally unacceptable (e.g., racist, misogynistic) statements in the text from the historical author. The opposite (relativistic) assumption, however, which is that most of Juvenal’s contemporary readers would agree with his rants, is not mandatory. Lorenz himself tries to conciliate these oppositions by promoting the entertainment value of the satires as a satiric tool (p. 20: “Eine Lektüre, welche die Komik und den Unterhaltungswert der Satire würdigt, muss also keineswegs bedeuten, dass man Juvenal als Satiriker nicht ernst nimmt”). Perceiving the inconsistencies of the statements or the ridiculousness of the speaker does not necessarily prevent the reader from agreeing with the content of the critique, but rather creates ambiguity and openness that is characteristic of all great literature (p.19). Conversely, recent scholarship has argued for a less radical persona theory. A middle ground, or attenuated persona theory, could blur the lines between the biographical and the persona: Juvenal, at a carefully dosed rate, gives biographic information that supports the realism of the different I-voices.

In the section on Juvenal’s literary influences (pp. 22–39), Lorenz’ emphasis on allusions to Martial (p. 11 “ein Thema, das für unser Verständnis von Juvenals Werk zentral sein dürfte”) creates an imbalance between his epigrammatic contemporary (ten pages) and other influences, most importantly his satirist predecessors who are only briefly mentioned. Despite Wilamowitz’ famous dictum that there is no such thing as Roman Satire, but only Lucilius, Horace, Persius, and Juvenal (which Lorenz quotes), the latter clearly places himself within this generic tradition.[3] Although Martial was undoubtedly important for Juvenal, this restricted focus seems a bit arbitrary. Deeper information on Juvenal’s relation to other authors (satiric and not) is needed here, especially for students.

The section of the introduction on Juvenal’s reception is surprisingly short (p. 94–96) and it is not clear to me why the title of the chapter differentiates between “reception” (Rezeption) and “afterlife” (Nachleben). It seems to be based mainly on Highet’s survey (1954) which ends with the 19th century (Victor Hugo),[4] to which Lorenz adds a paragraph on Juvenal in film and TV. Further information on contemporary receptions, notably in German literature (e.g. the poet Durs Grünbein, who himself translated Juvenal’s third Satire[5]) would have been an asset, especially regarding the edition’s targeted readership.[6] In general, this section does not provide good guidance for students. Lorenz rightly states that giving a concise overview of the rich, diverse, and various ways Juvenal has been received over the centuries in different nations is a task hardly possible to accomplish within a few pages. This, however, makes an even stronger case for giving students some examples and directions other than commonplaces like the Christian reading as poeta ethicus.[7]

The major accomplishment and main body of the book is of course the translation. In general, Lorenz’ German rendition is accurate and makes for a good read that will facilitate readers’ understanding. Especially when it comes to sexual or colloquial expressions (which Adamietz translated rather in an old-fashioned and prim way), Lorenz makes a good job in giving them a fresh and more accurate wording, most evidently when using “Sex (haben)” instead of “Beischlaf” for concubitus/concumbere.[8] The choice of colloquial style, however, does not always seem appropriate. For instance, in the context of general life-advice, translating consilium (9.124) by the colloquial “Tipp” seems rather improper (more accurate would be “Rat(schlag),” as in 4.84f. honestum consilium: “einen ehrenhaften Rat”). On the contrary, at 1.16, in the otherwise colloquial context (“Okay”), Lorenz translates it as “Rat”, although “Tipp” here would be a good word to render the speaker’s dismissive mocking of the suasoriae into German. It is of course a difficult task to render the semantic ambiguities of one language into another, especially in the humorous literary genres such as Juvenal’s satire that play both on compressed and ambivalent images (O. Weinreich even said it can exasperate the translator). Often the translator must make decisions that reduce the original’s complexities. In this respect, Lorenz choices are sometimes unfortunate, for example the double meaning of sapere (to taste; be reasonable/wise). At the end of Satire 5 (on tyrannic patrons and parasitic clients at diner), Lorenz translates Ille sapit qui te sic utitur as “Jener ist vernünftig, der dich so behandelt (he (sc. the patronus) is reasonable who treats you like this).”[9] This unfortunately undermines the overall context of eating—the fundamental poetological metaphor (cf. 1.86.; think also of Mart. 10,4,10, hominem pagina nostra sapit[10]) and subject of satire (e.g. Horace’s cena Nasiendi, Petronius’ cena Trimalchionis). It thus destroys the punch line: in giving bad food to his clients, the patron actually proves his good taste: he has good sense(s) and discernment, in other words, he is a “discriminating host.”[11]

A similar observation can be made regarding the notes. Divisions of the text and short paraphrases of each section certainly help the reader to get a first general understanding of the often dense and highly allusive text. General historic and cultural information are given when needed which can be seen in the frequent use of “galt/galten als”. However, the information on realia is usually less detailed than in Adamietz: Sometimes the given information is too vague, e.g. on sat. 8.1–9 “Sämtliche Namen gehören zu alten, bedeutenden Adelsgeschlechtern” (460). Adamietz here provides more detailed information. Wordplays are only rarely explained (2.76 [testis]; 6.311 [testis]; 10.178 [ala]; 11.195 [praetor/praeda]). But the frequent play on names (e.g. 8.95f. pannis/Pansa or 10,93 principis angusta >Augustus) or on other phonetic similarities (6.490/93: crinem/crimen) are not obvious to the targeted audience, even more without looking to the Latin text. Instead, Lorenz regularly points to interpretive and textual problems. He discusses the understanding of difficult passages with reference to scholarship (e.g to 3, 249–53; 5, 104–106; 141–145; 6, 35–37; 7, 126–28). At times, he even paraphrases debates about problems of authenticity of the transmitted text (e.g. 3, 12–20; 109; 5, 91; 6, 138; 188; O1–34; 8, 1–9). Regarding his general introduction to the problems in textual transmission and scholarship (pp.97–99), these paraphrases – pointing to the commentaries for further discussion – might be a good way of leading students to scholarly debates and to the use of scientific commentaries. However, general statements like “der Text ist umstritten” (403; 417, 488), or simple references like “zur Textgestalt vgl./zur Diskussion über den umstrittenen Text vgl. ” (408; 446; 482; 484; 486, 491) might leave some readers rather frustrated.

To sum up, Lorenz’ edition needs not shy away from (self-imposed) comparisons to Adamietz. The new introduction offers a good guidance (despite some shortcomings). Lorenz’ fresh translation is certainly more appealing to today’s students. The less detailed and more problematizing notes also probably fit their needs better. Lorenz does not fully replace Adamietz’ edition, however, but rather adds to it.


[1] For instance, on satiric emotions: Catherine Keane, Juvenal and the Satiric Emotions, OUP 2015.

[2] See J. Uden, The Invisible Satirist: Juvenal and Second-century Rome, OUP 2014; T. Geue, Juvenal and the Poetics of Anonymity, CUP 2017.  Geue’s book appeared only a few weeks before the publication of Lorenz’ edition and obviously could not be considered.

[3] See, for instance, F. Jones, Juvenal and the Satiric Genre, London 2007.

[4] A lot of research in this area has been done since Highet. Lorenz only refers to Hooley’s short overview (D. Hooley, “Imperial Satire Reiterated: Late Antiquity through the Twentieth Century,” in: Braund/Osgood 2012, 337–362) and W. Kißel’s survey of Juvenal-scholarship (1962–2011). Since Lorenz makes Ben Jonson stand out of the crowd (without explaining why), he should also refer to V. Moul’s chapter “Competing Voices in Jonson’s Verse Satire: Horace and Juvenal,” in her book Jonson, Horace and the Classical Tradition, Cambridge 2010, pp. 94–134. Some other paths are given in Part III of the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Juvenal and Persius (ed. by. S. Braund and J. Osgood, 2012).

[5] D. Grünbein, „Bruder Juvenal. Satire als andauernde Gegenwart,“ in: C. Schmitz (ed.), Mythos im Alltag, Alltag im Mythos. Die Banalität des Alltags in unterschiedlichen literarischen Verwendungskontexten, München 2010, 11–30.

[6] German students of Latin often study German Literature as well. Introducing Juvenal’s reception in contemporary literature would make a wonderful case for the correlation of disciplines, for the study of classical receptions, and for the contemporary appeal of Latin poetry. There is also some research available: M. Fuhrmann, (1999), “Zeitdiagnose am Widerpart Rom: Zu Grünbeins Gedichtband ‘Nach den Satiren,’” Sprache im technischen Zeitalter 37: 276–85; M. Fuhrmann, (2002), “Juvenal – Barbier – Grünbein. Über den römischen Satiriker und zwei seiner tätigen Bewunderer Text + Kritik, ” Zeitschrift für Literatur 153: 60–7; T. Ziolkowski, (2006), “Two Juvenal Delinquents: Robert Lowell and Durs Grunbein,” Classical and Modern Literature 26: 12–32.

[7] For a broader overview of Juvenal’s reception from his death to the 21st century students might look into C. Schmitz’ chapter in her introduction (C. Schmitz, Juvenal, Hildesheim 2019, 207–30) which also treats Grünbein. For an introduction to Juvenal’s reception in the English-speaking world, Winkler’s 2001 Penguin anthology of English translations, adaptations, and imitations of Juvenal since the renaissance (Juvenal in English) is certainly the place to go.

[8] In 6.536, however, “Beischlaf” is used to fit the rather old-fashioned tone of the passage.

[9] Lorenz admittedly is in good company here: Adamietz translates: “Er ist klug, der dich so behandelt. ”; Knoche (1951, 59) “Klug ist der Mann, der…”; Schnur (1979,52): “Aber er, der so mit dir umgeht, hat Verstand”; Ramsay (1979 [19]: 83) “In treating you thus, the great man shows his wisdom” Labriolle/Villeneuve (1957,54): “il a raison de te traiter ainsi”; Rudd (1991, 36): “He knows what he is doing, treating you like that”; Santorelli (2013, 47 ): “La sa lunga, lui che ti tratta cosi.” Braund (2004, 229) however translates: “The man who treats you like this has good taste.”

[10] As Biagio Santorelli (Giovenale, Satira V. Introduzione, Traduzione e Commento, Berlin/Boston 2013, p. 190) explicitly points out in his commentary, the play on sapere is a joke “tipicamente marzialano.”

[11] Juvenal, Satires Book 1, edited by Susanna Morton Braund. Cambridge 1996, p. 303.