Weekend Reading: Turning to Horace

My current goal, on this website, is to ignore the outside world as much as is realistically possible. I’m spending hours a day on the phone to people in difficult/impossible situations, and there’s a lot that I can’t fix. The one thing I can do it to make this blog a happy space.

To that end, I’ve been inviting (some might say ‘pestering’…) classicists from the OU and elsewhere to send me their happy thoughts. If you’ve signed up to ‘follow’ this blog you may have been reading these interviews; but if not, here are links to the interviews so far…


Comfort Classics: Steve Havelin

Comfort Classics: Lilah Grace Canevaro

Comfort Classics: Jack Lambert

Comfort Classics: Joanna Paul

Comfort Classics: Gina May


I’m hoping to publish one every day for as long as we’re all in need of nice things to think about. Ambitious? Maybe. But I believe I can irritate classicists in sufficiently large numbers to pull it off. So if you’d like to contribute something happy, get in touch with me through the Contact form and I’ll send you an email.


Group Selfie 3
Using the power of the internet, I can now annoy large groups of classicists simultaneously and from a distance. Hooray for the internet age.


I’ll keep posting on a Friday too – but it’s possible that these rambles may become increasingly surreal, since my world, like everyone else’s, has gotten much smaller of late. Brace yourselves for several weeks of random thoughts…

This week I came across an old blog-post by Llewelyn Morgan about people who carry a volume of Horace around with them. This amused me, because it’s something I’ve been doing since I was about 17. Well, I don’t usually take Horace to the shops with me… because that would be weird. But on a long journey, or even a long walk, I often have Horace in my pocket. He just seems like the natural choice for pleasant company.

So this week, just for laughs, I thought I’d introduce you to some of my Horaces. I’m not quite sure how I acquired quite so many different volumes of Horace – is this normal? – but now that I have lots of time in the house I’m appreciating their calm and humorous presence more than usual. I have pocket Horaces, giant Horaces, and prose and poetry translations in several different languages. Horace makes me happy.




This is one of my favourites. It’s a tiny little 18th century edition of Horace’s Odes. I like it because it’s Horace – but also because it was owned in 1781 by one William Benwell, who was quite possessive of it. On the first page he wrote a rather aggressive stanza:


Si quis errantem videat libellum

Reddat, aut collo dabitur capistrum,

Carnifex eius tunicas habet

Terra cadaver.




Which translates to something like…


If anyone should find this wandering little book,

Let him give it back, or be given a noose for his neck.

The hangman has his clothes

And the earth his corpse.


Perhaps this is further evidence that people become quite attached to Horace!

I have other Horace volumes which have been… aggressively annotated. This seventeenth century copy, for instance, has a remarkably comprehensive index of Horatian words, which someone a few hundred years ago evidently found boring. Some of the owner’s scrawls are fairly obscene!




I have another copy of Horace with Blackadder associations. Sadly not the TV series, though! My monster copy of Horace belonged to Thomas Boswall of Blackadder, an estate in Berwickshire.



I don’t know much about Thomas himself, but there is a rather daunting portrait of his wife Elizabeth in the National Trust collections….




I can’t imagine Elizabeth scrawling bloodthirsty threats or obscene things on a copy of Horace. She doesn’t even seem like a woman who would carry a Horace in her pocket – although she could probably fit one under her cap. Now that would be impressive…

Tune in next week for (possibly) more thrilling installments of Books That I Have On My Shelf. I have an entire shelf of Horace – and just wait till we get to Tacitus…!


So many Horaces. So little time…





This week from around the Classics Internet



Weekly newsletter – BGS 

Hellene Travel birthday newsletter – The Classics Library

Tribute to Jasper Griffin – CUCD Bulletin 

New Classics and Archaeology publications – Bloomsbury 




Comment and opinion

The rape of the Sabines – Roma Invicta 

Offensive Catullus – Ostraka 

Romulus’ tomb? – TLS 

Classics in Scottish state schools – ACE

Living through pandemic – Eidolon 

Thoughts on Aeschylus’ Oresteia – Ad Familiares 

Community spirit under siege – The Petrified Muse 

Classics will not save us – Eidolon 

Teaching with CREWS – CREWS Project

Roman Britain and where to find it – Andante Travels 





Podcasts, video and other media

Lives of Augustus – AIRC 

Pausanias and marvels – Classics Confidential Shorts 

Introducing Ovid – The Latin Programme

A short introduction to Roman Law – Coffee and Circuses 

Disability Studies and the Classical Body – Classics Confidential 

Caesar’s funeral – Historia Civilis 

Figures from the Roman Republic as Salem the cat GIFs – Twitter 





Events and Freebies

35% off Classical Association-related books –Bloomsbury 

Ovid not Covid – Natalie Haynes 

Free Minimus comic template – Minimus 

Free Archaeology course – Dig Ventures 

Resources hub – Archaeology UK

Pompeii lectures in April – The Spokesman 



April Fool Selection









4 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Turning to Horace

  1. Maybe at the present time if you do need to visit the shops taking a copy of Horace is a good idea. It would help while away the time whilst waiting in the social distancing queue to be let in! On another note, thanks for signposting Gina May’s Monday Book club last week. I signed up and had a lovely two hours reading and listening to others read from Mythos


  2. Nunc est bibendum – that’s all I’ve got. There again, I am a philistine but it has served me very well for post exam, evenings, weekends and virus lockdowns.


  3. diffugere nives…is quite lovely, which is in that Cambridge Latin Anthology….how lucky you latinists are not to have to master the polytonic Greek keyboard!


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