Juvenal's fourth book of Satires consists of three poems which are all concerned with contentment in various forms. The poet adopts a more resigned and philosophical tone, unlike the brash anger of the earlier books. These poems use enormous humour and wit to puncture the pretensions of the foolish and the wicked, urging an acceptance of our lives and a more positive stance towards life and death by mockery of the pompous and comic description of the rich and famous. In Satire 10 Juvenal examines the human desire to be rich, famous, attractive and powerful and dismisses all these goals as not worth striving for - we are in fact happier as we are. In Satires 11 and 12 he argues for the simple life which can deliver genuine happiness rather than risking the decadence of luxury and the perils of sea-travel and legacy-hunting. Self-knowledge and true friendship are the moral heart of these poems; but they are also complex literary constructs in which the figure of the speaker can be elusive and the ironic tone can cast doubt on the message being imparted. The Introduction places Juvenal in the history of Satire and also explores the style of the poems as well as the degree to which they can be read as in any sense documents of real life. The text is accompanied by a literal English translation and the commentary is keyed to important words in the translation and aims to be accessible to readers with little or no Latin. It seeks to explain both the factual background to the poems and also the literary qualities which make this poetry exciting and moving to a modern audience.
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