Juvenal Biography


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)


Little concrete information exists on the life of Juvenal (JEW-vuhn-uhl), and most of it ultimately comes from his poems. The persona in his poems is that of a disgruntled Roman, probably of the equestrian class, who views the pervasive changes in his society with bitter disdain. In contrast to earlier Roman satire, the hallmark of Juvenal’s work is indignatio (anger), and his style is highly rhetorical and bombastic. The collection of satires Saturae (100-127 c.e.; Satires, 1693) consists of sixteen poems divided into five books. His targets are varied, including women, foreigners (particularly Greeks), debased aristocrats, stingy patrons, and effeminates. The poems provide a fascinating, if biased, look into the life and manners of the Roman elite in the early empire.


Juvenal’s satires have often been popular, and in the Middle Ages, he was revered as a moralist. He had a vast influence on later European satirists, especially the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto, the English poet John Dryden, and English writer Samuel Johnson. Juvenal inspired a long tradition of neo-Latin satire as well.

Further Reading:

Braund, Susanna Morton. The Roman Satirists and Their Masks. London: British Classical Press, 1996.

Duff, J. Wight. A Literary History of Rome in the Silver Age: From Tiberius to Hadrian. 1927. Reprint. Westport,...

(The entire section is 470 words.)