The Political Candidate in the Fifth Satire of Persius, lines 176-179: A Slave to Ambition or to Foreign Religion?

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Moshe Benovitz


The fifth satire of Persius Flaccus treats moral enslavement to various overpowering forces: greed (lines 132-142), luxury (142-156), love (161-175), and superstitious religion (179-188). Most scholars believe that lines 176-179 refer to moral enslavement to an additional force: ambition. This paper argues that these lines actually favor ambition, and are rather the introduction to the next section, for which they set the stage: Even the admirably ambitious politician, who has an appropriately cynical attitude towards Roman religion, proves to be an awestruck worshipper of the Jewish God in the privacy of his own home.

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