The Knotted Thong fills a long-standing gap in studies of Persius, the famous and famously difficult Roman satirist. The body of work on Persius has for years depended on a few traditional and highly specialized lines of approach, and therefore modern readers have found it difficult to come to close grips with this poet, whose works not only have substantial intrinsic value but also long-standing influence on the community of letters.
D. M. Hooley has now reexamined Persius in the light of developments in contemporary critical thinking, particularly that which builds upon imitation theories in classical studies. Addressing each of the six Satires as well as the introductory "Choliambics," Hooley contends that one of the most conspicuous features of Persius's verse, its allusiveness, is a key to this view. The long-recognized, exceptionally high frequency of imitations of and allusions to the works of Horace and others can be seen not as a mark of artistic immaturity, but as a technique intended to engage other voices in the expression of a poem's meaning. Seen as an aspect of structural and thematic strategy, the pattern of Persius's engagement with the words of other poets reveals a remarkable and hitherto unregarded coherence in the Satires.
Within this frame of allusive indirection, Persius's relationship with Horace is seen to be particularly crucial. Horace, as is generally acknowledged, is Persius's "major model." Hooley shows Persius recasting the words of his predecessor, readdressing his own relationship to the inherited voice of Horatian poetry, and so reformulating the terms of satire itself. Persius constructs a radical revision of satiric thought through a pervasive and, paradoxically, destructive "imitation" that operates within the tension of Horatian mastery of the form and the inadequacy of Horace's satiric vocabulary in the social climate of Neronian Rome.
The Knotted Thong: Structures of Mimesis in Persius will be of interest to scholars and students in classical studies, modern literature (especially satire and its history), and comparative literature.
D. M. Hooley is Associate Professor of Classics, University of Missouri.