Horace’s Views on Ethical Conduct

Horace was the most important poet of the reign of Augustus. He believed in living according to pleasure (in moderation), and personal virtue. He did not concern himself with inheritance, or anything long-term, and believed that the best life was one lived in moderation, or within the “golden mean”.

Horace belonged to the stoic and epicurean schools of philosophy, believing that life is short and pointless, and the best you can do is enjoy the simple pleasures of personal virtue while you still can. He believed that good and bad times alternate, and if conditions are adverse, they will improve. He believed that there is nothing that can be done to change fate, and that it is better to adapt and hunker down until things get better. Conversely, if things are working out well, and you are experiencing good fortune, it will not last. It is best to weather bad conditions until they improve, and when they do, enjoy them while they last.

Horace believed that the accumulation of wealth is a waste of time. Since everyone will be taken by death, there is no point in accumulating something which will be left behind when you go. He had the same views on power, and discouraged against political careers. He thought that the best thing you can do is to enjoy as much of life as possible before it ends.

Horace believed in pursuing the “golden mean”. One should enjoy the pleasures of life, because they will not last, but should always exercise moderation. One should not be greedy and try to acquire as much wealth as possible, but should not live in complete poverty.

Horace did not think people should concern themselves with inheritance because:
“A worthier heir will drink the wine
you guard now with a hundred keys: he’ll
drench the pavement with your best — more fine
than that on which the highest priests do feast.”  [Ode II. 14]
So again, do not accumulate riches (in this case good wine) because your children and heirs will simply squander it.

Horace showed the ideas of the epicurean and stoic schools of thought in his work. He was very stoic in that he thought that one should simply accept the hardships of life. He was very epicurean in that he believed that when things are good, they should be enjoyed, which is somewhat contrary to the stoic philosophy, which says that nothing can make a good man happier accept for virtue. He believed that acquiring power and material goods was pointless, and the best one could do was to try his best to follow the golden mean of enjoyment with moderation.

 

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2 thoughts on “Horace’s Views on Ethical Conduct

  1. Pingback: The Significance of Rome | supererling

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