Juvenal

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Juvenal is the name by which English-speakers refer to Decimus Julius Juvenalis (?60-?140 CE), the finest of the Roman satiric poets.

Juvenal came from Aquinum (modern Aquino), a town about 80 miles southeast of Rome, and spent the whole of his adult life in Rome, in poverty and dependent on the patronage of wealthy Romans. His five books of satires – altogether there are 16 satires, each a long poem of 700-800 hexameter lines – have their source in Juvenal’s sense of himself as a failure and a victim of injustice. They focus on the folly, vanity, extravagance, corruption, and immorality of the society in which he lived.

Juvenal’s satires were much read in the Middle Ages and in more recent centuries have influenced many writers, such as Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the Anglo-Irish satirist and churchman. They were translated into English by the poet, dramatist, and critic, John Dryden (1631-1700), while the lexicographer and 'man of letters', Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), wrote his poems London (1738) and The Vanity of Human Wishes (1748) in imitation of Juvenal’s Third and Tenth Satires respectively. See also Housman.

Note that the word juvenal – with a lower-case initial letter – may also be used (especially in the United States) as an adjective to describe a young bird which has developed its first adult feathers. It is an alternative spelling of juvenile, the more common word to use for such a bird.