Helpful Gods, Preaching Stoics, and Gossip from the Crossroads: Urban Religion in Horace's Satires and Epistles
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Scholars generally hold that urban religion plays only a subordinate role in Horace's Satires and Letters. This article revises this verdict: it is precisely the many casual comments contained in both works which make clear how profoundly everyday religion is integrated into both works and into the topography of the city Rome as Horace portrays it. The small shrines (compita) on street corners in urban districts serve as ideal focal points for the conversation (sermo) typical of the genre and for personal religious engagement. As the paths of city dwellers of the most varied classes and ranks cross here, the compita can be characterised as ideal 'ports of transshipment' for urban gossip and are closely connected to the colourful street life surrounding the Saturnalia. This typically satiric mixture is analysed using Satire 2.3 as a prime example.